Brumby ‘Blaming’ Migrants

Brumby 'blaming' migrants

David Rood
The Age
August 2, 2008

PREMIER John Brumby has been accused of blaming migrants for the pressures caused by the state's booming population in an Opposition attack that has fuelled debate on how many migrants Victoria should take.

Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu said the Premier was making migrants into scapegoats in an “appalling” attempt to cover for his failure to deliver basic services such as public transport, hospitals and water.

Asked whether Mr Brumby's comments could put Victoria's social cohesion at risk, Mr Baillieu said some pretty ordinary messages were being sent overseas at the moment. He said some international students from India and Asia had been the victims of violent attacks.

“We have to send the right message. Scapegoating migrants for a failure to plan and a failure to deliver basic services is wrong, it's appalling, it's pretty low,” Mr Baillieu said.

When asked if the Premier was playing “the race card”, Mr Baillieu said “I'm not suggesting that.

“John Brumby is trying to blow some dog whistle that somehow or other he can pull a string and stop people from coming here,” he said.

Mr Baillieu's comments came after the Premier called for a pause on the growth of Australia's migrant intake of about 200,000 and flagged a less aggressive approach to attracting skilled migrants, saying Victoria was growing “as fast as we want to go”.

Yesterday, Mr Brumby strongly defended his record on migration, multiculturalism and population growth, branding Mr Baillieu's comment's as “completely untrue”.

“If you look at all of the things I've said over the years about economic growth, about population growth, the contribution of immigration to our community, you wouldn't have had a stronger champion than me,” he said.

The Premier also repeated his view that with population growth at the highest level in Victoria's history and record demand on infrastructure, the state's growth was “about right”.

“We don't want to push the accelerator even harder and add even more to that rate of growth,” he said. “We are not saying halt immigration or stop immigration but I think current levels are about right and steady as she goes is the right policy.”

Victoria has increased its share of Australia's skilled migrant intake from 17.6% in 1998-99 to about 27% now.

Australia's 2008-09 Migration Program has 190,300 places, an increase of almost 20% on the previous year. And, according to the Bureau of Statistics, more than half of Victoria's growth in 2007 49,006 people came from overseas.

The chairwoman of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia, Voula Messimeri, said she was surprised by Mr Baillieu's comments given that the Premier was saying the state would keep a substantial migrant intake.

“I don't think slowing the rate of growth is blaming immigration or ethnic communities,” she said.

Ms Messimeri said Mr Baillieu's comments didn't portray the reality of how migrants were treated in Victoria.

“Victoria has absorbed a large number of migrants and done a pretty good job in making sure that cultural diversity and migrants are seen as valued,” she said.

Despite his attack on the Premier, Mr Baillieu would not nominate a figure for which he thought Victoria's population growth rate should be set.

“You have growth rate you can accommodate,” he said.

“I'm not going to lay a figure on the table and say 'that's it and then you shut the door'.”

Nor would the Opposition Leader say whether he thought national migration levels should increase.