Cut migrants, and keep out those who don't fit in
From: The Australian
August 05, 2010 12:00AM
ALTHOUGH immigration has become the most important issue in the election campaign, the debate continues to confuse three largely separate components.
They are illegal boatpeople, the official immigration program number, and net overseas migration (which includes temporary entry visa-holders such as students, workers granted long-stay visas, New Zealanders and others).
The basic fact about immigration that should govern the whole debate is that Australia is a prize destination for people wishing to emigrate.
The US and Canada might outrank us, but few other countries do.
Achieving permanent residence here (with the prospective further prize of citizenship) promises peace, order and prosperity at levels often far exceeding those of their original homelands.
While our politicians no doubt accept that fact, they largely ignore its implications for framing a sensible immigration program.
In short, it means that Australia has no need to seek immigrants.
The problem is choosing those whom we wish to take.
Were we willing to take all and sundry (as the mad Greens, and even some deranged economists, propose), choice would not arise.
But having said “We won't take you all”, we need to choose.
This has many implications, the most important being that we should choose culturally compatible people who will easily fit in with our essentially Judeo-Christian culture.
Julia Gillard's disingenuous reference to “the right kind of people” implicitly acknowledged this, but that spin will never be reflected in Labor's actual immigration selection policies. On this, the Coalition is no better.
Today, both sides almost boast of their joint conspiracy against the public in admitting people unlikely ever to fit in.
The most obvious examples come from Islamic cultures, but the same goes for people from such violence-prone places as Somalia, Sudan and many west African states.
For the results, look only to the figures for ethnic crime.
The prize of permanent residence is such that would-be immigrants will move heaven and earth to attain it.
If that means breaking our laws, or bribing officials, or medical examiners, English language proficiency assessors, trade skills assessors, or employers able to offer “sponsored” employment, so be it.
The result, as the current student visa shambles vividly attests, is that our immigration processes today are riddled with corruption.
As for people-smuggling, the analysis is simple. Smugglers and their clients have a choice of destinations — continental Europe, Britain, Australia, and so on.
Their choice entails three considerations: the relative fees charged by the smuggler, the relative value to the client if successful (very high in Australia's case), and the relative likelihood of success.
Under John Howard, the likelihood of success became so small and so long delayed that the choice was strongly weighted towards going elsewhere.
Under Kevin Rudd, the likelihood of success rose sharply, the hardship involved fell sharply, so the number of boats (predictably) soared.
Gillard's proposed regional processing centre would make things worse.
The likelihood of success in entering Australia would be undiminished (at best) or (more likely) enhanced, by entrusting processing to the UNHCR.
The boats would therefore keep coming, and the regional processing centre would become a magnet for all those illegals now camped in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Middle East.
By denying permanent residence visas to those we do accept, and through other such deterrents, the Coalition's proposals in this area are both clear and clearly superior.
That cannot be said of either side's policies on the future size of the official immigration program. The Coalition has now said that “within the first term” it would produce “a 130,000 cut in immigration numbers to no more than 170,000 a year”.
It is clearly referring here not to the official immigration program, but to the net overseas migration figure (three years hence).
But what people want to know is, to what figure will it cut the official program on day one? Weasel words about referring that matter to the Productivity (and Sustainability!) Commission are just a fudge, an evasion exceeded only by Gillard and her equally specious spokesman, the Minister for Sustainable(!) Population.
The corporate chieftains continue to promote their own narrow interests in large numbers, but average Australians are demanding a sharp cut in the flood of immigrants.
An official immigration program of (say) 50,000-100,000 (compared with roughly 180,000 now) would provide some relief.
As for those genuinely needed skilled workers (for whose Australian counterparts the same corporate chieftains have miserably failed to provide), they are relatively small in number and could be readily found within such a program.
To sum up, the Coalition now clearly would be more effective on illegals, but both sides refuse to tell us what they will actually do on immigration program numbers. To win this election, the Coalition will have to do much better on that issue, and the vital cultural compatibility one, than it has done so far.
John Stone is a former Treasury secretary and National Party senator.
Related Coverage :
Student visa cuts to cost jobs: unis The Australian, 10 days ago
Abbott to cut migrant level to 170,000 The Australian, 10 days ago
Libs would slash foreign student intake Daily Telegraph, 10 days ago
We need to cut influx Herald Sun, 24 Jul 2010
Abbott pulls back welcome mat Courier Mail, 24 Jul 2010