Pauline Hanson built a political career on white victimhood and brought far-right rhetoric to the mainstream

Of note. Bernier tried (and continues to try) to play a similar game:

Pauline Hanson and her party have only achieved modest electoral successes. Yet, she is undoubtedly Australia’s most successful populist politician and has had a profound impact on the way the country talks about issues like multiculturalism and immigration.

Hanson’s entire political career can be seen as a denial and rejection of the realities of whiteness in Australia – that is, the unearned benefits and privileges afforded to white people in settler-colonial countries.

Hanson has benefited from – and helped to shape – the normalisation of racism and xenophobia in Australia. She has pushed the boundaries of what can be “acceptably said” in public discourse and has had a disproportionate influence on the national debate.

In doing so, she has also created the political space for other far-right figures like Fraser Anning to emerge and become more a part of the political mainstream.

The birth of One Nation

Hanson first emerged on the political landscape in 1996 when she was disendorsed as the Liberal Party candidate for Oxley following racist comments she made about Indigenous people in a letter to the Queensland Times.

She contested the election anyway, running as an independent on a self-described nationalist, populist and protectionist platform, and won the seat with a large swing against the Labor incumbent.

In her maiden speech to the House of Representatives, Hanson claimed to speak on behalf of “mainstream Australians” and promised a “common sense” approach to politics.

Most controversially, Hanson warned Australia was “in danger of being swamped by Asians”, called for the abolition of multiculturalism and railed against Indigenous rights, so-called “political correctness” and “reverse-racism”.

The times suited Hanson. After 13 years of Labor government, John Howard and the Liberal Party looked to exploit a sense of resentment and grievance on the issues of multiculturalism and immigration, which arguably opened up the space for Hanson and helped to legitimise her views.

Indeed, in a 1996 speech delivered to the Queensland Liberal Party, Howard celebrated the idea people felt able to speak a little more freely and could do so without living in fear of being branded as a bigot or racist.

Hanson’s One Nation party was formed the following year and performed well at the 1998 Queensland state election, winning 11 seats.

Hanson’s downfall and political resurrection

One Nation’s initial success, however, was short-lived. Hanson failed to win the newly redistributed seat of Blair at the 1998 federal election. Her party then began to suffer from internal divisions, poor leadership and Hanson’s personal and financial scandals.

She was subsequently convicted of electoral fraud in 2003. (It was later overturned on appeal.)

After a number of failed federal and state campaigns (including under the rebranded Pauline’s United Australia Party), Hanson finally succeeded in being elected to the Senate in 2016, along with three other One Nation candidates.

This represented a high point for the party at the federal level and gave it considerable influence over government policy.

Hanson’s populist, nativist beliefs

Hanson can best be described as a populist radical right politician, alongside such figures as Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen and Viktor Orbán.

For populist figures, politics are seen as a struggle between everyday, ordinary people and a corrupt, illegitimate and out-of-touch elite.

But more importantly, the populist radical right also uses the language of “us-versus-them” and portrays immigrants and refugees as existential threats to the safety, security and “culture” of a particular society.

In Hanson’s view, non-natives must either assimilate and embrace “Australian culture and values” or “go back to where they came from”.

Hanson has consistently drawn on a sense of grievance and victimhood – in particular, white victimhood. She has espoused a belief in the existence of so-called “reverse-racism” or “anti-white” racism since the outset of her political career.

Hanson has even gone so far as to claim the most downtrodden person in this country is the white Anglo-Saxon male.

The mainstreaming of the far-right

Hanson’s resurgence in 2016 occurred in a very different political climate than her first stint in parliament in the late 1990s.

Political scientist Cas Mudde refers to the 21st century as the “fourth wave of the far-right”. It is a time when far-right ideas are becoming increasingly tolerated, debated and normalised in the mainstream and the boundaries of what can be said are shifting.

Emboldened by years of normalised Islamophobia in Australia and the electoral successes of far-right parties globally, Hanson’s maiden Senate speech warned Australia was now in danger of being swamped by Muslims, who bear a culture and ideology that is incompatible with our own.

She called for a “Trump style” immigration ban, a Royal Commission into Islam and the “banning of the burqa”.

Hanson’s resurgence has clearly cemented Muslims as the new “dangerous other”, though her racist attitudes towards First Nations people and Asian immigrants have also remained a constant.

Her claims of “anti-white racism” have also gained traction in the mainstream. For example, when Hanson put forth a Senate motion declaring “it’s OK to be white” in 2018, a surprising number of Coalition members voted for it and later defended it on Twitter.

It was only later, after a vocal outcry, that the Coalition backed down and claimed the votes were made in error.

The media have played a key role in the mainstreaming of Hanson and One Nation by consistently giving them a platform to voice far-right ideas.

Hanson’s legacy and impact on society

There are a couple of ways to think about Hanson’s legacy and impact on society.

The first is to gauge her direct influence on government policy through her role as a parliamentarian. There’s no doubt she has wielded considerable influence as one of a number of senators to hold the balance of power in recent years.

Yet, despite some success in influencing legislation and her recent appointment as deputy chair of the family law inquiry, Hanson has been largely unsuccessful in seeing her signature policies realised.

And while acknowledging Hanson’s role in mainstreaming far-right ideas, it’s important to note these ideas have existed before her maiden speeches and will exist well beyond her time in politics.

