Damming the “Damned” Migrants !

“Migration is the oldest action against poverty. It selects those who most want help. It is good for the country to which they go; it helps break the equilibrium of poverty in the country from which they come. What is the perversity in the human soul that causes people to resist so obvious a good?”

J.K. Galbraith in The Nature of Mass Poverty, Harvard University Press, 1979.

Observing the debate in Australia where the leaders of both key parties seem to be turning anti-immigration simply for some votes while still making speeches in migrant pockets in a manner that seem to suggest that they are totally confused themselves. The lack-lustre campaign for the 21st August poll is indicative of the fact that Australian politicians are more election-savvy than really having a strategy for their country.

ACPET CEO, Andrew Smith, said no major party has promised any support for international education in the lead-up to the federal election, which is unforgiveable given the scale of economic destruction the industry faces at the hands of poorly planned policy reform.

“The Federal Government has crippled this industry over the past 12 months. The opposition’s cuts to migration would make things even worse. When will our leaders wake up and realise just how much is at stake in this industry?” Mr Smith said. “International education is a great industry for Australia and the region – economically, socially and diplomatically.”

“Yet it beggars belief that the larger international education sector has been ignored by both major political parties as they choose instead to trade blows in a race to the bottom on migration policy that could cripple industry, devastate our international reputation and take away Australian jobs,” Mr Smith said.

“I challenge Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott to show their support for Australia’s third-largest export industry and one of its great export success stories, and announce policies to help us build a sustainable industry for the future.”

Australian Government VET providers from the state of Victoria have taken out a release that indicates exactly what the Private Education Provider’s lobby group has said.

RE email

Universities Australia too seem to be using its interactions with the Government to put forth their focused arguments for a slow-down on the anti-immigration vitriolic that has now become a fashion.

I am a resident of Australia and hence donot have a vote. Voting in elections is mandatory for citizens and this gets me to ponder albeit academically as to who would have won my vote. Liberals or the Labour.

In my role I have had the pleasure of close interaction with policy makers and the Ministers with loyalty to both sides of the spectrum. To me there is not much to choose from. While in India last year, the current PM and the leader of the Labour party, Miss Julia Gillard, spoke so eloquently on the advantages of the migration policies and the fact that 1 out of 5 Australian was born outside of Australia. She also used her own example to illustrate that even the first generation migrants have equal opportunity in Australia. However, the election rhetoric is suggesting something else.

I have just put down an excellent read IMMIGRANTS – YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS THEM by PHILIPPE LEGRAIN and I recommend it to all policy makers… Impressed by some of his arguments, I will like to borrow some questions asked by him…

… most people baulk at the thought of people from poor countries coming to work in rich ones.

Why? Why can computers be imported from China duty-free but Chinese people not feely come to make computers here? Why is it a good thing for French insurance salespeople to hawk policies in Poland but a bad thing for Polish plumbers to offer to fix French pipes? Why is the door open for American managers to run factories in Honduras but the door slammed shut for Hondurans who want to work in American factories? Why, in short, is free trade and the free movement of Western elites a wonderful thing but the free movement of everybody else unthinkable? And why is it a good thing for workers to move within a country to where the jobs are, but a bad thing for people to move between countries for the same reason?

Sober-minded economists reckon that the potential gains from freer global migration are huge and greatly exceed the benefits from freer world trade.

If you are skeptical about the merits of globalization, you may not be swayed by the argument that the case for freer migration follows on logically from freer trade – although you might be, since I am essentially arguing that rich countries should open their borders to service-providers from poor countries, which is not a million miles away from arguing that rich countries should open their markets to farm produce from poor countries. But another way of looking at the case for freer international migration is this: if you want to help people in poor countries, freer migration is one of the most effective ways of doing so.

I can go on quoting LSE educated Philippe but that will not be right. You should get hold of a copy of this book read it yourself. It will be very useful and money well spent. However, if the Australian policy makers want a copy, I can contribute too.

Skilled Migration can have several benefits and amongst them is that foreigners may have different skills and qualities – or superior ones. According to an old joke, in heaven the cooks are French, the police are British, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian, and everything is organized by the Swiss; in hell the cooks are British, the police is German, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss and everything is organized by the Italians. If these national stereotypes are correct, and the French are particularly talented cooks, then it would make sense for France to specialize in training chefs and export some of them. But not all cooks are the same, and Americans also like Asian cuisine, they might also want to import chefs from Asia. Moreover, the bubbling pot of immigrants from around the world may inspire innovative fusion cooking that blends the national cuisines in appetizing new ways.

Another useful skill that immigrants have is knowledge o their country of origin, which can be a big help for local companies who want to export there. And since, as one of the people interviewed by Philip and of an Indian origin puts it. “Immigrants bring a burning desire to succeed and make themselves”, foreigners can boost productivity and economic growth – especially if the extra competition they bring spurs locals to up their game too.

Australians, be reminded that in 2001, John Howard came from behind in the polls to win the General Election by declaring that “we will decide, and nobody else, who comes to this country” and turning back a boat laden with Afghan refugees. It is John Howard who has now been blamed by the Labour Government for opening Australia’s Immigration policies… There seems to be a contradiction somewhere indeed.

“Strangers instinctively question things that natives take for granted. They stimulate new perspectives because, simply, many things strike them as odd and stupid. That’s why it’s great for any tribe to have a smart stranger injected into it.”

G. Pascal Zachary, The Diversity Advantage. (Quoted in Phillip Legrain’s book)


1 Comment

  1. Ravi,

    Mahatma Gandhi had a vision of “True civilized and free India” . Gandhi was able to visualize after experiencing Western Education, Culture and work exposure in South Africa. In absence of International Education and migration to South Africa, Gandhi could never imagine the power of non violence in a freedom struggle. Even today President Obama urges African Nations to follow Mahatma Gandhi.

    Gandhi said “The real difficulty is that people have no idea of what education truly is. We assess the value of education in the same manner as we assess the value of land or of shares in the stock-exchange market. We want to provide only such education as would enable the student to earn more. We hardly give any thought to the improvement of the character of the educated”.

    The above stands true even today and I hope the Australian politicians will learn from Gandhi.


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