Scott Morrison, the Opposition spokesman on Immigration, has delivered a major speech in which he argues that Australia “must protect the borders of our values”.
Speaking to the Federation of Ethnic Community Councils of Australia conference, Morrison said: “In our nation, we must never compromise our values, by agreeing with those who suggest that even their definition is an instrument of exclusion. We must protect the borders of our values.”
“In our nation we celebrate the values that have defined us as a nation and lived and added to by each new generation and each new wave of arrivals, making their own contribution.
“In our nation we must uphold freedom of religion, speech and thought, while ensuring our laws are never altered to provide special concessions for any one group by virtue of their religion, race, ethnicity, language or birthplace.
“In our nation we must ensure that English remains our one and only language and encourage its adoption in all corners of our community, by all ages, ethnicities and nationalities.”
Transcript of Scott Morrison’s Address to the 2011 Federation of Ethnic Community Councils of Australia conference.
A liberal perspective on immigration and social cohesion in modern Australia
Thank you for the opportunity to address you today.
My purpose today is not to announce new policy initiatives, but to set out the heritage and broader framework for how a Liberal Government would direct immigration policy and the challenges we see ahead to foster social cohesion in modern Australia.
It is fitting that in the week we welcomed the US President, that we discuss this topic, as one of the greatest shared experiences of our two nations has been the extraordinary contribution of immigration to our national success.
Like the United States, our nation is an immigration nation; arguably the world’s most successful.
A recent publication celebrating ethnic business in Australia refers to immigration as what brought luck to the lucky country.
Like the US, our subscription to the values we hold as a nation has bonded us together, regardless of our origins.
In our case these same values have underpinned the merit based; non discriminatory and orderly immigration programme that I believe has been most responsible for our success.
Not only must we therefore protect the integrity of our borders by preserving the integrity and rigour of immigration system, we must also protect the borders of our values.
Failure will disarm our capacity to maintain the social cohesion and way of life that has attracted more than 7 million immigrants to our shores[i] from over 200 counties, representing 270 ethnicities and 260 language groups since the end of the Second World War[ii].
I am confident about our future as an immigration nation.
We have overcome the barriers of diverse nationalities and ethnicities in the past to create a unified and harmonious nation with a clear sense of national identity.
Our nation has achieved strength and unity from our diversity. A diversity that has inspired our creativity, our prosperity and our sense of community.
The Liberal Party has been in the vanguard of these efforts and remains so today.
It was the Menzies Government who embraced an ambitious and positive programme of post war immigration, including from Southern Europe[iii], signed the Refugee Convention in 1954[iv] and allowed selected non-European migrants to apply for permanent residence or citizenship after fifteen years[v].
In 1960 the term ‘White Australia’ was removed from the Liberal Party’s Federal Policy Platform[vi], five years before a similar change in the ALP’s platform[vii].
In its place, the Party affirmed the ‘internationally recognised principle’ of every country “having the right to decide its own immigration policy according to its own circumstances”[viii]. This sentiment was echoed by John Howard, more than 40 years later when he declared ‘we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come, and no one else’[ix].
In March 1966, the Holt Government abolished the White Australia policy by allowing applications for migration to be accepted from well-qualified people on the basis of their suitability as settlers, their ability to integrate readily and their possession of qualifications positively useful to Australia[x].
They also allowed non–European ‘temporary residents’, not required to leave Australia, to become permanent residents and citizens after five years, the same as for Europeans[xi].
The Fraser Government adopted the Galbally report recommendations[xii], which included the establishment of SBS , the extension of ethnic radio services, a major orientation program for new arrivals, the introduction of innovative English language instruction; boosts for the child migrant education program and the establishment of a network of migrant resource centres[xiii].
Opposed by Whitlam, Labor and the Unions[xiv], Fraser’s Liberal Government responded to a genuine regional refugee crisis, resettling an average of 8,630 Indo-Chinese refugees a year between 1 July 1975 and 30 June 1981 and in 1982[xv] and negotiated an agreement with Vietnam on the “Orderly Departure Program” – to reunite families of Vietnamese refugees already in Australia in an orderly, authorised way.
It is important to also note that part of the Fraser Government’s response was to aid the Indonesian government’s establishment of an offshore processing centre on the island Galang[xvi], ensuring few Vietnamese boats ever actually came to Australia. Between 1976 and 1981 less than 400 people arrived per year[xvii]. More than 400 have arrived under the current government’s policies in the past month.
In many ways Malcolm Fraser was the pioneer of the Liberal’s policy of offshore processing.
