We had an A grade example of the type of parallel universe Australia’s mainstream media has descended into late last week. A completely false story given prominence in the national media by The Australian, which was then picked up by various other Rupert Murdoch papers, but which sadly even made it beyond that – all without a single shred of fact, and all without anybody thinking to check, or even think about, the main line of the story being reported.
(This article was first published at https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2018/05/immigration-compact-nothing-propaganda/ on 7 May 2018. Republished with author permission.)
Better still it shows just how easy it may be to get a view into the public domain and have it picked up, with a mobile number, and a basic website splashing about a few logos, to create a Potemkin public ‘movement’. And from there we can get a sighter into the sort of desperado vested interests who’d go there to try and stoke public opinion.
The story began with the following piece which was plastered front-and-centre of The Australian on Thursday night:
Business and unions in rare alliance for Big Australia
12:00AM May 4, 2018
NATIONAL AFFAIRS EDITOR
Let’s start with the headline and the glossy of Sally McManus underneath. Any half-baked sentient thinker looking at that would assume that there has been some sort of major agreement signed by the Unions and Business on the subject of immigration.
Anybody remotely familiar with Simon Benson and his work can tell you he is a long term lackey for Rupert Murdoch’s Australian operations and has bounced around the Sydney Telegraph as a political codpiece, honing his act, before shifting to mission control last year.
The article is, in fact, highlighted as an ‘exclusive’ by the The Australian. So you would ordinarily think that for something being touted as such they would want to really nail their facts. Presumably Benson had some sort of information basis on which to write the story, and you would have thought that someone somewhere would have checked out something going into the The Australian proclaimed as ‘exclusive’.
Even more, if it is an ‘exclusive’ – did absolutely nobody at the Murdoch press think for a moment, ‘This is a major public announcement, and the idea of public announcements is to ensure the public knows, and if any organisation is making public announcements then it is in their interest to get it out as many media channels as they can. Why are we running this piece as an ‘exclusive’? Why isnt Fairfax, the broadcast channels and the ABC getting this as well? ‘
Alas, it appears we have two strikes from the ‘journalists’, ‘opinion leaders’, and ‘editorial processes’ at The Australian…….. (but it gets a whole heap better):
Big business has joined forces with the ACTU in an unprecedented compact to back a Big Australia, calling on the federal government to maintain current levels of permanent migration amid calls for the rate to be cut.
A stark statement to open the onslaught. A one sentence paragraph which is simply and utterly false – so false it is almost refreshing to see it as stark as it is for the plain and unadorned rubbish it represents.
There is no evidence anywhere to support it apart from an advertisement placed into The Australian on Friday (which we will get to).
There is not the faintest skerrick of evidence anywhere that the ACTU and its President Sally McManus have joined forces with big business on anything to do with immigration. There is no indication anywhere in their public pronouncements that the ACTU and its President Sally McManus have proclaimed, signed agreement to, funded or done anything to promote, a ‘compact’ promoting permanent immigration at its current levels, or any expansion or reduction of permanent migration levels.
The historic coalition of peak unions, employer groups and the ethnic lobby will release a united policy document today warning of the economic and social consequences of dropping the annual migration rate.
Well Friday came and went, and now the weekend too – and not a sign of any policy document uniting the ethnic lobby, big business and the unions came from anywhere.
The ACTU’s involvement comes as it embarks on a high-profile campaign to rein in employers’ access to temporary foreign workers.
Now for sure the ACTU has run a high profile campaign against temporary employees. And for sure the ACTU did on Thursday release, ‘Five-point plan to address unemployment and end exploitation of temporary visa workers’. But absolutely nowhere in that presser does the ACTU mention anything about any ‘compact’ with anyone on immigration numbers, and the need to maintain a high permanent level of immigration.
The first migration document of its kind in the nation’s history calls for the current goal of an annual intake of 190,000 to be retained, with long-term levels set proportionally to the population.
Now the bullshit quotient goes up a notch right here. Think about that paragraph for a second. No caveats on why we need an additional 190k per annum, no relating it to how the economy is going, no historical reference – and certainly no mention that the 190k figure itself is a massive historical ramp up on a long term average of about 75k per annum. And then, before you get past that there is a fine sliver of the choicest grade 24 carat bullshit right at the back half of that sentence – ‘with long-term levels set proportionately to the population’.
Think about that for a moment. Our 190k isnt an ideal, it is a starting point and it keeps going up every year “proportionately to the population”. If 0.76% of 25 million brings us to 190k in the first year, in ten years time that same 0.76% will bring us more than 204k.
