Our enviable record on immigration is falling, says Nick Cater.
We are frequently told that Australia should strive be a more “inclusive” society. But what does it actually mean?
In our view the word has become so devalued that it conveys nothing except a general sense of warmth and fuzziness.
Few countries can claim to be as inclusive as Australia when it comes to immigration. More than 25 per-cent of us are first-generation migrants, and more than half first or second-generation migrants.
Our egalitarian culture maximises the equality of opportunity to succeed. It doesn’t matter where you come from, it's where you’re going that matters. In Australia we don’t just want migrants to feel included; we want them to succeed.
Migrants striving for success have driven Australia’s progress since the very beginning. Their contribution to the economic and cultural life of the nation makes it the successful country it is today. This is why we should be alarmed that significant cohorts of migrants are not succeeding.
The most recent arrivals under our humanitarian programme, many of whom arrived by boat, are doing it particularly tough, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show. How tough? Humanitarian arrivals are eight times more likely to be on welfare than other migrants. They are four times more likely to speak English either badly or not at all. And they are three times more likely never to have had a job since arriving.
The Productivity Commission recommended in 2016 that the government has a long hard look at the immigration programme to ensure that people selected to come here have the skills to enable them to succeed.
We heartily agree. Our migration system is only as good as the people it brings here. Australia does not simply give shelter or offer passports to be used as flags of convenience. We offer the chance to build a new life and become a citizen of a free and democratic nation.
We want migrants to succeed.