Australians have found it very hard to protest against high immigration because of constant subtle messages from government and media implying that they had no right to object. They have been given the idea that there was nothing special about them that gave them the right to object. They only lived here. Although only Australians might vote in governments, the importance of this was subsumed to a cult of plutocracy, where governments prioritised commercial and corporate demands over the wishes of the actual electorate. The mainstream press (the ABC, the Murdoch Press, the Fairfax Press) promoted a cult of elite authoritarianism and the official alternative press never really encouraged questioning of this process on issues of real dissent. And the elite authorities all endorsed 'multiculturalism'. One has only to glance at the membership of the Multicultural Foundation of Australia to realise how true this is.
Pino Migliorino, Chairman of the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia, cited by John Marlowe in "Immigrants calling for more immigrants - dare one criticise and we will brand them 'RACIST'!", says:
"In 1989, we showed international leadership and created a National Multicultural Policy, the principles of which are still relevant. We then retreated from this vision and began a discourse about integration rather than about dialogue, which, similar to the principle of assimilation, implies that one side has more rights than the other simply because they were there first, or what is worse, because they are superior."
For me there are two problems created through the policy of multiculturalism as practised in Australia, and they are not really about 'culture' in the sense of 'ethnicity'.
They are both political problems to do with democracy and the civil rights that should go with citizenship.
1. The first problem is that, in a democracy, the incumbents -"those who were here first" - the citizens - are members of a community which should have the right to self-government. The right to self-government should not be limited, except by the citizens themselves. I believe that multiculturalism has been used as a way of blurring the fair expectation of civil rights for a citizen by implying that citizenship - or 'being here first' - carries no special rights.
Citizenship should be clearly different from the state of being an immigrant, tourist or visitor. In many countries (such as France) even being a 'permanent immigrant' means having the right to stay in that country only for up to one year. To be a 'permanent immigrant' with the same sense that term has in Australia, the person needs to become a citizen. It is problematic that being a permanent immigrant, according to the Australian definition, carries similar rights to citizenship in Australia, if it does not also carry the expectation of membership of a community that recognises itself as a political entity of members sharing responsibility for their community and its territory and is able to act to preserve these. An approach to this ambiguity is made in this article Rubenstein, Kim “Constitutional issues associated with integration: the question of citizenship,” Bureau of Immigration and Population Bulletin No 11, 1994, pp 41-43.)
Although citizens in Australia have far fewer straightforward rights than European citizens (who mostly have Civil Codes setting out their rights at law), an Australian citizen can vote. can run for office, (although our corporatised media dominates elections) has a right to primary and secondary education, and to hospital and medical treatment.
Australian citizens also did have, until recently, relatively good industrial relations laws. Premier Kennett in Victoria in 1996, allowed Victorian State industrial Awards to be dismantled and turned over to the Federal system, then Primeminister Howard undermined Australian industrial rights to conciliation and arbitration under s.51 xxxv of the Australian constitution, with his WorkChoices, which sought to bring as many people as possible under s55xx of the constitution, applicable to corporations and thus outside the jurisdiction of s.51xxxv. With this protection gone, Australian working conditions can now be easily undermined by labour hired overseas at lower wages and imported here as immigrants.
Australians used to own most of the resources in this country, as a group of citizens. Increasingly, many of these resources, assets and commodities have been privatised. This takes them out of effective control by citizens, see Justice Michael Kirby's skilful argument, here, in "Why privatisation is wrong." Population growth, in raising demand for resources, assets and commodities, makes them attractive acquisitions for corporations, political parties and wealthy elites. This is why those elites defend high immigration and why their media attack its critics.
Australians once also had chief rights to study in Australian universities, with only limited places allocated for foreign students, who were usually on scholarships, not coming as 'cash cows'. The commercialisation of universities contributed not only to lower ethical standards, but it also caused a preference for high fee-paying foreign students. This created competition for Australians who found that they had to borrow more to meet higher fees themselves. Where fees for Australians remained lower than those for foreign students, the numbers of places available for Australians declined.