And no mention of employment outcomes, wages, land usage and degradation therein, consumption, whether or not that makes any form of economic sense, and no mention of who we bring in, or what skills they bring, or what they are expected to provide. Just 190k plus in – every year as far as the eye can see. And we are expected to believe the ACTU has signed up to this with business and the ethnic lobby – without discussing it with Unions under its aegis, with their members, without a debate in the public domain.
The accord will see the ACTU and United Voice, one of the most influential unions in the country, sign a National Compact on Permanent Migration with the peak employer body, the Australian Industry Group.
But on the day of the announcement neither the ACTU or United Voice have any mention of signing a compact with the Australian Industry Group on the subject of immigration numbers. The AIG has a reference to it on Saturday – on the front of its web site.
If you click on that link we end up at a very strange website headed National Compact on Permanent Migration with a number of logos splashed about to make it look well supported. These include
- Migration Council Australia
- Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)
- Australian Industry Group (AIG)
- Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS)
- Welcome to Australia
- Settlement Council of Australia
- Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA)
- United Voice (better known once as the LHMU or the Liquor Hospitality Miscellaneous Union)
Now at this point aspiring journalists would once have been asking themselves ‘What do these organisations have to say about the compact they have signed?’ and maybe even ‘What are they telling their stakeholders about why signing the compact is a good thing or not?’ I say ‘once’ because it often isn’t the case anymore, and the focus these days is being able to copy and paste a media announcement, or parts therein, into a piece being written, and just assuming that because there are logos and because there are links then it is all legit.
As a hat tip to the old timers I thought I would check out these organisations and what they have to say about the ‘compact’.
The Migration Council Australia – has no mention of any ‘compact’ or any tie in with the AIG or the ACTU or ACOSS on the subject of permanent immigration numbers. Their #the-economic-impact-of-migration-2015" target="_blank" rel="noopener">policy area makes no mention of it either.
The ACTU – has no mention of any ‘compact’ or any tie in with the AIG or ACOSS or migrant organisations on the subject of permanent immigration numbers. Their media section makes no mention of it either, apart from the Thursday press release on the subject of temporary visa employees.
The Australian Industry Group – has a direct link to the ‘compact’ website, but has no mention of, discussion of or consultation with members about any compact, and no press release or media promotion of the compact.
ACOSS – has no mention of any ‘compact’ or any tie in with the AIG or ACTU or migrant organisations on the subject of permanent immigration numbers. Their news section makes no mention of any compact on immigration numbers.
Welcome to Australia – has no mention of any ‘compact’ or any tie in with the AIG, ACOSS or ACTU or migrant organisations on the subject of permanent immigration numbers. They have no news or press release or policy section referring to immigration numbers in any way.
The Settlement Council of Australia – has no mention of any ‘compact’ or any tie in with the AIG, ACOSS or ACTU or migrant organisations on the subject of permanent immigration numbers. They have no news or press release or policy section referring to immigration numbers in any way.
The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia – has issued a statement about the compact on May 4, 2018. That statement refers to ‘maintenance of Australia’s permanent migration intake’ without specifying a number or linking that to any criteria or parameters.
United Voice – has no mention of any compact or tie in with ACOSS, AIG, the ACTU or migrant organisations on the need to maintain a permanent immigration volume. Their news and media section makes no reference to any compact, or any consultation with members on immigration numbers.
So that currently leaves us with a website linked to by the Australian Industry Group, and referred to in a presser by FECCA as the substance of the compact which provided the basis for the ‘exclusive’ story being touted by The Australian on Friday. At the bottom of the page is a mobile phone number – 0499 991 098 – which if you ring gets to a voice message saying in a female voice to leave a message and someone will get back to you.
If you type that number into google however, you soon end up with this result – http://fni.org.au/author/fniadmin/ – for whatever the Friendly Nation Initiative involves. The only thing we need concern ourselves with here is that the contact number – 0499 991 098 – is the same one in play for the ‘Compact’ web page and refers to a media contact by the name of Alexander…..*drumroll*…….Willox. And he happens to be a Policy Officer at the Migration Council of Australia according to the Australian Institute of International Affairs.
So this tells us that our compact domain has been registered by some gent by the name of Scott Mills on behalf of the Migration Council of Australia. Scott could easily be a cleric or IT guy of some low level sort, and all he has done is the registering of the domain name, with the costs incurred not necessarily borne by him. As anybody with a domain name can tell you they aren’t hard or expensive to establish, and even that someone could establish a website on behalf of someone, without being connected to it whatsoever. For example I could go to a domain provider and register the domain www.utterbullshit.com on behalf of the Australian Prime Minister, and nobody at the domain provider will check to see if I actually do have anything to do with him.
But before we go there lets take a look at the Migration Council of Australia. In particular lets go to the Board, where amidst a sea of corporate players the very first name to greet the eye is Innes Willox.
