Never ask a successful society for help

I won’t bore you with any more indignant coverage of the refugee debate. But I do want to point one parallel between Australia and Germany right now: asking a successful society for help is a fool’s errand.

In Australia, the convergence of the need for labour in particular parts of the economy and the refusal to allow refugees entry is patently bizarre. And that’s not all, there is also the ageing population issue to address over the longer term as Jessica Irvine points out today:

One of the defining global narratives of the coming decades will be the struggle of ageing nations to rejuvenate their populations and provide for the needs of their elderly. But here in Australia we force young, willing hands in nearby countries to board leaky boats to take their chances in a cruel sea. That is not only morally shameful, it’s economically stupid.

Figures from the same OECD report prove decisively that job gains for migrants do not come at the expense of existing Australians.

Across the first half of the noughties, the employment-to-population ratio for foreign-born Australian men averaged 73.2 per cent. The average for native-born Australian men was substantially higher, at 78.8 per cent.

In the second half, this gap shrank. The average employment-to-population ratio for foreign-born men advanced to 76.3 per cent. But this did not come at the expense of the native-born, who saw their ratio also increase, to 80 per cent.

Because, for all the focus on asylum seekers, Australia’s overall migration program is heavily focused on filling existing skills shortages and, hence, is skewed towards younger working people. Australia’s total migration and humanitarian intake was 182,500 people last financial year. Of these, most – 92 per cent – came from the migration program.

Just 8 per cent, or 13,799 visas, were granted under the humanitarian program. Of these, most – 8971 – were granted to people seeking asylum from an offshore location. The number granted to people who had made their way to Australia first, by boat or plane, was 4828.

Australia’s refugee intake is not only small compared to its total migration intake, but also compared to the number of people who would like to seek asylum here. Australia received 54,396 offshore applications for humanitarian visas last year, meaning for every successful one, five others went unanswered.

Is it any surprise people get on boats? With such an undersupply of places relative to demand, a black market in people smuggling is the only natural result.

Yet our politicians carry on like its some terrible tide we face. Presumably they do so  because their polsters tell them that they should. Which brings it back to you and I. We don’t want the refugees.

On Germany, MB has been running a fascinating internal debate about what exactly the Germans are up to in Europe. On one side, several see the German program of austerity for peripheral Europe as a technocratic stalking horse designed to reform the peripheral economies and unleash the latent growth potential that underlies the Mediterranean entitlement cultures. Several others see Germany as a nation of economic Teutons, determined to dominate Europe and remould it in its own image whatever the cost.

But either way, there is an important  parallel with the Australian refugee debate. Anyone who has been to Germany will understand immediately the sense of cogency one feels. It is successful society: prosperous, orderly, civilised and culturally united. What motivation is there for the body politic of such a place to open its arms to the broader problems of European integration? I’m not saying their aren’t many German Europhiles, there are, but the impulse to get off your successful butt and force your leaders to embrace the wider problems of your neighbours just isn’t there. Sure, it’s a feature of parlour discussion, but not action. Enlightened self-interest is as rare as hen’s teeth in a successful society.

It’s the same here.

David Llewellyn-Smith
Latest posts by David Llewellyn-Smith (see all)


      • united but cannot marry with each others (and therefore stay segregated to avoid temptation).

        no sure if it is the type of society I want to be in.France is paying the price every day of these artificial separations (religious/cultural), I am not quite enthusiast to see it reproduce here.

  1. I’m not so sure about the “do not want refugees” assertion you and others have mentioned.

    Instead, it is the current boat arrivals that rub people up the wrong way. They stand out because people feel that relatively small group are taking the piss. We do not see other groups of refugees run commercial people smuggling operations, destroy documentation, choose an expensive boat trip after a plane ride to Indonesia, or ring Australian maritime search and rescue from not far off the Indonesian coast. In essence, one gets the feeling that this small portion is hiding something.

    Unfortunately, the antics of that group may poison public sentiment against all refugee migration. I suspect that any resolution that looks like giving in to that group will kill acceptance of the humanitarian intake. In a way, the previous government seems to have intuited that when they stopped the boats, but also increased immigration sharply. You could argue there was an inconsistency there, and you would be right. It was, however, an astute inconsistency.

    And, yes, I rather suspect that were there boats arriving from,say, Myanmar, our reaction would be different because of the public’s suspicion of the cultural/religious aspect of the people flow that is present with the current arrivals. People see readily organised protests, replete with placards demonstrative of antipathy toward the way we do things here, but never any condemnation from those communities of what can best be described as hatred and incitement by their ‘leaders’. I’m sure some will say that perception is selective reporting, but that is contentious.

    Europe, on the other hand, has a history of keeping migrants at a distance. Sadly, some of the migrants have had an antipathy towards Europe. And so they flip and flop between hatred of the other and a suicidal embrace of anything but themselves. It’s not the debt that worries me, so much as the social dynamics. The debt is only a concern in so far as a fiscal crisis could impose a brutal withdrawal of the government aid to communities that already have an antipathy toward the nation and continent in which they live.

