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”


January 20, 2010

Soon we will be fighting for immigrants – any immigrants

The new documentary movie The Demographic Winter (narrated in that ‘prophetic/lone voice of reason’, as one commenter says), explores the coming downfall of humanity caused because we are not reproducing sufficiently to  sustain our economies.

The movie implies that anyone who is not having children is not doing their duty.

Sociological Images, a great blog on Context.org, featured this movie, and pointed out how it is anti-gay, anti any sex outside marriage. It is, indeed, suspected of being propaganda for the Christian Right.

This is, however, a real and important issue. Its effects will overcome the barriers, both actual and ideological, against immigration of the marginalised from the Global South, because within the next few decades all economically-developed countries will be desperate for workers, from anywhere, of any colour and of any skill level. The recent sharp increases in skilled migration to Australia are just the beginning.

Sociological Images, and people who comment on the blog, usually give insightful reports, but this time paid little attention to what I see as the real issue here. Why assume that growth must continue?

Yes, the current wealthy lifestyles of the Global North are dependent on growth. And that means growth in numbers of people. But the world is already over-crowded and dying of the stress.

July 23, 2009

Meatworks’ protesters are people, not work units

May 11, 2009

New ‘flu is not swinish!

Something besides swine flu seems to be spreading around the world – positive attitudes to immigrants and asylum seekers (who would have guessed?)

Henrik at Eclectic Grounds reports that the latest quarterly survey in the Netherlands has revealed that, over the last 3 months, the amount of people stating that the Netherlands would be better off if it had fewer immigrants has sunk from 41 to 35%, and the percentage of people who see a presence of different cultures as an asset increased from 36 to 44%. Despite crisis, more tolerance toward immigrants and Muslim citizens

Last week this blog reported that 45% of people agree with Kevin Rudd’s position that the Australia Government has maintained tough border security and the increase in asylum seekers is due to new global security and economic factors Australians turn away from bull about boatpeople

As well as a poll from the NY Times/CBS showing that two-thirds of Americans support giving legal status to undocumented immigrants, with 44% supporting a path to citizenship, a new ABC poll shows a substantial increase in the number of Americans who support legal status for undocumented immigrants. Clear Majority of Public Supports Legal Status for Undocumented


April 11, 2009

Unions want to cut workers: knife the 457s

Union leader John Sutton says that the 457 visa scheme is not adjusting well-enough to the downturn in the economy and is now demanding that the Government temporarily ends the scheme. He claimed that bricklayers, plumbers, welders, carpenters and metal fitters were removed from the Critical Skills List because of union pressure, and demanded that the Minister Chris Evans respond in the same way on 457s. Unions urge more cuts in skilled migrants

Evans said that the Government’s policy is to make overseas workers more expensive so that employers are inclined to employ local workers.

“I think most do that as their first response anyway and the business groups have been telling me that’s the advice they provide.  But there is obviously situations now where overseas workers are no longer required and I stress to people, the 457 scheme is a temporary migration program.  If there’s no work, people are expected to return to their country of origin.”

See Cheap migrant workers vs greedy capitalists: no contest for a discussion of 457s and the economy.

April 7, 2009

Pope calls on world to save desperate migrants

Pope Benedict XVI Palm Sunday Mass demanded urgent action by the European Union and African nations on Sunday to stop the trafficking in migrants, and recalled the recent drowning of more than 200 people off Libya.

Pope Benedict said that the economic crisis was driving more people to risk their lives, and said “We cannot resign ourselves to such tragedies” Pope demands action to stop migrant trafficking

April 1, 2009

Daily Show Pokes Fun at anti-immigrant workers lobby

It’s fun day – and only Wednesday!

Thanks to Immigration Impact for alerting us to this episode from Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, making fun of the citizen border patrols in the US, and speaking about some of the myths about immigrant workers.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Immigration Impact » Blog Archive » T…“, posted with vodpod

March 27, 2009

Cheap migrant workers vs greedy capitalists: no contest

Andrew at the Bewildered Herd has once more provided a sophisticated analysis of the very latest 457 visa figures, from the State/Territory Summary Report Subclass 457 Business (Long Stay) 2008-09, Financial Year to 28 February 2009 from the Immigration Department.

