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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 March 2018
6 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 MARCH 2018 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Labor’s Greek-FYROM campaign flyer mix-up causes outrage Ahead of today’s Batman byelection, Labor leader Bill Shorten and Batman Labor candidate Ged Kearney have apologised over a ‘highly offensive’ mistake that saw the Greek language printed under ‘Macedonian’ on a campaign flyer Labor has come under fire from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Australian community, after a campaign flyer for the Batman byelection was released using Greek text under the subheading 'Macedonian'. Federal Labor Party leader Bill Shorten and Labor candidate for Batman Ged Kearney have since apologised and said that it was "a production error". The party’s election policy information was printed in several languages on the flyer, including Greek, Arabic, Italian, and Vietnamese, but the Greek language was also used in the 'Macedonian' section. The non-profit organisation World Macedonian Congress Australia had issued a public letter on Tuesday condemning the mistake. “It is highly offensive and discriminatory to impose a Greek translation on the flyer, considering Macedonian is an internationally recognised language, and there are reg- istered Australian Macedonian NAATI-certified translators for the Macedonian language in Australia,” the statement read. On Wednesday, Shorten and Kearney issued a joint statement in an email to SBS News saying, "Clearly the translated message should have been in the Macedonian language . . . We were not aware of it until the flyer was distributed.” That same day Kearney held a meeting in her electorate, inviting members of the FYROM community to attend, to personally express her apologies over the matter. The mistake has come at a particularly sensitive time, as Greece and FYROM are in talks over the use of the name Macedonia. Thousands of Greek Australians, and Australians of FYROM heritage have protested to express their views over the use of the name. The Batman by-election takes place today. Who says that English is proof of Australian values? The federal government reheats the ‘strict’ English language test for prospective citizens, while at the same time getting ready to privatise the visa system NIKOS FOTAKIS There is a quote that I came across, a while back, that resonated and I think it best describes a certain aspect of our lives: "broken English is the language of the future." I can't remember where it came from, or who said it. I'm fairly certain it was John le Carré, the world's best spy novel writer, and though I struggle to find any proof of that, I still like to think it was him who managed to have such insight into the state of the world we live in and the communities we're building. Regardless of its provenance, the phrase's truth was presented to me in full display a couple of days ago when I found myself in a completely unintelligible conversation with an after-sales support officer of a large pharmaceutical, regarding a medical device I'm using. Here I was, trying to unearth technical terms from my memory and express them with my thick Greek (often mistaken for French or Spanish) accent. Here was my interlocutor, a person with an even thicker (Indian, I can only assume) accent, with a vocabulary even poorer than mine, trying to explain the inner workings of the purchase I had made. Here we were, two people of different backgrounds, found in the welcoming neutral zone of Australia. It was a conversation that only lasted a few minutes but it was, at times, frustrating, confusing, deliriously funny, and, in the end, enlightening. It also somehow disproved the validity of " le Carré’s" quote: broken English is not the language of the future – it's the language of today. It's the language we speak in our daily routine interactions, at the bakery, at the supermarket, at the milkbar, at our local fish and chippery. It's the language spoken by our bus driver, the Metro officer issuing our myki, the hairdresser, and the florist. It's the language of small business – which, as we are taught to say, is the backbone of this great country. Not everyone agrees – most notably, those in power don't seem to like broken English, for all their commitment to small business. Last week, the Federal Minister of Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge, made a statement proclaiming proficiency in English as a prereq- uisite for citizenship. Evoking research showing that migrants who spoke English very well were 3.7 times more likely to be employed in 18 months after arrival than those who had poor English. Mr Tudge then said: "This is particularly the case where the concentration of overseas born in particular suburbs is aligned with a considerable absence of English being spoken or understood.” This statement echoed a similar statement made by his immediate superior, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who, speaking at the National Press Club said that the government moved to reinforce the importance of evidenced integration and the English language in the steps to acquire citizenship, reheating legislation that was presumably dead in the Senate. This obsession with English is starting to emerge as a pattern in the rhetoric of those opposed to migration – mostly conservative politicians and conservative media organisations. It is going strong despite the backlash, despite reports saying that one-third of Australian small businesses are owned by migrants, despite people deeming this attitude, particularly coming from the coalition government, as insult towards the waves of migrants who came to this country, with no knowledge of language whatsoever, and managed to work, to create businesses, to pay taxes, to raise families, to contribute to the economy, to the country – basically, to make Australia what it is. English played a very small role in that. Minister Dutton, disagrees, of course. "Our diversity has enriched our nation, but it is not what holds us together," he said in his speech, again insisting upon the importance of "our national language". As expected, in the same speech, Mr Dutton made exten- sive references to the issues of national security and "Countering the threat from terrorism", which remains a "key priority" of his portfolio. "Since August 2014, the Coalition has strengthened our nation's defences against terrorism," he said and reminded people of the "220 or so Australians who travelled to the Middle East to fight with or support terrorist groups since 2012" – these are people who learned English in Australian schools, effectively confirming that knowledge of English does not prove allegiance to a country. In fact, if there are indeed terrorists within Australia, their first priority would be to learn perfect English. But not too perfect. Because the average conservative Australian, those persons prone to the racist rhetoric and to the vilification of migrants, refugees, and nonEnglish speakers, do not usually have that great of a grasp of language themselves. As many government critics have pointed out, a lot of trueblue Australians would fail the language test those applying for citizenship are supposed to pass, alongside other 'Australian value tests'. Then why is English elevated from its real dimension – a communication tool – to a status equivalent to a set of values? Languages are not value systems. English is not proof of values, it is just a language. The idea that any language is superior to others, is just nationalistic nonsense. That the minister for citizenship would associate language with "integration" and the state of Australia's multiculturalism model, which he claimed should not be taken for granted and is at risk, should be seen as a sign of danger. But there are more signs of danger out there - most nota- bly the federal government's plans to privatise the visa application system. "We are genuinely seeking a partnership to design, implement, and run Australia's visa business," Andrew Kefford, from the Department of Immigration is reported as saying, in a brief to private companies. "We are keen to explore commercial value-added services that will assist in attracting people to Australia.” If this goes through, it would mean that a private company – one which has profit as its main purpose – would be called to run Australia's online visa processing, something that would automatically transform the right to live and work in Australia into a commodity. As anyone who has lodged a visa application knows, the process is already arduous, time-consuming, nerve-wrecking, and expensive. There are people who have borrowed to be able to lodge an application. It is a process that is becoming more and more expensive and bringing lots of revenue to Australia's coffers. If this revenue goes to a private entity to outsource the process, what provisions will be made to ensure that a visa still retains its humanitarian aspect? If, as it is rumoured, a 'premium' visa process is reserved to those better-off, what ensures that visas are not going to be sold to the highest bidders? And more importantly, how is Peter Dutton - so adamant, in his defence of the laws "to ensure companies providing communications services and devices in Australia have an obligation to assist agencies with decryption" of data, so sure that these companies will not make a commodity out of people's personal data? Who will watch the watchmen?
10 March 2018
24 March 2018