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Alba Iulia
Thursday, June 17, 2021

Budget 2020: opportunities for multicultural Australia

The Philippine Times attended a Multicultural Press Conference with Prime Minister Morrison, 7 October 2020

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Jason Cordi
Editor-in-Chief, The Philippine Times

The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison met with Australia’s ethnic media to discuss the budget and its impact to multicultural communities in the country.

With the devastation of COVID-19 across the world, the Prime Minister appeared extremely proud as a leader to highlight Australia’s performance in terms of health and economics, as ‘the most successful multicultural nation’ with the ‘most successful immigration’ in the world.

The contribution of multicultural communities were part of the focus of his speech, citing their entrepreneurial spirit and involvement in business enterprise.

“Our multicultural communities and citizens are more likely to start a business. They’re more likely to own a business. They’re more likely to employ other Australians. And we’ve seen that across so many different communities,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at the Multicultural Media Conference
Screenshot: The Philippine Times

English as a ‘necessity to engage and participate

An English language requirement will be introduced for partner visas, which was announced as part of the latest budget. When questioned about the reasons behind this decision, as well as the level of competency required, Mr. Morrison expressed the risks which exist among those with a poor level of English, as well as the need for a basic level of English to allow improved opportunity, engagement and participation in society.

“The lack of English language skills, particularly amongst partners, has put many of those partners at risk in Australia, at risk of domestic violence, at risk of being abused in the workplace and having their rights overtaken. And English language is absolutely critical to help people when they come to Australia to take the greatest opportunity of what life in Australia can mean and English is the passport for that to occur in Australia,” Mr. Morrison added.

“We think this is important to just enable people to engage, to access government services for example, to engage with those who are seeking to assist, to access and get the best possible medical treatment to understand what teachers are saying at school, at parent teacher conferences or to understand their rights work and all of these types of things. It’s a basic English language requirement, but we think a very necessary skill and ability that people will need to get the best out of life in Australia and to be protected,” he said.

Changes in Partner Migration

The budget announcement has included an introduction of 30,000 additional places in the partner program this year to partially address the decreasing number of migrants as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will also support the existing ‘frustrating backlog’ for those who are seeking to have their partners come to Australia.

“We see this as an opportunity to ensure that more Australians become Australians, both through the visa program and then ultimately through citizenship,” he said.

Mr. Morrison did however refer to the virus situation and closed borders as an ongoing issue to be monitored for future migration intake opportunities.

Travel and Student Entry, balanced with jobs for Australians

When questioned about opening the borders for Australians to travel as well as for incoming international students, Mr. Morrison stated that he was taking a cautious approach to avoid further waves of COVID coming into Australia.

“The borders will eventually be lifted when we’re in a position to do that and Australia won’t hesitate when it’s safe to be able to do that. But for the foreseeable future that will be a big challenge.”

The Prime Minister mentioned the first step in overseas travel with New Zealand, as well as how Australia might be able to move forward with other countries, such as Japan and Singapore next year.

He stated that the government was still working on student entries into Australia for the start of next year’s university year.

“It will take some time, I think, to get back to some form of COVID normal with international students. And we are not going to put the recovery at risk by being acting with an undue haste in those areas and not protecting against the potential health impacts that could come,” he said.

Balancing the needs of unemployed Australians and an influx of students wanting to study in Australia continues to be a challenge as identified by the Prime Minister.

“We need to get existing Australian residents into jobs and that means that when students come, they obviously have work rights that are attached to while they’re studying and that needs to be weighed up with high levels of unemployment that we’re seeing at the moment. And we need to see those Australian residents getting back and jobs as well. But I’m optimistic, but cautious,” he said.

The Prime Minister mentioned a few factors in what will drive the opportunities for open borders with safe countries. “Technology will be a key factor in this, testing technologies in particular moving to alternative types of quarantine arrangements, trialling those and making sure that we can have confidence about them, and ensuring we get even more enhanced tracing capabilities in Australia to deal with any potential outbreaks which may come from a relaxation of those arrangements but I don’t anticipate them happening anytime soon, but New Zealand step will be the first one and then we’ll go from there,” he said.

Multicultural media

Mr. Morrison discussed the importance of social cohesion and the role that multicultural media plays in supporting their communities.

“We need to ensure that language media is available so all Australians, regardless of their background, can understand what is occurring in their country,” Mr Morrison stated.

“They’ll be keen to understand the policies of the government. They’ll be keen to understand the programmes that are available. And we’re investing in more ensuring that Australians of so many different backgrounds can understand what’s available to them and how they can move their own life circumstances forward.”

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