Exclusively focusing on Hanson’s individual acts ignores the systemic nature of racism and the role of the mainstream political class in reproducing and upholding these racist structures.

When assessing Hanson’s legacy, it may be comforting to view her as an aberration and reflection of a bygone era, but she remains very much a product of the Australian settler-colonial story.

It’s perhaps more accurate to think of Hanson as a symptom of racism and xenophobia in Australia, rather than its cause.

We don’t need China to tell us Australian racism exists – just ask international students

From a student’s perspective:

Choosing to study abroad is as much a leap of faith as it is a financial commitment. The decision to uproot one’s life from the comforts of home is always made with the belief that the new place we have chosen to stake a formative portion of our lives will ultimately value our presence.

For many Chinese international students enduring the pandemic on Australian shores, that belief has been shaken. In the latest round of political sparring between China and Australia, the Chinese government has advised its citizens and students to reassess travel plans to Australia, citing a rise in racial discrimination and incidents of abuse towards people of Asian descent. Australia was quick to categorically reject the assertions as “disinformation”and “demonstrably untrue”. But political posturing rarely provides clarity on issues, and more often exposes the insecurities of the players rather than the intended show of strength.

Whether China’s caveat stems from a genuine concern for the wellbeing of its citizens or is part of a broader punitive strategy to condemn Australia’s push for an independent review into Covid-19’s origins will be dissected ad nauseam in the coming weeks. But instead of the preoccupation with how foreign powers choose to define Australian society, perhaps the more deserving and pressing matter for the government is to listen to the voices of those who live under its care.

Indictments don’t have weight without context, and whether or not it’s convenient for those in power to acknowledge, the pandemic has unearthed the reality of strained race relations that permeate Australian society. The Australian Human Rights Commission and Anti-Discrimination NSW have documented a surge in anti-Asian racism, while the Asian Australian Alliance has reported almost 400 racist incidents since April. Behind the dispassionate statistics is a traumatic inventory of lived experiences by the Asian Australian community: a bus driver verbally assaulted, two sisters spat at while crossing the street, a family’s home vandalised with hateful graffiti, an international student punched for wearing a face mask.

These racist sentiments were not spawned by Covid-19 – the virus merely amplified their potency and provided an unabashed avenue for their release. And yet, when China’s travel warnings were issued, Chinese international students quickly came to Australia’s defence, rebuking the notion that studying here was dangerous and expressing dismay that they were being used as bargaining chips in the escalating economic tug-of-war between China and Australia.

Australia says China travel warning ‘unhelpful’ amid escalating diplomatic row

Expect the same with respect to Canada if not already in place given the importance of Chinese tourism and standard Chinese regime pressure tactics:

Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has labelled China’s warning against its citizens visiting Australia “unhelpful”, as Chinese state media said the warning was issued in response to Australia’s “anti-China” policies.

Senator Birmingham told RN this morning that he accepted Asian-Australians had faced incidents of racism since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but rejected the idea that Australia was unsafe for foreign tourists.

On Saturday, the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued an alert warning against travel to Australia, citing a “significant increase” in racist attacks on “Chinese and Asian people”.

“Australia’s a country where our leaders and our communities condemn racism and where we have very clear processes in place if violent attacks occur for people to report them,” Senator Birmingham said.

“But I think the idea that Australia, in any way, is an unsafe destination for visitors to come to is one that just does not stand up to scrutiny.”

Australia accused of ‘anti-China’ strategy

An editorial published by the Global Times, a Communist Party mouthpiece, warned the travel ban “may just be the tip of the iceberg”.

“If Australia wants to retain the gain from its economic ties with China, it must make a real change to its current stance on China, or it will completely lose the benefits of Chinese consumers,” it wrote.

“The tourism loss may be just a tip of iceberg in its loss of Chinese interest.”

Another article attributed the travel warning to “Australian animosity” and “rocky bilateral ties”, quoting analysts as saying that the official warning was “reasonable” given “abundant evidence” of racist acts.

“Australia has become a close collaborator of the US in its anti-China strategy at the expense of China-Australia relations,” the Global Times paraphrased Chen Hong, director of the Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University in Shanghai, as saying.

It cited “smearing China over the COVID-19 pandemic” and other “unwelcoming moves” including excluding Chinese company Huawei from constructing Australia’s 5G network and restricting Chinese investment in Australia.

Delia Lin, a senior lecturer from the Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne, told the ABC the travel warning was “not about genuine concern over racist attacks or genuine concern over the safety of Chinese citizens”.

“If you look at it from a practical perspective, this travel warning is pretty meaningless because nobody can really travel at the moment,” she said.

Beijing’s announcement of the travel warning came after China imposed high tariffs on Australian barley last month and banned imports from four abattoirs representing 35 per cent of Australia’s Chinese beef exports, decisions widely seen to be consequences of Canberra’s deteriorating relations with Beijing.

China criticised the Morrison Government’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, and has previously taken issue with Australia’s criticism of Beijing over human rights issues including the mass detention of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

Jane Golley, director of the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University, said that Australia’s relations with China had been deteriorating since at least 2017.

“I think we’ve started treating them as an adversary in general, while still trying to maintain that they’re an important trading and investment partner for us,” she told the ABC.

