The man who plans to be Australia's next immigration minister has re-embraced the 1970s term ''integration'', raised the prospect of a series of English-test ''barriers'' to attaining citizenship, and vowed asylum boats would be turned back without seeking Indonesia's agreement.
On the day after another boat tragedy claimed four lives, Scott Morrison delivered a speech titled ''Reasons to be optimistic about Australia's immigration future'' to a Muslim-founded interfaith group and insisted Australia would make its own decisions about when to turn back boats.
''It can be done and under a Coalition government it will be done,'' the opposition immigration spokesman said on Wednesday. Mr Morrison told the Affinity Intercultural Foundation in Sydney that he was confident Australia would continue as ''arguably the most successful and cohesive multi-ethnic society in the world today'' but ''we cannot take it for granted''.
He said Australia needed more than a one-off snapshot of immigrants' English proficiency and follow-up tests could ensure language skills did not remain static.
With a big shift from permanent immigration to temporary visas, Mr Morrison said: ''There is a great opportunity to have a series of barriers, if you like - a temporary entry [test], a permanent residence and potentially even citizenship, if people want to have that conversation.''
An Afghan worker at the Parramatta migrant resource centre had told Mr Morrison he would make the English language test apply to citizenship. Asked if a Coalition government would proceed with such tests, Mr Morison said: ''I will leave them as observations at this point. I don't think you rush into massive changes in that area lightly and I think you want to take a lot of advice on how you achieve that, but the principle, I'm saying today, is I want to see the English language and economic participation put at the centre of our settlement programs.''
Mr Morrison was asked about his celebration of the word integration. Is it no longer a ''dark and negative term'' suggesting the blurring of cultural identities? Multiculturalism, celebrating diversity, took over in the mid-1970s, but Mr Morrison said: ''It's not about changing who you are … Whatever name you want to give to the various policies of the past 30 years, I agree with the purpose of them and that is to get Australians to live together and not be separated by language or religion or culture but to actually find the middle ground where we live together as Australians.''
Mr Morrison denied he had insulted Indonesia by saying the Coalition would not seek its agreement before turning back boats, and then by suggesting the country's Foreign Minister had been stood over by his Australian counterpart, Bob Carr, to harden Jakarta's line against the turnback policy. John Howard, as prime minister, had sought no such agreement from Indonesia and good relations had continued.