    One thing in this country’s favour is that we aren’t overly ideological, unlike the Europeans who flip flop between a desire to shut out the ‘other’ and suicidal embrace of anything that opposes their culture. Maybe we should slip some lithium in their water supply.

    • I mostly have an issue with selective refugees. ie those who are coming to Australia from Iran/Afghanistan where there are other options far closer to escape their persecution.

      In my mind if they can afford to get on a plan fly across the world then on a boat then they are probably not genuine refugees (or at least not genuinely in need of coming to Australia over other countries). Plus they are potentially filling refugee spots from more deserving refugees in our local region.

      As you said if there was influx of refugees from Burma (like there was from Vietnam in the 70’s) then most people would probably be more ok with it.

      • dumb_non_economist

        Serenco, so the ww2 Jewish refugees fleeing Germany who had the money to pay/bribe there way out weren’t TRUE refugees, is that what you’re saying?

        What does money have to do with it? If you read even a little bit of the press you’ll find that most of these asylum seekers (no such thing as illegal immigrant for them) you’d know that a large % have borrowed from family and money lenders to pay there way.

        As to having other places to legitimately seek refuge you must be effing kidding me!

        The truth be known Australia is not the place of the fair go, mate-ship, egalitarianism or anything of the like. We are largely xenophobic and a lot more racist and intolerant than we care to admit.

    • Yeah, I would agree that the ‘taking the piss’ part is what irks most Australians, and also goes to show how both the political class and the broader mainstream media is far detached from the populace.

      I would opine that the greatest distatse is what is semmingly a grab for ‘our welfare’. Refugee status and assylum seeking is still a hastily thought out construct dating back to the Spanish civil war, and then minorly adjusted to prevent a future holocaust victim class.

      Media reporting, and civil observation in our major cities anyway, I believe has our population concluding that a whole class of people are taking advantages of loopholes so they can become our welfare dependents…. “chuck your visa overboard, get benefits!’ sort of thing.

      Considering we have our very own class of lazy sods, our baby boomers, about to entitle themselves as a welfare class en masse, and welfare now looks like an ever increasingly scarce commodity, I believe this is where the angst is.

      So what we have is the left, viewing the world from their prism of white guilt, constructing the debate as everything must be about whites preserving privilege, so lets dismantle it.

      We have the right catering to conservatism, thus attacking the new class themselves. We see it in shaming such as ‘they should stay in Afghanistan and fight’ and ‘they are prepared to kill their kids in leaky boats’.

      All endearing to character assassinate them as to make the appear undeserving.

      Bill Mitchell’s job guarantee is perfect here. labour intensive, low-skilled, minimum wage infrastructure across the north of Australia should be their fate.

      It’d probably cost the same amount as the combined cost+benefit of this infrastructure build.

      There’s nowhere to escape to up north, and with a wage, they are availed choice, similar to the food and shelter they are handed in detention anyway.

    • Sorry e-girl but you don’t have a bloody clue. You sound like the government propaganda machine. Do you think REFUGEE have the luxury to stroll to the nearest Australian Consulate and apply for a visa. You do probable think those people are just eccentrics that love extreme nautical experiences to jump into a leaky boat with or without their family and risk drowning. I can see that you know as well about Europe “I see having a history of keeping migrants at a distance”. How do you know that? Let me tell you Europe doesn’t put illegal immigrants in jail as you do here. After the illegal immigrants are checked to make sure they are not criminals and it doesn’t take years maybe a month(even without ID), they get released in the community. They are housed, fed, and get some money. They are not allowed to work but they all do and Europeans don’t get to worked up about that. It is good for everyone: for the refugee that don’t get to stay all day on their asses doing nothing, working with locals and getting to know them, picking up a bit of language, making a bit of money. The locals are benefiting too. Yes indeed $5 an hour for mowing lawn, fixing a wall, splitting wood is not that much but when accommodation and food are free that’s extra money that one can use. Ends up OK for everyone without resentment.

      • dumb_non_economist

        Thank you vonZetty, at some people can show some compassion; bet you’re not Australian!

  2. I’d be OK to let anyone in as long as they are sent back immediately after a criminal conviction or 1 year or so of unemployment.

    • Are you also ok to send Australians to Antartica (or whatever) if they are criminals or jobless?

      • probably a bit harsh lol, maybe a bit of national service if they are unemployed for a year

        • The Australian army is fully professional. They do not want people who do not want to be there.

          You’re endagering the lives of other professionals by thinking they are an old aged childcare centre.

          Why not put people who are unemployed for 1 year into banking executive roles, its not like they could do any more damage.

          • hmm yeah national service doesn’t have to mean army. The resistance to conscription is far from universal in the army, at least that is the feeling I got while I was in there.

            Still maybe send them out to clean parks etc and generally do some good for the community

          • Still maybe send them out to clean parks etc and generally do some good for the community

            So give them a job?

