PAUL MURRAY: Questioning Government’s immigration plans does not make you a racist

Paul Murray
The West Australian
7 Min Read
The ABC’s Laura Tingle branded Australia a racist country at a writers festival.
The ABC’s Laura Tingle branded Australia a racist country at a writers festival. Credit: Supplied/The Nightly

Most people find politics pretty confusing at the best of times.

And when it veers into social issues like racism, many of them just head for the hills. Too hard, too divisive.

However, the recent declaration from the ABC’s political commissar, Laura Tingle, that Australia is a racist nation drew some heavy and widespread criticism from people in the street.

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And that’s because it got a bit personal for average Australians who see themselves as fair-minded, tolerant and uninterested in self-flagellation.

Speaking at a Sydney writers’ festival, Tingle interpreted Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s speech in reply to the Federal Budget, where he linked recent record high levels of migration to Australia’s housing crisis, as him saying “everything that is going wrong in this country is because of migrants”.

Tingle mused that on hearing the Liberal leader’s speech, she had “this sudden flash” of people turning up to rent a property or at an auction.

“And they look a bit different — whatever you define different as,” Tingle said. “And that basically he has given them licence to be abused, and in any circumstance where people feel like they’re missing out.”

Her conclusion was this: “We are a racist country, let’s face it. We always have been, and it’s very depressing.”

Shortly, we’ll examine what Dutton really said to demonstrate whether a sane person could draw that conclusion from his words.

Flying to her defence was Australia’s new race discrimination commissioner Giridharan Sivaraman, who penned an alarming op-ed for the Nine newspapers. He immediately highlighted the dangers of putting activists in such sensitive positions.

Sivaraman advanced the proposition that “the person who calls out racism faces far more scrutiny than the racism itself”. Without offering a skerrick of evidence.

Some days later, he fronted a Budget estimates hearing in Canberra where he was quizzed on whether he had endorsed Tingle’s view that ours is a racist country.

After slipping and sliding, Sivarman was pinned by Liberal senator Paul Scarr: “Should your article be interpreted as agreement with Ms Tingle’s views?”

His response was that Australians should be able to talk about racism “without being scared of backlash”.

And there’s the problem in a nutshell. He wants accusations of racism to be free of reprisal — but greenlights any discussion of immigration being “called out” as racist.

How confusing is that?

It was Dutton’s legitimate attempt to expose the Albanese Government’s loss of control of immigration inflows that earned him Tingle’s racism spray. So let’s go to the absolute bottom line.

If we were a racist country, why would all these people flock here to suffer such indignity?

No one should be criticised for wanting to migrate to Australia. If you love this country, you immediately ask: Why wouldn’t they want to come here?

Which points up the illogicality of Tingle’s position. If we were a racist country, why would all these people flock here to suffer such indignity?

Migrants arrive because this remains a welcoming land of opportunity, albeit one that is losing its free-wheeling nature under the yoke of a sustained cultural assault from the left.

That immigration has been overwhelmingly good for Australia is uncontestable.

Until recently, it has been run with general bipartisanship at intake levels which were in the national interest. We have been culturally and financially enriched by good migration policy.

Albanese’s hapless ministers wrecked that by taking their eye off the ball when the pandemic receded. Immigration needs to be sensibly controlled.

On the other hand, no one can seriously deny that racism exists in Australia. It is an unfortunate part of human nature — the fear of “the other” — that some people are unable to conquer.

But that doesn’t make Australia a racist country. And it doesn’t even make us a country with more racists per capita than any other.

Can those who so quickly deride Australia in that way point to a better example of a multicultural society?

America, Britain, Canada (all battling colonial or slavery race-relations hangovers), darling New Zealand in unhappy co-existence even with the Treaty of Waitangi, Japan (peak xenophobia), any of the usual left-luvvie Scandi-favourites (riven with Islamic migrant tensions).

Anywhere in Africa? China with its suppression of ethnic minorities? India with its religious and caste discriminations?

