In the same week that his “values statement” looks destined to go down “like a pricked balloon”, Kim Beazley is today facing a barrage of accusations that his policies on “foreign workers” smell of xenophobia.

An opinion piece in this morning’s Age by Amanda Vanstone levels the accusation squarely:

When Beazley’s immigrations spokesman, Tony Burke, complained of workers coming from ‘Beijing, Beirut, and Bombay’ he enjoyed the full support of Beazley. That’s not a dog whistle, that’s a foghorn.

Mr Beazley himself regularly calls temporary skilled migrants ‘foreign workers’. Foreign has become a pejorative for Labor. Some workers are more foreign than others.

Workers from Bombay, Beijing and Beirut are definitely foreign. Apparently those from Bristol, Blackpool and Birmingham are not. This is not code. This is plain text. And it’s a fan to the racist fire.

If that isn’t bad enough, ol’ Kim isn’t being helped by his state-based mates. According to information received by Crikey, the NSW Labor government, through TAFE Global, the international arm of the state’s TAFE system, has been actively assessing Chinese workers for employment on Australian projects, which seems to contradict Beazley’s fierce loyalty to Australian workers.

It’s an awkward situation for the Labor leader, who’ll not only have to dance around Vanstone’s attack, but accusations that even those in his corner are ignoring his public position on skilled migrants. Dance, Kim, dance.

Peter Fray

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