Thursday, November 25, 2010

Leftist policy on illegals weak and inhumane says Australian conservative expert

The graph shows how the illegals stopped coming under the policies introduced by the previous conservative government

The architect of the Howard government's Pacific Solution says Labor's decision to soften Australia's immigration policies has backfired.

Philip Ruddock's comments follow revelations that Labor was warned three months after it first came to power that closing the Nauru detention centre -- a key plank of the Howard-era offshore processing regime -- would lead to an increase in people-smuggling.

Mr Ruddock, who served as immigration minister from 1996 to 2003, told The Australian he believed the Gillard government was treating its asylum policy as a "menu to pick and choose from" and it should review its measures immediately to give priority to refugees most in need.

He called for a return to temporary protection visas, the reopening of Nauru and better co-operation with Indonesia. "The government has a responsibility to ensure that we manage our borders and we are able to give priority to those who need it most," Mr Ruddock said.

"In my judgment, it was a far more humane system when you had nobody getting on boats and none of these pressures were there, and I don't think these pressures would have occurred without the changes in policy."

Mr Ruddock's decision to enter the debate follows the release under Freedom of Information laws of a confidential briefing on February 25, 2008, in which Immigration Department officials warned then immigration minister Chris Evans to expect an upswing in boat arrivals after the Nauru detention centre was abandoned that month. "While a range of risk-mitigation strategies have prevented significant boat arrivals in recent years, current intelligence on issues including the closure of Nauru suggest the possibility of increased people-smuggling efforts," the advice states.

Labor has not conceded its decision to dismantle the Pacific Solution outpost of Nauru has increased asylum-seekers and blames the so-called push factors of unrest in source countries such as Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the information in the FOI, which was heavily edited and blacked out, needed to be seen in its full context. "The government receives advice on people-smuggling issues regularly and again, the advice to the government when we came to office in 2007 was that people-smugglers remain very active," Mr Bowen told ABC radio.

His comments came as new figures, obtained by The Australian, reveal that self-harm rates among detainees are on the rise, with 79 reports in the four months from July 1 compared with a total of 39 incidents last financial year.

The founder of Labor for Refugees, Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes, conceded yesterday there was "a lot of room for improvement" within Labor's immigration policy and called for processing of applications to be sped up. "I think they've been doing a better job than they were . . . (but) it is very distressing for refugees to go through all they do to get here and then feel so hopeless they attempt self-harm," Mr Howes said. This year, there have been two suicides, hunger strikes, a mass brawl and rooftop protests.


Average Australians well aware of economic case against more immigration

By Ross Gittins, a generally Left-leaning economist

The Big Australia issue has gone quiet since the election but it hasn't gone away. It can't go away because it's too central to our future and, despite Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott's rare agreement to eschew rapid population growth, the issue remains unresolved.

This year Rebecca Huntley of Ipsos, a global market research firm, and Bernard Salt of KPMG, a financial services firm, conducted interviews with business people and discussions with 13 groups of consumers, showing them two markedly different scenarios of what Australia could look like in 2020.

In the "measured Australia" scenario, governments limited population growth, focused on making our activities more environmentally sustainable and limited our economic links with the rest of the world.

In the "global Australia" scenario, governments set aside concerns about the environment, promoted rapid economic and population growth, and made Australia ever more a part of Asia.

Not surprisingly, the business people hated measured Australia and loved global Australia. But even though global Australia was described in glowing terms - ignoring the environment apparently had no adverse effects - ordinary people rejected it. And although measured Australia was painted in negative terms - all downside and no upside - there were aspects of it people quite liked.

The message I draw is that if governments keep pursuing rapid growth to please business they'll encounter increasing resentment and resistance from voters.

Considering the human animal's deep-seated fear of foreigners, it's not surprising resentment has focused on immigration. It's clear from the way in the election campaign both sides purported to have set their face against high migration that they're starting to get the message.

But at the moment they're promising to restrict immigration with one hand while encouraging a decade-long, labour-consuming boom in the construction of mines and gas facilities with the other. And this will be happening at a time when the economy is already close to full employment and baby boomers retire as the population ages.

Their two approaches don't fit together. And unless our leaders find a way to resolve the contradiction there's trouble ahead.

Business people support rapid population growth, which really means high immigration; there's little governments can do to influence the birth rate, because they know a bigger population means a bigger economy. And in a bigger economy they can increase their sales and profits.

That's fine for them, but it doesn't necessarily follow that a bigger economy is better for you and me. Only if the extra people add more to national income than their own share of that income will the average incomes of the rest of us be increased. And that's not to say any gain in material standard of living isn't offset by a decline in our quality of life, which goes unmeasured by gross domestic product.

The most recent study by the Productivity Commission, in 2006, found that even extra skilled migration did little or nothing to raise the average incomes of the existing population, with the migrants themselves the only beneficiaries.

This may explain why, this time, economists are approaching the question from the other end: we're getting the future economic growth from the desire of the world's mining companies to greatly expand Australia's capacity to export coal, iron ore and natural gas, but we don't have sufficient skilled labour to meet that need and unless we bring in a lot more labour this episode will end in soaring wages and inflation.

Peter McDonald, a leading demographer at the Australian National University, argues that governments don't determine the level of net migration, the economy does. When our economy's in recession, few immigrants come and more Aussies leave; when the economy's booming, more immigrants come and fewer Aussies leave. Governments could try to resist this increase, but so far they've opted to get out of the way.

To most business people, economists and demographers, the answer to our present problem is obvious: since economic growth must go ahead, the two sides of politics should stop their populist pandering to the punters' resentment of foreigners.

But it seems clear from the Ipsos discussion groups that people's resistance to high immigration focuses on their concerns about the present inadequacy of public infrastructure: roads, transport, water and energy. We're not coping now, what would it be like with more people?

And the punters have a point. In their instinctive reaction to the idea of more foreigners they've put their finger on the great weakness in the economic case for immigration.

As economists know - but don't like to talk or even think about - the reason immigration adds little or nothing to the material living standards of the existing population is that each extra person coming to Australia - the workers and their families - has to be provided with extra capital equipment: a home to live in, machines to use at work and a host of public infrastructure such as roads, public transport, schools, hospitals, libraries, police stations and much else.

The cost of that extra capital has to be set against the benefit from the extra labour. If the extra capital isn't forthcoming, living standards - and, no doubt, quality of life - decline.

If we don't build the extra homes - as we haven't been doing for some years - rents and house prices keep rising, making home ownership less affordable. To build the extra public facilities, governments have to raise taxes and borrow money. But they hate raising taxes and both sides of federal politics have sworn to eliminate government debt.

The interviews and discussion groups revealed both business people and consumers to be highly doubtful about the ability of governments - particularly state governments - to provide the infrastructure we need. As well they might be.


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