The recent case where parents with a child having Down's Syndrome were excluded from migrating permanently to Australia has aroused much emotion. It is widely seen as discrimination against disabled people. It is nothing of the sort. It is discrimination against immigration applicants who may not provide net economic benefits to Australia if they are awarded migrant status.
The lifetime cost of supporting a Down's Syndrome child at a discount rate of 5% was estimated 10 years ago at $235,000. With a public health system most of this cost will fall on the taxpayer.
Having new migrants usually increases the value of assets and non-wage incomes received by Australians so we derive economic gains from immigration. But Australia provides many public goods - social security benefits and health benefits are prominent examples. There are incentive reasons to suppose that those with above-average health costs and poor employment prospects have incentives to migrate to Australia. The restrictions placed on the immigration intake are those designed to screen against such 'adverse selection'.
I know that when I post these remarks that commentators will describe me as heartless in rejecting these children. But I am not. About 1 in 600 live births is a Down's Syndrome child so there are around 250,000 such children born per year around the world. Any interest in improving the welfare of these children would be best addressed by intensifying pre-screening and treatment options rather than admitting a handful under our very limited migration quota.
Families who wish to bring Down's Syndrome children (or family with any preexisting health condition) to Australia should find it possible to guarantee private provision of all extra health costs. But this is not feasible in Australia because 'Bleeding Heart' do-gooders will never allow enforcement of such a contract. This lack of resolve means that people with pre-existing medical conditions will continue to be unfairly excluded from immigrant entry. Being tough here - the alternative suggest - implies being reasonable and kind.