A possie in Aussie

January 25, 2010

Australians spooked by immigrants, but not by ‘illegals’, Dr Birrell

Our local Sunday tabloid, the Sunday Mail, put ‘Australians are spooked by record high immigration’, reporting on a poll by Galaxy Poll shows Aussies want immigration capped. Sixty-six per cent said that the Federal Government should cap immigration rates. Bob Birrell, an academic who is often called to comment on demographic and migration matters, said the figures show “the tide is turning”.

It may well be. Australia has had unprecedented rates of immigration over the last few years, mostly in the skilled worker and business categories.

The last time that numbers indicating that immigration numbers had gone too far was in 1993 at 67%, up from 56% the year before and dropping progressively to less than 30% in 2004. 1993 was near the last year of resettlement of around 130,000 Vietnamese refugees in Australia under the UNHCR Comprehensive Plan of Action, and soon after the end of the program that accepted nearly 20,000 Chinese as refugees as a result of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Dr Birrell said the economic shock of the global financial crisis, increasing house prices and continuing controversy over illegal immigration would have played a part in changing opinions. (I assume that professor Birrell means ‘undocumented arrivals’ or ‘asylum seekers’ – and surely knows that the term ‘illegal immigrants’ is not only incorrect, but inflammatory to boot).

The figures showing dissatisfaction with immigration don’t support the idea that the public has been ‘spooked’ by ‘illegal immigration’, however.

The numbers expressing concern for rate of immigration dropped from 41% to 33% from 1998 to 2001, while conversely the numbers of arrivals of asylum seekers by boat actually peaked over that period, as they have again peaked over the last 12 months.

It may be that poll respondents believe that increasing numbers of immigrants have caused them financial distress, but another item by David Uren, economics correspondent for the Australian reports that the arrival of almost 300,000 migrants and temporary workers last year

“was one of the biggest contributors to Australia’s superior economic performance during the global recession. Their spending delivered a stimulus at least as big as the government’s first cash splash, and the flexibility of a temporary migrant labour force that now holds about 7.5 per cent of all jobs helped the economy to ride out the downturn with a relatively little rise in unemployment.” Migrant spending a great stimulus to economy during crisis

Here is comment on the Sunday Mail story that made me laugh:

“I’m more worried about Australia being swamped by drop-kick bogans than immigrants”


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