Now at this point the lay reader thinking about contemporary Australia, as opposed to the journalist hurriedly trying to cut and paste an ‘exclusive’ together, may think to themselves our Innes is a man about town, for yea verily he is also the main honcho of the AIG, isnt he:
So from all this we can assume that Innes has his hands all over whatever is unfolding with any ‘compact’ and he likes his immigration numbers up, and he doesn’t mind a lot of bullshit, and he will have contacts in just the right places to be able to create a weird population ponzi website, is the father of the boy with the phone number listed – who just happens to be a Policy officer with the Migration Council of Australia, then link to such a website, and be able to get someone to whip up an article giving it just a whiff of public airing.
That stench you can smell, isn’t something on your shoes.
From there, it is worth going back to take a look at the ‘compact’ because you could reasonably assume that if the ‘journalists’ in Murdoch Press overlooked the above, then the actual compact may not have withstood much examination either.
And so it is. The National Compact on Permanent Migration is an ineptly written a document. From Australia’s immigration taking place as a program in the first half of the first sentence to being a scheme at the end. To a rushed set of exhortations unadorned by any logical or rationale that might easily have been thrown together in a liquid lunch (or thrown up afterward) to a weird collection of principles of which the only remotely measurable one is a need to keep permanent immigration numbers up – presumably where they are at around 190k per annum, though it doesn’t actually say that.
Our permanent migration program has been central to Australia’s economic and social development and will be critical to Australia’s future as a productive and globally integrated economy and society.
Australia is a country based on multicultural values where migrants enjoy the equality of opportunity to participate and benefit from Australia’s social, economic and political life. As our economic opportunities in the Asia Pacific continue to advance and our population ages, Australia will need migrants to bring skills and youth to complement and develop our domestic workforce and to help to grow the national income needed to support our high standard of living.
We support the current planning levels for the permanent migration program and encourage future programs to maintain a level proportional to the population.
Migrants bring relationships, knowledge, skills and social capital that ensure Australia’s economy is well placed to trade and invest with the countries of our region and beyond. Many Australians in turn live and work in other countries during their lives. In this century, our people to people ties will drive our competitive edge and spread the benefits of our multicultural values.
The successful settlement of millions of people ranks among Australia’s greatest achievements as a nation. As a result, approximately one in four of Australia’s population today was born overseas and half of all Australians have at least one parent born overseas.
Migration is a two-way street that has helped Australia forge ties to every continent, country and culture. It has made our society more cosmopolitan and our thinking more open and dynamic.
Migration nourishes our cultural and linguistic diversity and is one of our greatest strengths in the contemporary globalised world. Our humanitarian program is an important reflection of our values and adds strength to the character of our nation.
We must plan for our success as a nation by supporting settlement services and programs that foster a sense of belonging, encourage social cohesion and enable economic participation.
We must ensure that all those who come are provided with the same rights and opportunities so that our values of equality and a fair go are maintained.
We agree that the following principles should form the foundation of Australia’s migration policy:
- We affirm that Australia’s permanent migration program is essential to Australian society and economy and do not support any reduction to the scheme.
- The permanent migration program should be set within a national strategy for well managed population growth that provides the community with the education and training, infrastructure, housing and other services needed to support growth and social cohesion.
- Australia’s permanent migration program must be evidence-based and calibrated to meet Australia’s national interests taking account of the role migration plays across all our economic levers. Migration, along with education, training, retraining and a strong system of social supports is part of our long-term economic strategy.
- Australia’s migration program must be selective but non-discriminatory in terms of ethnicity, national origin, class, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
- All migrants have a right to live and pursue economic opportunities in an Australia free of racism, discrimination and exploitation.
- Migrants must be given every opportunity to contribute and fully participate in all aspects of Australian life, supported by access to services that assist their capacity to build the skills and knowledge needed to chart their own future.
- English language is recognised as critical to participation, both in the workplace and in the broader Australian community, and migrants should have access to free services to develop their English language skills where needed.
- The temporary skilled migration program should be limited to instances of genuine skill shortages which are based on evidence–based assessments of the need for specific occupations in the labour market. Where temporary visa workers are necessary we must ensure a robust regime to monitor and enforce compliance with protections incorporated in the program for preventing exploitation of overseas workers and guarding against the undercutting of local wages and conditions as well as holding those who abuse the labour rights of workers accountable.
- Encouraging and facilitating permanent settlement has been a key part of Australia’s migration framework and migrants should have a pathway available to seek permanent residency and citizenship.
- The confidence of the Australian community in an effective migration program, with appropriate safeguards, is paramount to its success and is contingent on strong and bi-partisan political leadership.
We agree that the following principles should form the foundation of Australia’s migration policy:
- Continuing to promote the importance of permanent migration to Australia’s sustainable economic and social development to the wider community.
