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Malcolm Turnbull's year of failing badly

By Lisa Singh - posted Tuesday, 19 December 2017


Last month the Turnbull government finally admitted it was wrong, took another failure, backed down and shelved its flawed plan.

Not content with failing to make lives more difficult for struggling Australians, the Turnbull government also used 2017 to attack new Australians, and people who wanted to be new Australians, with its surprise announcement of crude and heavy-handed changes to citizenship rules – especially the much harder English-language test.

I believe diversity of heritage is one of Australia's greatest strengths. Multiculturalism empowers ethnic communities to live out and share their own cultural diversity. It makes our communities stronger.

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It seems the Turnbull government disagrees. Their idea – it is probably Peter Dutton's – is that if you don't speak perfect English you're not fit to be an Australian citizen. Their idea does not represent the Australia we are today.

The government's proposed changes would have made it more difficult for people with a genuine commitment to Australian society and Australian values to obtain citizenship. Their changes would not have made Australia safer, instead they would have damaged the values of friendship, inclusion and a fair-go-for-all which make our nation great.

While they floated the change to citizenship, they started making the lives of real people – our neighbours – worse; undermining family stability and the security of where they lived, as well as fuelling stigmatisation. It was a clear enabler of intolerance within our society. It was a disgrace.

I was inundated by constituents concerned about their future in Australia. I am grateful that communities campaigned against these draconian proposals and that my colleagues in the Senate rejected them, handing Malcolm Turnbull another abject failure to add to his litany.

But even this wasn't his worst of 2017.

The Turnbull government's most galling failure this year was its rejection of the Uluru Statement and its complete betrayal of Indigenous Australians.

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For 66 years the Australian Constitution actively discriminated against Indigenous Australians. For the last 50 years it has ignored them.

So when the Turnbull government joined with Labor to set up the Referendum Council it was a rare and welcome example of bipartisanship. An example that should have lead the way to action. Both parties agreed it was time to consider how the Australian Constitution could be amended to include Indigenous Australians.

But Turnbull rejected the idea of a constitutional Aboriginal voice to Parliament – one with no legislative power but as an avenue for Indigenous opinion on certain laws. Why ask for input from Indigenous peoples if you're not prepared to listen to them?

Because you're the Turnbull government, that's why.

As the Turnbull government has demonstrated over and again, they're not interested in listening. They only dropped the scheme to drug test welfare recipients because it wouldn't pass the Senate, not because all the leading experts across Australia said it would be counterproductive. And the Senate roadblock was what stopped them bringing in the draconian citizenship laws, not the voices of the people.

Australians deserve a government that will listen to the people and legislate for the people. We might have ended the year on a great historic high, but for the Turnbull government it has been a year of abject policy failure. What hope does 2018 hold?

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About the Author

Senator Lisa Singh is Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Water and prior to this was Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Attorney General. She was also a Minister in the Tasmanian Labor Government.

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