Pauline Hanson, if she ever got press anymore, would say she is definitely unimpressed. Indeed, through her 15 and a bit minutes of political fame, Hanson made quite a deal of mileage out of reducing immigration for the sake of the economy.

So saith she: “Immigration must be halted in the short-term so that our dole queues are not added to by, in many cases, unskilled migrants not fluent in the English language.”

However, only eleven years since her rise to prominence, the opposite is truer: Australia needs immigration, and lots of it, to save our economy.

Ross Gittens explains in today’s SMH:

The fact is, however, that immigration is playing a big part in keeping the economy growing strongly, preventing shortages of skilled labour from causing a wages blowout, keeping inflation under control, limiting the rise in interest rates and keeping house prices rising rather than falling.

Howard is running a dangerous line; as Hanson’s political popularity showed, immigration is not high on the want-list of many Aussie battlers. Aside from any purported xenophobia that may or may not exist, many, like Hanson, consider these foreigners as simply jumping on the dole queue or taking our jobs.

The key, especially for conservatives, is to make sure immigration remains out of the political spotlight. According to Gittens, “It’s a key part of the Government’s economic policy, but one it rarely talks about.”

Although immigration has raised its head as a political issue, for example during the Tampa/Children overboard affair, the Government has been able to appear hard on illegal immigration (to his political benefit), while having a curiously open door policy overall (to his economic benefit).

Henry’s own Sir Wellington Boot has also been an outspoken critic of this Government’s immigration policies. Whilst not critical of immigration per se, Sir Wellington has argued many times that the Howard Government has been lax in its policies toward the make-up of muslim immigration. The following is from an article published in April:

The election is not that far off. Nile will surely learn that his muzzie moratorium call was right on the money. He won’t go off message in his run for the Senate. All this is bad for social peace. Henry, is there any other way I can express the crying need for a proper bi-partisan policy to settle this matter before the more violent and irrational muzzies here blow up? If they do blow up, there will be imams involved and finance will have been provided.

Walking the tightrope between what is politically advantageous and what is economically advantageous might have been difficult for most politicians — Pauline Hanson was practically an economic imbecile.

Howard’s ability to keep immigration numbers at unprecedented levels, whilst dodging the difficult political questions, shows the extent to which his political nous is without comparison. 

Read more at Henry Thornton.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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