Federal Government defends Australian multiculturalism

Asked by RN whether he believed China was attempting to do diplomatic damage to Australia with the travel warning, Senator Birmingham said it was unclear.

“It’s difficult for me to try to ascribe motivations to other countries; this is an unhelpful statement, no doubt about that,” he said.

Chinese nationals represent the largest inbound market for visitor arrivals, with some 1.4 million Chinese short-term visitors arriving in Australia in 2019.

“This is a bullying tactic,” said Dr Lin of the Asia Institute. “China doesn’t see it as bullying, they say it as a way of showing strength.”

Senator Birmingham says Australia’s embrace of multiculturalism stood out in the world.

“That’s what frustrates me and disappoints me in relation to China’s statement,” he said.

Mr Birmingham has tried to speak about ongoing diplomatic tensions with his Chinese counterpart over recent weeks, but he said he was yet to hear back from Commerce Minister Zhong Shan.

Mr Zhong has defended the 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley as “cautious and restrained”, blaming Australia for the trade tensions.

China has “become very adept at using economic tools to send geopolitical messages,” Professor Golley said.

‘Convenient’ criticism of Australia amid reports of racism

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack earlier rejected the suggestion there had been an increase in racist attacks in Australia.

“I don’t know why this has been stated, I don’t know what was in the thinking of the organisation or the person who made the statement, all I can say is the statement is not true,” he said.

However, there have been numerous reports of people of Asian appearance experiencing racist incidents across Australia amid the pandemic.

In March, a Hong Kong student studying in Hobart was punched in the face for wearing a medical face mask at a local supermarket.

In April, two Melbourne University students were allegedly verbally abused and physically assaulted after a pair of women screamed “coronavirus” at them and told them to get out of the country.

And in the same month, Queensland police said there had been 22 racially motivated offences against Asian Australians in the state, including wilful damage, public nuisance, robberies and assaults.

In March, a Bundaberg teenager was charged for assaulting a 27-year-old South Korean backpacker and accusing her of bringing the coronavirus to Australia.

The 15-year-old was charged with assault occasioning bodily harm while armed, assault occasioning bodily harm, common assault and stealing. The matter has been finalised.

Asian migrants have also reported being evicted for fears of spreading coronavirus, and high-profile acts of vandalism including racist attacks on a Chinese-Australian family’s home happening three times in one week in April.

“Do I think [China is] genuinely concerned about the health and welfare of their citizens? Absolutely,” Professor Golley said.

“We’ve seen that through COVID-19, with their embassy focusing mainly on the health and wellbeing of their own citizens.

Some members of Australia’s Chinese diaspora have told the ABC that Beijing’s travel warning may end up doing more harm than good.

During the coronavirus pandemic, foreigners in China have also reported a spike in xenophobia.

A number of African Governments recently expressed concern over discriminatory treatment of African expatriates living in China, including having their passports seized, and forced quarantining and evictions.

Source: Australia says China travel warning ‘unhelpful’ amid escalating diplomatic row

Australia’s stalled migrant boom derails golden economic run

Although there are important differences between the two countries there are also some uncomfortable similarities with Canada, as we have also relied on immigration for continued economic growth, overall GDP not necessarily GDP per capita;

Australia’s three decades of uninterrupted prosperity are coming to an abrupt end as the global coronavirus pandemic crashes one of its most lucrative sources of income – immigration.

The country has been successful in managing the outbreak and reopening its A$2 trillion (US$1.33 trillion) economy, thanks in part to an early closure of its borders.

But the policy has led to a halt in mass immigration – a key source of consumer demand, labour and growth – in an economy which is facing its first recession since the early 1990s.

Net immigration, including international students and those on skilled worker visas, is expected to fall 85 per cent in the fiscal year to June 2021, curbing demand for everything from cars and property to education and wedding rings.

Gurmeet Tuli, who owns a jewellery store in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta, said his business is already hurting in a neighbourhood which is home to tens of thousands of migrants.

“My main clientele is young people who come here to study, they find work here and settle down, fall in love and want to get married,” Tuli said.

“I have not sold a single diamond ring in the past two months,” he added, noting business is down about 40 per cent so far this year.

So critical is migration to Australia that analysts reckon the economy would have slipped into a recession last year without new arrivals to boost population growth.

AMP Capital Chief Economist Shane Oliver estimates that population growth in recent years has boosted the economy by about one percentage point per year.

But as migration stalls, education, housing and tourism sectors are seen among the worst hit.

The drought in international student arrivals, who in recent years made up about 40 per cent of the migrant intake, is expected to hit the A$37 billion education sector, Australia’s second largest services export after tourism.

A fall in new arrivals could also dampen the construction boom in Australia’s all important housing sector, which has been fuelled by migrants in big cities like Sydney and Melbourne.

“REAL IMPACT”

Even though immigration is a politically divisive topic in Australia, there is a broad recognition that the country needs its 200,000 to 300,000 annual intake to grow consumption demand and fill skills shortages in various sectors.

While a large share of these migrants arrive on what are considered “temporary” visas, many later gain permanent residency and employment, adding to long-term population growth.

Australia’s population would grow an average 1.6 per cent annually over the decade to 2027, according to the latest official projections from 2018. Without immigration, it was forecast to grow only 0.5 per cent.

