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Time to play the migration card

By Gary Johns - posted Thursday, 18 May 2017


There are only three ways Australia can pay its public debt. Either both sides of politics agree there will be no new net spending until such time as the national debt has been dealt with, or deny the vote to all those who pay no taxes.

Neither of these will come to pass; they are simply a measure of my frustration at the imbeciles in the Senate, and on the Labor-Greens benches, who think it is smart to offer goodies to people who would not otherwise be able to afford them, and argue that the nation will benefit.

The federal budget called Labor's bluff and revealed them for the lying hounds they are. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is unfunded, and Labor's Gonski schools funding never existed. Schools are lucky to get the government's offer, which is too generous, but at least it is logical and defensible. As for Labor's threat to amend the Medicare levy to fund NDIS, shouldn't everyone be seen to support the disabled, or are only the wealthy kind-hearted?

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There is a third way. Go full bore popular and win big. Australia is sucking in too many of the wrong type of immigrant. This can be fixed and would be popular. There is no doubt many Australians have considerable misgivings about Muslim immigration and the ability of many to fit in.

Almost 70 per cent of Australians are in favour of a strong immigration intake, but Australians are strongly divided over the content of the intake.

A 2015 Australian Institute for Progress online poll reported that 45 per cent of voters say Muslim immigration is bad for Australia.

There are strong political divisions in these views: 75 per cent of Liberal and 69 per cent of non-ALP/Greens minor-party respondents say Muslim immigration is bad; by contrast, 22 per cent of ALP and 18 per cent of Greens respondents thought the same. Only 8 per cent of all respondents thought Muslim immigration had been good for Australia.

An online Essential poll last year reported that 49 per cent of Australians support a ban on Muslim immigration.

The main reason was "they do not integrate into society". A 2011 poll from the same pollster reported that 25 per cent of respondents believed the government "should exclude Muslims from our migrant intake". To the same question, a 2015 face-to-face poll by Morgan reported 29 per cent, down from 36 per cent in 2010.

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Australians are not unique in their distrust of Muslim immigration. A recent survey of more than 10,000 people from 10 European states reported an average of 55 per cent agreed that all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should stop.

A good place to start with the immigration question is with the understanding that Australia is not a multicultural society. It is a monolingual, multiethnic and limited culturally diverse society. There is only one official language, English, and it is expected that all will speak, read and write English. Australia is multiethnic and, despite the dreams of human rights activists, is not racist. As for culture, there are limits.

Will Kymlicka, a multiculturalist par excellence, understands the overwhelming power of the host country to require change in immigrants, to the extent necessary, for them to fit in. "In deciding to uproot themselves, immigrants voluntarily relinquish some of the rights that go along with their original national membership." The only question is what, and how much, immigrants have to give up.

Liav Orgad, an international expert in the field, argues that selective immigration is justifiable to protect cultural essentials. And the Brookings Institution's Shadi Hamid argues: "Liberalism … needs liberals to survive and prosper." No majority Muslim country is a liberal democracy.

Many Muslims in those countries are illiberal. Their values are inconsistent with liberal Australia.

Until now, Australia has chosen immigrants mainly on the basis of language and employment skills. But even educated people may harbour thoughts and practices inimical to Australia.

Only an ideologue would believe that the disquiet felt by many Australians at the prospect of further Muslim immigration could be understood as the liberal society failing the test of multiculturalism.

Where multiculturalism clashes with the security of Australians it has little chance of remaining public policy. In a liberal society, the only quibble is how to arrive at the point of abandonment.

Put your thinking caps on, Coalition, you need to crush the opposition, and win big. Then, and only then, can Australia pay its debts.

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This article was first published in The Australian.



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About the Author

Gary Johns is a fellow of the Australian Institute for Progress and an adjunct professor at QUT.

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