Where’s the Immigration debate?

Yesterday I spoke at a session of the Queensland Multicultural Summit. There were about 250 or so people in attendance. The keynote speaker on the first day was Philippe Legrain, the British author of “Immigrants: Your country needs them.”  He has a blog of his own if you want to get a better idea of his views, but in very simple terms, he points the anomaly of a modern world which encourages more and freedom on the movement of goods, the movement of finance, the movement of information and the movement of services, but still tries to put a whole series of complex and often contradictory constraints on the movement of people.

When I first got involved in migration issues about ten years ago, it was mostly around the issue of asylum seekers and mandatory indefinite detention – a grotesque abomination and perversion of some of our basic democratic tenets which unfortunately still exists in our migration law. But the longer I was involved in migration issues, the more I realised how crucial and far reaching immigration matters are, and how little attention is paid to most aspects of the issue.

This election is no different. Apart from the debate between the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader, we’ve had debates between the Minister and their shadow in the area of Treasury, Foreign Affairs, Environment, Health, Education, Childcare – and maybe some others I’ve missed. But as far as I know, there’s been no debate on immigration. Given how sterile most of these ‘debates’ are, it probably no great loss, but it is a shame how little serious debate there is on the nitty gritty of migration matters. 

Whilst the government’s policy of deliberately causing harm to asylum seekers for politically motivated purposes has rightly received a lot of attention, this involvs just a tiny percentage of the number of people entering our country each year.  During the same period, we’ve also had enormous changes in the nature and size of our migration programs, laws and administration in the past decade.  There’s been some focus on the scandals, but with very little focus on many of the fundamentals, despite its basic importance to the future make up of our nation and its economy. The contradictions between big increases in the intake of migrants, the failure to provide adequate settlement support, the politicised use of migration decisions, the further removal of natural justice and fairness from our migration laws and the deliberate public targeting of some migrants groups by government has created a potentially problematic set of circumstances.

As Philippe Legrain says, immigration brings big economic, social and cultural benefits to our country, but by being so half-hearted in highlighting them, politicians put these benefits at risk.

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7 Comments

  1. Put migration in a box with foreign affairs and humanitarian policy generally. The biggest issues have no traction at all with anyone.

    Perhaps, for tampaesque reasons, many on the left hope the topic will stay below the line of sight.

    PS. Andrew, I’m a labor man, but I wish you every success hanging in there.

  2. Call me paranoid …. I feel deeply suspicious about the recent arrival of a boatlaod of unfortunates off the WA coast. I sincerely hope they weren’t induced by someone or other to leave their camp and attempt the by now notorious waters that nearly took their lives. I am also horrified that our laws reportedly prevented anyone but the Navy from going to their rescue. How many more must lose their lives or become pawns in a very tricky game played by hard, ruthless operators who don’t cre how many lives they throw away in the pursuit of power?

  3. Even with his own brother as Treasurer, Tim Costello from World Vision seems pretty cheesed off by current humanitarian policies.

  4. “…the more I realised how crucial and far reaching immigration matters are, and how little attention is paid to most aspects of the issue.”

    For once, I actually agree with you.

    The major political parties and the media are determined not to publicly discuss the issue of immigration. The fact of the matter is that the Australian people have never been consulted and, more importantly, have frequently been deliberately misled about the size and composition of our massive immigration program.

    Australia is undergoing a silent but profound immigration-driven demographic transformation. Record high immigration is dramatically altering the nature of our country. We can see the extent of these changes every day on our streets. And yet, the topic of immigration remains off the public agenda.

    One can argue that immigration on such an unprecedented scale is a good or a bad thing, but surely it’s a topic worthy of some kind of discussion.

    “As Philippe Legrain says, immigration brings big economic, social and cultural benefits to our country…”

    There is also a downside to immigration, but no one really talks about the economic, environmental, social, or cultural costs of immigration for fear of being called nasty names.

    Needless to say, concern about immigration is fundamentally a patriotic thing. Legrain, an Estonian-French-American turned British citizen, wouldn’t understand. He has no allegiance to any particular nation.

    Those of us who view Australia as not just a mere economy, but as a distinct community of people sharing a common culture, language and history, need to know what post-nation-state mandarins like Legrain have in mind for our future.

    Oh, and Legrain’s book is riddled with half-truths and falsehoods. As an economist, he should know that economic growth rates are meaningless unless interpreted on a per capita basis. Immigration does increase GDP, but research shows that the aggregate net benefit to native-born citizens is negligible.

  5. All the negatives of multiculti and large immigration numbers as mentioned in the Putnam study are happening here.

    Our society becomes more divisive and we are less cohesive as a nation due to these policies as time goes on.

  6. Although Senator Bartlett’s efforts to draw attention to the issue of immigration are to be commended, he doesn’t seem to realise that his precious ideology of multiculturalism is nothing more than an intellectual prop of the population growth lobby.

    In truth, the benefits of mass immigration are concentrated in the hands of a few (an odd-fellow alliance of big business and the multicultural industry), while the rest of us are forced to carry the costs.

  7. To get back to the grass roots of the problem dating back many years, politicians decided we needed to become more a part of the Asia-Pacific region. That’s the big problem.

    I, for one, considered myself to be European and was happy for Australia to trade primarily with European countries, for products we actually needed.

    The only way we can compete or trade with Asian countries is to lower our living standards accordingly.

    For 20 to 30 years, greedy entrepreneurs have exported work to places such as China, India and Korea. I have had several relatives lose jobs in the clothing and car manufacturing industries due to this problem.

    Now the government wants to go one better and bring seriously underpaid “slaves” here, and get us all onto a peasant style diet with matching pay rates – incorporating the great global warming swindle.

    I will reiterate again that governments don’t pass legislation such as “Workchoices” in a country with a shortage of workers.

    When workers are in short supply, employers improve working conditions and rates of pay to attract and keep employees.

    Australia needs to become more self-sufficient and support its own primary, secondary and tertiary industries.

    We also need to do away with free trade agreements.

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