Thursday, October 09, 2008

Immigration & Labor

One of the most despicable anti-Australian policies of the Hawke-Keating era was the devotion to bring many unskilled immigrants into Australia under the guise of the 'Family Migration' Program to bolster Labor's standing with the ethnic lobbies.  Whenever the global economy faltered the Labor Party pursued high immigration targets based on the 'family' program to bolster its re-election objectives. This earned the undying gratitude of the narrow range of families concerned (and those who spend much of their lives at CentreLink) but irritated the rest of the community who had to pay the taxes and got no immigration spinoffs. It undermined support for a legitimate immigration program based on securing well-educated immigrants who could get well-paid jobs and who could contribute intellectual and cultural talent to Australia.  Hawke - not conservative politicians - created the problem of Pauline Hanson.

Bringing migrants to Australia who convey skill externalities, who at least speak basic English and who do not despise the democratic values of a civilised society makes a lot more sense than turning Australia into an irreversible social experiment.  John Howard did a tremendous job of enlarging and reorienting the immigration program towards accepting those with skills.

Andrew Bolt makes some sensible criticisms of the current direction of Rudd-style migration policies.  I share his concern with Labor's apparent commitment to maintaining high levels of immigration as the economy looks likely to weaken.  This can only be done by expanding the import of unskilled workers and 'Family' migrants in the migration program. Rudd started off endorsing the skill orientation of the Howard immigration policies - although he lied his head off about the refugee program - which the Liberals had already expanded.

Bolt's observations remind us that, along with economic management, Labor cannot be trusted on immigration.  Their record is appalling.

If the families of unskilled immigrants living in Australia wish to be reunited with their loved ones CentreLink might well consider funding their tickets home.  Australia has zero obligation to accept family-based chain migration of the unskilled. None. In addition, seeking unskilled immigrants to meet short-term shortages is about as stupid and short-sighted a labor market program as you can imagine. Australia is an attractive destination and can insist on the best imnmigrant applicants available. Unfortunately admitting the riff-raff is just the sort of policy that will appeal to Labor since it expands a fair slab of their core constituency.

10 comments:

Sir Henry Casingbroke said...

With regard to immigration, it is not possible to trust either the ALP nor the Lib/Agrarian Buynip Party Coalition, each of which has an agenda that differs only in the minuscule detail. What they have in common is to trash the wages and conditions of the workers at the bottom end of the payscale.

What is that agenda? To "globalise" the Australian workforce, or to export jobs altogether.

Harry Clarke, you are ascribing motivation to the Labor Party that goes like this: the Labor Party is bringing immigrants so it can flood electorates with people who can then be housed in ghettoes and marshalled to vote for it. Is this your theory?

Unfortunately for your theory, migrants can just as easily vote en bloc for the conservatives like the Urbancic Balts in the 50s and 60s who gave us the NSW Liberal Party. Or what's left of it.

Let's get real here. The Labor Party, like the Liberal Party are simply doing what its paymasters tell it to do: deliver cheap labor (agricultural or factory fodder). Frightened immigrants are less likely to demand either rights or a fair wage. We know this because of the overwhelming make up of rag-trade outworkers, train carriage cleaners and hospital workers.

This is part of a well entrenched program by BOTH parties and well you know it!

To try to leverage this appallingly unjust situation for a party political advantage on behalf of your clients is disingenuous H, and totally unbelievable.

Keeping the wages low is not only done by means of importing frightened peasants. Have you spoken to a bank on the phone lately? You'd be speaking to someone in the Philippines or India or indeed Azerbajan, for all we know. Why aren't the banking unions jacking up about that? Oh yes, we've come along way since 1901. Cheap labor imports was the issue and then the rationale why Australia came about as a nation in the first place.

Geez. This whole market economy is such a load of crap. Who gave those people Nobel prizes? The game is rigged.

I am hoping the punters can see what a con job this has all been when they listen to the whining coming from government leaders on TV now. It is wonderful to watch. Nobody knows anything and all the experts have gone to their basements to listen to recordings of provincial Irish bands.

How can world markets find their equilibrium when one of the biggest players has rigged the fair exchange by not only NOT floating the renmin but also keeping it deliberately low by buying up the US treasury paper.

You people are a joke, fair dinkum.

hc said...

Well Sir Henry John Howard did an reasonable job of reorienting the program towards skills. It wasn't perfect - the skills themselves were often dubious - but it was an improvement. You get skkill externalities and the distributional costs fall on the relatively well-to-do.

The adverse distributional consequences of bringing in unskilled workers are an important additional argument against biasing the immigration program in the direction of the unskilled and family migration. It attacks the economic well-being of those residents least able to handle it.

I have made these distributional arguments for many years.

conrad said...

I think it's fine to accept migrants to fix short-term shortages -- but you need to make sure they go home, which seems to be the bit that isn't palatable to Australia.

rabee said...

Harry, could you concentrate on stuff that's really important now. Like the cowboys running the CommBank.

PS. you misstyped "riff-raff", I'm confused shouldn't it be "nappy head riff raff"

Khaki Economist said...

Dear Professor,

I have capable friends, and you capable students, whose parents came as unskilled migrants under family migration programmes. Are there really no spin-off benefits?

Also, skill (or lack of) is not inter-temporally fixed. This is a good reason we have an education system.

The problem is not immigration, unless one's views on migrants are veritably Old. The problem is welfare dependency, new immigrant policy, and education.

Our world now--thanks to views like these--is one where one's borders of birth are the largest determinant of material well-being--not effort, intelligence, or entrepreneurship. Only liberalising migration can reverse this.

Sir Henry Casingbroke said...

You're right. John Howard was a genius. When he was PM, things couldn't have been better. You could borrow from a bank to buy shares on the margin for a small deposit. Your tax free home would double in value overnight. It was paradise. As soon as that nasty little man Kevin Rudd took over, look what happened. He starts letting in all kind of riff raff, then goes to New York and the world goes down the gurgler and takes Australia with it.

hc said...

Khaki economist,

So your prescription is to emphasise the case for unskilled immigration?

Jack,

Your obvious annoyance at economists is understandable and half right. The events of the last week make it clear we are not as smart as we often believe.

Economic theories and faith in markets contain a germ of truth but they do not capture the lot. nd the cost of being half right is enormous.

Khaki Economist said...

I'm not sure of a better way to raise incomes for the world's poorest than liberalising migration. Do you?

Besides, in whose interest should economic advice be? A nation's, or humanity's? This is the real question.

Anonymous said...

You can dress it up in the most educated language in the world, but this is plain old fashioned racist tripe from a Howard cultural warrior. I think I begin to understand why you took the satnd you did on the Haneef matter. Two reasons: a blind adherence to the actions of Howard, no matter how repugnant, and a good dose of old-fashioned racial hatred.

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