A possie in Aussie

February 13, 2010

Canada looks set to win the brain drain from India with fast track citizenship

Canada is bidding for the ‘brains’ that are now draining out of Australia and Britain.

Australia has made things harder for foreign students to get PR (permanent residency) through their studies by ending rorts that used study simply as a visa opportunity and encouraging the growth of shonky ‘colleges’ and shady ‘education agents’. International students and temporary workers suffer because of Australian immigration mess

This, along with the recent focus on attacks on Indian students, is drastically reducing student visa applications to Australia. The ‘Indian Issue’ is creating racism

Students from Northern India, Bangladesh and Nepal are also now facing a temporary ban on entry to Britain, which feared foul play after it faced an alarming increase in student visa applications.

Taking the opportunity, the province of Quebec is giving out “certificates of selection” to foreign students who graduate from universities there, putting them on a very fast-track to Canadian citizenship. Quebec Fast-Tracks Citizenship for Foreign Students . Any student who secures a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from any university in Quebec will in effect be awarded citizenship after undergoing security and health checks.

The premier of the province, Jean Charest, told Times of India that

“Our vision is that of an open society. Globalisation is not just about economy and numbers; we need to put a human face to it.’’

This ‘globalised human face’ is not just about people, but about exam scores and qualifications.

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February 11, 2010

Don’t be afraid of asylum seekers: mammoths are the real worry!

People like to be scared. Otherwise how would ghost trains and roller coasters make money?

John Humphries takes this one step further to explain why immigrant issues are such big vote winner. The problem with democracy Humphries’ idea is that fear is hardwired into our brains – otherwise we would have all ended up as mammoth fodder – and as the big risks, like large wild animals, disappear from everyday life, we transfer the fear to new and less serious problems.

Humphries claims that because ‘fear’ is hardwired into our brains, as the really big problems disappear, we shift our fear onto new, less-serious, problems. Effectively, we are becoming risk-averse to more and less dangerous things.

Humphries quotes the thesis of Bryan Caplan’s book, The Myth of the Rational Voter, that most  people are not informed about politics, political philosophy or public policy, but vote instead from their ‘preferred beliefs’. Caplan outlines four areas where the average voter gets politics wrong, including “overly-negative impressions about the impact of foreigners”.

It makes sense to me that ‘fear’ can be free-floating, that is, just ‘there’ until it finds something to land on and to be afraid of. And that is why I feel very strongly about public discourse – those of us who speak publically, politicians, journalists, and even bloggers with a handful of readers like me, have a responsibility not to offer ‘straw mammoths’ as a landing pad for fears (anyone care to illustrate that mixed metaphor?), and not to turn one mammoth into a herd.

But in recent weeks I have discovered how difficult this can be. Partisans interpret careful speech as a vote for the other side. And then I get sucked into discussing the mammoth as if it really exists.

Don't be afraid: it's in a cage

February 3, 2010

Indians jump to racist conclusions and get burnt

I caught a lot of flack because I objected to all the crimes involving Indians ion Australia being branded as ‘racist’, and said that there was no proof that they had been. People took this to mean that I was on ‘white Australia’s side’ and against the ‘Indian side’.

I tried to explain that I was not denying any suffering of the Indians involved, and was worried that racism could be created by crying ‘racism’ – but my words seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Perhaps the following news stories will help my case against jumping to conclusions?

  • The NSW police have arrested three persons in connection with the murder of a 25-year old Indian man, whose burnt body was found in the NSW town of Griffith on December, 29, 2009. Gurpreet Singh, 23, and his 20-year-old wife Harpreet Bhullar faced the court on January 29. A third man was arrested on the same day and will also be charged with Mr. Singh’s murder. Burned Indian man ‘faked attack in insurance scam’

It is clear that racism was not a factor in this crime, even though it has been widely reported in the Indian media as a racist attack.

