I was born in Australia – in fact my family are many generation Australians – but my forebears were migrants. They came from Ireland, Scotland, England and Spain. I spoze we are all migrants if you go back far enough! And it is this connection and my work with refugees and migrants that has informed my view of the politics of the Australian immigration system.
It is through this lens that I view the up coming governments “jobs and skill summit”.
The white Australia policy and its ghost haunts many policy decisions in the past and I am hopeful that this summit will exorcise those ghosts.
To be clear, I do not believe Bill Shorten is a racist. I know Shorten, I went to School with him – in fact we shared a tiny wooden desk for about three years at the very posh and exclusive boys school, Kostka hall (Xavier College’s junior boy school in Brighton) [For full disclosure, as a boy, a Collingwood supporter at that, from the working class town of “Dandy”, I hated it, and I still feel great guilt for all the money my Mum and Dad spent on school fees]
Even though I am confident Shorten is no racist, he is tribal: so his power base and his supporters are clearly anti overseas/migrant worker.
As noted by Piccini, “In 2017, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) released a short video. Then–opposition leader Bill Shorten appeared alongside an overwhelmingly white cast of workers, with “Employ Australians First” emblazoned across the screen. The ad called for a cut to skilled migration.”
After all, Piccini continues, “from its inception, the ALP and the mainstream union movement championed the “White Australia policy,” which excluded Asians and other nonwhite migrants from the national community. The Gough Whitlam Labor government finally repealed the policy in 1973.” (ibid)
Having worked as a Refugee & Immigration lawyer for over 25 years, I fear the influence of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and unions like the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) on the Immigration policy – particularly Skill Visa Class.
Train locals – Train Australian! As a father of two Australian school boys and being the owner of a small education and training consulting company – I am passionate about education and training, but that should not be at the expense of bringing skilled workers from overseas. We can do both! And such an important policy formation forum should not be subject to or controlled by dogma or the slave to ideology.
That having been said, I and the group I represent, VISA: the Victorian Immigration Solicitors’ Alliance welcome this exciting government initiative and I hope this summit will finally exorcise the ghost of the white Australia policy once and for all and welcome skilled migrant workers to the Australia community with open arms.