Greens unveil plan for diversity targets and multicultural commission

The Greens leader, Richard De Natale, has released a proposal to strengthen multiculturalism in Australia, including an independent multicultural commission and diversity targets in government departments.

Di Natale will release draft legislation on Thursday that proposes making government departments and agencies publicly report on diversity within their organisations.

The draft plan also includes the establishment of an independent multicultural commission, and is aimed at strengthening protection for culturally and linguistically diverse communities and promoting multiculturalism.

It comes after proposed legislation to overhaul citizenship laws and make it harder for migrants to become Australian citizens was struck down by the senate last month, amid concerns that legislation unfairly targeted those with English as a second language.

Di Natale will address the Migration Institute of Australia conference in Melbourne on Thursday to map out his party’s proposed reforms.

A draft of his speech, obtained by Guardian Australia, says the government was failing to give migrants certainty about their status or make them feel welcome.

“The proposed changes to the citizenship laws can only be described as another attack on migrants,” Di Natale’s speech will say. “They required university level English and an increased wait of four additional years to apply for citizenship. This is a government where deterrence is at the heart of our refugee policy.

“It relies on conditions being as bad as the conditions people are fleeing. And it harms the innocent to send a message. Since 31 October, 600 men on Manus have been left to fend for themselves. The lives of these men are in serious danger and the new facilities are not fit for human habitation. They are being denied medical care and clean drinking water.”

It was this treatment of refugees and asylum seekers that prompted the Greens to draft their “federal multicultural act”, which the party believes will enshrine multilateral support for multiculturalism in the law.

The exposure bill states the proposed legislation will “promote full participation by Australia’s diverse communities in the social, cultural, economic and political life of Australia; promote access by Australia’s diverse communities to services made available by governments and other bodies,” and “encourage all of Australia’s diverse communities to retain and express their social identity and cultural inheritance and to promote mutual respect.”

The bill also aims to promote unity, understanding and harmony among Australians and promote the social and economic benefits of diversity.

The legislation would require government organisations and departments to provide an annual report to the minister detailing action taken to promote multiculturalism, the use of interpreting and translating services, and the extent to which people from diverse backgrounds were represented on boards and committees.

Di Natale’s speech will say that reforms are needed “because multiculturalism is too important to play politics with”.

“An Australian multiculturalism act would set up a scaffolding effect that supports multicultural Australia,” he will say.

The Greens will consult with the community on the exposure bill and will aim to introduce it to the Senate before the parliamentary term.

source : The Guardian

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