Towards a Ministry of Emigration – Australian citizenship and domestic terrorism

(This is an edited version of a submission to the government inquiry into Citizenship Policy, conducted by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, June 2015.)


The Commonwealth Government has called on Australians to express their views on how citizenship law might be changed to make Australia a safer and more cohesive society. This follows the alarming development of home-grown Islamic terrorism. Over the last several years many Australian citizens, all of Islamic identity, have attempted or planned terrorism against their fellow citizens. Last year lone radicalised Muslims attacked police officers in Melbourne and murdered a hostage in the Lindt Cafe seige in Sydney. The situation shows signs of escalating, with perhaps one hundred young Australians of Islamic background currently fighting for the terrorist group Islamic State (or ISIS), in Syria and Iraq. Many more have been prevented by the authorities from travelling to that part of the world, on suspicion that they were also intending to volunteer for ISIS forces.

Apart from the atrocities being committed in the Middle East, there is the real danger that terrorist practices will be brought back to Australia by hardened jihadists. That would be a tragic escalation of the amateurish attacks already committed. Recently the Minister for Immigration stated that the terrorist threat to Australia “will get much worse before it gets much better”. [i]  He is not alone. Counter-terrorism agencies warn that the threat is generational. The former head of the Army, Peter Leahy, has warned that Australia faces a savage 100 year war. [ii] So it is timely that the Government seeks opinions on how it might repair national unity as a means of preventing or reducing terrorism on Australian soil. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has distributed a discussion paper to canvass issues and pose questions.[iii] The discussion paper proposes to address these problem in two ways, firstly by measures aimed at making citizenship a stronger social glue, and secondly by stripping terrorists of citizenship as a means of preventing them from returning to Australia. The first is inadequate, the second too narrowly conceived.

Citizenship and social cohesion

The discussion paper reviews the many attempts to deploy citizenship – a legal and administrative concept – to bind Australians together. A brief historical review lists six initiatives, beginning in 1993, mostly intended to unite a fragmenting society. The list is worth quoting to show how the desperate theme of unity recurs:

1993: Changes to the Australian Citizenship Act 1948 to recognise Australian citizenship as a common bond uniting all Australians and involving reciprocal rights and obligations.

1993: Introduction of the Pledge of Commitment to ensure new citizens commit to the Australian nation and people.

2001: Launch of Australian Citizenship Day . . . to increase community awareness of Australian citizenship.

2002: Changes to allow . . . [dual citizenship]

2006: Introduction of the Parliament and Civics Education Rebate, which helps schools bring students in Years 4–12 to Canberra on a civics and citizenship education excursion.

2007: A new Australian Citizenship Act written in plain English and a citizenship test to ensure prospective citizens appreciate Australia’s laws and values.

2009: Agreement to Civics and Citizenship under the Australian Curriculum to reinforce understanding of what it means to be an Australian citizen. . . . [iv]

There are two gaps in this chronology. The original citizenship act of 1948 is not listed, perhaps because there was little need to counteract social fragmentation at that time. And there is no mention of the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, which consolidated restrictions established decades earlier by the separate colonies. The Act was explicitly aimed at maintaining a unified nation and it did so, in effect, by keeping ethno-religious diversity to a minimum. Calling it the “White Australia Policy” misses the point that it was aimed at assimilation intended to avoid the social fragmentation that now bedevils Australia. However compromised and clumsy its administration it was a prudent nation-building policy that formed one of the most cohesive, relaxed and democratic societies in the world, one that united populations scattered across a continent. That had changed by 1990 as the burden of diversity increased.

There is a fundamental difference between the policies that produced cohesion and the ones that did not. The 1901 and 1948 acts assumed that cohesion is an organic property of populations, the result of shared origins, cultures and historical memories. In preparing the ground for future national unity, Australia was in line with the liberalism of J. S. Mill[v] and the civic nationalism of other Western societies. For example in France the great nineteenth century scholar Ernest Renan emphasised the importance of shared memories contributing to a “moral conscience” that helps nations resist world government. The foundational Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 predicated citizenship on French nationality.[vi] The anti-national left has accused even these doctrines, that formally separated nationality from ethnicity, of racism, as they do any rationale that would restrict immigration to the West.[vii]

In tune with this radical critique Australia now relies on citizenship to bind the population, based on the assumption that cohesion is a social construct, a matter of legal definition and social engineering. The government discussion paper exemplifies this approach when it declares that adherence to “core Australian values” will bind citizens together and ventures to assert those values in a list that bears a striking resemblance to elements of the English liberal tradition. [viii] The paper does not cite any legal authority mandating these values. By which principle is citizenship, a legal conception, bound to those values? Australia is a democracy where freedom of thought and speech mean that anything the majority believes or feels automatically becomes a “core Australian value”. Should the majority’s mind or its identity change, values once considered “core” could seem dated, even repugnant. “Sharia Australia” is not a contradiction in terms.

