OPINION: Let’s back permanent migration

Tuesday 19 May, 2020: Can we have a reasonable talk about immigration please?  A rational discussion, where people can speak freely without being called a racist or a bleeding heart for asking sensible questions?

As the son of migrants, the immigration debate does not offend me and here is why – I am Australian. It is a debate we must have to ensure our best economic, social and cultural future.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s contribution to this debate is to make a virtue of reducing permanent migration, stating last year “…we brought the permanent migration rate down to its lowest level in a decade by focussing on the integrity of the visa system and prioritising Australians for Australian jobs”.

I have a message for the PM – when I talk about “Australian’’ jobs, it is of Australian citizens with Greek, Chinese, Vietnamese, African, Latin American, Lebanese, Italian, Irish or Indian background and new Australians from every part of the world as part of our permanent migration.

Permanent migration has made us one of the most economically prosperous and successful multicultural nations in the world. A nation with a history of welcoming migrants, asking them to join us, not just temporarily, but as new Australian citizens.

Immigrants like my parents from Egypt and millions like them have been central to our social, cultural and economic prosperity.

Now is the time to repeat this success and renew our commitment to increased permanent migration post COVID-19. This migration program must continue to reflect the principle that our acceptance of migrants is not based on ethnicity, faith, place of birth or gender. However, appropriate health testing must be put in place to ensure migrants meet necessary and stringent health requirements.

Temporary migration is a stopgap to fill skills shortages, it is important to keep our economy ticking, but is also plagued by wage theft, breaches of workplace rights and poor conditions.

A 2019 government report suggested as many as 50 per cent of temporary migrant workers may be being underpaid in their employment.

For seven years, the Coalition government has moved by stealth to a guest worker model, with rises in temporary visas offsetting drops in permanent migrants.

We are breaking the immigration model at the heart of our success as a nation post-WWII. 

After COVID-19 we will only succeed if we get the migrant composition right.

Our economic recovery and future as a nation depends on it.

This piece was first published in The Herald Sun on Tuesday 19 May, 2020.  

MEDIA CONTACT: Jess Brennan 0421 334 918