Migration questions are getting louder

July 23, 2018

When abroad, Australian ministers like to boast of the success of Australia's immigration policies in boosting economic growth while maintaining social cohesion.

At home and away, Malcolm Turnbull describes Australia as the most successful multicultural country in the world, whereas Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi has described multiculturalism as a,"flawed and failing doctrine".

An opinion piece by Jennifer Hewett in the Australian Financial Review says in many countries, Australia's skilled immigration program is certainly seen as a highly successful model to emulate:

The UK, struggling with the lack of social and economic integration of migrant communities concentrated in particular areas, is looking harder at the Australian approach post-Brexit.

But domestically, the tensions in that Australian success story are increasingly obvious.

Whether it's the violence of Sudanese youth gangs in Melbourne or political calls for a radical decrease in the annual intake, questions about Australia's immigration levels and approach are becoming much louder.

In Australia, as in so many other Western countries, community angst about the level of immigration as well as the level of cultural integration, particularly in Muslim communities, has been steadily building over the last decade.

The government's latest idea of pushing more migrants to settle in regional Australia is an attempt to assuage growing anger in cities like Sydney and Melbourne that population growth is leading to a decline in the quality of life, evident in massive congestion and inadequate infrastructure.

In a speech to the Australia UK Leadership Forum in London last week, Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge voiced gentle concern about "pockets" where there are problems, saying Australia is shifting a little too much towards "separatist" multiculturalism rather than the assimilationist model.

But any suggestion the government should toughen its approach to legal immigration is even more complicated.

It alarms a business community heavily dependent on maintaining Australia's ready access to skilled migration.

The university sector, which bases its whole business model on a continuing flood of high fee paying international (mostly Chinese) students, is equally aghast at the notion this will become harder to maintain.

And Treasurer Scott Morrison's promised budget surplus relies on continued high population growth, underpinned by high immigration, to boost economic growth.

So for all the renewed political focus on immigration and population, there's little sign yet of this changing much as yet.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is keen to emphasise Australia undershot its annual 190,000 cap on permanent migrants – down to 163,000 last financial year.

But net overseas migration, including permanent and longer-term temporary migrants as well as departures, is still about 240,000 a year.

Tick, tock, tick.

Senator Bernardi has told Sky News historically, migrants have integrated into Australian society, but that's not happening now which is why the "multicultural experiment" is failing.

To read Jennifer Hewett's full piece, click here.

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