Leftist governments love immigrants -- because they tend to upset the status quo and create problems for governments to "solve"
Did you know the Rudd Government is implementing the biggest immigration program since the end of World War II, and the biggest intake, in absolute numbers of permanent immigrants and temporary workers, in Australia's history? Did you know the migration program for 2008-09 has set a target of 190,300 places, a robust 20 per cent increase over the financial year just ended?
On budget night, May 13, amid the avalanche of material released by the Government, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, issued a press release stating, among other things: "The use of 457 visas to employ temporary skilled migrant workers has grown rapidly in recent years. A total of 39,500 subclass 457 visas was granted in 2003-04 compared with an expected 100,000 places in each of 2007-08 and 2008-09." That is a 150 per cent increase in four years. Did you know the number of overseas students coming to Australia is also at a record high, with 228,592 student visas granted in 2006-07, a 20 per cent increase over the previous year?
Under the Rudd Government, Australia's net immigration intake is now larger than Britain's, even though it has almost three times the population of Australia. To put all this in perspective, the immigration program in the Rudd Government's first year is 150 per cent bigger than it was in the Howard government's first year. The immigration intake is running almost 60 per cent higher than it was three years ago.
On November 14 last year, when Kevin Rudd launched Labor's election campaign, he mentioned at length the challenges of climate change and water shortages: "It is irresponsible for any national government of Australia to stand idly by while our major cities are threatened by the insecurity of water supply." While presenting a commendable shift away from John Howard's inertia on these issues, his policy is breathtakingly inconsistent. Not only did Rudd commit to a policy of building high-energy desalination plants for Australia's main cities, he has also committed Australia to record levels of immigration.
Talk about shifting sands. To quote Rudd in this same keynote speech: "Mr Howard lacked the decency to even mention Work Choices at all during his 4400-word policy speech on Monday. Work Choices has become the industrial relations law that now dare not speak its name." Rudd did not have the decency to mention immigration once in his 4300-word campaign launch. It is the most glaring inconsistency of his Government.
The immigration figures quoted above do not even include New Zealanders, who are not counted as part of Australia's annual migration program, nor do they include people who have overstayed their visas. Add another 50,000 or so people to an equation which will see a million people added to the population during the three-year term of the Rudd Government [compared with an existing population of about 20 million]. The only element in Australia's immigration program that is not going gangbusters is the refugee and humanitarian intake, which remains static at 13,500 places a year.
It was not until Evans made his first key policy speech last week that I began to appreciate the scale of the Government's selective silences. He began with a ritual bashing of his Liberal predecessor as minister, Kevin Andrews, who is now not even in the Opposition shadow outer ministry and would do his party a favour if he retired. After the point-scoring Evans got to the essence: "Today I want to announce . [that] mandatory detention is an essential component of strong border control . [but] children and, where possible, their families, will not be detained in an immigration detention centre . Detention that is indefinite or otherwise arbitrary is not acceptable . Detention in immigration detention centres is only to be used as a last resort and for the shortest practicable time ."
It was not until the last paragraph of his long speech that Evans got to the core point: "In the future, the immigration system will be characterised by strong border security, firm deterrence of unauthorised arrivals, effective and robust immigration processes and respect for the rule of law and the humanity of those seeking migration outcomes."
Sounds like Howard. In other words, the fundamentals of the system are not going to be changed. The Rudd Labor Government is not dismantling the detention system first set up by the Keating Labor. It is not ending the excision of Australian territory from the Immigration Act, which prevents asylum-seekers from entering Australian territory via offshore islands. It is not ending the detention of adults until security and health checks are completed. It is not cutting funding for navy border patrols. It is maintaining the new Christmas Island detention centre, far from Australia's shores, and capable of housing 8000 people short-term, as a place to warehouse any new wave of boat people.
The fundamentals have not changed because they cannot change. The electorate holds dear the principle that people cannot blithely determine when and how they will move to a new country, bypassing immigration controls or refugee programs. This is elementary to a nation's sovereignty.
The hysterics in the refugee and mandatory detention debates have always thrown around words like "shame" and "gulags" and engaged in moral relativism, comparing Howard to Saddam Hussein, while refusing to recognise that there are real consequences of failures of immigration policy. Thousands of Australian have paid a heavy price for the failed refugee-vetting processes in the 1970s and 1980s, when many people who should never have been allowed into the country were approved. We are still paying the price.
Labor learned the hard way that to compromise border security is to invite political disaster. This is why the Rudd Government is still talking tough on border security, and has a major immigration policy but dare not speak its name.
Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your roundup of Obama news and commentary at OBAMA WATCH