Andrew concludes that

“while unemployment has hit 5.2 per cent, employment growth has slowed, job vacancies have halved and the economy has contracted, companies are employing 457 visa holders at record levels. Do the employers of 457 visa holders realise there is a global recession?

As Andrew points out, if you need to cut costs, why sack a 457 worker, who is more compliant because they rely on you to stay in Australia, and who probably do not know all their rights? Their pay and conditions will be more easily cut if the recession worsens. It makes good economic sense.

Instead of another fruitless cycle of ‘blame the foreign workers’, and ‘blame the greedy capitalist’, we need to change the 457 conditions so that the employer does not have the ability to hold residence in Australia over workers’ heads.

Then migrant workers will be able to claim their rights in the same way as other employees.

March 17, 2009

Migrant workers: Battle of the words, but first world wins again

The Australian Government has announced that it is cutting its intake of permanent skilled migration visas for the 2008-09 financial year by 14 per cent, down from 133,500 to 115,000.  Immigration Minister Chris Evans says the cuts were made to reflect economic climate.

This has brought a slew of views from across the nation:

Professor of economics at the University of  Canberra Phil Lewis says

“These policies are very popular largely because it’s very appealing to say when unemployment goes up why would you bring foreigners in. But migrants actually create jobs, they need houses and the retail sector receives a boom because migrants tend to spend more. Migration should be seen as a long-term policy to encourage economic growth and protect further skills shortages.” Cutting migration could cost jobs

Wilhelm Harnisch of the Master Builders Association says the cuts are warranted because unemployment in the building sector is rising.

National secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union John Sutton says the need for migrants on “457 visas” in construction, forestry, mining and energy has dried up

The national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Paul Howes, while stopping short of calling for a complete halt in 457s visas, say temporary migration numbers have to be cut severely.

But Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s chief executive Peter Anderson predicts trade skill shortages.

“You don’t want migration policy to move in high peaks and low troughs, because that does create dislocations through the economy” he said. The Australian Industry Group, which represents 10,000 employers, agreed.

Business Council of Australia deputy chief executive Melinda Cilento defends temporary migration programs, saying 457 was a good scheme that moved with market demand.

Mark Wooden from the Melbourne Institute says  research had shown that migration could create jobs, as people who moved to Australia stimulated the economy through spending on retail goods, among other things, and that cutting the legitimate visa program would develop a “protectionist” mentality in Australia. Unions urge more cuts in skilled migrants

Sarah Hanson-Young of the Greens warns of a possibility that the humanitarian intake might be next to be cut Humanitarian intake must not be sacrificed as skilled migration cut

Andrew Bartlett reminds us that

“The migrants have often explicitly been told it would provide a potential pathway to permanent residence, as the subclass 457 visa scheme was sometimes specifically promoted in that way to potential migrants.”

Push to sack migrant workers

Also have a look at No natural justice for Chinese 457 workers in Australia

March 14, 2009

Migrants, asylum seekers, tent cities: it’s all depressing

The Institute of Race Relations investigated 105 deaths in the EU in 2007 and 2008 Europe’s shame – deaths linked to racism on the rise

Main findings:

The largest number of deaths – a total of fifty-three – are linked to European asylum and immigration policies, particularly target-driven deportation ones. Suicides in immigration detention centres and other venues account for the largest number of deaths. Deaths related to the policing of immigration appear to be increasing year-on-year.

At least thirty-nine deaths are linked to intolerance and hostility towards cultural diversity. At least nine people died, in horrific circumstances, as a result of far-Right violence in Germany, Spain, Italy and Belgium while two fatal arson attacks targeting Roma are still under investigation in Hungary…. authorities consistently fail to recognise racism as an aggravating factor in such killings.

A further thirteen deaths of members of minority ethnic groups, mostly Roma or those of North African origin, occurred after contact with police forces, outside the immigration sector.


This is not a holiday camping area. And no, it is not where persecuted immigrants have been forced to live. It is in Sacramento California, one of many tent cities that are springing up in the US as thousands of people are hit by foreclosures and job losses. Struggling Americans call tent cities home

These are people who used to be the suburban new middle class, many white. Many of those seeking shelter had good jobs and stable family lives until the economy spun out of control.

Tracy Vaughan, one of the tent city residents said she and her husband had worked for the same company:

“We both got laid off on the same day. So yeah, it just kind of happened.”

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