Abbott kicks the immigration hornets’ nest

The post-War migrant boom has become etched in the Australian consciousness. Today’s immigration levels are even higher: should this continue?

Former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has always been something of a political bomb-thrower, and this week he has put the match to the wick of an issue which the political and media elite have been vigilant to keep defused for decades.

Tony Abbott [has told] the Sydney Institute that Australia?s immigration intake should be halved. It?s a radical idea to say the least.

It?s ?radical? only in the sense that Australia?s political and cultural elite have rigorously stifled debate on this issue for decades. While at first successive governments pursued a quietly bipartisan agenda of dismantling the racist White Australia policy – the creation of the Labor movement in the dawn of Australian Federation – this quickly evolved into a conspiracy of silence. The elites simply don?t trust the hoi polloi to have a rational debate on the issue.

Australia?s economic growth is built on the back of high immigration rates.

It?s truer to say that immigration is a lazy sugar hit for business and government alike. In any case, the economic benefit of immigration seems to be grossly exaggerated. The Australian Department of Immigration estimates that permanent migrants contribute a net average of $230 million each year. Which sounds impressive, until you consider that Australia?s annual GDP is $1.7 trillion. In other words, immigrants contribute just one-hundredth of one percent of annual GDP.

Australians have been continually lectured that immigration is necessary for economic growth. It is not unimaginable that, when asked to balance that against the cultural and social, not to say environmental impact of immigration on the country, Australians might reasonably respond that such a modest contribution to the economy is not justified.

But of course, to our elites,

Point[ing] to assimilation problems some migrants can have when coming to Australia ? is a sop to xenophobic attitudes

This is arrogant nonsense. While only a fool would claim that there is no xenophobia in Australia, as there is in all societies, survey after survey has shown that Australia is, like New Zealand, one of the least racist countries in the world. A reasoned debate on immigration is eminently possible.

The elites, however, who clutch their pearls when Australians so much as express reasonable doubts about Muslim immigration or the scourge of African gangs, have shown themselves beyond reasoned discussion. When eminent historian, Geoffrey Blainey, quietly suggested in the 1980s that soaring rates of immigration would test Australia?s social cohesion, he was viciously attacked and his academic career destroyed.

A recent ANU survey highlighted that a little over a quarter of Australians want our immigration rate reduced, nearly half want it to remain when it currently is, and the remaining quarter or so actually want it increased.

While this is true, other surveys indicate otherwise. For instance, Ipsos Mori find that approximately half of Australians think our immigration intake is too high.
An even greater hindrance to debate is that Australians are not only kept in the dark – politicians and the media rarely talk about the scale of immigration, which now exceeds even the famed post-War migrant boom of the early 50s.

Moreover, Australians are just never asked: the elites conspire to keep immigration off the political radar. With Blainey?s example in mind, few in the public eye have the courage to speak. Yet, when a politician like Abbott has the guts to raise the issue, perhaps a truer picture of Australians? views emerges.

When Abbott similarly proposed slashing the immigration intake in 2010, only 22% of poll respondents disagreed.

Australians have been kept silenced by a conspiracy of elites who have treated them like, well, deplorables for far too long. These issues have to be thrashed out in the public sphere, no matter how much it offends the elites.

We have to wonder if swelling the population is merely going to swell the dole queues and cost of social services. It?s a debate worth having, as long as it remains civil. But can it?

Not if the elites can help it, of that you can be sure.

The Australian