Ideas@TheCentre

Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table.  3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.

Citizen test overreaction

Peter Kurti

23 June 2017 | Ideas@TheCentre

PK australia flag citizenship testAny sovereign state can decide who it will admit as citizens. The Turnbull government now wants to beef up the test permanent residents must take if they want to become Australian citizens.

The proposed test for which permanent residents will need to take time to prepare is set to include questions about Aussie values as well as English skills.

Some say this will make it harder for some people to become citizens, and that by ‘excluding’ them the Australian government is guilty of xenophobia. But that is an overreaction.

In our discussion on Monday night’s Q&A, panellists took different views about the importance of English proficiency with some emphasising the importance of English for integration.

Our open, multicultural society is proof of Australia’s success in integrating people from many cultural and ethnic backgrounds over a long period of time.

We enjoy great cultural diversity in our country and have always resisted any attempt to enforce cultural integration requiring people to forego their heritage.

But social integration is something quite different. Common mores and principles, such as a commitment to the rule of law and the liberty of the individual, underpin our society.

We are also bound together by a common language which enables people from very different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to communicate with one another.

You don’t need to have the linguistic proficiency in English of a Les Murray or a Clive James to be able to take part in Australian society, but you do need some degree of proficiency.

A common language allows for integration in a common society, and helps to overcome the danger of social isolation that can result from not being able to communicate with other Australians.

Social stability depends on us having a sense that we belong together. English is part of the common bond that unites Australians from all walks of life into a country of which we can be proud.

Peter Kurti’s book The Tyranny of Terror: Threats to Religious Freedom in Australia was published this week, and will have an additional Brisbane launch on June 28.

Thought crimes

Robert Forsyth

23 June 2017 | Ideas@TheCentre

RF thought police thinking crimeTwo recent overseas events must raise the alarm here in Australia as well.

Tim Fallon quit as leader of the UK’s Liberal Democrats, citing the incompatibility of the position with his faith: “To be a political leader — especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 — and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.” Fallon had been subject to continual questioning and criticism for his alleged personal beliefs about what was or wasn’t ‘sin’.

And US Senator Bernie Sanders voted against Russ Vought — a nominee for Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget — on the grounds Vought’s theological view that “those who have rejected Jesus Christ don’t know God and stand condemned” made him, in Sanders words, “really not someone who is what his country is supposed to be about.”

In neither case was it the policy or behaviour or the person that was in question. Fallon supports his party’s policies on same sex marriage and gay rights. Vought assured the Senator that he believed that “all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect, regardless of their religious beliefs.”

What was at stake was the kind of (unacceptable) person each was deemed to be, simply on the basis of their thinking — a “bigot”, “intolerant”, “Islamaphobic” even. They were simply deemed not to be right-thinking individuals. They were guilty of ‘thought crime.’

In both cases, there has been alarmed outcry about the illiberalism involved. An atheist has shown that Sanders was focussing on entirely the wrong question. And a liberal Muslim has come out strongly defending liberalism, at its core — meaning that you should have the choice to believe in as much or as little as you want. The battle for freedom of thought is hotting up.

This alarming development may come to us in Australia. And given the tendencies of the progressive left, we need to be forewarned.

Major Bank Levy a trickery lesson

Michael Potter

23 June 2017 | Ideas@TheCentre

There have been plenty of attempts to confuse the public over who pays the Major Bank Levy. While it is supposedly a tax on the five major banks of about $1.6 billion per year, it will actually end up being a tax on mortgages, as argued by Australian experts and the international evidence.

This extra tax on households occurs when personal taxes are increasing — including through bracket creep — and wages are flatlining. Businesses interest rates are also likely to rise, which will result in reduced investment; which is already perilously low. And the harmful effect of the levy on GDP could be almost double the harm caused by a personal tax increase of the same size.

But don’t believe the illusion that the levy’s impact is ‘small’. Government should never allow a bad policy to slip through just because it is small, otherwise we would see millions of small but bad decisions implemented — creating an enormous problem.

In addition, the government has rightly condemned a proposed increase in the top personal tax rate to 49%, which raises similar revenue to the bank levy. If this arguably small, but bad, decision can be criticised, so can the bank levy.

And there is another implicit trick in this argument: it assumes the levy will always be ‘small’ in size. However, the levy could easily be increased to more harmful levels — the UK’s equivalent levy was reportedly increased nine times.

Other trickery includes incorrect assertions the levy will: improve bank resilience, help maintain Australia’s credit rating, align Australia with other developed countries, and offset supposedly ‘unfair’ big bank advantages. All these arguments are dissembling.

We don’t need these ongoing lessons in obfuscation. A poor policy such as the bank levy should be seen as such and not be hidden by all these illusionist’s tricks.