It is not everyday that I read the morning paper and find that the person I am most agreeing with is Chris Berg but this Sunday was such a day. Berg writes today on immigration and points out that the current Government is not too different from the previous one.
John Howard’s line – that his government would choose who came to the country and the circumstances in which they came – has become the ultimate expression of state sovereignty and the supremacy of executive government. His doctrine has been implicitly shared by Australian governments for a century.
Governments have treated immigration as a kind of fruit and veg shop, where they can rifle through the available human produce to pick only the ”best” foreign stock. Fifty years ago, it was white migrants. Now it’s skilled migrants – the unskilled are left for other countries.
Obviously we’re a long way from the liberal ideal of global free movement of people to complement global free trade.
According to some, there are 10,000 refugees massing on foreign shores, just waiting for the right moment to sneak across the ocean. Putting aside the dubious evidence for that figure, yes: 10,000 people would be a lot to squeeze into a living room. But the Australian continent is quite large. The settler arrival figures increased by nearly that amount just this year – from 149,000 in 2007-08 to 158,000 in 2008-09 – and we hardly heard a peep from anybody.
So if 10,000 refugees is the worst-case scenario, it’s not that worst a case. With 15.2 million refugees worldwide, the few thousand who make it to Australia are pretty insignificant. No one has a moral obligation to remain in the country of their birth. And no country has a moral right to deny anyone the chance to improve their living standards, or save their own lives.
Can’t agree more. And let me add that in yesterday’s paper, Petro Georgiou — who bravely fought against Howard on this issue — correctly takes aims at the Rudd Government’s rhetoric failure on these issues.