The discussion paper failed to state the basic truth that endemic home-grown terrorism demonstrates a failure of multiculturalist policies. This admission should have been the starting point of the discussion. Errant policies include large scale unrestricted immigration and reliance on citizenship to create social cohesion. The fact that neither side of politics admits the abject failure of ethnic pluralism, as it has been imposed on Australians without due political process for the last several decades, indicates the breadth of the problem. The political class as a whole seems unacquainted with elementary scholarship concerning ethnicity and nationalism.

For example, missing from the discussion paper, and presumably from the Cabinet, is the distinction between state and nation. [ix] A state is a set of institutions which together possess a monopoly on the use of legitimate force within a circumscribed territory. A state can be many things – an empire, a kingdom, a city state, a confederation, a democracy or a one party dictatorship. But a state is not a nation, though it can contain one or more. A nation is a named population with shared origins, elements of shared culture, living in its historical homeland. Most nations have grown around a founding ethnicity, a named population with shared ancestry, shared history, a distinctive shared culture, shared attachment to the homeland, and some degree of solidarity.[x] Some nations, such as the Japanese, Koreans, and many European nations, consist largely of this simple ethnic type. The founding nation provides identity, language, founding myths, political structures, way of life and a story of social capital – a degree of solidarity. While the core ethnicity feels secure, unthreatened by rapid demographic change or loss of territory, it can tolerate immigration and some diversification. After all, the nation is the largest secular category able to elicit robust solidarity. But the social glue weakens and conflict proliferates when the majority feels insecure, when the ethnic core is swamped by immigrants to the extent that observers see it undergoing cultural genocide, as in Australia,[xi] or when it is subjected to the inverted ethnic hierarchy imposed by multiculturalism.

The distinction between state and nation is relevant to the present theme because the member of a state is a citizen, legally defined by a piece of paper, while the member of a nation is organically defined by identity and psychological ties, like a family. Citizenship is a currency that confers rights and formal duties on individuals. But it cannot forge an emotional bond except over generations, as nations do. Identity and loyalty cannot be bought. They must evolve.[xii] The distinction has been mute for much of our history because one of the greatest gifts bequeathed to Australia from its British progenitors was the marriage of state and nation. The individual colonies and then the Commonwealth were states containing and acting in the corporate interests of a particular people, which had awakened to national consciousness in the second half of the nineteenth century. Among its first conscious actions was to create the Federation as its instrument. Being part of the English civic tradition, the Commonwealth also provided citizenship to individuals of all backgrounds. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth was forged to be the nation’s instrument. It was not the Commonwealth’s legal tender that caused its far-flung parts to cohere but the nation’s primordial bonds.

These principles contrast with cultural Marxist theory commonly taught in our universities, such as the theory that nations are nothing more than “imagined communities”[xiii] and the thesis that national traditions are invented and therefore not authentic.[xiv] One influential Australian university text finds no value in Australian nationhood, and recommends that the Commonwealth dissolve the nation using mass immigration and the shaming of whites by the education system.[xv] In all these theories states socially engineer nations to exert control over their populations. What the state gives, the state can take away. Citizenship is the identity with agency, while ethnicity is unimportant, unless it belongs to victim minorities. These assumptions underlie the multicultural plan to use school curricula to erase Australia’s Anglo history from young minds and substitute different symbols, a plan well advanced.[xvi] Due to left dominance of the universities, such notions are more commonly accepted by those with a university education.[xvii]

Now that Australia is diverse and undergoing rapid ethnic change, the distinction between state and nation has come to the fore. The high levels of unrestricted immigration that are transforming society have been justified by the assertion that citizenship can substitute for organic ties of nationhood, a doctrine that cannot explain falling volunteer rates,[xviii] rising ethnic polarisation and violence. The discussion paper indicates that our political leadership wishes citizenship to create a community of sentiment that feels like a nation, though based on a shallow fabricated civic identity. But identity and attachment cannot be legislated. Only organic communities based on shared memories, culture, religion and origins can produce that.