          • We already let to many dysfunctional young people get training with guns. We don’t need any more.

          • RP absolutely but make it clear that this is below minimum wage job that is pretty demanding and if you want more then you need to get of the public teat.

          • RP absolutely but make it clear that this is below minimum wage job

            Why should it be below minimum wage?

            Sending someone to clean a park is a job. They should be paid for doing a job.

            Paying them less speaks volumes, that it is OK to treat a disadvantaged class of people below what we consider the minimum wage.

            that is pretty demanding and if you want more then you need to get of the public teat.

            Erhh isn’t a job them selling their own labour?

          • well in this case cleaning up a park etc isn’t necessarily something that needs to be done. but if you have a captive labour force who are sitting around doing nothing then why not.

            Plus I dont think that park cleanup is really part of the federal gov’s responsibility hence not quite fair to say just give them a full time job doing it

          • well in this case cleaning up a park etc isn’t necessarily something that needs to be done.

            OK, but you initial statement was…

            to clean parks etc and generally do some good for the community

            I agree, make them do something, do not pay someone for being inert labour.

            But whatever that ‘something’ is, it is still a job.

            You pay people a proper wage for doing a job.

            but if you have a captive labour force who are sitting around doing nothing then why not.

            Well define ‘captive’. From what I can interpret from you, and I may easily be wrong, you’re denying choice.

            I’m allowing choice.

            A job will always be offered, and you get money.

            Don’t work, no money.

            Plus I dont think that park cleanup is really part of the federal gov’s responsibility hence not quite fair to say just give them a full time job doing it

            Well I’m of the belief there is always something that can be done. Whatever needs to be done can be an exchange of labour for money.

  3. The problem, HH, is not that Australians don’t want refugees, but rather (as e-girl has explained) they are sceptical of their genuine intentions.

    “Australia resettles the third largest number of refugees of any country, and we resettle more refugees, per capita, than any other nation. Australians should be proud of the part we play in providing protection to refugees”

    Chris Bowen, Minister for Immigration

  4. “We don’t want the refugees.”


    We have a distaste for illegals who conveniently lose their identity documents, jump the queue ahead of other, probably more needy, genuine refugees, and then cynically place the lives of our maritime personnel at risk in order to achieve their goals.

    Your comment is offensive to all decent Australians who simply want a difficult and highly emotive problem handled in a fair and accountable manner.

    • offensive as well for new immigrant who followed the rules.

      they are cheaters who spend $50k to come here and you can be sure that people like them who come with the clear intention to cheat the system, will continue to cheat the system once they have the PR.

      I find unbelievable that Howard era refugee visa have been removed.They come here for the PR and to bring their family and for the men it is the best way to get married (having an Aussie PR make them very attractive to girls’parents ).

      if they really wanted to reduce the boat they will stop giving PR and family reunion. At least if you give the PR, attached some condition to block family reunion.

      • offensive as well for new immigrant who followed the rules.

        This is an intersting point, often overlooked by the sneering left such as David Marr.

        There is a big group overlooked in this, the non-anglo European migrants, and their descendents who were invited here after WWII under a sort of compact.

        You virtually never hear there view of the debate.

        All you ever hear is the view of the vested interests of similar central Asian groups, of the demonisation of anglo-Australias apparently inherant gold medal winning racism.

        if they really wanted to reduce the boat they will stop giving PR and family reunion.

        The latter is really only a big problem if ‘the family’ qualifies for welfare. If they become a burden of the sponsor, I don’t see a problem really.

        At least if you give the PR, attached some condition to block family reunion.

        Make PR status eligibility something like 15-20 years for assylum seekers. Make family reunion ineligible for welfare.

        • JacksonMEMBER

          “You virtually never hear their view of the debate”

          Here it is….one view anyway…

          Grateful to be given a safe place to live after having their families killed and smashed apart by two wars in 20 years. Worked their backsides off to make a contribution, in the face of rampant racism and exclusion. Had zero money or assets to their name, and I’m talking absolutely zero. That last point is important – not economic refo’s, just refo’s pure and simple.

          Hard to generalize for a whole group of people, but you would expect a lot of sympathy for refugees with nothing, and not much for those with money/means.

  5. I just hope we don’t have what I lived through in Europe where the local culture came under attack. There is a big move towards religious intolerance.

  6. Mediterranean entitlement cultures vs economic Teutons ?

    I thought you boys eschewed binary thinking ?

  7. Jumping jack flash

    Only rich, skilled immigrants need apply.

    Ones that can perform skilled, technical work for the same relative income you currently get in your home country (until you work out in approx 2-3 years time that you can charge much, much more than that for your labour here, but by that time you’ll be management material and entitled to 6 figures so it’s all good)

    And rich enough to qualify to buy a house from a retiring boomer upon arrival. In fact there will be a pack of real estate agents waiting at the arrival gates with brochures, and behind them, a throng of mortgage brokers and bank representatives.

    Everyone else can stay away. Thank you. Bloody queue jumpers!