In France and other European countries, universities are still free to citizens, places for foreign students are still limited, and they still come on scholarships.
Australians also used to have exclusive rights to purchase 'built property' , i.e. houses, in Australia. This right protected them from having house prices bidded-up by foreigners with better currency, such as happened with Japanese buyers in Hawaii. Unfortunately we have lost this protection recently as well. Just have a look at the National Foreign Investment Review Board's Annual General Reports over the years to see how much Australian Real Estate has gone into foreign hands. Over the past twelve years particularly, loosening of the foreign acquisition, land and house-buying laws, (begun under Primeminister Fraser) has seen Australian property flogged mercilessly via the Murdoch and Fairfax press property dot coms on the internet, and has also seen a huge number of solicitors, migration agents, bankers, real-estate agents, property developers and schools and universities touting property, migration and education in Australia over the internet.
Much of this seems to have been achieved by bringing in lots of immigrants to raise demand for Australian land, housing, jobs and education, thus pricing these things more and more beyond the reach of the majority of local people, who should be in control of what is happening to them.
Australians have found it very hard to protest against this high immigration because of constant subtle messages from government and media implying that they had no right to object. That there was nothing special about them that gave them the right to object. They only lived here. Although only Australian citizens may vote, a growing cult of elite authoritarianism - of a plutocracy - was promoted by the mainstream press - the ABC, the Murdoch Press, the Fairfax Press - and the official alternative press never really encouraged questioning of this process on issues of real dissent. And the elite authorities all endorsed 'multiculturalism'. One has only to glance at the membership of the Multicultural Foundation of Australia to realise how true this is.
In its turn, the policy of multiculturalism had been used to make citizenship ambiguous. The statement quoted above, from Pino Migliorino is typical in questioning the idea that "one side has more rights than the other simply because they were there first." This kind of introduced ambiguity has stifled protest by angry citizens at this obvious erosion of their rights, and the power of Australian citizens to govern their own country. To call the citizens of a self-governing community, "those who were here first," is to diminish the role of the community and thereby of its right to democratic self-determination; to imply that those who come here do not come to join that community, but some other community, governed perhaps by big business and the elite authorities, (who tend to own the very assets, commodities and resources for which population growth inflates the prices).
Erosion of democratic expression
2. The second political problem is the use of multiculturalism as a foil for growing the population without democratic consultation and implying that those who do not want more people must be anti-'multicultural' /racist.
As if it were not bad enough for Australian citizens to have their legitimate expectations of citizenship thus belittled and put aside, a second prong has been found for multiculturalism by the creation of a racist straw-man. The racist straw-man is trotted out and set on fire by the corporate press, the ABC, and the elite authorities any time that Australians object to population growth because of environmental and cost-of-living concerns as they see green spaces filled with houses, expensive and unwanted desalination plants replace clean and free running water, and native animals trapped by expanding infrastructure. And the elite authorities reliably receive support for this destructive process from the oddest sources.
Here is an example
Damien Lawson, FoFA [Friends of the Earth] National Climate Justice Coordinator, signed an open letter declaring that: 'We are shocked and angered that the ACF has supported Labor MP Kelvin Thomson's calls to cut Australia's migration rates". The letter concludes by calling on 'the ACF and Kelvin Thomson to withdraw their anti-migrant statements'. (28) The issue has since been addressed by the group's National Liaison Officer, Cam Walker:
[A]s always happens when population and the environment comes into the mainstream debate, it becomes a useful smoke screen for people
and organisations with racist agendas who can then call for limitations on population growth, while purporting to be concerned about the environments. [Source: Walker, Matthew P.A., "Population growth in Australia: how environmental groups are responding," People and Place, April 1, 2010.
If multiculturalism were simply a policy for giving people a fair go, no matter where they came from, whilst preserving the democratic rights of citizens to self-government, it would be a fine thing. But isn't that the purpose of human rights and citizens' rights in a functioning democracy anyway? And, can you enforce human rights without citizens' rights? No, you can't. So, why not have a policy for citizens' rights?