Yves here. One of the things that is routinely airbrushed out of official discourse on the immigration in the US is that our immigration policy to a significant degree is designed to lower labor costs. It should not be surprising that at a time when average wages are stagnant, most middle and lower income Americans are debt-burdened, face short job tenures and are living paycheck to paycheck that anxiety about immigration is at a high level.
Having said that, it is also true that 15 years of relentless political and media focus on terrorism has increased xenophobia. As one of my contacts put it, “What do you expect when you train people to think that the woman behind the checkout counter who wears a headscarf has an AK-47 at home?” And that isn’t much of an exaggeration. Earlier this evening, I happened to be on the treadmill when a CNN documentary, “Why Do They Hate Us?” was running. Let’s start with the “When did you stop beating your wife?” nature of the question. The fact that the US has created failed states all over the Middle East didn’t get a mention. The show was all about what the Administration likes to call “radical jihad.”
It started with a long opening sequence of violent scenes from Middle-East-related terrorism, starting with 9/11. The next section featured Muslim “reformers” arguing against the Muslim “moderate” position that Islam is not a violent religion. It then cited sections of the Quran (of the “kill the infidel” sort) and compared them with equally bloodthirsty passages from the Bible, and claimed that Christianity does not operate from that (these days) and then proceeded to discuss the culture of jihadists, and said many were formerly unemployed, drug addicts, not well educated, and didn’t understand the religion qua religion, they’d just latched onto these organizations. That was as far as I got.
The problem I had was that this video was heavy on scary images, like a guy with knife next to person about to be beheaded, when they were only tangentially related to the narrative at that point.
Finally, a bit of background to this piece. When I was in Oz (2002-2004), the population was just over 20 million. The combination of tight immigration policies (it was tough for me to get a visa) and low birth rates meant the population was static. That had seemed to work well. Australia was prosperous and had enjoyed a long run of growth. But the business community was pushing hard for a much higher level of immigration, to generate a higher growth rate, even though Australia has resource constraints, the biggest being water. The “higher growth” faction won.
By David Llewellyn-Smith, founding publisher and former editor-in-chief of The Diplomat magazine, now the Asia Pacific’s leading geo-politics website. Originally posted at MacroBusiness
At Domainfax, Peter Hartcher writes a shocker today:
The political consensus in favour of immigration has collapsed in most of the developed world.
Hostility to immigrants is now the great motive force animating politics in Europe and the US.
It’s on stark display now in the countries to which Australia has typically looked for leadership and for example, American and Britain. This is a troubling omen for Australia.
We do not have the problems of the US and Britain. But Australia commonly imports words, ideas and political trends from these countries. And often we absorb them uncritically. It would be a dire mistake for Australia to import the anger, fear and hatred that’s now running amok among our civilisational cousins.
…As Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, says: “We do need to state the case for immigration and cultural diversity, as there’ll always be political elements seeking to exploit fears and anxieties.
“But a well-ordered immigration program is good for Australia,” he tells me. “It supports our economy, and it reinvigorates our society. We have every reason to be proud of our multiculturalism. Our experience has been very different from Europe, and we must not draw the wrong lessons from what is happening there.” Or the US.
Australia is a multicultural society and an immigrant nation. These are not choices. Our only choice is whether we make a success of it.
Let’s get a few things straight first. I have spent my entire adult life campaigning for both successful multi-culturalism, of which I am very proud, and Australian integration with Asia. Indeed I worked with Peter Hartcher on The Diplomat for nigh on a decade, which explicitly held these goals. But Peter’s comment today is not the solution, it is the problem.
A “well-ordered immigration program” needs to be socially, economically and politically sustainable otherwise it will generate the kind of resentment on display in the northern hemisphere. The first pre-condition for each is to ensure buy-in by the polity and that requires both debate and “choices”. Wowserishness that shuts down both will only generate powerlessness, anger and a backlash.
So, first of all. Do not represent immigration as manifest destiny. It is a choice. One we should argue for and select.
Having established that support we then need to discuss what kind of immigration we want.
My own view is that I’d rather see the complete opposite of today wherein refugees are demonised and economic migrants are ushered in via a variety of questionable front doors where legality is in constant question. The moral imperative of assisting the persecuted plus the long benefits that they bring stand in far better stead with the Australia I grew up in than the lowly game of selling our souls to the rich of China, recently encapsulated by Warwick McKibbin:
Obsessed by weak commodity prices and volatility in global financial markets to the point of not thinking about the future?
Don’t be, advises top economist and former Reserve Bank of Australia board member Warwick McKibbin.
Australia is better placed than most countries to benefit from long-term global trends – such as population ageing, fiscal adjustments and the shift in economic clout from Europe to Asia, Professor McKibbin says.
…”If you have got something like a fixed asset in a country and you are globalising the entire world then location becomes a valuable asset.”
“Real estate on Sydney harbour for example is also from a national point of view attractive. But for foreign investors it’s also very attractive because there’s billions of dollars of wealth being generated in China.
“The middle class is expanding, and they’re going to want to buy things, environmental goods – they’re going to want to buy stuff which we actually have in abundance. But much of it is fixed assets so you can’t change the supply of it, and so therefore it’s value is likely to go up a lot.”
But it will also drive up the real exchange rate, hurting the competitiveness of trade-exposed industries such as tourism – currently enjoying good growth with a lower Aussie dollar – and manufacturing. A stronger dollar means Australian goods and services are more expensive for foreigners while competing foreign goods and services are cheaper for Australians.
And the Prime Minister:
From July 1, students aged six and above would be able to apply for student visas regardless of their country of citizenship – and their guardians can also apply for Guardian visas (subclass 580)…
These visa-rule changes, which were announced during Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s visit to China in April, also mean non-residents can buy several new properties or one existing property…
Dave Platter, from the leading Chinese international-property portal Juwai.com said there has been a nearly 20 per cent jump in inquiries for properties in Australia since Mr Turnbull’s announcement…
Estate agents Vera and Geoffrey Wong have hosted an open home in Sydney’s Eastwood.
Most of their clients are either Chinese or South Korean investors, and Mr Wong says when they were choosing a property, there is no doubt their children’s education is considered most important.
He said buyers are planning purchases that cater for their children’s entire education.
“Schooling … that is – I can’t emphasise it enough – is one of the main factors,” he said.
“Our clients, I would say over 70 per cent, (are looking,) at schooling and the university afterwards.”
A well-ordered immigration program does not need underhanded entry points nor should it be crowding out the existing population from essential services. Yet that is where we are at in the major eastern capitals:
ScreenHunter_13326 Jun. 03 07.22
Property prices, junior age school congestion, falling university standards and a long list of other straining infrastructure is crowding out the living standards of the existing population.
That brings us to our third condition of a well-ordered immigration program. It needs to meet the needs and improve the lot of existing Australians and that will need to inform the size of the inflows. Australia is still running what is essentially a “Big Australia” agenda in the east yet there is no obvious reason why it should, no skill shortages, no lack of diversity, no economic dividend, no strategic imperative. Indeed, it is all the opposite with high underemployment, vibrant inner-cities, a grotesque lack of infrastructure investment and an approaching tipping point where economic integration with Asia will overwhelm traditional Western alliances.
It is not socially, economically or politically sustainable to erode the standards of living in the existing Australian population in this way. There may be an argument for it. That is, that not doing it will lead to an even larger fall in living standards but that argument must be made convincingly and I’m not sure it can be.
If it is not then eventually you will create the very anti-immigration pulse that you are seeking to avoid.