Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s remarks about white South African farmers, including possibly granting them special immigration consideration, evoked charges of “discrimination” and even “racism”. Mind you, the latter epithet is now so shop-soiled by misuse that sensible people no longer usually pay it much attention.
The “discrimination” charge, however, leads to a basic question about our immigration policies, namely: what’s wrong with commonsense policies that discriminate between culturally compatible immigrants (say, Christians) or too often not (Muslims); costly to taxpayers or less so; potential contributors or “victims”; and so on? We discriminate daily in many ways. We avoid sitting beside that bloke talking to himself, or that obese woman occupying most of the seat. Around our kitchen tables (to former Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs’s horror) we laugh on seeing photos of someone as “white” as ourselves claiming Aboriginality, whereas we would never laugh at a genuine Aboriginal from, say, Arnhem Land. Why not exercise similar common sense when choosing those immigrants whom we admit to permanent residence (and prospective citizenship)?
Years ago (September 2010) I wrote in Quadrant about what I called the “self-inflicted wounds” from aspects of our immigration policies. Today, when Melbourne’s newspapers daily report the violent ethnic crimes occurring there, I recall then asking why we had been admitting people from such war-torn and otherwise violent hell-holes as South Sudan, Somalia and assorted West African countries. People from such environments have become habituated to violence, and when that was also associated with an inability to speak English and poor educational attainments, we were asking for trouble. I don’t defend the contemptible Andrews government, but it would be fully justified, when criticized by its federal counterparts, in saying it was federal policies, not State ones, that led to all this.
The key point about immigration policy is that Australia is such a prized destination for would-be emigrants that we have no need to seek out immigrants – the problem is, rather, to choose whom we take. Since choice, by definition, implies priorities, we need seriously to consider on what bases that inherent “discrimination” should be founded. Let me suggest a few.
Most obvious is English-speaking ability. World refugee camps harbour millions of English-speaking residents who, if chosen, would immediately be able to get a job, converse with their new neighbours and “fit in” generally. Why then do we allow the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to impose on us all these people who can’t speak our language – many of whom, five or even ten years later, are still not speaking it while remaining on taxpayer-funded welfare? That’s stupid, and Dutton should tell his complaisant officials to wake up to themselves.
The same non-discriminatory nonsense permeates both our family reunion and our so-called “skilled” migration streams. Nobody objects to our importing, when required, professional engineers (say), but why does the latter stream still include such people as chefs, accountants (already in gross over-supply), lawyers (ditto), and again the list goes on?
Or consider the rackets notoriously surrounding our student visa program. Despite these having been exposed time and again by Dr Bob Birrell and his Australian Population Research Institute, scores of thousands of young fraudsters (particularly though not only Chinese and Indians) posing as students enter Australia, work (often illegally) during most of their time here, acquire some worthless accreditation from some complicit university or some shonky vocational education and training college, then apply for permanent residence with a high chance of being successful because they’ve already lived here for four years or more. But were we to require all foreign students to leave Australia on completing their courses (as we once did), howls of “discrimination” and “racism” would immediately arise – not least from those universities and VETs abetting the racket.
The bottom line, politically, is this: immigration, both as to its rate and composition, is going to figure hugely at the next election, probably even more than the other big issue, energy costs. If the Coalition parties refuse to recognise this, they’ll have only themselves to blame.
John Stone is a former Treasury Secretary (1979-1984) and former National Party Senate leader (1987-1990).
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