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’. Continue reading “The ‘human rights’ of international students”

Actual versus perceived income

Andrew Leigh is reporting on 1999 research showing that many high income earners wrongly place themselves in lower income deciles and many low income earners place themselves in a higher income decile than is justified by their actual income (also cross-posted at Core Economics).

In the past (p.16) I have used this data to suggest that some people who agree to survey propositions that above-average income earners pay more tax – as 41% of people are in the latest Essential Research survey – may get a nasty shock when they find the taxman raiding their wallets.

While I still think this is likely to be the case, asking people to put themselves into the correct income decile is a big ask. I would expect more general questions such as average, below average, or above average would yield more accurate results. Using data from the 2005 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes and comparing it to 2006 census household family income data I found that accuracy improved but significant discrepancies remained.

(The image is not entirely clear: the three horizontal axis labels are below median <$52,000; median $52,000-$77,999, and above median <$78,000) Continue reading “Actual versus perceived income”

Vertical federal competition

The latest Newspoll survey on federalism sponsored by Griffith University has another small piece of evidence that the Pincus position – the idea that Australian federalism works principally through vertical interaction and competition between the Commonwealth and the states rather than horizontal competition between the states – may have popular support.

A question on features of federalism (there are several in the survey, but the answers to most have not been released) asked whether ‘different levels of government being able to collaborate on solutions to problems’ was desirable, and more than 90% said yes. While respondents may have had in mind better bureaucratic coordination, like the two houses in a bicameral system two levels of government in a federal system may offer different perspectives, interests, experiences and abilities.

The current situation in which Victoria, with extensive experience of a case-mix system of hospital funding, is putting an alternative to Kevin Rudd’s hospital funding plan into the national debate is a good example of how the policy competition that is supposed to be a feature of horizontal competition between states can also work vertically. Continue reading “Vertical federal competition”

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. Continue reading “Sorting out asylum seeker opinion”

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. Continue reading “The complexities of migration politics”

Privatising air space?

According to RMIT academic Michael Buxton, quoted in The Age this morning, the increasing number of tall buildings on Melbourne’s skyline is bad because:

”What we’re doing with high-rise is privatising space at the public expense. If you buy your view, sure, you’ve got a wonderful view from the top of one of these towers but what you’ve done is bought airspace. So that airspace was once originally a part of the public domain … the public get no benefit.”

But how many members of the public would otherwise get to use the airspace at level 40 of a skyscraper? It seems to me that the higher the building the fewer issues ‘airspace’ use generates, at least until it reaches flight path levels (and as we don’t want low-flying planes in built-up areas, that is quite high).

There are ‘negative externality’ issues with the shadows tall buildings create, but Buxton’s dubious ideological claim does not seem to me to be helpful in deciding whether we should have more tall buildings in Melbourne.

Malcolm Fraser’s liberalism

Malcolm Fraser’s biography is actually called Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs, but according to his biographer (or narrator, as she calls herself) Margaret Simons ‘Enduring Liberal’ was one possible title, perhaps with a question mark. The book makes clear that Fraser has seen himself as following a liberal philosophy through his long political life, though a pragmatic one.

Fraser’s reputation on this is perhaps worse than it should be, because over the last few decades the most contested freedoms have been economic, and his record as an economic liberal isn’t great – though the biography argues persuasively that it is better than many assume.

A chapter on financial deregulation shows that there was a lively internal debate within the government, with Fraser and his office generally pushing for less regulation, while Treasury and the RBA took a more conservative line. By the time Hawke and Keating actually implemented financial deregulation much of the thinking, discussing and planning had already been done. In this sense, Fraser laid the groundwork for what followed. Continue reading “Malcolm Fraser’s liberalism”

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? Continue reading “Some implications of a large temporary population”

The rise of residence rights

One of the paradoxes of the Howard government was that while it was sometimes portrayed as anti-migrant, in reality it ended up with the most laissez-faire approach to migration since federation. Though the permanent migration program more than doubled in size between Howard’s first and last year, its highest level in 2007 wasn’t quite as big as it had been in Hawke’s peak migration year (1988), or for that matter in Rudd’s first year.

Rather, the most interesting thing about Howard’s policy was expanding migration via rule- rather than quota-based rights to long-term but temporary residence in Australia. Under a rule-based system, if you meet its criteria you can come to Australia, with no restrictions on total numbers. The quota system has criteria for admission, but once the target number of migrants is reached applicants are queued, even if they meet the criteria.

There were big increases in rule-based long-term visas for students and for people coming to Australia to work, the section 457 visas. A lot of people also came to Australia on working holiday visas. Continue reading “The rise of residence rights”

Abbott and women 4 – some real results

A few days after I complained that none of the major pollsters had published their party and leader preference results by sex, The Australian has remedied the situation and published Newspoll’s demographic summary.

Though there is no evidence that the budgie smugglers are disproportionately attracting women, who remain slightly less likely than men to support the Coalition, over the January to March period women were more likely to support the Coalition than at any time since it went into opposition.

Continue reading “Abbott and women 4 – some real results”