Concerning the same case, in January The New Indian Express reported the Victorian police as saying “there is no reason at this stage to consider this racially motivated” and commented:

“If the statement had been calculated to enrage, it could hardly have been more provocatively phrased. Perhaps, in Australia, opportunist crimes also involve setting the victim ablaze. In any other country, this would prima facie be considered a hate crime, in this case racist.”

with making a false report to police and criminal damage with a view to gaining a financial advantage. He allegedly burned himself while torching his car for an insurance claim, police allege. A man suffered burns when he tried torching his own car in an insurance scam, police say

Concerning the same case, in January The New Indian Express reported the Victorian police as saying “there is no reason at this stage to consider this racially motivated” and commented:

“If the statement had been calculated to enrage, it could hardly have been more provocatively phrased. Perhaps, in Australia, opportunist crimes also involve setting the victim ablaze. In any other country, this would prima facie be considered a hate crime, in this case racist.”

January 31, 2010

How are racists made?

How are racists made? Through stereotypes.

How are stereotypes made? Through:

Reducing complex information to one idea, and

Using one example to represent a pattern

For example, a Korean backpacker is killed in Australia.

Here are a few patterns of thought that could be elicited by this small piece of information:

Koreans are violent people

Australia is a violent place

Backpackers are easy targets

Where do the patterns come from? In most cases the media.

But it is not that the media is conspiring to create harmful stereotypes. It’s just that they are perpetually in the hunt for a ‘story’.

One Korean backpacker killed would probably feature only in state news, and not on the front page, unless it’s a very slow news period, or the killing was macabre.

Two backpackers killed in close succession is a ‘bigger’ story, and gives writers more to work with, i.e. ‘Is this a pattern?’ ‘What is it with backpackers/ Koreans anyway?’ ‘Are we a violent state?’ and so on.

The Korean Association speaks out – even better story opportunities.

From now on, any violence involving a Korean is reported, even minor incidents. And no matter whether the numbers of violent incidents hasn’t increased, or have even decreased, it will seem as if there are more and more incidents, just because they are being reported.

The Korean government speaks out? Even better story. Now we are on the front page, not only in Australia, but in Korea, and possibly in most of Asia.

If ‘Australians are racist towards Koreans’ hasn’t been thrown into the mix, it certainly will be now.

(And if Australians hadn’t thought of being racist towards Koreans before now – they may feel left out ;-))

And if Koreans have never before thought of Australians as racist – they will now.

This cycle of stereotyping is completed.

And for fun – here is a stereotyping test:

January 18, 2010

The ‘Indian Issue’ is creating racism

These are reports of Indian taxi drivers attacked in Victoria in Melbourne newspapers. Passengers attack Indian driver and attempt to steal his cab) (Booze not race behind cabbie bashings in Ballarat: cops)

I am willing to bet, though, that if Afghan taxis drivers had been bashed, or Chinese, or other new settlers, the reports would not have made it to the Melbourne newspapers, and, if they did, they would have appeared without the ethic identity of the cab drivers.

An ‘Indian Issue’ has been created, and now created is being fed because reporters see a story in incidents that would otherwise not be news.

So now it increasingly looks as if there is a mass vendetta against Indians.

I do not believe that Indians were particular targets for racism in Australia before the ‘Indian Issue’ was created.

People in Australia seem to prefer people with darker skin to taunt and attack. As well as aboriginals and Africans, Muslims, particularly women wearing a head covering, are the usual targets.

Indians, particularly northern Indians, are just not black or Muslim enough.

But the ‘Indian Issue’ is, I fear, likely to cause racist behaviours directly targeted at Indians.

I reckon that if the Indian Issue is beaten up enough, even blockheads will hear of it, and this will trigger some fresh racist ideas- and action.

I am not a ‘racism-denier’. I have, however, studied how media can create and sustain issues of racism, however, and this issue seems to be rapidly heading in that direction.

January 12, 2010

Indian students, Shapelle Corby: Having a go, Part 2

Are Indians hysterical?

India’s External Affairs Minister, S. M. Krishna, calls the murder of Nitin Garg a ‘heinous crime against humanity’.

Minister Krishna threatens: ‘if attacks of this nature continue, we will have to seriously think what course of action lies with [the] Government of India; India will not tolerate [it] any more.’

Australian police are depicted as members of the Ku Klux Klan in an inflammatory cartoon in an Indian newspaper.