  8. There’s a lot of issues that need to be addressed before we even go down this path if we think economics.

    Where are the migrants needed? Where are they going? Which people are most hindered by refugees? Is their a correlation between who is upset by them and who will be most affected by their migration?

    As a whole I’m not against refugees per se. I think a government just like the board of a company should consider its current shareholders (the current people in the country) its first priority. Government should not be about forced charity. Taking the analogy further if it is an advantage to issue more share capital (i.e let more shareholders in) it has to be value positive to existing shareholders before that decision is made.

    I look at Sydney and I see most of the refugees heading here in free accomodation, while a lot work the black market to keep their benefits – in fact a lot never work at all. Even the ones that do work there isn’t enough money to accomodate their needs as well as existing residents. Trains are over capacity with no obvious plan to fix things, hospitals are full and emergency wait times are getting longer, and plenty more because the population increase doesn’t have the matching infrastructure nor do I see the states having the money to provide it. Until we get our house in order, and make it so that migrants are a net positive to the economy’s existing residents I don’t know if I agree with Jessica’s argument.

  9. Australia takes in 13 799 refugees a year. Far more than the number that have come by boat in the last few years (after the government foolishly decided to weaken our borders).

    I won’t flog a dead horse as it has been covered well and truly above. But it’s not about refusing to take refugees (I firmly believe all developed nations have a duty to take GENUINE refugees). It’s about protecting our borders and stopping people from attempting to take the piss and jump the queue.

      • I’m forgetful, but I vaguely remember this problem of migrants putting themselves and others at risk had been pretty much stopped a while ago?

        Can anyone remind me of why it has arisen again, neither the opposition or the media seem to remember.

        Perhaps we need to go back a bit, or are some egos getting in the way?

        • Kevin Rudd changed the laws regarding boat arrivals in 2008. At the time we were getting 3 boats a year.

          As soon as the laws were changed they started coming again.

          • That’s in the realm of Judith Sloan logic, as she was want to demonstrate on the Drum last night.

            I’d say the re-emergence of people movement that has ocncurrently increased worldwide since 2008 is more of a telling factor, unless you think Rudd’s decision inspired this pattern worldwide.

          • That’s right, it was just a happy coincidence that they started coming as SOON as the ALP weakened the laws. What terrible luck. We went from 3 boats a year to 3 boats a week because of ‘push’ factors. Talk about one hell of a shove!

            Honestly, the facts are so clear cut is staggers me that anyone bothers to argue against them.

          • There’s also the fact that people smugglers are on record saying that when the ALP change the laws they will start operations again.

            Don’t punch me in the face and blame the wind mate.

          • The facts are also in 2008 the GFC starting impacting the world.

            People living in subsistence margins tend to be hit hard and will be the first to look elswhere for greener pastures.

            To proclaim the ‘facts are clear’ is gobsmacking. I would say the ‘facts’ have never been so opaque and to say they are clear show the entire nation lacks the ability to demonstrate critical thinking.

          • Howards refugee policies were cruel. The problem is cruelty is an essential part of tough love. Damed if you do, dammed if you don’t.

          • Would you like me to show you a graph?

            The only thing gobsmacking is the fact that you are denying what is so obviously true you may as well be telling me the sky is red and that Earth’s gravitational pull is stronger than the suns.

            Are you really trying to say that the number of refugees around the world has increased by several thousand percent? The idea is genuinely laughable, given how clear cut the evidence is.

          • Are you really trying to say that the number of refugees around the world has increased by several thousand percent?

            I am saying that refugee movements are historically high.

            The marginal rate of displaced people was rising at over 3% in 2009.

            There is also a lag factor in the timing off the movements. We had Vietnamese boat people still arriving in high numbers in 1981, long after the push factors than had them fleeing in the first place.

            The idea is genuinely laughable, given how clear cut the evidence is.

            In the current media hysteria, you could apply the same evidence to vietnamese boat arrivals in 1981 and come to the same conclusion.

            I look at events that occured such as 1981, and conclude such conclusion are myopic, or lacking in critical thought.

          • Rusty Penny, come on, you are having me on aren’t you?

            We went from 3 boats a year to more than 3 boats a week. It started increasing as SOON as the ALP weakened the laws and dismantled the pacific solution. That’s an increase of about 21000%

            Marginally more than 3% wouldn’t you say?

            Plus, like I said, people smugglers are ON RECORD saying that once the ALP change the laws they will start up operations again.

            It really doesn’t get much more obvious in politics than this.

      • I’m sorry? I didn’t realise that being a Libertarian and believing in protecting our nations borders were mutually exclusive.

          • That’s not the definition of a libertarian. The definition is a libertarian is someone who believes people have the right to do as they wish provided they don’t infinge upon the rights of others.

            Just as all people have the right to not be threatened by thugs in the street or people driving 200KPH on a side street. People who come here illegally by boat are infringing upon my right as a citizen, and the rights of all Australians, to have a secure border and decide who can and can’t pass through it.