“During a slowdown and when the unemployment rate is high there is popular pressure to slow down migration,” said AMP Capital’s Oliver. “But if we want the economy working back again, we need migration to return.”

Concerns over immigration range from sustainability and housing affordability to more populist complaints about social integration and foreigners taking local jobs.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last week Australia needed 160,000 to 210,000 arrivals to sustain GDP per capita growth, and acknowledged the great uncertainty current restrictions cast over the outlook.

“It’s going to be one of the real impacts of this crisis because our borders aren’t opening anytime soon,” he said.

SAFE BUBBLE

That has prompted urgent calls for solutions from some businesses and political leaders.

The premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, is lobbying her federal counterparts to allow international students in to rescue universities, which contribute A$13 billion to the economy of the country’s most populous state.

Australia’s government is also working with New Zealand to establish a “Trans-Tasman bubble” that would re-open the movement of people between the two closely integrated economies.

New Zealand is a large source of labour for Australia, home to about 600,000 kiwi expatriates.

To be sure, Australia still enjoys its “lucky country” status, benefiting from resilient global demand for some commodities and having been able to re-open large parts of the economy sooner than many other advanced economies..

But even though Australia’s central bank expects the economy to expand 6 per cent next year after a projected 6 per cent contraction in 2020, analysts and businesses warn a sustained recovery is unlikely without the full resumption of immigration.

Over the years, immigration has helped transform Australia’s retail and urban landscape, reviving down-at-heel suburban high streets, spurring swanky commercial property development and creating new consumer markets.

Gotcha Fresh Tea is one of a host of bubble tea franchises that has expanded rapidly in Australia, with demand fuelled in large part by international students but also by growing interest for the Asian tapioca beverage from the wider community.

Orlando Sanpo, business development manager at EFC Group Australia, the chain’s franchisor, said the student freeze has hit sales by up to 80 per cent in some downtown stores and even closed an outlet at a Sydney campus.

“We need people to come back to the country,” Sanpo said.

Source: Australia’s stalled migrant boom derails golden economic run

Douglas Todd: Canada, Australia take different tacks on immigration amid COVID crisis

We have an understandable tendency to compare Canada with Australia.

Yet the Australian political culture is different in terms of language and tone, with its conservatives being more to the right in general than Canadian conservatives.

Moreover, Australia, unlike Canada, was forced to develop an (imperfect) culture of accommodation, given the large French speaking minority. Both countries, of course, share a common and difficult history with their Indigenous populations.

But under both Liberal and Conservative governments, Canada has generally favoured higher levels of immigration and greater openness to minority accommodation.

So while I expect the economic fallout will force the Liberal government to reduce immigration levels somewhat, I would expect this to be more modest than in Australia. And it is noteworthy that the Conservatives are not (yet) calling for any major pause or reduction. But we shall see how this plays out::

I’m not alone in attending social events in this country where the conversation turns much more easily to American politics than Canadian.

Donald Trump. Nancy Pelosi. Mike Pompeo. Joe Biden. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Anne Coulter. Bernie Sanders. The list of strong personalities goes on. It’s not surprising subdued Canadians become fixated on the take-no-prisoners politics of the U.S.

But it could be more relevant for Canadians to compare and contrast how leaders are responding to COVID-19 and its implications in a more similar English-language country, despite it being geographically farther away than the world’s largest economic power.

Like Canada, Australia is a middle power with a reasonably healthy parliamentary democracy, as well as shared British roots (French in Canada as well) and a significant Indigenous presence. Multiculturalism flourishes in both countries, where more than one in five residents are foreign-born. We have similar populations: Australia contains 25 million people, Canada 35 million.

Canada and Australia — more than the U.S., which takes in one-third the number of immigrants per capita — have relied on large numbers of immigrants as well as foreign students and workers on visas to expand their economies, educational systems and housing markets.

Like Canada, however, Australia’s economy has been severely battered by the lockdown .

Australia lost 594,300 jobs in April, its largest fall on record, and now has an unemployment rate of seven per cent. Canada lost almost two million jobs and has seen unemployment balloon to 13 per cent. The economies and housing markets of both countries are shaking.

Yet Australia’s elected leaders are sharply diverging from those in Canada in how they’re responding to the pandemic at a policy level, especially regarding migration.

With a degree of frankness rarely heard from Ottawa, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he expects immigration to fall by 30 per cent by the end of the summer.

The Australian PM went on to forecast immigration levels would plunge by a breath-taking 85 per cent in the fiscal year ending in the summer of 2021.

Morrison acknowledged the decline will be a shock to his traditionally immigration-friendly country. But he suggested Australians ought to get used to lower levels.

In the last two years Australia accepted 470,000 new immigrants, while Canada welcomed 616,000. The two countries’ multi-ethnic populations have in the past roughly agreed on immigration policy.

A YouGov poll found Canadians and Australians have been more open to high in-migration rates than citizens of most nations. Even though 38 per cent of Canadians and 46 per cent of Australians said last year they want to reduce the number of incoming migrants, roughly a quarter wanted the rate to stay the same and another quarter hoped levels would be hiked.

Yet the two countries are now talking and acting much differently in regards to the future of migration. Unlike Australia’s prime minister, Canada’s Justin Trudeau has not speculated about possible intake levels. His immigration minister, Marco Mendicino, simply said this month that robust in-migration must continue in the aftermath of COVID-19 travel bans.