Indians  reacting hysterically? What about the Corby case? Remember that hysteria? And she was a person correctly charged with importing drugs into Bali. The only interest the Corby case had for Indonesians was the Australian media’s coverage of it

Jeff Sparrow at the ABC Drum asks, ‘why were the Indonesians mystified and fascinated? Because the news coverage here was utterly and bizarrely – what’s the word we’re looking for? – hysterical.’ Home grown hysteria

Are Australian’s racist? How about this excerpt from a transcript of a show on Radio 2GB about the Corby case:

Presenter: The judges don’t even speak English, mate, they’re straight out of the trees if you excuse my expression.

Sarah Hanson-Young points out that in India, where both families and the media are hysterical, and the family is burying Nitin Garg, the Australian Government’s indignant dismissal of the suggestion that racism exists in Australia can only be seen as ignorant and insulting.

As Miranda Devine says, ‘If I were a mother in India, I wouldn’t want my son going to Melbourne to study’ Feelgood sops from politicians are no help in healing a mother’s heartbreak

OK. Now I am going to have a go at making sense out of this:

It is inflammatory and inaccurate to talk about ‘racism’ (see Why Indian students are attacked in Australia: Having a go, part 1.)

But there are racist behaviours in Australia.

The attacks on Indian students were most likely a result of opportunity plus a high crime situation, and it is likely that racist epithets were tossed in too.

The Indian media is over-reporting and over-reacting to the situation.

Public debate about whether Australia is racist misses the point: some areas of Melbourne and Sydney are unsafe for anyone

Australia could calm the hysteria by a passionate focus on making the streets safe

The reaction in India is to be expected, and Australians have proven themselves to be at least as hysterical about Australians overseas.

Public debate about whether Australia is racist incites racism in itself

As Paul Colgan says in the Punch, blaming racism for crime breeds fear and anger. And once that starts it can be difficult to control.

January 10, 2010

Why Indian students are attacked in Australia: Having a go, part 1.

The murder of Nitin Garg has inflamed the debate about violence against Indian students in Australia. Nitin was  stabbed to death last week just before starting work as night manager at a Hungry Jack’s store in West Footscray, a suburb of Melbourne. (see also Yet another attack on Indians in Australia)

Then Jaspreet Singh, 29, was attacked in Melbourne’s north-west yesterday. He had come home from a dinner party with his wife in the early hours of the morning and was parking his car when four men poured fluid over him and set him alight.

The Indian Ministry of External affairs is urging journalists to show the utmost restraint in covering the story. Slain Indian student’s body arrives home

The Ministry says just what I have been worrying about: that irresponsible reporting could aggravate the situation and have a bearing on bi-lateral relations.

It is important that we debate what has happened, so I would like to have a go at looking at the situation as dispassionately as possible. Please let me know how I do!

1. Every society that has a mixture of ethnicities has racist incidents, including Australia. Racist incidents are a form of bullying, and there always have been and always will be people who bully others.

2. Australia is not racist. As far as I can see there is no officially condoned discrimination on the grounds of race, there are laws against any types of discrimination, and governments make positive efforts to encourage multicultural harmony.

3. Australians are not racist. I don’t like to apply that term to anyone, because I don’t think it’s useful. It’s more useful; (and less inflammatory) to talk about racially motivated behaviour.

In addition, from all the studies I have read, there seems to be less of this behaviour in Australia than most other countries.

4. The majority of these crimes appear to have occurred in Melbourne, in suburbs in high crime areas where ‘drugs, mental illness and poverty’ are the issue, late at night. International students in general must work to support themselves, and take after-hours jobs, and travel alone. They live in high crime areas because housing is cheaper. The Indian students I have seen look anything but ‘tough’.

Darkness + high crime area+ single person alone+ ‘looks middle class, not tough’.

Add in the factor that guys who hang out in groups at night looking for targets are probably people who will ‘have a go’ about anything.

Result: opportunistic crime plus racial abuse, but not ‘racism’.

The greatest worry here are the crimes, and the answer is better policing, not debating whether the crimes were racist or not.