A recent example of the brittleness of citizenship is the out-of-the-blue nativist remarks by sports legend Dawn Fraser. In early July 2015 Fraser, an Anglo Australian, was on live television criticising the unsportsmanlike behaviour of two Australian tennis players at Wimbledon. Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic are both children of immigrants. Fraser concluded: “If they don’t like it, go back to where their fathers or parents came from. You know, we don’t need them here in this country to act like that. We’ve got to set a very good example for the younger children playing all these sports.”[xix] Though Fraser had no history of intolerance or ethnic nationalism in her long career as sports commentator, she was labelled racist by academic experts, who pointed out that her words implied that “some Australians are not as Australian as others, or that some Australians were ‘disposable’ because they did not meet some unstated criteria of race or cultural background.” Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner stated that Fraser’s words were unacceptable because they differed from the official doctrine that immigrants and their children are welcome.

Fraser’s words reveal the gulf separating national identity and citizenship, especially in terms of loyalty. Loyalty is only tested when it exerts a cost. Fraser’s sense of sporting honour was offended and she considered Kyrgios and Tomic’s behaviour to be harmful to their young fans. They were costs too great to bear, and she wished they would return to their parents’ homelands. Their citizenship did not bind Fraser to them. Implicit in Fraser’s judgment was the (true) perception that Kyrgios and Tomic had immigrant ethnic identities, a perception they share. She did not believe the mantra that all non-indigenous Australians are immigrants. Kyrgios’ and Tomic’s  markers of national identity – speaking the vernacular, growing up in Australia – were discounted by Fraser once she perceived the two to be disloyal and dishonourable in sport. All that was left of their Australianness, for Fraser, was citizenship. What a weak glue it proved to be. The question is whether Fraser’s beliefs about national identity are idiosyncratic or a feature of her generation? Would large numbers of Australians show similar attitudes to immigrants and their children should the latter begin to hurt national pride or security? Conversely, how many immigrants are as estranged from Australian identity and values as the two tennis stars?

To answer the questions posed in the discussion paper, tinkering with citizenship tests and conditions but will not produce the domestic security Australians expect government to provide.

Stripping citizenship

The policy of stripping citizenship from terrorists resembles the tough measures taken in the past during wartime. During the two world wars recent immigrants from belligerent nations were interned as a precaution against fifth column activity, i.e. treason. Also interned during the Second World War were citizens who had expressed ideological sympathy for Germany or Japan. The new proposal to banish terrorists is more justified than internment because it would be directed at individuals who had actually committed disloyal acts. For that reason the policy is sure to prevent some extremists from returning to Australia, an outcome for which it should be praised.

Nevertheless, the policy is also dangerous, firstly to civil liberties and secondly because it creates the illusion that banishment of jihadists solves the problem.

Stripping terrorists of their citizenship might seem appropriate in the present circumstance. However, if the procedure becomes a normal policy instrument it will place great arbitrary power in the hands of the minister who exercises it. Such an action should be conducted by judicial process.

The policy could also create a false sense of security. It has a dramatic war-time appearance but does not go to the root cause of the problem, which is the failure of multiculturalism and the unrestricted immigration it legitimates.

The root problem is ethno-religious diversity, which degrades public altruism and makes societies vulnerable to external shocks both economic and political.[xx] Wars happen. The greater the diversity, the greater the risk that some citizens will feel greater loyalty to a belligerent overseas power than to Australia. That is why German- and Japanese-Australians were interned. That was an example of diversity presenting risks in wartime. Overseas fighters usually are not supporting Australia’s enemies. Examples include Croatian-Australians fighting in Yugoslavia in the 1970s and in 2015 Sudanese-Australians serving in Sudan’s civil war.[xxi] Nevertheless, the effect is often to import division and bitterness to Australia. The present day Islamic community’s production of home-grown terrorists and overseas fighters is not aberrant but consistent with historical precedent.

The difference is that Muslims in Australia are channelling a global conflict that experts predict will last for generations. It is true that only a small minority of Muslims is inclined to terrorism and foreign jihad. But that minority emerges spontaneously from the larger population of peaceful Muslims, even from within otherwise peaceful families. They are part and parcel of a broader Islamic community. The handful of jihadists not of Islamic origin invariably convert to that religion as part of the radicalisation process. Islamic identity is a necessary condition of radicalisation for jihadist terrorism. Deradicalisation measures have not prevented the uptake of ISIS ideology. At present the scale of the threat is proportional to the size of the Muslim population.