But questions are arising about whether the higher immigration targets the Liberals released in early March — of 341,000 new permanent residents in 2020, 351,000 in 2021 and 361,000 in 2022 — are sustainable, taking into account sweeping unemployment.

“Given that the economic crisis will linger long after the health crisis has passed, can Canada accommodate an additional one per cent of immigrants and refugees added to our population in the foreseeable future,” asked Conservative immigration critic Peter Kent. Mendicino promised only that he would provide an update on migration targets in the fall.

The two countries are also diverging on non-permanent residents. Australia’s acting immigration minister said 300,000 people on study visas and work visas have already departed the country and another one-quarter are expected to go. They are leaving in part because Morrison, who leads the centre-right Liberal-National Coalition government, told non-Australians, including a record 720,000 international students, to return to their home countries if they could not financially support themselves during the coronavirus crisis.

Across party lines Australian politicians are expressing worries about how future immigrants, foreign students and guest workers will compete for jobs with the upwards of a million Australians who have been frozen out of work, at least temporarily, due to COVID-19.

Senator Kristina Keneally, a spokeswoman for the opposition Labor party, recently called for a reduction in migrant numbers after the pandemic, saying the country’s historic reliance on immigration to boost growth has hurt some workers and inflated housing prices.

“When we restart our migration program, do we want migrants to return to Australia in the same numbers and in the same composition as before the crisis? Our answer should be no,” Keneally wrote in a much-discussed May 3 opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald .

“Our economic recovery must help all Australians get back on their feet, and to do that we need a migration program that puts Australian workers first,” said Keneally, adding that Morrison’s government had “cynically” created one of the largest migrant labour forces in the world, of 2.1 million temporary workers.

In contrast to Australia’s politicians, Ottawa is hoping to keep immigration levels high and retain as many international students and guest workers as possible.

To convince tens of thousands of temporary foreign workers to continue assisting Canadian farms and long-term care facilities, the Liberal government recently began making it easier for them to get permanent resident status.

Worried about a drastic drop in the country’s record 645,000 fee-paying international students, Ottawa removed the cap on how many hours most can work each month. It also made it possible for foreign students to keep their study visas even if they are not in the country.

Last week, in addition, the Liberals changed policy so that up to a million foreign students, refugees and guest workers could apply for the government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) of $2,000 a month without providing proof of a work permit .

Despite so many longstanding similarities between the two countries in regards to the complexities of migration policy, the leaders of Australia and Canada are now taking opposite approaches in the devastating wake of COVID-19.

In effect, Canada and Australia have turned themselves into living laboratories, engaging in different social experiments. We will be better able to evaluate their theories once the test results come in.

Source: Douglas Todd: Canada, Australia take different tacks on immigration amid COVID crisis

Anger as wait times for Australian #citizenship blow out during coronavirus pandemic

Looks like Australia has been able to ramp up virtual citizenship ceremonies dramatically to about 750 per day, showing it can be done although less meaningful than in person:

More than 16,800 people have received Australian citizenship via virtual ceremonies during the pandemic but many more are still waiting.

The migration sector has voiced concern as the processing times for Australian citizenship applications have blown out amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Figures from the Department of Home Affairs show 75 per cent of applications for citizenship by conferral now take 23 months – up from 16 months last June.

Ninety per cent of these applications are completed in 25 months compared to 20 months a year ago.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all face-to-face citizenship appointments, such as interviews and citizenship tests, have been placed on hold. This has meant an increase in overall processing times,” the spokesperson said.

“The department will recommence in-person interviews and citizenship tests when it is safe to do so,” they said, adding that new applications are still being accepted.

How long it is currently taking to process Australian citizenship by conferral.

How long it is currently taking to process Australian citizenship by conferral.
The Department of Home Affairs

But Carla Wilshire, CEO of the Migration Council Australia, said these numbers needed to be addressed.

“Once people go down the pathway of citizenship, a lot of decisions are put on hold until that citizenship comes through … It’s important we give them certainty as quickly as possible,” she said.

“Getting those waiting times down is critical in terms of really managing people’s sense that their lives are progressing and they are able to make decisions going forward around their commitment towards Australia.”

“Particularly during COVID, where people have a lot of generalised anxiety and feel a sense of insecurity, I think it’s really important that we take measures to … ensure resources are put to use to give citizenship as quickly as possible.”

It is a point echoed by Melbourne-based migration agent Kirk Yan.

“I haven’t seen the government offer a reasonable or acceptable explanation for the long processing times … They can’t explain why it takes two years,” he said.

“For citizenship, as long as you meet the requirements of a permanent resident, you are supposed to get it granted if you pass the citizenship test and the character or identity checks … I don’t know why it takes such a long time for the department.”

He said the latest rise in wait times left many of his clients anxious.

“The current situation has meant lots of people are waiting, just to get information or a response,” he said.

The sector has also pointed to climbing wait times as one reason why the demand for Australian citizenship is dropping.

Clearing the backlog

But even as wait times have gone up, the government has managed to address the backlog of citizenship applications this financial year.

The department spokesperson said during the year 2019-20, up to 22 May this year, 175,304 people were granted Australian citizenship – up 56 per cent on the same period last year.

