Squandering Australia’s second chance

In Australia’s Second Chance, George Megalogenis tracks the successes and failures of our history since colonisation. In expert detail, Megalogenis shows how our openness to migration has led to better social and economic outcomes, while every time we’ve shut the door on migrants, our society and our economy has suffered.

In launching the book, Malcolm Turnbull said: “That openness and multiculturalism based on mutual respect is what has defined most of the most successful societies in the world.”

He accorded “great credit to Robert Menzies and dare I say the party that he led – our party, the Liberal Party – [who] stuck with the commitment to high levels of immigration.”

He said that, throughout history, the world’s great cities were their most successful when they were at their most diverse. And he concluded that: “Diversity is our strength, our greatest asset… And this multicultural Australia is a remarkable achievement and we should treasure it and hold it dear.”

This week, the Prime Minister has proposed radical shifts in immigration policy which, if implemented, would mean that the Megalogenis family would never have settled in Australia. And nor would mine. We could never have made our contributions to Australian society because our parents or grandparents would never have passed an English test for citizenship.

Australia has been a culturally diverse nation for tens of thousands of years. Always was, always will be.

And yet, rather than celebrate this diversity across the nation and across the world, the Australian Government appears all too eager to parrot the rhetoric and the policy of those nations who are hostile to our greatest success.

Australians have had cause after cause to become deeply disillusioned and enormously disappointed in Malcolm Turnbull – as Prime Minister, as a member of the Liberal Party, and as a human being.

As Prime Minister, he has rejected what were previously his core Australian values of republicanism, environmental responsibility and broadband innovation.

As a member of the Liberal Party, he has diminished the Menzies legacy of confident immigration, well-supported education, and passionate support for ‘the forgotten people.’

And as a human being, he has regularly advanced positions that contradict those he previously held with great conviction. Turnbull’s own career was built on the global mobility that makes Australia great. Meanwhile, people forced into mobility to seek asylum continue to suffer under the policies of his and previous governments.

Comprehensively set out in Peter Mares’ Not Quite Australian, the impact of temporary workers on our culture and our economy is enormous, especially in regional areas. Far from being a drain on the public purse and despite paying taxes, 457 visa holders offer much-needed expertise, power key industries, and are ineligible for Medicare or social security payments.

Ending 457 visas, introducing an English language test, demanding that migrants articulate Australian values – each of these unworkable proposals speaks more to political anxieties than social and economic realities.

Australians expect politicians to offer a compelling vision that guides us through periods of social anxiety. We do not respect political leaders who exacerbate that anxiety for political gain when the evidence overwhelmingly shows us that migration is good for Australia.

For Megalogenis, ‘Australia’s second chance’ is the opportunity that faces us right now: will we make the most of the unprecedented opportunity that comes with two decades of world-leading economic growth, or will be close ourselves to the world and squander that opportunity?

Political leaders who are unable to rise to that challenge will not be offered a second chance.

 

Join me for a discussion with George Megalogenis as the opening session of the Sunday Salon: 4:00-6:00pm Sunday 7 May at Neapoli Wine Bar. Details and tickets: sundaysalon.blog

IMAGE: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton in a media conference discussing ‘Australian values.’ Photo by SBS.