Archive for the 'Migrants & migration' Category

Visiting classical liberal to defend migration in Carlton

I’m not sure that Carlton’s lone classical liberal has many Carlton readers (Alex Willemyns is one of the few), but someone has asked me to promote a local event, a debate on immigration on Thursday night.

It features prominent Catallaxy blogger Sinclair Davidson and ‘Arthur Dent’, previously known as Albert Langer, who was an (in)famous Monash University left-wing radical in the Vietnam War era. They were still talking about him nearly 20 years later when I was a student there.

In one of the interesting political role reversals of the last 15 years, the right will support more migration and the left will oppose it.

Do Australians reject a larger population?

Nearly three-quarters of Australians do not want a bigger population, a recent survey shows.

That’s the lead of an SMH article this morning, citing a paper by Katharine Betts using Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2009 results.


Graphic: SMH Read the rest of this entry »

Migration program still has majority support

Commenter Jack Strocchi has alerted me to this Roy Morgan poll on immigration that was released last week. It shows that despite the recent political focus on immigration, public opinion seems largely unchanged from earlier in the year. These are also very similar numbers to those we have seen since 2001, and as Morgan shows at other times in our history.


Question: “Over the last year (2008/09) about 170,000 immigrants came to Australia. Do you think the number of people coming here to live permanently should be increased, or reduced, or remain about the same?” (except for the first two polls, appropriate migration total inserted).

With both major parties promising around 170,000 migrants, they are in line with majority opinion, though answers do seem very sensitive to the questions asked.

Do Australians know how many migrants we take?

Pollytics blog points out Essential Research polling showing that most Australians haven’t a clue what proportion of overall immigration is made up of boat arrivals:

From what you have read and heard, what percentage of Australia’s annual immigration intake are asylum seekers arriving by boat?

The correct answer for last year is less than 1%, and maybe 3% this year.

Pollytics thinks this is because most people have no idea how few asylum seekers there are. But could it be because they have no idea how big the official migration program became under Howard and then Rudd? Read the rest of this entry »

Should we be sentencing criminals to transportation?

Yesterday’s Age reported the case of Andrew Moore, who died in England of a heroin overdose. Two days before he died, Moore had been removed from Australia after his visa had been cancelled on character grounds.

The interesting aspect of this case is that, as in a number of similar cases in recent years, Moore was in all but law an Australian. Originally from Scotland, he’d lived here for 32 of his 43 years. But he had never taken out Australian citizenship. People in this situation who are convicted of a crime and sentenced to imprisonment of 12 months or more can have their visas cancelled, and be sent back to the country they originally came from.

Moore’s crime – manslaughter – was a lot more serious than just one involving a year in jail, and he was a junkie and a drunk as well. Unlike other ‘Australians’ sent back to their birth countries, he could at least speak its language. But this practice of throwing people out of the country on what looks like a technicality does seem problematic to me.

It means that imprisoning long-term non-residents can be tantamount to also sentencing them to transportation. Read the rest of this entry »

Migration opinion turns

As recently as last month, a Morgan Poll found that the majority public support for migration that began in 1998 had been maintained. As I noted at the time, this was a little surprising given other polls were identifying concern about the consequences of population growth.

Now the latest Nielsen poll reported in the Fairfax broadsheets finds that finally the polls have turned on support for the migration program, with 54% saying that the number of migrants coming to Australia is too high. 38% say that the number is about right, while 6% say it is too low.

The ‘human rights’ of international students

This morning’s Australian reports on this speech by my U of M colleague Simon Marginson calling for extended rights for international students:

International students are temporary migrants. Nations have the option of treating them as quasi-residents, or as outsiders. Everywhere they are treated as outsiders. Nowhere do they enjoy comprehensive human rights in local law. ……..human rights should not be confined to local citizens.

…we should understand student security as an issue of comprehensive human rights…

we suggest that a strong contribution governments can make to student security is to provide affordable student housing, for a mix of local and international students, in areas where students study and work. [I have altered the sequence from the original presentation]

I am a ‘human rights’ sceptic. As a classical liberal, I unsurprisingly believe that many of the interests and freedoms that find their way into lists of ‘human rights’ are indeed important. But I don’t believe these interests and freedoms are best advocated or defended by simply asserting that they are ‘rights’. Read the rest of this entry »

Sorting out asylum seeker opinion

Opinion polls haven’t always been helpful in sorting out three distinct issues

1) whether we should take asylum seekers at all (and if so, how many);
2) whether or not asylum seekers who arrive by boat without prior approval should be accepted;
3) whether there are groups we should not take at all, regardless of how or why they come.

Refugee advocates have tended to think that opposition to refugees is motivated by 3, (‘xenophobia’), or to be more precise opposition to Muslim migration and perhaps other groups with a history of political violence (such as Tamils, though I doubt knowledge of the Sri Lankan civil war is widespread in Australia). As refugees tend to be disproportionately from supposedly disfavoured groups, opposing asylum seeker arrivals is a way of keeping them out.

The recent Morgan poll confirms an Essential Research finding last November that there is plurality support for taking asylum seekers. Morgan found 50% support, 41% opposition, and 9% ‘can’t say’. Essential’s figures were 45%/25%/30%, suggesting a lot of ‘soft’ opposition. The differences can probably be explained by polling methods. Essential’s surveys are online, so there is an explicit ‘no answer’ option. Morgan used a telephone poll where only support or oppose were directly offered, with ‘can’t say’ recorded where the respondent couldn’t or wouldn’t choose. If pressed, people with weak opinions tend to go negative. Read the rest of this entry »

The complexities of migration politics

Over the last couple of months, several polls have identified opinion that seems to be inconsistent with migration at recent levels. An Essential Research poll last month found concern about migration on infrastructure, environmental and ‘change to society’ grounds. A Lowy Poll conducted in March found 69% opposition to the 2050 population size that continued recent levels of migration and fertility would according to the Intergenerational Report produce. A Morgan Poll also during March found that 60% wanted a population of 30 million or less by 2040, against projections of 32.6 million at current rates of population growth.

From all this I would have predicted that the Howard-era majority support for the migration program would be disappearing. But the Morgan Poll finds otherwise. 57% of those surveyed think that migration should remain about the same (46%) or increase (11%). Morgan surveys those aged 14 and over; narrowing the sample to voters 54% think migration should be the same (45%) or higher (9%). That’s almost the same as the 52% support last November. Read the rest of this entry »

Some implications of a large temporary population

Because the number of people with Australian residence rights crept up with little public awareness or debate, our thinking about what this means for them and for the permanent population is not well developed. Some observations:

1. The distinction between temporary and permament residence is important in eligibility for a wide range of welfare rights. It is part of the dispute about whether international students should receive public transport concessions. I have argued in the past that as temporary residents international students should not be entitled to this taxpayer subsidy – that choosing to study here gives them no claim on public funds.

Commenter caf has suggested that the fact that many international students go on to acquire permanent residence rights complicates this argument. Another complicating factor is the claim that given that temporary residents pay taxes, why should they not all also receive government services? While international students aren’t likely to be paying much tax if they are observing the work conditions of their visas, section 457 visa holders will often be paying significant amounts of tax.

2. Does a large population with residential rights but not voting rights have broader political implications? Read the rest of this entry »