The two speed immigration debate
There’s a rather odd immigration debate taking place in this election, characterised appropriately enough, by today’s immigration debate between Tony Burke and Scott Morrison.
Minister for (*sustainable) Population Tony Burke began his address talking about all those things that Labor have been stressing in the population debate: sustainability on region by region, arguing that the Coalition are all over the place with their policy and refusing to be pushed into naming a goal population figure: “A sustainable Australia involves a level of detail that will not be solved by finding a glib magic number,” Mr Bourke told the National Press Club today.
Then Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison got up and made his pitch on immigration: it involved talking about boat people almost the entire time. At one point exciting a group of student don John Howard masks and start screaming at Morrison.
He did finish up with some comments about a broader population policy:
“The Coalition is committed to reducing net overseas migration to at least 170,000 our first time, and put Australia on stock sustainable population growth path.”
Finishing off with this familiar statement:
“Immigration is about deciding who comes to this country, the circumstances under which they come and I would argue the purposes for which they come.”
Of course Morrison’s statement an entirely reasonable one, it’s just that almost his entire pitch was about boat people. Asylum seekers then went on to dominate the entire debate.
The humanitarian intake in this country is around 13,500, with 90 per cent applying for asylum are granted refugee status. The amount that come by but is once again only a fraction of this. Why are these people the backbone of the Opposition’s immigration argument this campaign?
Well the pretty obvious answer to that is that the Coalition has successfully merged the issue of the asylum seekers with fears about a sustainable Australia – and the Government are desperately trying to catch up.
Morrison is right to say Gillard’s policy on East Timor doesn’t make any sense, and conspicuous in his absence was actual Immigration Minister Chris Evans to answer questions on boat arrivals.
Burke was struggling with Morrison’s assault on the issue of boat people, and to be fair it’s not his portfolio (although I suspect if Labor win Chris Evans’ days as minister are numbered). But what the debate did highlight was the way the entire population/immigration issue has become hopelessly mixed in with that of boat people, and cynical though it may be, it’s still working for the Coalition.
And in case we missed it the first time, this is the way Morrison ended the debate:
“The Coalition stands to repay Labor’s debt, to end Labor’s waste, stop Labor’s new taxes and, most significantly, to stop the boats.”
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