Over recent months, it has been done via virtual citizenship ceremonies.

More than 750 people have received citizenship through online ceremonies each day since they began, and up to 22 May, more than 16,800 people received citizenship this way.

The latest backlog figure is now 123,727 applications, compared to 221,695 a year ago.

But Migration Council Australia’s Ms Wilshire said this number was “still significant by historical standards”.

“During COVID, there is so much insecurity as people are losing that sense of being able to visit their country of origin and connect with family as global movement is decreasing,” she said.

“I think that affirmation of being part of the Australian community is psychologically quite important for our migrant communities.”

Source: Anger as wait times for Australian citizenship blow out during coronavirus pandemic

Australian #citizenship approvals up by 56 per cent but waiting period shoots up

More on Australian citizenship numbers and processing delays:

Highlights:

  • 170,819 people have been conferred Australian citizenship in 2019-20
  • 15,000 people have received citizenship online during the pandemic
  • 117,958 applicants still in the queue for citizenship

“The Government has moved to online citizenship ceremonies during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 750 online ceremonies are being conducted each day, and to 20 May 2020, more than 15,000 people have received citizenship this way during the pandemic,” a spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told SBS Hindi.

“In 2019-20 to 15 May 2020, 170,819 people have been conferred Australian citizenship. This is up 56 per cent on the same period last year,” the spokesperson said.

However, those who have applied for citizenship and are awaiting the outcome of their Australian citizenship application will have to wait longer.

The latest processing times released by the Department of Home Affairs indicates the waiting period for Australian citizenship has shot up.

Compared to waiting period of 16 months, from date of application to ceremony, in June 2019, the average waiting period for 75 per cent of applicants has shot up to 23 months from date of application to ceremony in April 2020.

Australian Citizenship PRocessing times April 2020

The latest processing times released by the Department of Home Affairs indicates the waiting period for Australian citizenship has shot up.
Department of Home Affairs

“Due to the health risks, all face-to-face citizenship appointments, such as interviews and citizenship tests, have been placed on hold. This has meant an increase in overall processing times,” the spokesperson said.

“The Department will recommence in-person interviews and citizenship tests when it is safe to do so.

“New applications for Australian citizenship are still able to be accepted during this period.

“Processing continues for applications that do not require a face-to-face appointment. Processing also continues for lodged applications up to the point where an appointment is required so that the applicant will be able to undertake an appointment when it is safe to do so.”

Last month, as COVID-19 pandemic forced citizenship ceremonies to move online, Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge said additional resources will be deployed once it is possible to resume tests and interviews.

‘Additional resources will be deployed to conduct testing and interviews as soon as social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 ease,’ he said.

As of April 30, 2020, 117,958* applicants were still awaiting the outcome of their citizenship application.

India top source of Australian citizenship

India has been the top source of Australian citizenship for the last two years, with over 28,000 Indian nationals becoming Australian citizens in 2018-19.

Source of Australian Citizenship 2018-19

Source of Australian Citizenship 2018-19
Department of Home Affairs

Indian-born applicants also top the list of visa recipients by country under Australia’s annual permanent immigration program.

Source: Australian citizenship approvals up by 56 per cent but waiting period shoots up

Federal government appeals court ruling recognising man born in pre-independence PNG as Australian

Hard to understand the rationale for appealing the particular case unless there is a general point they wishy to make:

The federal government has lodged an appeal to overturn a Federal Court decision recognising the Australian citizenship of a man born in pre-independence Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Troyrone Zen Lee won a four-year battle with the federal government last month after being told in 2016 he was not an Australian citizen.

Mr Lee, who has lived in Brisbane since the early 1980s, was born in May 1975 in Port Moresby in the Australian external territory of Papua – four months before PNG became an independent country.

In his April judgment, Federal Court judge Darryl Rangiah ruled that at the time PNG became independent, Mr Lee fell within s65(4)(a) of the PNG Constitution “as a person who had the right to permanent residence in Australia and that therefore did not make him a PNG citizen”.

“I make the declaration that the applicant is an ‘Australian citizen’.”

Court documents filed on Friday show the Department of Home Affairs is appealing on the grounds that Justice Rangiah erred in finding Mr Lee was not an “immigrant” under the then Australian Migration Act after PNG independence in September 1975.

The appeal rejects the Federal Court ruling that Mr Lee had the right to Australian permanent residence, did not become a PNG citizen, and had never ceased to be an Australian citizen after independence, and remains an Australian citizen.

Both Mr Lee’s parents are Australian citizens, as are his father’s parents and his younger siblings, who were born in post-independence PNG and obtained Australian citizenship by descent.

“I am indeed deeply disappointed that Home Affairs has decided to make an appeal, but we will keep motoring on until this is finished,” Mr Lee told SBS News.

“Having done nothing wrong and confirmed in the Federal Court that I am an Australia citizen, it would seem there is no error with my status under the Australian Citizenship Act, yet Home Affairs continue to be unfair in dragging out this issue.”

Many PNG-born Australians have been caught out by Australian legislative changes that have resulted in the cancellation of their passports and citizenship certificates, rendering some technically stateless.

The federal government has argued the documents had been incorrectly issued for up to four decades and told those affected to apply for Australian citizenship.

