Monday, 12 July 2010

Whither now, Fortress Australia?

Apart from the indigenous peoples of Australia, all those living here in 2010 could be considered the descendants of migrants or migrants themselves.

From those whose forebears were either convicts forced to migrate by the Crown or Irish and Scots landless poor who were among our earliest economic migrants, right though to World War II refugees and others seeking a better life in the years since that tumultuous era.

It can't have been an easy decision to leave one's roots and journey so far, sometimes with no hope of return. Surely a trace memory of this lingers in many families, so why is it that as a community we seem to swiftly run into Fortress Australia anytime the nation's immigration policy is debated?

Are we so xenophobic that any population change (even sustainable growth) is automatically considered bad and any subsequent shift in cultural nuances thought to be intrinsically harmful?

Right now as I write, approximately 45 per cent of the population was either born overseas or had one or both parents born overseas.
As well as people coming into this country to live many also leave within the first ten years of residency. In 2008-09 there were 39,769 permanent departures of those born overseas.

Australian-born citizens also permanently leave our shores - around 117,275 of them left between 2006-07 and 2008-09. Compared with the 158,021 of overseas-born people who came to settle in this country in those same years (48 per cent of which had a profession or trade), one can see that net population growth through immigration is not that high a figure.

As one of the many migrants who came to settle in Australia as a subsidized 'Ten Pound Pom' perhaps Prime Minster Gillard would do well to temper her language in the current election year debate. "People like my parents, who have worked hard all their lives, can't abide the idea that others might get an inside track to special privileges." Inside track to special privileges? What on earth does she think subsidized migration from Great Britain was, if not an inside track?

When it comes to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on the subject of immigration - his dog whistling is utterly shameless couched as it is in terms of border protection and 'restoring' sovereignty.

If Fortress Australia ever really existed then it has been an abject failure and, as someone whose forebears stepped off those first uninvited boats in 1788 I for one am eternally grateful.

Tony Abbot cartoon from Laberal

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

we should of towed the 10 pound poms boats back out to sea