Preventing a few dozen hardened terrorists from returning to Australia would be beneficial but insufficient to make Australians secure within the country’s borders, as demonstrated by the incidents in Melbourne and Sydney. That can only be addressed by reducing Muslim immigration and promoting the voluntary emigration of some of those already here.

That project would be aided by establishing a “department of emigration” that managed the voluntary resettlement of Islamic Australians in suitable countries. That would yield greater benefits than punitive banishment alone. A department specialising in culturally-sensitive resettlement would be an administrative safety valve should an act of mass terrorism or endemic low-level attacks destabilise community relations and lead to heightened polarisation or even reprisals. Even without the historically-based conflicts involving Islam, some tension between Muslims and non-Muslims would be normal because their interaction constitutes ethno-religious heterogeneity (diversity), which tends to produce conflict. A recent cross-national comparison of 176 countries by Finnish sociologist Tatu Vanhanen found that the level of domestic conflict correlates strongly–81%–with ethno-cultural heterogeneity. Examples of conflict in Australia involving Muslims not directly related to jihadism include the ethnic violence at Cronulla in 2005 as well as anti-social behaviour on both sides.[xxii]

“White flight” began occurring in Australia as high levels of immigration transformed local communities whose wishes and aspirations were never ascertained. It did not help that the new colonists possessed Australian citizenship. This began well before the advent of terrorism.[xxiii] Perhaps, as Australia’s diversity turns ugly, other ethno-religious populations, including Islamic Australians, will also wish to escape the failure of Australia’s “bold experiment” in ethnic diversification,[xxiv] and resettle in a less fractious society. The multicultural formula for preventing domestic conflict is failing. The multicultural lobby calls for racial vilification laws intended to shame the white majority and limit their freedom to object, but remain silent when the violence and hatred comes from minorities. A department of emigration would provide government with more options for responding in a principled and fair way to a fractured community. By arranging new citizenship it would also ease legal and humanitarian difficulties with stripping sole citizenship from terrorists.[xxv]

Since the advent of multiculturalism and replacement-level migration, Australia has been losing the allegiance of growing numbers of citizens. Tinkering with citizenship tests, or lecturing people about which values they ought to embrace, or banishing a few dozen fighters who identify more with an overseas country than with Australia, none of that will much reduce the risk of terrorism or ethnic conflict in general. That can only be accomplished by policies that reduce ethno-religious diversity and increase the attractions of assimilation, policies that affect immigration, emigration and restoring the status of Australia’s ethnic majority.


The crisis of home-grown terrorism has revealed fundamental flaws in the policy of multiculturalism and the unrestricted mass immigration it is used to justify. The policy instrument of citizenship is wholly inadequate to redress those flaws, which can only be healed by policies aimed at reducing ethno-religious diversity and restoring the status of the historic nation – Anglo-Celtic Australia. These include returning to restrictive small-scale immigration, the orderly repatriation of high-risk populations and the democratisation of multiculturalism through the full recognition and inclusion of Australia’s core ethnicity.



[i] “This will get much worse: Dutton’”, The Australian, 29 June 2015, pp. 1, 6.

[ii] “Terror threat ‘will outlast ISIS’”, The Australian, 29 June 2015, pp. 1, 6.

[iii] Australian Citizenship – Your Rights, Your Responsibilities. Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Belconnen ACT, 2014.

[iv] Australian Citizenship, p. 3.

[v] Mill, J. S. (1960). Chapter XVI: On nationality. Representative government. Three essays by John Stuart Mill. J. S. Mill. London, Oxford University Press: 380-388.

Griffiths, P. (2002). Towards White Australia: The shadow of Mill and the spectre of slavery in the 1880s debates on Chinese immigration. Paper presented to the 11th Biennial National Conference of the Australian Historical Association, Brisbane, 4 July.

[vi] Ernest Renan, “What is a Nation?”, text of a conference delivered at the Sorbonne on March 11th, 1882, in Ernest Renan, Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?, Paris, Presses-Pocket, 1992. (translated by Ethan Rundell),

[vii] Balibar, E. and I. Wallerstein (1991/1988). Race, nation, class: Ambiguous identities. London, Verso.

Silverstein, M. (1992). Deconstructing the nation: Immigration, racism and citizenship in modern France. London, Routledge.