            All my arguments are guided by this philosophy and yes, I can assure you I am a libertarian.

          • You’re talking libertarian as in Tea Party definition, not the neo-classical liberalism political ideal. The latter is far more interesting.

          • Yes that falls under my definition.


            “Government, as explained by Adam Smith, had only three functions: protection against foreign invaders, protection of citizens from wrongs committed against them by other citizens, and building and maintaining public institutions and public works that the private sector could not profitably provide”

  10. So these are some “rich” refugees who pay $50k to people smugglers, and jump the queue. Why don’t we take their money ourselves?

    If you are a genuine refugee, and you can come up with $50k, pay Australian govt, you will be guaranteed your PR. Maybe make them wait for a while, so it’s fairer for “poor” refugees. But at least it’s safe for everyone.

    This way, we cut people smugglers out of the picture. Whoever is still trying to come here by boat are NOT genuine refugees.

    • So these are some “rich” refugees who pay $50k to people smugglers, and jump the queue. Why don’t we take their money ourselves?

      Extensive research shows that they loan $50k, from organised crime syndicates.

      They know that this $50k can be gained back with western incomes.

      The syndicates also ensure repayment with threats against family back in these lands.

      Research has concluded the same syndicates have ties in the western countries, may often be said employers of the indebted refugees.

    • I know that. Thats why I put quotes around “rich”.

      I’m just trying to think how we can save lives.

      Refugees are not the problem. Illegal boats are. So if we give them a viable & safe alternative, we can drive people smugglers out of business. That’s all I wanna achieve here.

  11. I think a lot of these issues can be understood by viewing them as examples of and attitudes towards “free-riding”. In a society – say, like Greece or Italy – where tax evasion has become normalized, it does not make sense for any taxpayer to meet his/her tax bills as long as they know that others are also commonly evading tax. Tax evasion is obviously free-riding. So even if you do not feel comfortable about breaking the law, you have a strong incentive to do so: to the extent that you meet your tax bills, you are enabling others to evade theirs. So from a sense of fair-play, tax evasion becomes institutionalized behaviour.

    For the Germans, the rules applies in reverse. Because there is a social rule against free-riding, there is self- reinforcing pressure in favour of compliance generally. To evade tax is to take a free ride, and this is socially unacceptable

    Most of the discussions in this post today reflect perceptions of and resistance to possible free-riding by asylum seekers. I expect claims by outsiders for financial support are also felt as – or “priced in” – by everyday Germans as attempts to gain a free ride.

    It is possible to see most of the developments in tax and social welfare policy in Australia since John Howard was first elected and reactions to climate change policy as being conditioned by resentment of free-riding.

    In the same way as there is a general acceptance in Australia that we all must pay our taxes, even if it hurts, there is a matching sense that if the Government offer support to one group in the community, then generally speaking most other groups will feel they also “deserve” similar support. This sense of what is fair/unfair underlies policies that are deliberately designed to provide welfare to the relatively affluent – something that seems irrational in one sense, but which also serves to protect the flow of support to those who really do most require it.

    Once upon a time, the relatively affluent would have greatly resented being defined as eligible for welfare. But they were also resentful of the taxes they paid to support those who did receive welfare. So there a social resolution here of pressures for the prevention of free-riding.

    These issues are all about what people think is fair from their own point of view, and in particular sentiments are aroused by the sense that one group or another are able to obtain benefits or advantages that are denied to the community generally.

    To my mind, this is a reflexive form of “social squabbling”. It operates to ensure that society functions coherently and to prevent more powerful individuals from exerting exclusive dominance over group resources.

    Politics of course is the means by which
    the tensions generated by social squabbling are mediated and resolved. So, we can see that most political issues are about access to and control of social resources, and that opinions are framed by resistance to “free-riding” and by instances when opposition to “free-riding” can be suspended.

    This concept comes from economics, but can be used to explore all kinds of beahviours. I wish I had the time to do it!

  12. When you consider the opportunity cost of these refugees is in excess of $200,000 each, A lot more lives could be saved by refusing all refugees and spending the money on aid in third world countries. You could wipe out blindness due to vitamin A deficiency (20c/py/pp) or provide $15 mosquito nets to prevent malarial infection for a family. The cost of one refugee could instead be used to prevent the suffering of 10,000 others!

    • Or 10,000 people can drop 20c in a tin.

      To claim that one refugee kills 10,000 malaria victims in disingenuous. They can both be afforded.

      This is an argument to character assassinate assylum seekers.

      • The government is stating that it is costing $216 million per 1000 refugees.
        Thats hardly a drop in the ocean. As the doctors without borders add stated “it only $15 for a surgical pack” hence the opportunity cost of 1 refugee is at the expense of 10,000 others suffering.

        • I’m not disputing that.

          What I am saying is that for us to cry “10,000 malaria victims are dying because we’re diverting funds to assylum seekers arriving by boat” is disingenuous.

          For starters, we can implement policies where the assylum seekers themselves can start earning some, or all of their own keep themselves.

