Big Australia : The View From Labour Heartland

Big Australia: the view from Labor heartland

By Sallie Don
The Australian, June 28, 2010

In Labor's western Sydney heartland, Julia Gillard has impressed young Chinese students Zhou Qia and Rocky Lin.

The couple, who hope to make a life together in Australia, say they love this country and think immigration has been good for diversity.

But Ms Qia thinks that perhaps 'it's time to stop' letting so many people into the country.

When the Prime Minister announced on the weekend she did not support the idea of a 'Big Australia', the pitch resonated even with migrants themselves.

'I go on to the street and not only do I see Australian people but people from China and India — so many of those people,' said Ms Qia. 'It's good for multiculturalism but (I) also wonder, is this really Australia?'

The couple live in the seat of Parramatta, held by Labor MP Julie Owens with a 7.7 per cent margin. Ms Owens gained the seat from Liberal Ross Cameron — who had held Parramatta with only a 2 per cent margin — in 2004.

It is seats such as Parramatta that ALP internal polling shows are at dire risk of falling to the Coalition at this year's election.

Darren and Carmen Clarke of Carlingford also live in the Parramatta electorate, and have watched Sydney's west change dramatically over the years.

Ms Clarke, 35, says she is with Ms Gillard on the immigration question and believes community infrastructure should be put in place before the nation opens up its borders to more migrants.

Her husband agrees. 'The dream of having your own little space is not there. There's just not enough parks, not enough facilities to go around.' Mr Clarke, 38, said.

Though Mr Clarke said he was 'happy with what Labor has done so far', he thinks the immigrants and refugees that have found homes in Australia already 'deserve a fair go first'.

Ben Gallacherm, 35, works in recruitment and said it was fairly evident there was a skills shortage in Australia.

The Parramatta resident thinks Ms Gillard is 'on the money,' and agrees that the nation needs to 'strike a balance'.

'Remote areas are screaming for people and don't have anyone to fill those jobs. In Sydney, there's not enough jobs and too many people.' said Mr Gallacherm.

Kristijan Aceski, 29, a small business owner in Parramatta, emigrated with his family from Macedonia when he was seven years old.

While he thinks that perhaps the rules should be tougher for immigrants, he sees Australia as a 'really big' country with lots of capacity.

'There are a lot of great people and skilled immigrants from overseas that could really contribute to the growth of our country,' he said.