Mr Lee travelled with his mother repeatedly to Australia after PNG independence on her passport and was issued with an Australian passport in 1979 before the family settled permanently in Brisbane in 1982.

Four years ago when he tried to renew his passport, his application was refused.

In the Federal Court hearing, a submission by the acting immigration minister Alan Tudge argued Mr Lee lost his Australian citizenship when PNG became independent in 1975.

“As the matter is before the court it would be inappropriate to comment,” the Department of Home Affairs said in a statement to SBS News on Tuesday.

Australia’s dependence on immigration faces its biggest economic test

Canada will face a similar test with respect to its multi-immigration plan that planned on 340,000 new permanent residents in 2020 and further annual increases in subsequent years, with immigration being responsible for virtually all population growth and thus a major contributor to economic growth:

Australia’s dependence on immigration to grow the economy is about to be sorely tested.

One of the secret ingredients to Australia’s unparalleled run of economic growth since the country’s last recession has been strong population growth.

While local mums have played their part in swelling the number of locals, the heavy lifting has been done by people from nations such as China, India, Britain, New Zealand and the Philippines who have decided to call Australia home.

Over the past decade, the nation’s permanent population has grown by 3.7 million to more than 25 million. Of that increase, 60 per cent was due to net migration.

That extra 2.2 million people have been an economic powerhouse, requiring homes, cars, food and every day goods and services while also contributing fresh skills to the jobs market.

But it has come at a price, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. Be it via higher house prices or over-crowded schools, all levels of government have struggled to keep up with the demands of a growing population while reaping the economic benefits of that population.

The Morrison government made much of its decision in last year’s budget to cap permanent migration at 160,000 for four consecutive years as dealing with the congestion pressures on our big cities.

That cap didn’t include the hundreds of thousands of temporary migrants – be it students or workers – who help run the economy and add to demand.

But with the borders shut, international students stuck in their home countries and immigration all-but impossible, the issues around migration and Australia’s dependence on it cannot be ignored.

The government is now expecting net overseas migration – which was forecast to reach 271,000 in 2019-20 – to be 30 per cent lower. Next year, the drop is tipped to be 85 per cent.

Combined, that’s close to 300,000 missing shoppers, students, family members and skilled workers from the economy.

With temporary workers leaving the country and others unable to get in, population growth is likely to stall. Sydney could shrink while Melbourne’s stellar growth of recent years will be muted, with serious economic repercussions.

Australia will, post-virus, remain a desirable destination for permanent migrants, temporary ones and international students.

The Morrison government’s economic rebuilding plan will have to include a discussion around the nation’s dependence of immigration.

Source: Australia’s dependence on immigration faces its biggest economic test

Internal debates in the Australian Labour Party:

Kristina Keneally’s call to give Australians “first go” at jobs by cutting temporary migration has won cautious support from unions but divided Labor MPs who are worried the home affairs spokeswoman was freelancing with policy aimed at more conservative voters.

Several of Senator Keneally’s colleagues privately voiced frustrations on Sunday about her decision to write an opinion piece arguing against the “lazy approach” used by governments to prop up economic growth through immigration and suggested that the overall migrant intake could be less under Labor. Other MPs publicly defended Senator Keneally, arguing that Australia’s use of temporary migrants was a debate that needed to happen as the nation recovered from the coronavirus crisis.

In an opinion piece for The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age on Sunday, Senator Keneally said Australian workers must “get a fair go and a first go at jobs”, and the country had an unprecedented chance to overhaul the immigration system, particularly the temporary worker intake which was not capped. It was not the first time Senator Keneally has called for the government to look at temporary migration, but it was her strongest suggestion yet that the overall number of migrants would be lower under Labor.

“The post-COVID-19 question we must ask now is this: when we restart our migration program, do we want migrants to return to Australia in the same numbers and in the same composition as before the crisis? Our answer should be no,” she wrote.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said on Twitter that too many employers had used the temporary visa system to avoid hiring local workers and were exploiting people whose visa status and security depended on their employer. Ms McManus argued this had led to systematic wage theft. Victorian Labor MP Ged Kearney, former president of the ACTU, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age she welcomed the debate on whether to overhaul the immigration system.

“I think we really do need to have the conversation and get the balance right – and it may need to be a lower overall intake, but the focus should be on temporary migration and increasing permanent migration,” she said.

Immigration is a vexed issue for Labor with the party occasionally being accused of over-compensating in response to Coalition attack campaigns over border security. Bill Shorten, when he was leader in 2016, caused controversy with an “Australia First” television advertisement which featured almost all white people and pledged that Labor would “build Australian first, buy Australian first and employ Australians first”.

Multiple senior Labor sources confirmed the issue of whether to restart a debate on the size and composition of Australia’s immigration program had been discussed at shadow cabinet level but no decision had been made on a change of policy. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese did not respond to a request for comment.

“This is still just Kristina’s view at this stage, not the party’s,” one shadow cabinet source said.

Senator Keneally, who emigrated to Australia from the US, also caused frustration among senior Labor MPs because they were blindsided by her opinion piece. It wasn’t featured in the original talking points circulated by Mr Albanese’s office to MPs on Sunday morning. A second round of talking points – the party’s message on the topical issues of the day – was sent out later in the day which included Labor’s position on immigration.

