Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of myself and John arriving in Australia, though as John pointed out, I arrived on the 21st and himself and Gail arrived the following morning. We headed down to J’s Mum’s for the weekend and caught up with himself and Sarah in Brunswick Heads for a few quiet Saturday afternoon ales to reminisce about old times, where has the time gone, and all the usual questions when you realised your immigrant story encompasses almost half your life.

The following morning myself and J went in to Byron for breakfast and a stroll on the beach. I detoured to the local bookshop to pick up my copy of Snowden’s autobiography. Released this week, the US Govt. decided it would sue for all the profits, claiming he didn’t seek NSA/CIA approval of the manuscript! The move backfired somewhat as the book went straight to No.1 on Amazon and they’re at risk of selling out. I wasn’t sure if the LBS would have a copy but they didn’t let me down.

Snowden on the beach at Byron

Back in Brisbane now and have just watch Ireland demolish Scotland in their Rugby World Cup opening game.

Good weekend 🙂

Citizenship Test

Earlier this morning I had to sit my citizenship test as the final hurdle before I can apply for Australian citizenship. I call it the Anti-Muslim Test as it was brought in after the Cronulla Riots, partly out of concerns that Muslims weren’t fully embracing Australian culture and were part of some sinister plan to encourage Sharia Law. Complete nonsense of course, but the test was the result, as was an extension of the waiting period between becoming a permanent resident and being eligible to apply for citizenship from two years to four.

The test is supposed to ensure that you’re aware of your rights and your responsibilities as a citizen and have a passing understanding of the history and government of Australia, and can speak English. Sample questions are “Who is Australia’s Head of State?”, “How many levels of government are there?” and “Are newspapers free to say what they want in Australia”, with the corresponding answers being “The Queen”, “3”, and “Yes - as long as they don’t defame someone or incite hatred/intolerance”.

The barrier is set pretty low; there’s 20 multiple-choice questions, out of which you have to get 12 right. There are also three questions on values which result in an instant fail if you get any of them wrong. You get 45 minutes to do the test, but, as a guide to how easy it is it took me 90 seconds and I got 100%! I also didn’t bother studying for it, skimming the citizenship booklet only once, though I am at an advantage in that I grew up in a Western-style democracy, speak English and have already lived in Australia for close to 10 years.

Despite passing the test comfortably, it turns out I now fall foul of the new waiting period requirements as you are no longer permitted to count time living in Australia before you were granted permanent residency. So now I enter what I call a ‘citizen-in-limbo’ period where I’ve met all the requirement, but have to wait until March 2011 before I can do my citizenship conferral ceremony. Bit of a shame really, as this September will see the 10th anniversary of my immigration and I was hoping to have become a citizen before this date.

Bush Fires
![My Bike](/images/drinkingkoala.jpg)

Well, what can be said about the Victorian bush fires? They’re the worst natural disaster to befall Australia, and, if, as seems likely, they were started deliberately, the largest mass murder in Australia’s history. Police have declared certain areas as crime scenes, and radio news reports this morning hinted that they may be close to arresting someone they suspect of lighting some of the fires.

The weather throughout the south east has been ridiculously hot for the last two or three weeks, hitting 46C in both Adelaide and Melbourne. The inland suburbs of Sydney were regularly well over 40C this week, and at John’s wedding in Canberra at the weekend the temperature topped 40C on four consecutive days. With those sorts of temperatures fires are inevitable, even without arson. A 15yr-old boy was arrested in Sydney for starting a fire, though it appears he just let off a firework rather than deliberately trying to light vegetation with matches.

As of this morning, the death toll is 173 and it’s expected to top 200. 750+ homes have been destroyed. The Red Cross are running and appeal and you can donate on their website. They’re also looking for blood donors so I’ve signed up for that (yes Mum, I know I should have done it ages ago!)

The sad thing is that this sort of thing is likely to become more frequent due to climate change, yet there’s still some resistance to doing anything substantive about it. There were similar fires in 2003, but because they burnt through National Parks rather than towns no-one worried about them too much. SE Australia is acknowledged as being in the midst of a 12-year drought, but perhaps it’s not a drought so much as the new climate for that region?