          Secondly, as I said, 10,000 people can go find 20c to put in some donation tin somewhere.

          These are not mutually exclusive outcomes.

          What is being employed here is a demonisation of assylum seekers by laying blame that they are reponsible for malaria deaths.

          • Opportunity cost does not apportion blame, Its simply tells us where we should spend our limited pool of money. If refugees payments are not the most effective way to spend the money then money should not be spent on them. There is 250 million people with preventable blindness, 200 million malarial infections/year, famine when excess food is dumped ect. It would be nice if we had enough cash to do everything but the worlds western governments would prefer to spend hundreds of billions on BS CAGW instead.

        • dumb_non_economist

          Maybe it does, but how is that cost incurred? Building internment camps, costs of providing increased “Border Protection” (say that with a deep serious voice), flying these loathsome illegal people around the country side, giving them food to eat maybe!

  13. BobTurkeyMEMBER

    I’m amazed that the normally intelligent readers of MB are so easily lead by the mainstream media on this issue.

    We demonise the small minority who arrive by boat and ignore the majority of “queue jumpers” who fly here on short visas and never leave.

    Worse, we endlessly let this minor issue distract us from serious issues like tax reform, our ageing population and the rapidly changing geo-political situation in our part of the world.

    The less mentions of this issue on MB the better IMO.

    Gobble gobble.

    • ’m amazed that the normally intelligent readers of MB are so easily lead by the mainstream media on this issue.

      Are you asserting that if opinions agree with MSM views, they are conclusions that are lacking in intelligence?

      We demonise the small minority who arrive by boat and ignore the majority of “queue jumpers” who fly here on short visas and never leave.


      If that small minority are perceived to be overpresented in areas of welfare dependence or crime, then the correlation is clear.

      Your dismissal o views that happen to coincide with MSM views is rather glib.

      • BobTurkeyMEMBER

        No i’m asserting that for a readership that normally prides itself on looking past the MSM we are easily distracted by this minor issue to the detriment of important issues. As per The Prince’s comment below.

        As you said yourself Rusty Penny, this is largely an issue of perception and therefore correlation, regardless if it exists or not, is an individual decision.

        My own opinion regarding these would be that we do spend rather a lot of money on these people but considering the humanitarian angle is this really as bad as it is made out to be? Regarding crime, i’d be surprised if there is any real correlation.

        Gobble gobble.

        • I agree BobTurkey, makes Australians look a bit paranoid and small minded…. a reality check, the Turkish/Greek border alone has 60k illegals annually….. while of course in Oz there is no rorting of benefits, middle class welfare etc.

          People from Iran, Afghanistan etc. want a better life? It’s called reality, social mobility and the human condition, if we all want to squabble about our pet hate, then I will too. I demand that the sun stops rising in the east and I will whinge and moan continually till the govt. does something about it….

          And for more levity see libertarian comedian Doug Stanhope’s take on immigration and illegals, bit of a wake up call to middle class complainers:

  14. HnH,

    Bringing this debate onto MB from an economic perspective is poor judgement IMHO.

    There is NO economic argument for spending a Billion $ plus on illegal arrivals, when with effective border protection laws(which we once had) we can bring in legally any ammount of genuine refugees for basically zero.

    We are a compassionate society, but we object to being rorted , insulted and screwed over by a Govt incapable of governing and traders in humans. Regulated immigration is a right and responsibility of every sovereign nation. In an over populated world, we would be remiss in our duty to future Australians if we failed in this responsibility.

      • You and the MB team have a great website . IMO , second to none for coverage and analysis of all things that matter impacting the Aussie economy. And thank god you guys exist here.

        However, this topic is blatantly political. True, politics obviously impacts “economics” in many varied shades, but this particular topic does not. The (well intentioned) layman advice I offer is to resist sullying this great site with the cans of worms opened up with unambiguously political topics. They can easily be avoided.

  15. This is a bizarro debate, I must admit.

    I’ll say 2 things, and won’t add anymore.

    1st, my personal preference is we reduce the current skilled migrant intake to zero (or very little – just working visas), and we up the refugee/humanitarian intake so that net, it bolsters the replacement rate (Australian fertility rate is not high enough to replace the population – we need immigration to actually keep level).

    I’m a stable population proponent, that’s my bias for all to see. We don’t need skilled migration at all – plenty of unemployed and underemployed Australians available to fill skilled positions, we just as a nation don’t harness this human capital properly, i.e we are lazy about it.

    2ndly – why is this even a debate? There are far, far far FAR more important things that the nation’s politicians, media hacks and general body politik should be discussing than a very minor (although tragic and ultimately, not that solvable) issue with “irregular” immigration.

    We do not have an illegal immigration problem IMO. Check the numbers. Compare us to other developed nations. We have immensely tight borders – to say theres a border problem is delusional.

    End of story. Maybe I don’t know enough to make that call, I’ll wear that, but shouldn’t we be talking about more pressing issues?