The Fraser Government also established the Immigration Review Tribunal[xviii], the Australian Refugee Advisory Council, the Community Refugee Settlement Scheme to provide social support, orientation assistance and assist in finding employment and accommodation[xix], the Determination of Refugee Status committee and introduced the Special Humanitarian Program in 1981 to enable visas for people subject to substantial discrimination with close ties to Australia[xx].
The Humanitarian Program was diversified further, with entrants arriving from South America, the Middle East and Africa.
In 1996, the Immigration program inherited by the Howard government lacked a clear economic rationale, was dominated by family reunion, was bringing in many migrants dependent on welfare support and was open to fraud[xxi]. It had lost the support of the Australian people.
Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock, our longest serving, introduced reforms to sharpen the program’s economic focus, reduce the size of the family-reunion component and restricted new migrants access to welfare.
During the Howard years skills based migration increased from less than 30% of the permanent programme[xxii] under Paul Keating to almost 70% by the time they left office[xxiii]. The Howard Government also introduced the temporary skilled visa, the 457.
Research by Monash University showed that during the Howard years the percentage of Australians who were concerned about immigration levels being too high almost halved, from more than two thirds to just over one third[xxiv]. Over the same period our permanent immigration intake doubled.
Those who came had the skills to find employment. Over the ten years to 2005/2006 unemployment for skilled migrants fell from 9% to just 3%, better than the national average[xxv]. Labour force participation rates were also higher.
Even from the family stream unemployment levels dropped from 19% to 6% and their participation rate increased from 55% to 70%[xxvi]. It is disappointing to note that unemployment for the family stream has now risen to 29% with a decline in the participation rate to 65%.
The Howard Government’s policies reinforced the need for cultural diversity to be a unifying force for Australia. The four key policy principles for cultural diversity set out in two separate statements in 1999 and 2003 were civic duty, cultural respect, social equity and productive diversity. The 2003 statement spoke directly of the need to articulate a coherent set of national values, and was followed up by the introduction of the Citizenship test[xxvii].
In 2003 $100.9 million was committed over four years to improve settlement services[xxviii].
In the wake of 9/11, even greater focus was applied to addressing social cohesion to manage existing and potential tensions following the terrorist attacks. After the London bombings, the Muslim Community Reference Group was formed in 2005[xxix].
The responsibilities of citizens and residents were primary in the Howard Government’s thinking. It was therefore disappointing to read in the Government’s People of Australia Policy released earlier this year that responsibility no longer sits within the four guiding policy principles of the Government for Multiculturalism[xxx]. They are referred to as an after thought, not core to the Government’s approach.
On our borders, the Howard Government stopped the people smugglers, preserving the integrity of our offshore refugee and humanitarian programme and earning the trust and confidence of the Australian people.
In 2007 one in 400 protection visas went to those who had arrived by boat[xxxi]. Today that figure is one in five[xxxii]. There were more than 54,000 people who applied offshore for a protection visa in Australia last year – only 8,900 were successful[xxxiii], compared to a peak of more than 12,800 under the Howard Government[xxxiv].
Under the Howard Government we resettled around 150,000 refugee and humanitarian entrants[xxxv] and were a key participant in the resettlement of Burmese refugees from the Thai Border camps.
An orderly system of migration selects migrants based on their capacity to contribute. For our humanitarian programme this selection involves a triage of the need of the individual and our judgement on who we can best assist. Our settlement services programme then seeks to build their capacity to become a successful and integrated member of our community, and make their contribution.
Support for these programmes is dependent on the Government maintaining the integrity of the process, as was achieved by the Howard Government and has been squandered by the failed policies of both Prime Minister’s Rudd and Gillard, whose failure continues to this day.
So what are the challenges we now face? Let’s first be clear about what they are not.
Too often we seek to appropriate the problems of other western nations to our own experience. This is particularly dangerous when it comes to immigration.
Let me be clear, I do not see the experience of Europe on immigration as a prophecy for our own future in Australia.
While I empathise with the comments of Angela Merkel and David Cameron as they battle with these questions in a European context, their immigration practice has followed a very different path to Australia.
This point was well made in a recent article published by the Centre for Independent Studies[xxxvi]. In that paper the CIS argues that Australia’s selective migration system is in stark contrast to the practices of the UK and Germany and is the driving cause for Australia’s success as one the world’s most culturally diverse nations.
This success is measured in the equality of outcomes, or better, experienced by Australia’s migrant population and their children whether in education, unemployment, labour force participation, median full time earnings or incarceration compared to the rest of the community.
The CIS article observes ‘Australia predominantly received migrants who were qualified and capable of easily integrating into society’ and that Australia has been ‘cherry picking’ the best qualified migrants, most likely to make a positive contribution.
Germany and the United Kingdom did not follow this planned migration path and have paid the price in social dislocation.
