Whilst John Howard preaches in the media fairly regularly about issues relating to migrants, migration, asylum seekers and citizenship, occasionally he makes statements which suggest he doesn’t really know much about the details of how our migration laws work or the nature of our migrant intake these days. I did a post on such an instance some time ago. His recent off the cuff comment in a radio interview suggesting that, “prima facie”, HIV positive people should not be allowed to migrate to Australia, is another example.
I thought the comment was mostly a cheap shot which would do little other than add a bit to prejudice and misunderstanding in Australia about our existing migration laws and program, and about HIV/AIDS. However, I did a quick Google search whilst preparing some comments in response, and I was amazed at the huge number of links produced of the story running in international media. It wasn’t just British media either, such as:
- The Independent – HIV-positive immigrants should not be allowed, says Howard
- The Times – Australia ‘should ban people with HIV’
- The BBC – Fury at Howard HIV entry ban call
- The Guardian – Outrage at Australian PM’s HIV remarks
or sites from the USA, where it also got a wide run:
- CNN – Australian PM: Ban AIDS immigrants
- FOX News – Australian PM Howard: Immigrants with HIV should be banned
- United Press International – Australia PM vs HIV/AIDS Immigrants
- Houston Chronicle – Australia may bar migrants with HIV
- and syndicated through many other sites around the USA – the San Jose Mercury – and San Franscisco Chronicle story “Howard: No HIV positive immigrants” were just a couple.
It also appeared on websites such as
- Reuters India – Australia PM says no to HIV-positive immigrants
- Pakistan’s Daily Times – Australia to refuse HIV positive migrants
- China’s Shanghai Daily – Howard: No HIV incomers
- South Africa’s News 24 – Aus PM: No to HIV+ immigrants
- France24 – PM says Australia should refuse HIV positive migrants
- Canada’s National Post – Australia’s AIDS free immigration policy is irrational
- The Irish Times – Howard considers HIV migrant ban
- The Belfast Telegraph in the north of Ireland – Australian PM supports immigration ban for HIV sufferers
- New Zealand’s Stuff.co – Howard wants ban on HIV migrants
- Japan’s Mainichi Daily News – Australian leader: HIV-positive immigrants should not be allowed
- The South African Star – Oz may bar aliens with HIV
- Khaleej Times from the United Arab Emirates – Australia PM says no to HIV positive immigrants
- The Times of India – Howard opposes HIV+ migrants in Australia
- MedIndia of India – Australian Prime Minster wants to ban entry of HIV infected
- ZeeNews of India – Howard calls for ban on HIV-positive immigration
- Gulf News from the United Arab Emierates – Howard calls for HIV migrant ban
- Radio New Zealand – Howard may block HIV positive migrants
- Canada’s London Free Press – Aussies would bar HIV-positive
Applicants for permanent residency in Australia are already subject to health tests. I am surprised that the PM either didn’t know this, or didn’t think it was worth mentioning. His comment reinforces ill-informed and destructive prejudices that migrants ‘bring in diseases’.
Many people miss out if they – or even one of their children – have any of a vast array of pre-existing health conditions. Highly contagious diseases which can be spread through casual contact (of which AIDS isn’t one) like Tuberculosis are checked for public health purposes, but these healthh tests are mostly focused on reducing costs to Australia’s health system, which is why people applying for temporary residency don’t undergo such tests – because they have to pay full cost to access Australia’s health system anyway.
If Mr Howard genuinely believed there was a public health problem, he would be calling for full health testing for the hundreds of thousands of people who come here on student or temporary working visas (not to mention the millions who come on tourist visas each year). He won’t do this, and nor should he, as it would cause immense damage to the many sectors of our economy, when there is no evidence at all that it presents any significant health problem to Australia.
I note that the Prime Minister also said he would like to seek more counsel on the issue before going further. I hope he heeds the widespread public counsel he has received in response to his comment.