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Patience, not jingoism, the answer

As the husband of a German migrant girl and father-in-law of two Chinese girls, I feel compelled to express my dismay at the jingoistic claptrap being trotted out now in the interests of nationalism ("Changes could punish the vulnerable", April 21). It is perfectly natural for people coming into a new country to stick for a time to their own language, culture and people.

The overwhelming majority are aware of their obligation to integrate but they do so at their own pace. The great break has always been sending their children to Australian schools, where they have become highly integrated. There are instances where children find themselves caught between two cultures, turn to each other for company and sometimes larrikin behaviour can follow. But the problem disappears with the next generation.

Government should leave well enough alone. The migrant families will become Australian as a matter of course. Just give them time.

Malcolm Brown Ermington

It's unlikely my father would have passed the language test now mooted as crucial to attaining citizenship. We arrived in Australia from Poland in 1957 and attained citizenship five years later. My father had involuntarily spent six years in Siberia, and my mother is a Holocaust survivor. My father's priorities in his adopted country were work and getting himself established to give me the best chance in life.

Australia fulfilled his dreams of opportunity and acceptance. His English was never too good, despite paying for his own weekly lessons after a full day's work. But he contributed, paid taxes and was grateful for what Australia had given us. Today, he would be ashamed.

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Sophie Inwald Woollahra

When the British author G.K. Chesterton sought entry into the US, the form asked such questions as "Are you in favour of subverting the government of the United States by force?". He was tempted to reply "I prefer to answer that question at the end of my tour and not the beginning." No doubt our citizenship test will be met with unadulterated honesty by every enemy of the state.

Peter Fleming Northmead

Three characters should be sufficient to define Australian values: 18C.

Chris Danckwerts Turramurra

Dean Fraser needs to take off his rose-coloured spectacles ("Australian values testing starts at home", Letters, April 21). Many Australians of my parents' and grandparents' generations were in favour of the White Australia policy, thought they were doing the right thing bringing "orphans" from Britain to Australia and brought about what we now refer to as the Stolen Generation.

Ian Davis Bella Vista

Hoaxer should not be surprised

With no historical proof, Helen Dale's 1994 fictional novel directly blamed Jews for the suffering of Ukrainian peasants in the 1930s Soviet-engineered famine and offered that as the reason why some Ukrainians later assisted the Nazis to carry out genocide ("No Hoax: Helen Demidenko is back", April 21). At the time, she insisted the book was based on truth, with her invented Ukrainian identity used to give the claims a veneer of veracity. Not only has she never apologised for her behaviour, she now says she is a victim, persecuted for her right as a writer to exercise her imagination and free speech.

Given how casual she was with the facts and her lack of apology, it is hardly surprising that she is unable to understand that concerns about her role as a political adviser were more than justified.

George Greenberg Malvern (Vic)

No doubt Helen Dale's critics are lying in wait, guns drawn. But it's amazing what 23 years of life can do to one's hindsight, whether your surname is English or Ukrainian. Putting aside the issues of right or wrong, and I am sure these will be debated again, what about the boon in publishing that her hoax created? Since leaving Australia she has studied law at Oxford and practised it in Scotland, and comes across as a different person. She says she is prepared to face the music. I think she's brave to return to Australia. Which of us hasn't changed in 23 years?

Peter Skrzynecki Eastwood

Dutton knows Manus tactics will work

Peter Dutton has suggested that the latest Manus Island refugee centre riot broke out because refugees were leading a five-year old Papua New Guinea child into the complex ("Dutton gives new account of Manus rampage", April 21). As with John Howard's shameless "Children Overboard" lie, the Immigration Minister understands that if you want to make people believe something just say it. Only half of them will be listening when you are forced to correct the falsehood later.

Donna Wiemann Balmain

Peter Dutton has cunningly conflated all the tropes about refugees and about Muslims to conclude that the Good Friday attack on Manus Island was in response to a child who was victim of "another alleged sexual assault". Ironically, the incident has become a true test of Australian values and whether Australians see refugees as human beings who came here looking for a better life, or just "reffos with no rights".

Shayne Chester Potts Point

Malcolm Turnbull may be channelling John Howard on immigration, but Peter Dutton's unfounded claim about the Manus Island rampage gives him the "Children Overboard" prize.

Barry Welch Bridgeman Downs (Qld)

How low can you go? Ask Peter Dutton. The man sets new standards in lowness. Is that an Australian value?

Robert Franzos Murwillumbah

Xenophon China rant lacking credibility

I cannot believe Nick Xenophon ("A US war with China would strand Australia in the middle", April 21). To say China may sink an Australian naval ship to warn off the US navy is an irresponsible and childish statement. The last standing politician whom I usually respect for his integrity has sunk low to join the rhetoric of others for his own political gain.There is enough provocation made by politicians in this populist era. He should stick to the fight for poker machine reform, the area he is good at. I also suggest he researches properly the facts about who are the aggressors in this world.

Paul Lau Blakehurst

Most people will have missed John Pilger's crowd-funded film, The Coming War on China, which was fleetingly screened in Australia over the summer. A pity, because he makes the same point as Nick Xenophon, that neither side would win a war between the US and China. Australia, rather than taking the American side, as Julie Bishop has done, should be telling US Vice-President Mike Pence that we will not fight in such a war and that the US should not goad China into one.

Xenophon says Australia would suffer catastrophic loss, if not nuclear obliteration. He calls for both houses of Parliament to debate and vote before Australia sends troops to this or any other war. Legislation to change the power of a Prime Minister unilaterally to opt for war is needed more urgently than ever.