- Supporting efforts to make the migration experience positive for migrants and for the Australian community, free of discrimination and exploitation.
- Promoting migration as a stand-alone portfolio function.
Around this utter tripe, Simon Benson crafted his exclusive. Imagine the scene if you will. Innes pops over to Simon’s desk and asks if he could write something on some utter bullshit he is conjuring up and Simon does not miss a beat.
Meanwhile Simon is not a man to question bullshit, Simon is a man to spread it around…….
But the unified stance is designed as a circuit-breaker to the increasingly heated immigration debate, which the signatories believe has become toxic, xenophobic and at risk of ignoring the economic benefits that underpin skilled migration.
The document, spearheaded by the Migration Council, signals the first time unions and employer groups have reached general agreement on temporary skilled migration but based on stricter policing of the program.
We can assume the unified stance has in no way pared the marginal propensity to bullshit, with the document signaling nothing more than the desperate straits the population ponzi lobby is now descending into to get traction in a world where everyone can now see Australian immigration has been run too hard for far too long. Of course, that is before we get to the not insignificant matter of there being no indication at all that any unions have signed up to the compact.
Simon (and Innes?) obviously decided a chart would help things along about here and threw up this one which did at least identify the ramp up in immigration numbers post 2006.
But even there it doesn’t really do justice to the insane level at which Australia has been running immigration numbers over the last last 12 years. Here is an accurate depiction of that:
Simon then works the Union angle some more……
There isn’t anything to doubt about Sally McManus having said anything there. But there’s a lot to ask about how it relates to the ACTU signing up for a ‘compact’ upholding a level of 190k per annum immigration.
Simon is obviously a master craftsman who knows well to weave some factuality into your bullshit narrative so that the reader can feel that something rings true. If we assume that the Prime Minister and Treasurer bullshitted the public about whether Home Minister Peter Dutton took any form of proposal to reduce immigration numbers by even a small volume, then we can assume that there has been some tension on the subject.
Well, we still haven’t seen any trace of the union side of the compact apart from a photo of Sally McManus so we could easily start that sentence with the ‘business-tooth fairy compact…..’ but our craftsman has some more fact in the narrative. Treasury has recently put out a report backing a big Australia which has been comprehensively debunked, dismantled, chewed, laughed at, snorted on and facesat at Macrobusiness.
Simon has at least got the names right (he is obviously a senior Murdoch ‘journalist’) but he missed the small fact that there is no sign of anyone signing anything. There arent any signatures on the compact site, and not a scintilla of evidence anybody on the union side of of the compact is even aware of it.
The compact, as can be seen above, is nothing more than a collection of motherhood statements in abysmal English.
This is the blame apportionment line, but seemingly takes us towards a reduced number of immigrants arriving this year anyway, despite the compact ostensibly calling for no reduction. Did Simon or Innes read what they were writing, or were they a tad under the weather by this stage?
All of a sudden we are back with the BCA and another business gargoyle who is gracing the board luncheons of the Migration Council. He too is talking about signatories despite nobody having seen any sign of anybody signing anything , but he does lay in with two other oft exhorted placebo rationales for higher immigration which have been debunked more times than anyone would care to think about with ageing and small populations.
Innes works himself into the story with a few comments. Innes is probably part of the world which has seen Australia shed economic diversity and sell out Australian employers with Free Trade Agreements. Could he tell us why we need more immigrants if all we do is spread around the wealth from mining operations?
All of a sudden we slip a new character in at the end – another Innes flunky from the Migration Council. She is described as ‘driving’ the agreement, rather than a compact, which leads us to wonder if she was taking dictation at lunch with Simon and Innes.
Surreally the piece concludes with reference to the one thing the ACTU has clearly stated this week – to the effect that temporary employment visas have been abused.
So there it is.
It’s a compact, it’s an agreement, it’s been signed and it involves business, unions, immigration bodies and ethnic councils and social service providers, and it argues for maintaining a high level of permanent immigration – just that it consists of nothing but a web page with some logos, and three quarters of the organisations behind the logos have not even mentioned any agreement or compact.
Maybe The Australian would like to verify whoever paid for the advertisement which appeared in The Australian on Friday and their connection with the Migration Council of Australia? And maybe the Migration Council of Australia may want to clarify with a statement that whoever has paid for that advertisement has been duly authorised to expend monies on its behalf, and that it considers the advertising of the ‘compact’ an efficient use if its resources?
That of course is before we look at Rupert Murdoch’s world and ask ourselves if his minions write ‘exclusive’ pieces based on advertising connected with its own opinion writers, touting websites which are closely connected with that writer.
It has Innes Willox’s fingers all over it. And it stinks.