I think what they should do is perhaps follow Victoria's example and put in policies that we have to overcome the problems they're facing in the Netherlands. You can't force people to, you can't restrict people, you can't take away a person's identity without consequences.
After visiting Austria and Denmark he wrote:
A large number of people who I spoke to on the street felt that they were not wanted, that they did not belong to the country and they were seen as outsiders. There are no government programs like in Australia where we say we want your specific skills, cultures and religions that stand apart from others - because that is our strength.
That's an interesting insight into how a senior minister looks at what is happening in Australia. What interests me is that he recognises the importance of communal identity to immigrants. The question is: if communal identity is important to an immigrant, won't it also be important to someone who belongs to the existing mainstream culture of a society?
In other words, if it is wrong to take away an immigrant's identity, isn't it also wrong to take away the identity of those who belong to the founding culture of a nation?
Nick Kotsiras's policy rests on an arbitrary distinction: identity matters for migrants, not for those who belong to the founding culture.
And there is a second problem with the Nick Kotsiras policy. As I wrote in a previous thread:
For a culture to reproduce itself it needs to have the "space together" to do so - something that multiculturalism doesn't allow for. In this sense it is an "anti-cultural" policy.If you have a street in a Melbourne suburb where an Egyptian Muslim lives next to a Macedonian Orthodox who lives next to a Mexican Catholic who lives next to a Indian Hindu - and all of these people inhabit a society that is oriented to career and consumerism - then what kind of culture is going to reproduce itself? How are these cultures going to be able to "stand apart from others" even in the medium term?
If you are someone who believes that identity matters then mass immigration combined with mixing people randomly into big cities isn't the way to go - which is why Nick Kotsiras shouldn't be lecturing the Europeans about the wonders of the Victorian policy.
The alternative policy you sometimes hear in Victoria, the traditional right-liberal one, isn't any better. This policy prefers mass immigration combined with the idea that identity doesn't matter for anyone, not for Aborigines, founders or recent migrants. That's a radically individualistic view which tells individuals that they can just identify with themselves alone.
Where does that leave us? First, it's useful for a senior government minister to have admitted that identity does matter. We should file away the quote. Second, we can't rely on governments right now to do the right thing by us. If your identity and heritage is important to you, you have to organise independently of the government. No more "passive citizen who votes every few years". Instead, we need men who see themselves more actively as protectors and builders of the particular tradition they belong to.
Once that change of attitude takes place, those identities which want to continue on will have to concentrate forces somewhere (it could be in more than one location), and to build up the kinds of institutions through which cultures reproduce themselves (media, schools, arts, churches and so on).
If, like me, you belong to the founding culture, you're going to have to accept that much ground will be lost. It's no use being too paralysed by this fact, as the task is to dig in somewhere and to build. The further along we get, the more likely it is we will appeal to those who don't just want to witness decline but who want to contribute more positively to something that is growing into the future.