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Multiculturalism as code for cheap labour - Jeff Kennett

The Honourable Jeff Kennett AC, former Victorian Liberal Premier, promotes multiculturalism. In particular in public, “Multiculturalism is good for jobs.” But he had never revealed other reasons. Speaking to a well-heeled audience of Melbourne’s planning elite - another group keen on high immigration for the increased housing demand - he said more. He disclosed that he has a low opinion of Australian workers, and so prefers migrants instead. They work harder, for less; so they are better for businesses.

He said these things all of two years ago. Yet his remarks have not reached the media. Such silence is all the more surprising as Jon Faine, influential host of ABC Melbourne morning radio, was the MC at the event.

At the time Kennett spoke, there were seven hundred thousand unemployed in Australia and a further million underemployed by their own say so. In Australia, 28 per cent of people were born overseas. So we might pause to wonder, when, if ever, those of a neoliberal persuasion think our high overseas migration - providing 60% of Melbourne’s over the last 20 years, from Kennett’s 1990’s - should taper down. Neoliberal here means those who govern for the benefit of big business first; everyone else should just get out of the way.

He made some further remarks on wider subjects that illuminate other motivations.

Jeff Kennett - Thursday 18th September 2014, VPELA [1] Barber Lecture, Melbourne

On Australian workers . . .

“We [and he meant Australians] are lazy and don’t want to work, especially on the dole.”

“We only want to work a five-day week, and then we want a flex day every fortnight.”

“We won’t move to where the jobs are - apart from the fly flo people.”

"We live here, do not want to work and want everything to be given to us."

Complaining of how much Australians expect to be paid he told the audience of remarks made to him at a BCA event. Heinz moved their [tomato sauce] manufacturing from Victoria where workers cost $44.50 an hour to New Zealand because there they cost only $22 an hour. A month after Kennett spoke, Heinz laid off another 245 workers from NZ and New Guinea anyway.

“Companies have every right to 457s ” and he would like to see more of them. [He did not say why and the impression left was for the reasons he gave earlier.]

In answer to an audience question about welcoming immigration of the poor, he said, “While some say we can't support them I favour higher immigration rates and yes, of the poor.” [Again, without further explanation, than what he had said earlier.]

On wider subjects…

Kennett referred to Australia as “our vast empty land”. We should “Look at southern China” with the lesson for us to “Build it and they will come.” And, “If we all moved to Tasmania, we could not even defend that island from our [deliberately inaudible, two word, mumble] neighbours.” Perhaps Jon Faine will tell us one day, what Kennett actually said here.

Kennett particularly welcomed foreign ownership of Melbourne real estate, because “These people are our protection.” and “These people are active, they add value”.

“We lack the desire to develop assets. We are lethargic.”

And later, for those who do want to develop assets, then everyone else, he said with frustrated emphasis, should “Get out of the WAY!”. [Those frustrated at over development in Melbourne, might be surprised to know that their Council Planning Scheme has been dictated, from Kennett’s time, by State Government. All those council planning controls to protect your amenity, were just annoying red tape to Kennett.]

As to leadership there was the strange remark not to tell your team when to stop. “Let them decide for themselves when they have arrived.”

On disclosing true policy before an election. He referred back to the lead up to the 2013 Federal election where both sides had promised not to raise GST and continued: "Don't promise not to do things. Say, what you will do or say nothing. Saying you won’t removes levers".

End of Kennett quotes.


Event Identification
The Hon Jeff Kennett AC gave the inaugural VPELA Barber Lecture, entitled 'Resilience, democracy and creating a globally competitive future for Victoria’ on Thursday evening, 18th September 2014 at The Arts Centre, Melbourne.

[1] VPELA is the Victorian Planning and Environmental Law Association - a planning professionals group. The talk was sponsored by property developers Urbis. The Links and Affiliations of VPELA are:

Australian Population Institute
Association of Consulting Surveyors
Department of Planning and Community Development
Environment Protection Authority Victoria
Heritage Victoria
National Environmental Law Association
NELA’s Environmental Law Digest
Planning Institute Australia
Urban Development Institute of Australia

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It is feared that the problem may be worse than the initial figures indicate as not all State Government agencies retain these statistics, for example, Safe Work NSW does whereas Work Safe Victoria doesn't.