On asylum seeker policy

Adrian Hempel writes: Re. “Do refugees take our jerbs? No, they create new ones.” (yesterday). Peter Dutton may be onto something, but I’ve found a much, much bigger problem than refugees. Babies. People across the country keep having unauthorised (illegal?) babies, in much greater numbers than asylum seekers are arriving. Not one baby born in this country has been able to demonstrate even basic numeracy or literacy in ANY language. All of them have required over a decade of expensive schooling before becoming employable. They pay no tax, and, unlike refugees, receive special treatment in social security benefits that are not available to hard-working taxpayers like you and me. And after they have been a drain on the public purse for so long, the vast majority of them go on to take a job that could have gone to someone else.

John Richardson writes: The most shameful & disgusting thing about Peter Dutton is that he reflects the views of the majority of Australians. Have we really become so ugly and so low that this creature represents the best we can be?

James Burke writes: Refugees aren’t “stealing our jobs” and depressing wages. That role’s taken by those entering Australia on student visas and taking underpaid, even unpaid jobs. For that we can thank the Howard Government, which repurposed the higher education system as a massive visa rort, to provide a cheap, easily cowed workforce for its corporate cronies. It did so under the cover of “border protection” propaganda. No 7-Eleven without Tampa.

It got away with it because Labor stayed mum, even as John Howard’s successor Kevin Rudd and his education minister Julia Gillard were forced to fix some of the worst scams, which had provoked riots by ripped-off international students. This silence about Coalition strategy left a vacuum at the heart of the immigration debate. (Which the Greens refused to fill, perhaps from hippie paranoia that any questioning of visas is a slippery slope to a new White Australia Policy.)

This vacuum led some in the press gallery to assert there is an “unspoken deal”, where voters allow mass immigration in return for tough gestures against boat people. I reckon that overestimates the awareness of the electorate, and underestimates its hostility to visa rorts and slavery.

Recent months have reaped rewards for Labor in realising it can be more than just the John Howard Legacy Foundation. Maybe, post-election, Labor could contemplate demolishing Howard’s “tough” reputation regarding immigration. That might enable some rational, even humane, discussion of refugees.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey