Friday, March 9, 2012

Immigration paves Australia's way into the Asian century

BY: CHRIS BOWEN (Chris Bowen is the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship in Australia's Green/Left government)

What Chris Bowen's writers say below is true enough in that East Asians and South Asians integrate well into Australian society and, now that that is generally recognized, their presence is not controversial.

Though young Caucasian/Australian women could be forgiven for being bothered by the way that East Asian young women tend to snap up all the tall Caucasian men. No shortage of integration there!

Bowen deliberately ignores what IS controversial in Australia, however: Illegal immigration. The people are overwhelmingly against it but the Leftist government winks at it. Leftists represent elites and would-be elites these days, not the people.

And since Afghans are prominent among the illegals, there is good reason for disquiet. Importing medieval ignorance and religious hostility has little good to be said for it

SOMETHING big happened in the history of immigration last year. It didn't get any headlines. It had nothing to do with boats or asylum-seekers. It wasn't debated in parliament.

But it is probably the most important development in immigration in years. Last year, for the first time in the history of Australia, Britain was not our largest source of permanent migrants. For the first time, more people moved to Australia from China than any other country.

As we talk of Australia's role in the Asian century, there is a lot of focus on trade and resources, naturally enough. But it is immigration - and skilled migration in particular - that is the greatest cross-cultural and economic development program of them all.

Skilled and business migrants from Asia increase our trade links, our understanding of the region and our national language skills. And it's not just China we're talking about, of course. Putting aside New Zealand, which has separate migration arrangements with Australia, India and The Philippines are our third and fourth largest sources of new residents.

All of this has occurred with little public criticism. The days of John Howard or Pauline Hanson warning of the social upheaval caused by Asian migration seem like an eon ago.

Skilled migration is vital to our economy. Without migration, the labour force is expected to contract by 2050. Australia simply won't have enough people to keep our economy growing - even with the government's strong investment in skills and education, participation and social inclusion, and productive capacity. We need migrants for future growth and prosperity.

We are no longer victims of the tyranny of distance. Indeed, we have been blessed by geography. But let's be clear, the opportunities the Asian century present Australia aren't purely down to chance.

Our nation is a highly open economy, open to significant flows of people. More than a quarter of our people were born overseas and migrants add more to our population each year than natural increase.

The potential then offered by six million migrants, a third of them born in Asian countries, is extraordinary. Think also about the hundreds of thousands of Australian residents fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Hindi, Punjabi, Indonesian, Tagalog and Japanese.

Asian migration to Australia is very much driven by a mutually beneficial emphasis on skills. Much more than 60 per cent of migrants to Australia come under our skilled migration program, and this applies particularly to migrants from Asia.

Perhaps the most reassuring element of the shift in emphasis towards Asian migration is that we don't need to tweak the system to tap into these skills, because the skilled migration system we have developed has the flexibility to automatically respond to shifts in the world's economic activity.

Of equal importance to our economic future are temporary migrants, such as students. Students from Asia now comprise 68 per cent of all student visitors - which has already equated to 100,000 visas granted in the past seven months.

The importance of international education for the bottom line of our universities is well understood, as is the economic activity of the students and their families who regularly visit them. Not as frequently discussed is the importance of international education to the nation's long-term strategic interests.

Having large numbers of Asia's future leaders who have had a positive education experience in Australia is of incalculable benefit to our long-term diplomatic engagement in the region. Every international student becomes another ambassador for our country, another advocate for our interests in the region. And those advocates often end up in some pretty important roles.

When I travel through the region, I'm often struck by the number of senior players in government who studied here or who have children who study here and therefore have a heightened appreciation and positive disposition towards Australia.

Singapore's first directly elected president, Ong Teng Cheong, and Indonesia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marty Natalegawa, both studied at Australian universities. Australian university alumni are littered across the region, particularly in China, India, Malaysia and Singapore.

The reforms Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans and I have announced, based on the recommendations of former NSW Olympics minister Michael Knight, are very focused on encouraging more genuine students, particularly from Asia, to have the Australian education experience.

We will provide post-study work rights of two years for bachelor degree graduates and up to four-year work rights for PhD graduates. We are also streamlining the process for assessing genuine students to make it easier for people who want to study here.

The rise of Asia brings new and exciting opportunities for Australia. Solid economic fundamentals and geography mean we're well placed to act.

Dwindling domestic labour force growth and the need to shore up our economic future mean we must act. If we get it right, the potential is profound.


'We have too many foreigners': Sarkozy outrages minorities in France

Nicolas Sarkozy has infuriated ethnic minorities by claiming that there are ‘too many immigrants in France’ and that the number arriving should be reduced by almost half.

The outspoken claims were made on live TV as the increasingly desperate President tried to persuade people to re-elect him in May.

‘Our system of integration is getting worse and worse,’ said Mr Sarkozy. 'We have too many foreigners on our territory and we can no longer manage to find them accommodation, a job, a school.’

The conservative President, who is trailing badly in all opinion polls to his Socialist rival Francois Hollande, said he wanted to reduce the number of immigrants from some 180,000 a year to 100,000.

Speaking about immigration, Mr Sarkozy said: ‘Over the five year term, I think that to restart the process of integration in the right way, we must divide by two the number of people that we welcome, that is to say to pass from 180,000 per year to 100,000.’

Mr Sarkozy said he also wanted to limit the amount of welfare benefits paid to immigrant workers so that only those had lived in the country for 10 years, and worked for at least five, received them.

In what appeared to be a specific attack on Jews and Muslims – who make up a community of around 5 million in France and are the largest ethnic minority – Mr Sarkozy had earlier called for all kosher and halal products to be labelled properly.

He said that all consumers needed to know whether food had been prepared in accordance with Islamic and Jewish law,as they might object to eating it.

Mohammed Moussaoui, head of the French Muslim faith council, said Islam should ‘not become a target in the election campaign’.

Richard Prasquier, president of the representative council of Jewish institutions, has also expressed ‘shock’ at the ‘stupefying’ claims being made by Mr Sarkozy and his colleagues.

Mr Sarkozy was also attacked for ‘scape-goating and stigmatizing’ Muslims by Manuel Valls, communications chief for Mr Hollande’s campaign.

Mr Sarkozy is hoping he can win over those who currently vote for Marine Le Pen’ s National Front (FN), but his increasingly right-wing agenda is not making him any more popular.

Before his TV appearance on Tuesday night, a CSA poll suggested Mr Sarkozy would gain 46 per cent of the vote in a second round run-off, compared to 54 per cent for Mr Hollande.

An editorial in Liberation, the Paris daily newspaper, said the French had ‘solidly and profoundly fallen out of love with the outgoing President’.


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