Kristina Keneally
Senator Kristina Keneally (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

In The Proposition, Crikey puts forward a provocation to columnists, commentators and readers that bounces off a hot topic.

Today, in part inspired by recent comments by Kristina Keneally, the Opposition’s immigration spokeswoman, the proposition is:

The current crisis has highlighted the need to substantially cut Australia’s immigration levels, even if that hurts the economy. 

Australia does not have excessive immigration intake. Nation-building efforts necessary to pull Australia from economic downturn triggered by the coronavirus crisis will depend on labour supply that the nation alone cannot meet.

Migrants will be crucial to Australia’s recovery and do not pose competition for local workers but are complementary.

Ultimately, immigration helps ease the pressure on local workers (and families) to pay ever-increasing tax to maintain the well-being we have become accustomed to in this country. 

— Liz Allen, demographer and author of the new book, The Future of Us

Immigration is valuable for more than the economy. Migration fosters diversity, tolerance and innovation.

The world’s most successful immigration nation, the USA, has been at its best when welcoming strangers to its shores, diminished when xenophobic and isolationist.

Immigration makes Australia socially and culturally richer, and as a side benefit, helps the economy. Without it we would, over time, risk becoming mean, narrow minded, cantankerous and disliked by the rest of the world.  

Stephen Bartos, Crikey columnist, consultant and former senior public servant

We need to reverse the trend to rely so much on using temporary migrants to fill workplace gaps, but that should not be done by some facile “cut the intake” argument. Instead, we can:

  •  return to making permanent residency visas more easily available, for family as well work-related visas
  • provide better training opportunities for everyone
  • provide far stronger, genuinely enforceable, workplace rights for everyone, including migrants who first arrive here on temporary visas. 

— Andrew Bartlett, former senator for Queensland and parliamentary spokesperson on immigration issues; former research fellow on migration issues; current cafe owner and barista

The current crisis gives us a breather to debate appropriate immigration levels without the usual ideological divisions.

Australia has prospered from large-scale immigration over the past generation but governments have failed to keep up with the surge in population.

With immigration now paused due to the pandemic we can reassess the mix going forward. How much immigration do we need to sustain a prosperous economy? What type of immigrant do we want in age, skills, nationality? These are the questions we should now be asking without rancour.

— Janine Perrett, Crikey columnist, radio/TV journalist and presenter

Australia is an immigration nation, forged through the aspirations of millions from around the globe.

The new demand they create has been a primary driver of the economy to the benefit for all, albeit with continuing negative consequences for the national ecology and intensifying pressure on Indigenous people.

A multicultural ecologically perceptive society remains our only hope for a civil future; otherwise we will have a racist, inward looking and angrily selfish society that shrinks in its humanity, its creativity and its compassion.

Australia has to continue to be a place of freedom and opportunity, melding those who have been here for generations with those who have just arrived

— Andrew Jakubowicz, UTS emeritus professor of sociology; former Multicultural NSW advisory board member

Our next proposition is: Public servants should never express their personal or political views in public. Tell us your thoughts by emailing a response of no more than 80 words to [email protected]. Please include your full name to be considered for publication.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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