So who is doing better than us? People like Tingle never point to an exemplar. Because everyone is too easy to shoot down. And what exactly did Dutton say that inspired Tingle’s sudden racist “flash”?

Well into his speech, the former immigration minister raised housing, labelling it in crisis, and traversed well-worn ground about the difficulties facing young people.

“Australians are struggling to find homes to rent and buy — and not always due to a lack of money,” the Opposition Leader said. “Amidst this housing crisis, Labor is bringing in 1.67 million migrants over five years — more than the population of Adelaide.

“We celebrate the contributions of migrants over many decades who have helped build the achievement of modern Australia. But by getting the migration policy settings right, the Coalition can free up more houses for Australians.

“The Prime Minister has promised to build 1.2 million homes by 2029. But on the Government’s current trajectory, they will fall short by 400,000 or 33 per cent.

“The Prime Minister is making the housing crisis worse. Australians need homes now. We’re at an 11-year low of building approvals and to help Australians now we need to prioritise Australians for existing homes.

“The other impact Australians are feeling from the Albanese Government’s poor management of the migration program is from congestion on our roads and pressure on existing services which are stretched, like seeing a GP.”

Dutton then outlined a series of measures the coalition was proposing, including “rebalancing the migration program” and “taking decisive action on the housing crisis”.

He said it would free up almost 40,000 additional homes in the first year and “well over” 100,000 homes in the next five years. A claim worth testing.

“We will reduce the permanent migration program by 25 per cent — from 185,000 to 140,000 for the first two years in recognition of the urgency of this crisis,” he said. “The program will then increase to 150,000 in year three and 160,000 in year four.

“We will ensure there are enough skilled and temporary skilled visas for those with building and construction skills to support our local tradies to build the homes we need.

“Similarly, we will return the refugee and humanitarian program planning level to 13,750 — closer to the long-term average. The humanitarian program will remain one of the most generous in the world on a per capita basis.”

Was Dutton blaming migrants for anything? No. He was blaming Labor. That is where Tingle’s bias and personal animus got the better of her.

Dutton points to the Government’s record high levels of immigration as putting pressure on very low housing stocks. A commonsense proposition.

Can he not say that? Should he not say that? Just how much political free speech does Tingle agree with?

The background to Dutton’s comments is given in an Australian Bureau of Statistics bulletin from September last year releasing new migration figures. These are the facts.

Beidar Cho, ABS head of demography, said: “Thirteen months after international borders were re-opened, net overseas migration accounted for 81 per cent of (population) growth and added 454,400 people to the population in the year to March 2023. “Net overseas migration was driven by a large increase in arrivals (up 103 per cent from last year to 681,000) and only a small increase in overseas migrant departures (up 8.8 per cent to 226,600).”

In the years before COVID, ABS figures show net overseas migration running steadily around 250,000 a year. In 2021-22, as we came out of the pandemic, it was 170,900.

When people on the left can’t find the evidence of racism in someone’s words, they resort to branding what was said as “dog-whistling” to shut down the discussion.

Which is what Tingle did to Dutton. She dog-whistled he was a racist. Disgraceful.

Immigration is like a Russian tragedy in two acts for Labor.

The first was throwing open the borders after Anthony Albanese’s election in a cynical ploy to lift GDP, disregarding the inflationary consequences after the existing COVID pump-priming, blind to the social and infrastructure delinquency of such a move.

Labor is now crab-walking back from that mistake, marginally cutting intake levels — too late. But not apologising.

The second act is on Labor’s other weak spot: the security of our borders against the threats of people smuggling and dealing with those in immigration detention who they always want to set free. Regardless of the dangers.

That scenario has played out appallingly in recent weeks with Labor’s past political blunders on immigration — still vivid in the minds of many Australians — starkly reappearing.

The bite marks on Albanese’s arse must be huge. Yeah, I don’t want to see them either, but electors will.

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