Nice One Kev!

Australia has switched its position and voted against Israel on two resolutions which it had previously supported. Howard spent his term voting in lockstep with the US, but some common sense has now prevailed and we are starting to take a more principled stand.

In the weekend vote in New York, Australia supported a resolution calling on Israel to stop establishing settlements in the Palestinian territories and a resolution calling for the Geneva Conventions to apply in the Palestinian territories.

The resolutions on the Middle East peace process are held annually and the Howard government had backed both from 1996 to 2002 but in 2003 began to vote against or abstain. It was a move that aligned Australia with only the US, Israel, the US Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and Micronesia and put the country at odds with Britain, Canada, New Zealand and France.

Australian officials told the UN the Government had changed its position because it supported a two-state resolution of the conflict to deliver a secure Israel living beside a viable Palestinian state and that Australia believed both sides should abide by their obligations under the Road Map for Peace.


220 years after arriving, Australia’s government will today finally “say sorry”: for the wrongs committed against the Aboriginal people; for taking their land, for stealing their children and for what at times was almost state sponsored genocide. In response, Aboriginal representatives performed the first ever welcoming ceremony before the new Parliament opened today.

The text of the apology is as follows:

"I move: That Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history. We reflect on their past mistreatment. We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations - this blemished chapter in our nation's history. The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future. We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians. We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country. For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry. To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry. And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry. We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation. For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written. We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians. A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again. A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity. A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed. A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility. A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia."
Flights Booked

Both myself and Jacqui are using our frequent flyer points to get free1 flights back to Australia, so after Jacqui went to book her flights and discovered she could only fly back via the U.S., I decided I should get organised and try booking mine.

Since I refuse to fly to, through2 or over the U.S. due to their bullshit immigration requirements, I really wanted to fly via Asia. I had a three week window to work with, so I wasn’t too concerned when my preferred London – Sydney direct wasn’t available. Half an hour spent searching through Qantas’s Frequent Flyer booking site got me London – Tokyo with BA, an 8-hour stopover and then Tokyo – Sydney with Qantas.

The combined flight time is no longer than the traditional Bangkok/Singapore stopover route, the Qantas leg is on one of their new Airbus A330s which look flash, and I’ve never been to Japan. Jacqui seems to think that I’ll be able to wander around Tokyo for a few hours, which would be cool.

Anyway, the end result is that I return to Australia as a fully-fledged resident on the morning of Friday, February 22nd. See you then!

1 ‘free’ as in you still pay almost $300 in taxes.

2 You still have to go through immigration even if you’re just in transit.

Pseudo Aussie

I just got my passport back from the Australian High Commission in Ottawa, with my permanent residency visa inside, so I’m officially allowed to live and work in Australia, and possibly New Zealand, for the rest of my life. Whether that makes me a pseudo-Aussie at this stage, I’ve no idea.

Once I’ve spent two years living there I have the option of applying for citizenship, which will give me the right to vote and access to an Australian passport, though I haven’t decided whether I’ll go down that route or not. They’ve just instituted a really dumb test which you have to pass if you want to become a citizen, stemming from a desire to keep out ‘undesirables’. In today’s Australia that’s shorthand for Muslims, but in the past it’s been Vietnamese, Greeks, Italians, Irish etc.

The logic seems to be that forcing new migrants to learn enough about Australian culture to pass the test will ensure that they integrate better into Australian life, and will therefore be less likely to cluster together in nearby neighbourhoods. It just seems like a flawed plan dreamt up by idiots as a sop to the anti-immigration, i.e racist, element in Australian society. Sure, there’s plenty who claim there’s nothing racist about it, but there’s no argument about white, educated, English-speaking immigrants like myself, just those who are “different”, or “not like us”.

Having said all that, it’s not a problem unique to Australia, with the UK and most of Europe sharing similar concerns, though quite how knowing who Don Bradman is will alleviate the ‘problem’ is anyone’s guess!