On immigration and neoliberalism

Joe Boswell writes: Re. “Immigration debate shows how we’ve infantilised government“(Wednesday)

Bernard Keane begins by describing neoliberal policy in action as “aimed at curbing the role of government.” That’s too benign, not supported even by the evidence Keane cites. The neoliberals have a visceral dread of any government succeeding, big or small. The consequences of voters seeing their government delivering for them don’t bear thinking about. Just curbing it would miss the point, and be downright dangerous if it made government efficient. Far better to discredit government entirely by making it fat, feared and failing in every respect.

The neoliberals indulge in reckless spending that is mostly wasted on boondoggles or disappears into deep corporate pockets. Agencies originally designed to help people, such as Centrelink or citizenship, are made punitive and oppressive. There is no attempt to curb them – such agencies are expanded dramatically when that means they inflict more misery. Government initiatives are closed at the first hint of popular success and replaced by inferior or untried versions. Simultaneously, neoliberals undermine the tax base and wreck the budget. They throw money at problems, but always in ways they know will fail, or better still make matters worse. Keane mentions several good examples of all this, such as the NBN. Exactly – under the Coalition it costs more and delivers less. Result! Then they and their media allies cite their own actions as proof that government is the problem. You have to laugh.

James Burke writes: Re. “Immigration debate shows how we’ve infantilised government“(Wednesday)

Bernard Keane claims he’s given up neoliberalism, but he hasn’t shed its habits. Like transforming critics into straw men, to be bayoneted with smug snobbery. Complain about overpopulation? You’re anti-immigrant. You probably have a “Fuck Off We’re Full” bumper sticker! (I spend a lot of time in Sydney traffic. Yet to see one.) Complain about overdevelopment? You’re a NIMBY! The NIMBY taunt is especially cruel, given those worst affected can’t afford backyards. These crises hurt unit owner-occupiers and renters, recent immigrants included.

NIMBYism hasn’t stopped development in Sydney. Nothing can. If a council objects, it’s suspended pending “amalgamation”, and a hundred skyscrapers bloom. It’s OK, they’re on transport corridors … never mind what happens when 10,000 new commuters try to board at your local station, and at every station down the line.

Overdevelopment is only sustainable through abnormally high immigration. Australia achieves this with student visas, so valuable to GDP we mustn’t question their educational worth. This is the house that Howard built. Tony Abbott was one of his ministers. Maybe the media should take time out from sneering at the public and hold Abbott accountable for the problem he proposes to solve.

Peter Fray

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