Multiculturalism began as a response to the White Australia policy and continues to enjoy public support. But a new, ‘hard’ multiculturalism has emerged which is determined to eliminate racism. It focuses narrowly on managing diversity and regulating behaviour to stem intolerance and discrimination. However this focus on diversity threatens the notion of a national culture as well as the liberty of every citizen. Diversity has come to be seen as more than a policy outcome. Instead, hard multiculturalism promotes diversity as an end in itself. The fairest way to accommodate differences is not by eradicating perceived cultural or racial inequalities but securing freedom under the law for all citizens. Once the rule of law determines the extent of permissible behaviours, the state should get out of the business of managing the cultural or religious components of identity.
Peter Kurti is a Research Fellow in the Religion and the Free Society program at The Centre for Independent Studies.