Balibar, E. and I. Wallerstein (1991/1988). Race, nation, class: Ambiguous identities. London, Verso.

[viii] Australian Citizenship, p. 2.

[ix] Connor, W. (1978). “A nation is a nation, is a state, is an ethnic group, is a . . .” Ethnic and Racial Studies 1(4): 378-400.

[x] Smith, A. D. (1986). The ethnic origins of nations. Oxford, Basil Blackwell, pp. 22-30.

[xi] Sheridan, G. (2014). “Constitutional change will divide not unite the nation”, The Australian, 20 September.

[xii] Salter, F. K. (2002). Ethnic nepotism as a two-edged sword: The risk-mitigating role of ethnicity among mafiosi, nationalist fighters, middleman, and dissidents. Risky transactions. Kinship, ethnicity, and trust. F. K. Salter. Oxford and New York, Berghahn: 243-89, pp. 246-8.

[xiii] Anderson, B. R. O. G. (1983). Imagined communities. Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London, Verso Editions.

[xiv] Hobsbawm, E. and T. Ranger, Eds. (1992/1983). The invention of tradition. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

[xv] Castles, S., B. Cope, M. Kalantzis and M. Morrissey (1992). Mistaken identity: Multiculturalism and the demise of nationalism in Australia. Sydney, Pluto Press, p. 367.

[xvi] Jakubowicz, A. (2011). “Empires of the Sun: Towards a post-multicultural Australian politics.” Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Journal 3(1): 65-85.

[xvii] Betts, K. (1999). The great divide. Sydney, Duffy & Snellgrove.

[xviii] Volunteers decline for the first time: Australian Bureau of Statistics”, SMH 3 July 2015.–australian-bureau-of-statistics-20150703-gi47cw.html.

Healy, E. (2007). “Ethnic diversity and social cohesion in Melbourne.” People and Place 15(4): 49-64.

Putnam, R. D. (2007). “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and community in the twenty-first century.” The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize lecture.” Scandinavian Political Studies 30: 137-174.

[xix] Angus Holland, “Dawn Fraser’s comments about Kyrgios and Tomic were racist, say experts”, SMH, 7 July 2015.

[xx] Dinesen, P. T. and K. M. Soenerskov (2015). “Ethnic diversity and social trust: Evidence from the micro-context.” American Sociological Review. 21 April. DOI: 10.1177/0003122415577989.

Leigh, A. (2006). “Diversity, trust and redistribution.” Dialogue: Academy of Social Sciences in Australia 25(3): 43-49.

Putnam, R. D. (2007). “E Pluribus Unum”, op cit.

Salter, F. K., Ed. (2004). Welfare, ethnicity, & altruism: New data & evolutionary theory. London, Frank Cass.

Salter, F. K. (2013). The humanitarian costs of Western multiculturalism. Materials of the Baku International Humanitarian Forum 2012. Baku, pp. 518-524,


[xxi] “Violence reaches beyond war-torn homeland”, The Australian, 11 Aug. 2015, p. 2. “[A]n sense of community between the rival groups in Australia had dissolved. . . . [T]ensions were rising in Australia and brawls had broken out.”

[xxii] T. Vanhanen (2012). Ethnic conflicts: Their biological roots in ethnic nepotism. London, Ulster Institute for Social Research.

“Police hailed for action on race-hate assaults”, The Australian, 8 Oct. 2014, p. 5. Report of anti-Muslim abuse.

Sheridan, G. (2011). “How I lost faith in multiculturalism”, The Australian. 2 April. Sydney, News Limited. Sheridan reports instances of anti-social behaviour by Muslims and attributes this partly to Islam itself.

[xxiii] Healey, E. and B. Birrell (2003). “Metropolis divided: The political dynamic of spatial inequality and migrant settlement in Sydney.” People and Place 11(2): 65-87.

Report of a study conducted by the NSW Secondary Principals Council: “White flight leaves system segregated by race”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 March 2008.

Report of research conducted by Dr. Christine Ho at the University of Technology Sydney in 2011: “Fears over ‘white flight’ from selective schools”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 October 2011.

[xxiv] Lack, J. and J. Templeton (1995). Bold experiment. A documentary history of Australian immigration since 1945. Melbourne, Oxford University Press.

“Racism hits mental health of victims”, The Australian, 20 November 2012, p. 5.

[xxv] “Terror sights set on sole nationals”, The Weekend Australian, 27-28 June, 2015, p. 1.

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