    • ‘2ndly – why is this even a debate? There are far, far far FAR more important things that the nation’s politicians, media hacks and general body politik should be discussing than a very minor (although tragic and ultimately, not that solvable) issue with “irregular” immigration.’

      Absolutely agree with this statement. But the histrionic shenanigans in Parliament this week have served well to divert attention from the imminent introduction of two major new taxes and repeated poor polling for Gillard.

      As for the boat issue, tough love is my view tempered with onshore processing in Indonesia. Make it very clear NO boat arrivals to Christmas Island (500km offshore Indo, 2,000km offshore Australia) will be tolerated. All such arrivals will be returned to Indonesia for processing with penalty of 12 month delay, might have to do this several times but with processing available in Indonesia should remove the impetus to venture out to sea.

    • Well said prince. Personally I think we should be looking to target humanitarian immigration from our own backyard in oceania. Just as many problems there as elsewhere with less cultural differences.

    • 2ndly – why is this even a debate? There are far, far far FAR more important things that the nation’s politicians, media hacks and general body politik should be discussing than a very minor (although tragic and ultimately, not that solvable) issue with “irregular” immigration.

      Thats very entric to your circumstances.

      Refugees I would gather aren’t located in your locality.

      They tend to be dumped in areas where disadvantaged people are already located.

      These people don’t tend to have any meaingful part to play in the economy, even if thy are employed.

      taxes, dutch disease don’t mean anything to them.

      Welfare is a given, so an aging doesn’t man anything to them.

      Increased crime and dependence on communal resources probably does mean something to them. In fact it may be their most pressing thing in their lives.

      We don’t tend to see many refugees settled in the lower north shore or Toorak, perhaps for a reason.

      • BobTurkeyMEMBER

        I live near a heap of immigrants and my area isn’t disadvantage in any way. I have no idea regarding their welfare use (I doubt you do either), but they certainly have opened a lot of small businesses in the area. I’m pretty sure new small businesses is considered a “meaningful part” of the economy…

        These sorts of opinions are pretty much a verbose regurgitation of the lowest-common-denominator type trash printed in some MSM.

        Gobble gobble.

        • I was inferring the prevailing population in disadvantaged areas not having a meaningful mipact in the economy, not the settling refugees themselves.

          I too live in a nice green, leafy area with some settled refugees, but they are sparse.

          When I visit my parents in a less advantaged areas, the numbers are significantly higher.

    • I’m not overly impressed by this article of HnH, but good analysis above Price.

      A question I’d ask re reducing migrants in general is where do you join the line? Families with relatives overseas? Grandparents with lots of money? Marriages – Subcontinentals marrying cousins/uncles, it’s all very difficult.

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      ‘Why is this even a debate?’

      Two little words. Howard and Abbott. John Howard made an artform out of creating hate in society. Boat people were an easy target. Abbott learnt well from him.

      Both of these pieces of filth know that Australians suffer from downward envy. Lots out there want what the lesser people have. Yeah, let us all bag the welfare sucking creeps! We all want to live on 80% of the pension! These people get it so easy!

      That made no sense. I’m angry. This is the one debate in this country that makes me angry. I dropped a bloke who told me he laughed when he saw the Christmas Island tragedy. The whole bar was shocked that someone wasn’t happy about children drowning. I was going to take them all out. Fuck ’em. This is the level of thinking in this country because of those two idiots I mentioned. Self-centered, egotistical, spoilt brats is what this country is made up of.

      Everyone should get out there and do volunteer work with refugees and listen to their stories. I assure you that anyone who does will stop making these sweeping generalisations about the issue that create the animosity.

      Stop the boats? Stop the hate I say.

  16. “Which brings it back to you and I. We don’t want the refugees.”

    I’m sorry, but speak for yourself, thanks very much, H&H.

    Have a nice weekend;-)

  17. Rumplestatskin

    Here’s an old post of mine with some facts about boat people v total asylum seekers, and the pattern seen in Australia v elsewhere.

  18. I think Jessica’s article is pretty awful and clearly Gina already has some influence on the editorial board as it appears to be a blatant population growth push wrapped in some PC refugee speech.

    How many times does it need to be said that immigration is not a good solution to an increasing percentage of elderly pensioners. The reason there are more elderly is because life expectancy has gone up. Importing workers to lower the % only works if they don’t age or they die before retierment, otherwise when they get older you will need even more workers to support them and it ends up being a giant human ponzi scheme. I would be a lot more impressed if people actually looked at some things that might help such as looking at schemes to help people work longer and the costs and benefits of increasing the retirement age. Or even something more controversial around these parts, how about bumping up the interest rate by a few percentage points so that the elderly might actually have a chance of living off their savings. Oh and before people say it I think the dollar should be pegged to a basket of commodities such as gold and food so interest rates can just be about controlling excess debt within the economy.

    • But oldies and ageing baby boomers are still going to require resources for health care etc., isn’t this just delaying the inevitable?