In Germany, migration was the product of guest workers brought into the country after the Second World War to aid with reconstruction. These workers simply never went home and were followed by subsequent waves of family reunion migration from these original temporary entrants, further encouraged by access to Germany’s generous welfare entitlements. Contrary to Australia’s experience, migrants in Germany have twice the rate of unemployment and extremely low levels of skills and qualifications compared to the balance of the population.
In the UK, post war immigration was the product of the Nationality Act of 1948 which gave a right of residence to citizens of all places around the world that were still British colonies in 1949. By 1961 the number of foreign born UK residents increased to 2.5 million and now stands at over 7 million.
The level of social dislocation in the UK is now obvious to all, the most serious example being the rise in home grown terrorism from isolated ethnic and religious communities, disengaged from an ever more difficult to distinguish cultural mainstream, ambiguous national values and the decline of the English language in its birthplace.
Our response must address the challenges in our nation.
While not discounting the contribution of policies to increase community acceptance, understanding and support for migrants, our real success is a function of the fact that we have deliberately chosen migrants who are more likely to be successful.
A study cited by the CIS and published by the American Sociological Review into the effects of policies regulating immigration in Australia and New Zealand found ‘the relatively high educational and occupational status of immigrant’s parents … fully explains the better educational performance of immigrant children’[xxxvii]. The research went on to say ‘our analyses do not support the hypothesis that the better performance of immigrant children in traditional immigration countries can be explained by a more receptive attitude toward immigrants in these countries’.
The CIS concluded by saying ‘if Australia wants to continue the process of attracting migrants into the future, it should not deviate from its policy of selecting migrants by their suitability. Migrants can only add value to recipient countries if they fit in and make an effort to integrate. Immigration nations ignore this basic insight at their peril’.
Recently, there has been discussion once again about the introduction of a Multicultural Act in Australia. We should not allow legislative symbolism to distract us from the real reasons for our success as an immigration nation and where we must be most vigilant.
Other countries have gone down this path, such as Canada, who introduced their Multiculturalism Act in 1988, yet Canada has not produced better outcomes than Australia.
Like Australia, the US has no such act, yet the US is a successful immigrant nation.
Of course we should have policies that promote acceptance, reject discrimination, provide support and recognize our diverse backgrounds. These factors must never be allowed to become a barrier to participation in the Australian community.
Australia has had such policies for many years without a Multicultural Act, and the Liberal Party has played a central role in the establishment of such policies. We will continue to support these policies. We will continue to deal with discrimination and disadvantage through the laws we make for all Australians. For this reason we do not consider it necessary to establish any specific law to deal with these issues, as proposed in the form of a Multicultural Act.
The lesson of our immigration success is that we must continue to run merits based programme, driven unapologetically by our national interest. Immigration is not a welfare programme; it is a nation building programme that seeks to add to our national wellbeing through our most important asset -our people. We must select those most able to make a contribution.
So what challenges will we face?
Our position on addressing the Government’s border protection failures is well known and I will not rehearse them again here today.
I have also spoken often about our need to deal with the anticipated growth in temporary migration.
Our immigration and settlement programmes have been built for permanent settlement. Yet temporary migration is now the dominant component of net overseas migration to Australia every year.
We learnt many years ago that capital was mobile and adjusted our system of financial regulation and policy frameworks to accommodate and take advantage of this change, while protecting Australia’s interests.
Today, people are mobile, and for employment in particular. We must come to terms with what temporary migration means for Australia, how it can serve our interests and what we must do to protect our interests.
We already know the economic benefits that have been derived from international visitors and students. We must now understand how utilizing temporary labour visas can grow our economy and create jobs for Australians, rather than myopically seeing it as a threat – currently 457 visa holders accounts for less than 1% of our labour force[xxxviii].
Temporary migration enables us to provide greater conditionality on a person’s stay. Unlike permanent migrants, we can and should constrict the terms of their entry to work in particular locations and occupations to address labour shortages. This can bring targeted benefits to regional areas, where such labour is needed, and protect against such labour gravitating to other areas, where it could threaten Australian jobs.
We must be careful to manage the population impacts of such temporary migration, ensuring that we apply appropriate constraints, most importantly that such entrants return home when their purpose and stay has been completed – whether it is to work, study or visit – without onward application entitlements.
Where increases in temporary migration are balanced by departing temporary migrants, the population impact is mitigated.
Finally we must find ways to provide temporary migrants with access to settlement support. These migrant groups are presently highly vulnerable in our community and receive little to assist them adjust to and participate in Australian life. This is essential to ensuring greater social cohesion and integration within our community, if more temporary migrants are to be part of our community.
