What is it about Liberal
politicians and immigration? It seems they just can’t help themselves.
Back in 1984, Andrew Peacock poisoned his reputation as a progressive
by accusing the Hawke government of favouring non-white immigrants.
Then in 1988 John Howard almost destroyed his career by calling for a
reduction in Asian immigration.

Now it’s Peter Costello’s turn.
Yesterday, launching this year’s census, he stepped up his campaign to
increase Australia’s birthrate. As The Age reports, “If
fertility rates continued to run below replacement level, the
composition of the population would change, he said.” He referred to
European countries where “low birth rates and high immigration … has
caused a lot of social division … social disruption and violence.”

Well,
at least the link between fertility and immigration is now out in the
open. We don’t need more babies in order to have more people, since we
can get that by opening the crack in our borders a little wider; we
need them in order to have a particular sort of people. In Costello’s
words, “Increasing immigration to cover natural population decline will
change the composition of our population and raise concerns about
social dislocation”.

Composition? What sort of composition? Not ethnic composition, surely. But what else could he mean?

Commentators
talk about “motherhood” statements, meaning those that are supposed to
have universal, uncontroversial appeal. But the campaign for increased
fertility should be controversial, because its unstated assumptions are
fundamentally racist and misogynist.

The irony here is that just
measuring the birthrate won’t tell us whether Costello’s quest has been
successful, because it won’t distinguish between the children of
established, non-divisive (ie white) Australians and those of recent
immigrants, who will be “changing the composition” of Australia just as
much as more immigrants would. Danna Vale understood this when she
famously objected to abortion because it was helping Muslims to
outbreed “Australians”.

I don’t believe Costello is a racist;
his public record on reconciliation and multiculturalism is too strong.
But he needs to take a good, hard look at his fertility crusade,
because it’s leading him into some very nasty territory.

Peter Fray

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