      Further, younger workers like preferred immigrants (more points for younger age) will have been contributing to the superannuation system for the whole of their working life, e.g. we will not see benefits till generation of Australians starting work which coincided with introduction of super late 80s, start retiring near 2040?

      • Those that are retiring now and over the previous 20 years have lived through an unprecedented period of growth and prosperity in human history, if they haven’t managed to save enough for retirement they have either been very unlucky or very lazy. People should not expect the government to take care of them, especially when most of the governments in the western world are so incompetent they are going bankrupt. Also any short term financial benefits of increased immigration will be eaten up in the increased infrastructure costs to house and transport them. The only ones that will benefit are businesses that want to grow without inovating and tertiary institutes running the PR for a degree scam.

  19. This post and its associated ramblings presents yet another fine example of the dangerous minds that play in this little sand-pit.

    For the most part, people who post here seem to demonstrate the capacity for critical thought.

    Some days are better than others.

    MacroBusiness, your analysis of the almighty may be useful from time to time, but whenever you wade in to social concerns you leave a very bitter taste.

    Stirring up the lunatics is the domain of the tabloids…

    • If sane people are not willing to comment the only ones talking will be the lunatics. All in all the comments above if wildly divergent in views are mostly polite and people have made an effort to occasionally back up their viewpoints with some reasoning so it could be a lot worse.

    • The only dangerous minds around these parts are those that deem themselves to be so incredibly superior as to be capable of dictating who has a dangerous mind and who is a lunatic.

      History is littered with the tragic consequences of the handiwork of such self-illuminated minds.

      • ‘The only dangerous minds around these parts are those that deem themselves to be so incredibly superior as to be capable of dictating who has a dangerous mind and who is a lunatic.’

        Very true and applies by extension to the current freedom of media ownership debate…

    • +1, as a European friend said, he learnt in Australia not raise the following topics at dinner parties in case WWIII breaks out, aborigines, possibility of house prices going down and refugees……

  20. well I don’t know about this statement:

    “In Australia, the convergence of the need for labour in particular parts of the economy and the refusal to allow refugees entry is patently bizarre”

    I can’t see them as being as intrinsically related as you do. My wife is seeking a job in central Qld. She is well qualified for the position and the management want her. But the HR system won’t accept her because they have a preference for hiring a local.

    In essence I believe this lack of labour is not as plain truth as it may seem to be. In a nation with high regional unemployment and high under-employment it would seem we should help ourselves a bit more than we do.

    Since we’re doing it tough, why don’t you (since you’re of this view) send me some couple of thousand to assist? My wife has lost her job due to the KanDo camp and my own job is scaled back to 60% (which is better than unemployment. We’re both “highly trained professionals” as is often mentioned about the immigrants and migrants.

    Let me know your contact details and I’ll send my bank account details to you

  21. This “debate” really does my head in..

    We told these people that we invaded their countries, spent an hell of a lot of money and risked our soldiers lives to help them to freedom and to better their lives.

    We did this to help them and yet when they risk everything they have to come here in search of help due to our botched up efforts, we tell them “hey buddy, we did all this to help you but that doesn’t mean we want to live with you”. We would rather watch your women and children drown in leaky boats or lock you up in the desert for years on end, than have you live with us.

    In the late 90’s when Kosovo was at war with Serbia, Macedonia (a country with a 2.1 million population and 27k square km’s) took in 250 000 refugees so 13k for a country with the space and wealth of Australia is an absolute joke.

    The reason we don’t want them here is because we are racist and xenophobic. Lets be honest about it.

    Its like the refugees are not real people, like they are some sort of monsters wanting to come here and destroy us. What exactly is the difference between the rest of the migrants that come here and the refugees? Desperation only, and we punish them for it.

    It is really sad and it will be a black mark on our society and nation. It will be viewed by generations to come with the same disdain as the stolen generation perpetrators are viewed by us…

    • I think you’re stretching it a bit there. I mean if NZ suffered a massive civil war or whatever I’m sure australia would take in many of them since they are both: on our door step and of a similar cultural background.

      Just as the case with Macedonia and Kosovo (to a slightly lesser extent

    • +1, it does become tiresome listening to Australians whinge and moan about “foreigners” with their portfolio of negative proxy arguments and issues whether that be care for the environment, run away population growth, refugees/students/immigrants etc. rorting benefits/visas/immigration blah blah blah…. but we’re not racist ok? 🙂

      • aiecquest it has already been established that you make a living from the student PR scam and you have tried this tactic before – saying all concerns about high immigration are proxy racist comments thereby shutting down any debate. Lowlife.

  22. Though there was significant dissent Australians for the most part were happy to go along with the US in it’s wars in Iraq/Afghanistan in the name of “human rights”. Well, human rights aren’t solved as simply as dropping a few bombs on wedding party’s. As for the “economic refugee” tag, aren’t all migrants? Why migrate if not to improve your situation? I know I’m pissing in the wind here because most Australians think we can just throw a wall around the country and make it all go away. Except for when we want to go on holidays to cheap thirld world destinations. Win, win.