Whilst on the phone, I asked the woman on the end of the line if she could tell me when I would be eligible for Australian citizenship.
To my surprise, she told me it was mid-March…this year.
I’d expected to be told it would be a couple of years off.
Despite having lived here for over 8 years (and qualified enough in my eyes as my tax returns can attest) I know all too well that there are convoluted rules about how long you must be in the country on certain visas before you can, in the words of Peter Allen (or Qantas), “call Australia home”.
Forests in Tasmania have been decimated to supply the paperwork to complete previous visa applications: two for a work permits and one for my spouse visa.
But that of course is the Australian way.
Finding out about my upcoming dual citizenship opportunity has got me thinking a bit more about what it will mean to be an Australian, provided the spooks (ASIO) don’t deem me a security risk, and send me to the Ecuadorian embassy in London to join Julian Assange, or worse, Pretoria.
Should I pledge my allegiance to Dick Smith and only buy Australian-made products, even if they cost more?
Do I now support the Wallabies, the Kangaroos, the Baggy Greens, the Socceroos, the Olyroos, the Hockeyroos, the Boomers, the Diamonds, the Matildas, the Opals and the Koalas?
Do I have to shout for Lleyton Hewitt? Do I? Do I?
And must I call the mayor the “mare”?
So much to ponder!
Finding out about becoming an oke ‘Stralian has also coincided with the run up to Australia Day tomorrow (January 26) with the nation getting the day off on Monday.
I’ve always had mixed feelings about Australia Day.
My mind always seems to conjure up images of drunken yobbos, Australian flags draped over their shoulders like capes, stomping on cars and hurling abuse at anyone not white enough, as happened in Manly a couple of years back.
And I also tend to think of that famous Australian “pride” t-shirt. You know the one that says:
“This Is Australia – We eat meat, we drink beer and we speak f#ckin english!”
Losely translated it means:
“Unless you’re white, kindly f*ck off”
Strangely enough, this Howard-era slogan has not quite disappeared under the slightly left-leaning Labor government.
Instead, it’s morphed into:
“This is Australia: We eat meat, we speak English, but if you have $5 million, we couldn’t give a f*ck”
Not quite as catchy I admit, but true.
The ‘$5 million, no English’ required refers to the new ‘Golden ticket’ visa – or the more official sounding Significant Investor Visa – the government is giving out to anyone who can stump up a wad of cash, no matter if they speak Martian.
At the same time, they’re deporting refugees who arrive by boat to remote island hell-holes or forcing them into poverty on the mainland, by not allowing them to work.
Which of course brings me to the issue of who I am going to vote for, since voting is compulsory (a strange phenomenon I have yet to get my head around) and there is an election coming up towards the end of the year.
I was never a fan John Howard and Mr Speedo (Tony Abbott), Shrek (Joe Hockey) and Condeleeza Rice’s cousin-from-another-mother (Julie Bishop) hardly seem much better.
Perhaps if Malcolm Turnbull took charge I’d consider it. Or maybe I’ll have consider the Greens. I’ll have to do some reading.
On that note, I’ve been reading up about what Australia Day really is all about.
Officially, it serves to commemorate the arrival of the first British fleet of convict ships in 1788 and the laying of the foundations for modern day Australia.
But it seems to mean different things to different people, or nothing at all.
The white bogans in the far outer burbs, rusty cars parked on unkept lawns, pit-bulls at the ready, use the occasion to lament the days when Australian culture was whiter the washing washed in OMO.
The aborigines call it invasion day, and who can blame them.
The government talks about celebrating everything that’s great about Australia, but usually just end up in fisticuffs with the opposition, or as happened last year, with the prime minister being unceremoniously dragged off by her security personnel after Tony Abbott had fanned the flames of aboriginal anger.
As for new citizens-to-be like me?
We’re still trying to figure out the bloody rules to Australian football, ponder why football is called soccer and rugby football, and why that red-faced balding geezer who once coached the Wallabies is still on the radio.
Perhaps on Australia Day this year, I’ll just take inspiration from that marvellous Paul Hogan ad from the 1980s – you know the one where he talks about:
“The land of wonder, the land down under“.
And throw a couple of shrimps on the barbie.