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Thursday, 13 April 2000
Page: 16032

Mr LATHAM (12:49 PM) —From time to time one has cause for concern about the quality of scholarship in Australia's universities. Based on their new book A Place in the Sun, it is difficult to apply the term `scholarly' to Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope. Their book is a crude commentary on the migration debate dressed up as academic research. It is a rambling dialogue broken only by the authors' unbalanced views. Worse still, it is full of errors and misrepresentations. At page 284, for instance, the quotes from Barry Jones and me are hopelessly confused. At page 253, the book falsely claims that `Martin Ferguson is well known as an opponent of immigration'. In fact, the member for Batman is a strong supporter of highly skilled migration. This policy is bound to feature prominently in his policy for regional Australia. At page 257, it is claimed—and I quote:

No Australian universities have quotas. Many universities have highly generalised equity policies and specialist student support programs, but never entry quotas.

Obviously the authors have never seen or researched the 1998 DEETYA report entitled Higher education access and equity for low SES school leavers. The department's own study shows that quotas for non-English speaking background students are quite common in our universities. The report's conclusion states:

The quota system has been widely accepted and tends to be the system to be used by more established programs, InpUTS at the University of Technology, Sydney, ACCESS at the University of New South Wales and the Special Access Scheme at Monash University.

The report goes on to outline the NESB quotas at the University of South Australia.

The book also presents an incorrect interpretation of my views on citizenship issues. In summary, I believe that people need to practise multiple-identity citizenship. They need to salute a number of flags, stretching from the local to the national to the international. They need to be comfortable with a range of personal identities relating to gender, sexuality, ethnicity and nationality. Policies which promote a single-identity focus, such as parochialism, positive discrimination, feminism and some aspects of multiculturalism, are contrary to this approach. While well-intentioned, these policies encourage people to see their identity and citizenship in just a single dimension. This can cause more harm than good. It is the modern equivalent of tribalism: encouraging people to judge each other by their differences rather than by the things they hold in common, the things that should be part of common purpose and common cause in a good society.

Modern citizenship relies on the coexistence of a range of identities. People need to learn the habits of boundary crossing, of moving easily across racial, gender, geographic and other social boundaries. This is the key to a tolerant and inclusive form of citizenship. It is what I mean by the term `multiple-identity citizenship'. Obviously this is not something that governments can mandate or control. Attempts to disperse or legislate tolerance are bound to fail. They have never worked in the past and they will not work in the future. People work out these things for themselves in civil society, basing their personal identity and values on a dense web of personal experience and social contact.

The best role for government is to try to influence the inputs to this process such as the level of education in society and the facilitation of social capital and good community practice. Attempts to manipulate social outcomes are likely to be counterproductive. Positive discrimination programs, for instance, build up resentment in society, pitting single identity groups and issues against each other. I made these points in my interview with Cope and Kalantzis. Obviously the penny did not drop, so I have repeated them here in the Main Committee of the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, the authors of this new book remain glued to their single-identity view of the world. They give a primacy to ethnic issues, which is inconsistent with an enlightened and more progressive view of modern citizenship. Regrettably, the authors of A Place in the Sun are among the new tribalists of our time.