Tony Abbott (ex-Prime Minister) and Barnaby Joyce (Deputy Prime Minister) and a slew of other politicians were caught up in the citizenship controversy recently, in Australia. Twelve of them were under threat and four had to resign. Though they were all full Australian citizens, they also had citizenship in one or more other countries, a crime punishable by scorn and, in Tony’s and Barnaby’s case, by threat of eviction – though not actual eviction – from their seats in the House.
But there’s a country not too far away that doesn’t care how many citizenships you have. If you’re a citizen of fifteen countries, as long as one of them is of New Zealand, you can be a New Zealand politician.
But wait: it’s the same in Britain where you can have fifteen citizenships; as long as one is British you can be a British politician.
But hang on: it’s the same in every other country on the planet … every other country except Australia. Oh, okay, they’re a bit picky in China where you need to be a China-born, indigenous Chinese to represent the Chinese people.
So why do Australia and China stand out on this purity trip?
Is there something China and Australia know about those with diverse and interesting backgrounds? Are they more dangerous people? These questions have not been asked, let alone answered, and yet the Political Purity Laws still exist. It takes us back to the Eugenics Movement in the USA, and many other countries, where they legislated for a purer race of Americans … a movement that inspired the Nazi practice of purifying its race by eliminating the poor, mentally ill, blind, deaf, developmentally disabled, promiscuous women, homosexuals and racial groups.
The Eugenics Movement, which flourished particularly in the 1920s and 1930s, was a commonly accepted way of protecting society from those deemed inferior or dangerous – the poor, disabled, mentally ill, criminals and people of colour.
Coerced sterilisations took place in 32 states throughout the 20th century; more than 20,000 in California and around 60,000 throughout USA.
The Southern states employed sterilisation as a means of controlling their black population. Mississippi Appendectomy was another name for unnecessary hysterectomies performed at teaching hospitals in the South on “women of colour” as practice for medical students.
In North Carolina, one third of sterilisations were done on girls under eighteen, some even as young as nine. The state targeted individuals seen as “delinquent” or “unwholesome”.
But it didn’t stop in the 1930s.
In California, prisons authorised sterilisations of 144 female inmates between 2006 and 2010. The state paid doctors $147,460 to perform tubal ligations that former inmates say were done under coercion. Nearly one third of those 144 California prison inmates who were sterilised did not give lawful consent for the operation.
These “Purity Laws”, as many called them, are a far cry from Australia’s and China’s Political Purity Laws; a very, very far cry. However, is the mentality behind them so very different?
Ten years ago the second-most spoken language in Australia was Indian. Today it’s Chinese. The changing demographic landscape is a cause for celebration or concern, depending on our respective biases. However, putting aside the emotions, we cannot deny or stop the changes. The students I taught in Brisbane came from over 40 different countries and more are coming, despite our fickle immigration laws.
The WASP – the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (or Catholic) – who once proudly ruled this land is now being swamped by those of different colours, shapes, languages, beliefs, experiences and aspirations.
The News Of The Day, ladies and gentlemen, is that Australia is becoming more diverse by the day and, if we cling to our Political Purity Laws, the WASPs will soon find themselves leading a country in which he/she is a minority figure.
So, let us ask the one question that has not been asked: if someone is a bona fide Australian – passport, citizenship and all the palaver – what does it matter if they bring along, with their Australianess, a diversity of thought and background to this ever-changing country? Is that a no worries situation or a big worries one?