A further challenge is what I would describe as a shift in the fault line on social cohesion. This was once defined by race, nationality and ethnicity. We have overcome these challenges. A new fault line is emerging on religion.
The challenge here is more significant than cultural practices and identity, as we a dealing with the borderless, non racial, ethnically non specific and non language dependent realm of personal beliefs, values and world view.
Having said this I remain confident that we will meet and overcome this challenge in the same way as we have met those that have unsuccessfully threatened to divide our nation in the past – by remaining true to the values, systems and institutions that have served our nation well – which include freedom of religion.
Like most liberal democracies, while our constitution is rightly secular in construction, it also embraces religion and by definition the positive role of faith in our community. Those who celebrate the secular state should not make the error that secularism or secular humanism has somehow been established as our national religion by default – some type of new secularist theocracy.
Our constitution celebrates religion by providing for its freedom in the hearts, minds, lives and free speech of its citizens.
Our only constraint on religion is that, in its practice, we respect the rule of law, the institutions that uphold our laws and the values that we live by and aspire to as a nation.
In our nation there is only one law. Our law cannot be partitioned in sectarian terms, or any other religious divide. I believe this is the overwhelming view of every parliament in the country and why calls for legal pluralism must be rejected, and certainly would be rejected by a Liberal Government.
Outside the formal sphere of the law, it is our values as a nation that should guide our behaviour.
As an example, I am opposed to the banning of any form of religious dress. Common sense, not the rule of law, should be our guide. We have the right to wear whatever we want, that doesn’t mean we always should, if we believe it will cause discomfort or disrespect to other citizens. Equally, religious dress should not be afforded any special status or exemption under the Law, especially for identity or security purposes.
The same is true for finance. I would no sooner seek to legislate for sharia finance than I would for the levitical prohibition of usury, to enforce the year of jubilee or the teaching of my own church on tithing.
My point is that freedom of religion does not exist in a vacuum. All freedoms have limits, including in democracies.
I am not aware of any progressive mainstream religion that does not genuinely or reasonably accommodate the values we hold as a nation. They are totally accessible to all our citizens, regardless of their faith.
In my experience religion should not be an excuse for separation. Rather it is a motive for participation and inclusion. People of faith are committed to the welfare of others; believe in the dignity of the individual, the strength of the family and the importance of community.
These synergies are even more common amongst Abrahamic faiths.
We need to focus more on these commonalities and the values bridges between these faiths, rather than the differences. We need to support those who are trying to break down these barriers, such as the Together for Humanity initiative, and deny ground in their communities from separatist views.
Our future does not have to be the division, fear and chaos we see in Europe as we address the challenges that religious differences in our community can represent.
There is a better way, and it does not involve either shutting the door or diluting our values.
For the past 60 years, if not since settlement, we have found this better way. We must not now walk away from this path in the face of new challenges.
A positive merit based immigration programme, focused on skills and English as the national language, where we embrace the notion of accessible and enduring national values is the answer – not legal symbolism.
In our nation, we must never compromise our values, by agreeing with those who suggest that even their definition is an instrument of exclusion. We must protect the borders of our values.
In our nation we celebrate the values that have defined us as a nation and lived and added to by each new generation and each new wave of arrivals, making their own contribution.
In our nation we must uphold freedom of religion, speech and thought, while ensuring our laws are never altered to provide special concessions for any one group by virtue of their religion, race, ethnicity, language or birthplace.
In our nation we must ensure that English remains our one and only language and encourage its adoption in all corners of our community, by all ages, ethnicities and nationalities.
In our nation our first loyalty is always to Australia. We acknowledge, honour and respect our diverse heritage, but we prize above all what unites us as Australians, not what divides.
In our nation, we respect each other and encourage the participation of all Australians to be their best so as a nation we can excel, bringing benefits that all can share.
In our nation we understand the mutual obligation that rights only come with responsibility. We decide the future of our country by taking responsibility for our own decisions and our own actions. We expect the most from ourselves to fulfil our responsibility to preserve the way of life that brought us here and keeps us here. Our only expectation is that others will do the same.
We are a remarkable country and it didn’t happen by accident or without sacrifice.
As Australians we all share equally in the legacy of what we have inherited, whether by birth or pledge.
Our values as a nation have been forged in adversity, celebrated in success and enshrined in our institutions that continue to serve us to this day. Our immigration programme is one such precious institution.
In our nation, we must never marginalise or compromise our system of merit based immigration. We must protect it’s integrity and sovereignty in all facets. This is what secures the trust of our fellow Australians.
As a Liberal Minister for Immigration, I would see it as my most important responsibility to restore and maintain this trust to ensure immigration can continue to deliver what it always has for our nation – strength, prosperity and unity in the national interest.
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