Maltese immigrants arriving in Sydney in 1948. Photo: SLNSW

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By Peter Hehir

The desirability of immigration really should be examined rationally as it impacts on us all. The desperate need to increase our population has been blindly accepted by our political masters – on both sides of an ever shrinking political divide. But is it really the panacea that it’s cracked up to be?

There has never been a wide debate on the issue involving the broader population. Many believe that this is an obvious driver for much that is wrong with our society. It brings with it a great many ills that impoverish us – and little in the way of benefit.

Those who concern themselves with immigration are invariably dismissed as either red necked racists on the one hand or weirdo loonies from the political fringe – with half-baked ideas about sustainability, on the other.

Obviously like all developed nations, Australia has a humanitarian duty to accept genuine political refugees, particularly those who live in constant fear of torture and death. This is a responsibility that most compassionate Australians are more than willing to accept. However the need to continually import people solely under the pretext that they can fill the jobs that Australian born citizens are unable to perform, simply can’t be justified and shouldn’t continue to be expounded.

That we can step up from within and perform the tasks demanded of our workforce shouldn’t be doubted. We need only to cast our minds back to Great Britain in September of 1939 when a whole new workforce appeared overnight and immediately filled the shoes of those who’d volunteered to fight against fascism and for the equality that democracy promises.

This group of citizens, who had no prior ‘skills relevant’, had two things in common. They shared the same gender and had been repeatedly excluded from what had always been described as ‘man’s work’. But within a few short weeks of on the job training, they were performing the essential tasks that kept the wheels of industry turning throughout the war – and without whom we would not be living in the Australia that we are in ever increasing danger of losing today.

Just as parents are responsible for their children, Australian Governments have a responsibility towards their citizens. A duty of care. Responsible parents limit their offspring to a number that they can educate and provide for. Our country has a responsibility and a duty to do the same.

If we can demonstrate that we can put our own house in order and do so from within – Australia and indeed the world – would be a much better place. Perhaps then we could again consider importing people who are willing to both assimilate and embrace our core values.

While ever this fallacious and ruinous policy of ‘immigrate or perish’ is adhered to we’ll never address the inequality in Australian society and we will be the poorer for it. Our standard of living will continue to fall. The underclass of permanently unemployed will continue to grow.

We will see further dilution of the Australian ethos and we will never be able to provide the opportunity that is consistently denied to those among us who are less well-off. This is especially true of the descendants of the original inhabitants.

Our present immigration policy in my opinion inevitably leads to the following, presented in no particular order.

Rampant overdevelopment of our capital cities; a significant loss of residential amenity; foreign ownership of homes and businesses; increased residential density and high rise ‘development’; inflated house prices forcing young Australians out of the market; the demolition of historic homes and precincts; a per capita loss of open space; reduction in air quality; increases in the contributing factors to global warming; more pressure on native flora and fauna; overburdening of the health and education systems; greater demands on water, waste and sewerage systems; continued trend towards deskilling of the existing Australian population; increased burden on the welfare system and competition for employment; foreign cultural enclaves where English is the second language; lowered overall standard of education of the adult population; a much more compliant and far less politically critical population; an overburdened public transport system; a diminution of core Australian values; guaranteed expansion of a 3rd world Australian underclass; a ‘quick fix’ outdated infrastructure focusing on the use of the motor vehicle; significantly increased vehicle pollution and preventable premature mortality; increased inequality between the haves and the have nots; and a population which continues to be concentrated on the coast.

This is far from an exhaustive list. Surely any of these are good enough reasons to hit the pause button and have a reasoned debate about the desirability of growth for growth’s sake?

Give us the time to consider the true cost of the blind pursuit of a growing economy – fuelled by economic migrants – rather than a socially and environmentally sustainable one.