In Part 2. I will have a go at how we should be conducting this important debate.

December 16, 2009

The media, not the Immigration Department, panics international students PR

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald Visa review may ‘spark panic’ is, surprise surprise (!) itself sparking panic among international students in Australia.

Google that headline, and the majority of hits are in Chinese –reflecting the numbers of Chinese students in Australia who came here in the hope and expectation of gaining permanent residency at the end of their studies.

The SMH article leads with this:

“TENS of thousands of overseas students studying expensive courses in Australia in the hope of securing permanent residency could be sent home empty-handed under changes being considered by the Federal Government.

“The Herald has obtained a document prepared by the Immigration Department recommending changes ”in the relationship between the lodgement of an application and the legal obligation to grant a visa”.

In other words, the media is again inciting a panic where the factual basis is very thin. ‘A change in the relationship’ could mean almost anything, and, as the Herald article says, way down in the body of the text:

“A spokesman for the department said the document was part of a consultation process and no decision would be made on the changes until next year.”

Note: ‘Consultation’ means consultation. Not decision.

The Interim Report of the Review of the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 that was conducted by Bruce Baird of the review of the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000 has recently been released, and will be part of the consultation. Baird doesn’t suggest that the link between studying and migration be broken or even weakened, and for any changes to be  grandfathered where possible.

The Senate Committee Report into the Welfare of International Students, which will also be consulted, gives the ‘Committee view’ as

2.24     The committee accepts the evidence that over time a perception has developed that a student visa may provide an automatic pathway to permanent residency, despite this not being the case. This perception has in turn been exploited by some education agents and providers who have used the perception of permanent residency to recruit students and then provide them with inadequate education or training.

2.25      The committee endorses steps that have been taken to ensure that international students coming to Australia to study are fully cognisant of the rules that apply to them and make it clear that separate and distinct processes are involved and that the requirements for permanent residency visas change from time to time in response to the requirements of the labour market.

2.26      In most cases, exploitation starts overseas with expectations fuelled by unscrupulous education agents advertising courses solely as a means to permanent residency. Regulation of providers and quality are discussed in chapter four and agents are discussed in more detail in chapter five.

December 15, 2009

Unanimous: international students need better conditions

The Senate Committee Report ‘Inquiry Welfare of International Students’ has been released.  The report does not directly address the issue of attacks on students,  and does not agree with suggestions that many of the attacks on Indian students were racially motivated, but makes recommendations that address student safety through initiatives that include  improved information about rights and supports available.

As Andrew Bartlett points out, the report is unanimous across all the political parties represented, and while this unanimity does sacrifice some strength of opinion, it also means that it will be harder for the government to ignore the findings. Senate committee reports on international students issue

A few findings:

More flexibility in number of hours available to work each week (currently limited to 20) and a less draconian response when the rule is broken (if a student is caught working more than this in a week, they are likely to have their visa cancelled, even if it is a one-off)

Concessions to be available for international students on public transport

Develop a comparative information tool on education providers. This information tool should differentiate between the capacity of providers by comparing such things as the level and quality of support services available to students.

October 10, 2009

Why do Indians want permanent residency in Australia?

More than 75,000 Indian students were undertaking courses in Australia last year, the second largest number of foreigners in Australian colleges and universities.

Why are they coming here from India?

Geoff Maslen at Crikey says:

“Almost 60% of India’s 1.15 billion people are under the age of 25 yet there are only places for 7% of college-age students in post-secondary school institutions.”

The majority now in Australia are in private vocational education colleges “where the main aim on completion appears to be permanent residency (PR)”.

So, why do they want PR in Australia so badly?

A 2006 study asked that question and found that Indian students here are in three main groups:

  1. Those who originally came to study, discovered that they were part of a ‘culture of migration’ and slowly ‘longed’ to stay
  2. Student loans are disproportionate to salaries in India
  3. But a huge group came for PR alone – for a better lifestyle, clean air, good infrastructure, safer society, better public facilities, better job opportunities. These students cannot see themselves profiting from new opportunities being created in India. In addition, having a family member abroad is prestigious.
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