Alison Broinowski Paddington

Listen to scientists

Bravo for your editorial ("Putting science at the centre of society", April 21). Although we must put more reliance and belief in our science, I cannot concur that we are "nowhere near the situation of the United States". Our most recent past prime minister tried his best to dismantle the CSIRO, as well as every climate monitor and policy we had.

We still have governments pushing, encouraging and facilitating the opening up of the largest coalfield in the world when scientists say no new coal mines should be opened. We still give huge tax deductions to gas companies for expanding their exploration when scientists clearly say we must keep 80 per cent of known fossil reserves in the ground.

Sadly, we are not far behind at all.

Peggy Fisher Killara

End housing tax 'lurk'

The Labor Party is to be congratulated on its proposed housing affordability policy ("ALP moves to seize the initiative on housing", April 21). The proposal to end tax deductibility on capital gains tax payments is a significant step in the right direction. However, to grandfather negative gearing for existing landlords will mean it remains a significant tax "lurk".

Negative gearing should be phased out over a period of, say, three to five years. Ignore the inevitable bleats from the negative gearers who will complain that their retirement or investment strategies will be upset. Tell them to keep in mind what the government has done in recent months regarding pensions and assets. This decision upset the financial plans of those who could least afford it.

Geoff Lewis Raglan

Are we currently in an election campaign? It seems so, with both major parties announcing false new ideas on the same old issue. The ALP, like the Coalition, is merely fiddling at the edges of our housing national disgrace. Its new initiative is like coming in the side door to hit major issues, but with a wet lettuce leaf. As if doubling the application fee for foreign buyers matters when they have many millions to park in our housing, and why only apply this to "houses worth $2-$3 million"? Who will police "foreigners who who break investment laws"?

Robyn Dalziell Castle Hill

Move Navy to Darwin

While we are talking about moving people out of Canberra, let's not forget the navy ("Joyce shines more darkness on public service shift", April 21). Why, oh why, is it based in Canberra and Sydney? All the action – whether it be people smugglers, border protection, natural disasters, unlicensed fishing or the potential for serious unrest north of Australia – says that the navy should based in Darwin. Every last ship and personnel.

Wayne Stinson Merimbula

Slave labour – shame

Australia went through a horrible period where it "blackbirded" Pacific Islanders as cheap, or free labour and, sadly, Diane Smith Gander's call to allow nannies in on 457 visas bears shades of this dark time ("Bring in nannies from the Pacific Islands to help Australian women get back to work", smh online, April 21).

To also compare the need for such workers to the importation of Filipino nannies to other countries weakens her argument even further, given the many reports of blatant exploitation of these women. Would women in Australia want to climb over the backs of these other women from often developing and far less wealthy countries to ensure their own careers remain on track?

At a time when people are complaining about being underemployed, there must be some Australians out there who would take up nanny roles for families "crying out" for this service. Or are they crying out only if it comes cheap? How much is caring for your children worth?

Paul Bugeja Brunswick (Vic)

Hidden treasure trove

It is curious that the Discovery Centre in Castle Hill never gets a mention in the debate on shifting the Powerhouse to the floodplains of Parramatta. The centre contains a huge display of items from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Australian Museum and Sydney Living Museums, with $10 admission.

Michael Bogle Surry Hills

Aussie values and house-trained, too

I think my best mate ticks all the boxes for what represents Australian values ("Australian values testing starts at home", Letters, April 21). He was born in the outer western suburbs of Sydney, with a working class background going back many generations. He is passionate about all water and ball sports, fiercely loyal to friends and family, and loves a barbie.

He could probably run for Australian of the Year, if he did not bark so much when he got excited.

John Friedman Bondi Beach

Nobody has values like Woolworths and Coles.

Gary Frances Bexley

Thought central

Well, I never. I always thought Canberra was decentralisation.

Peter Wilson Quorrobolong

Game, set and hatch

There is no doubt that becoming pregnant is a miracle and that for some our first trimester, if not the whole pregnancy, can be plagued with morning sickness and fatigue ("Williams aims for mother of all records", April 21). But Serena Williams is an exceptional athlete who won the Australian Open. Her being pregnant at the time shouldn't make this any more or less of an outstanding achievement.

Postscript

Prime Minister Turnbull's rapid-fire announcements about changes to the 457 temporary visa rules and tightening of the citizenship test provided an intriguing comparison between readers' sympathies on closely related issues. Response to the 457 changes was divided. Although most readers argued it was a cosmetic makeover that effectively massaged a few regulations around the edge, there was also robust support for an overdue "Australian first" message they saw enshrined in the changes.

But the citizenship test overhaul, with its emphasis on "Australian values", provoked an overwhelming sense of outrage, with the PM being accused of pandering to the xenophobic appeal of both Pauline Hanson and Donald Trump. "PM Turnbull's latest initiatives on (so-called) Australian values and citizenship are a slightly more sophisticated dog-whistle to our endemic racism than that of his predecessor, but a dog-whistle nonetheless," wrote Russ Crouch of Woonona.

Usman Mahmood, from South Bowenfels, spoke directly from and to our multi-cultural mosaic. "It is good to know that Australian Government is planning to tighten the requirements for Australian citizenship. The new requirements may include a stand-alone English test and a commitment to embrace Australian values.

"Australian history is a living testimony of the hard work and sacrifices of migrants from all over the world. Surely, some of them could not speak English very well, but they had the much needed skills to build Australia ... I fully appreciate and understand the needs for speaking English, but making it mandatory would lead us back to White Australia Policy. Let's remember, our diversity is our biggest strength. Please keep it that way."

Australian values and Anzac Day. The coming week promises to be lively.

Michael Visontay Acting Letters Co-editor