In February this year, the Australian media reported that there have been calls from within the Greek-Australian community for the Australian Government to introduce special working visas for Greeks needing to escape the economic slump in their country.
The Greek diaspora is no doubt concerned about the impact of the financial collapse of the Greek economy on their friends and families living in Hellenic Republic. The community recently gathered in Melbourne and Sydney to explore ways in which the diaspora can offer assistance. Even PM Gillard attended one of their meetings in Melbourne, eager to show symbolically that she cares for the issue.
The call by the Greek-Australian community for Australia to introduce special working visas for unemployed Greeks may seem logical to some concerned community leaders and religious organisations. But the proposal for special treatment does not make sense for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, for Australian employers and trade unions. It also not ethical or acceptable to Australia’s multicultural society which has extensive links with not just countries that are experiencing significant financial problems across Europe such as Italy, Spain, Ireland, Britain, Macedonia; the Middle East including Israel, and with developing countries in Africa and in our Asia-Pacific neighbourhood. Many countries no doubt have far greater problems than Greece.
Across the Asia-Pacific, there is no shortage of countries, regions and communities adversely impacted by globalisation, poor management, corruption and lack of opportunities to engage on an equal footing with the developed world. The Asia century and the wealth that has been generated in the last three decades has not spread equally in booming China and emerging India with tens of millions of highly skilled unemployed people searching for any kind of employment that is on offer.
The Greeks in Australia have failed to explain to the Australian Government and to the Australian public why their relatives in Greece deserve special working visas over other ethnic communities in Australia whose friends and relatives are also under severe economic pressure and probably better qualified and with stronger work ethics. The Greek workforce and their economy has been rated as one of the least productive in the western world. Why is it in Australia’s interest then to give preferential treatment to unemployed or under-employed Greek citizens?
Merit rather than special relationships should be the benchmark for giving Australian working visas to the best and brightest knowledge workers from across the globe. Greeks like everyone else in the world should compete without any special preference for working visas for Australia.
On this basis, the Australian Government and the wider community should reject that calls for special treatment for Greeks or anybody else.
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