One Labor MP from the Left faction, which tends to support a more-open approach to migrants and refugees, said they were concerned about being accused of “dog-whistling”.

“We don’t have a problem with the call to look at temporary migration, but we don’t have to sound like Peter Dutton while doing it,” he said.

Another Labor MP said: “This is a very sensitive issue. The ALP has torn itself apart over this issue in the past. This is an issue that needs to be handled very sensitively.”

Labor’s education spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, said immigration was an important part of Australia’s multicultural make-up, but Labor’s view had always been that the number and composition of the intake should be in the national interest.

“Immigration is a really important part of our economic success story. One of the reasons the Australian economy has been growing at all, frankly, in recent times is because of strong immigration numbers,” she said.

Victorian Labor MP Julian Hill said the COVID-19 crisis had exposed the Morrison government’s failure in migration policy, “and in particular the massive explosion in temporary migration”.

“Morrison has tried an enormous con job trumpeting a fake cut to migration, which is really just sleight of hand cutting valuable permanent migration while lower skilled permanent migration explodes,” he said.

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge accused Senator Keneally of not having a consistent position on temporary migrants.

“She wants to give temporary migrants welfare payments so they can stay in Australia, but now says she doesn’t want temporary migrants,” he said.

Senator Keneally said in her piece that although migration would be a key element to the way the Australian economy recovered from the pandemic, changes had to be made to the current system which had resulted in an over-reliance on temporary workers.

The setting of limits on the migrant intake may be moot point for years with Australia’s immigration to take a serious hit coming out of the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week revealed Australia’s net overseas migration numbers would drop by 85 per cent in the 2020-21 financial year, compared to 2018-19 numbers.

Source: Labor internal angst at Kristina Keneally’s call to lower immigration

Coronavirus has halted immigration to Australia and that could have dire consequences for our economic recovery

Will be interesting to watch Canadian numbers and plans over the coming few years, although Canada, unlike Australia, had been planning annual increases:

Australia’s migration intake this year is expected to plummet due to coronavirus-induced travel restrictions and shutdowns, creating a raft of economic and social headaches set to prolong its recovery from the pandemic.

Australia’s immigration program has played a key role in nearly three decades of essentially uninterrupted economic growth.

Due to border closures around the world, the total number of migrants who will make Australia home this financial year, both temporary and permanent, will be far lower than it has been in a long time.

Nearly 300,000 temporary visa holders have left Australia since the start of the year according to the federal government and there are predictions the country will miss out on another 240,000 would-be migrants by the end of the year.

Researchers say that could cause a “demographic ripple effect” to last for some time because Australia will be relying heavily on migrants to rebuild once the pandemic has passed.

“We need immigration to survive this next stage of our future,” Australian National University demographer Liz Allen told SBS News.

“We have an ageing population with more people retiring from the workforce than people entering the workforce. That means we have fewer people contributing to our tax base, which pays for our vital services: our roads, our infrastructure, our hospitals, our schools – everything.

“Our migrant intake will help fill the gaps.”

Intake ‘lower than envisaged’

Australia’s 2019-20 permanent migration program will now fall well short of the cap of 160,000 places set by the federal government.

Projections by sharemarket broker CommSec suggest around 240,000 fewer people could migrate to Australia over the next 12 months.

A spokesperson for acting immigration minister Alan Tudge said while COVID-19 will clearly have an impact on the 2019-20 program, it was still too early to say what the final outcome would be.

“It will be lower than we envisaged given our borders are closed to all but Australian citizens and permanent residents,” the spokesperson said.

Permanent residency visa invitations have fallen dramatically in the past month, Department of Home Affairs data shows.

Just 50 invitations for skilled independent subclass 189 visas – which allow holders to live anywhere in Australia – were issued in April, compared to 1,750 in March.

Invitations for the subclass 491 visa, which requires migrants to live in regional Australia, fell from 300 to 50.

There were 2.43 million temporary migrants in Australia in December 2019, a number which according to the federal government fell to 2.17 million – a drop of 260,000 – in early April.

That number is expected to fall even further, with many temporary visa holders excluded from the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told them to instead return to their home countries if they were not able to support themselves in Australia.

With chief medical officer Brendan Murphy flagging last week that restrictions on international travel would not be lifted for at least three to four months, it could be at least that long until Australia starts welcoming migrants again.

University of Sydney migration expert Anna Boucher said the coronavirus crisis has laid bare how reliant Australia is on migrants, noting the 2019 federal budget papers showed the government’s much-touted surplus was predicated upon higher levels of net overseas migration.

“Without very high net overseas migration we would not have had a budget surplus,” associate professor Boucher said.

“There’s no way achieve that sort of net overseas migration this year with border closures and COVID-19.”

The pandemic-induced freeze on immigration comes after a record 298,200 migrants left Australia in the year to 30 June 2019 – seven months before Australia recorded its first coronavirus case on 25 January 2020.

Associate professor Boucher said the pandemic could trigger a rethink of how heavily Australia relies on its migrants to fill gaps in the workforce.

“We have caps on permanent migration, and they’ve become more stringent in recent years, but we don’t have caps on temporary migration. It’s possible in future years the government will look at that. A lot of it depends on how we redeploy Australians.”

“We are in competition with other countries for migration, so if other countries have closures for as long as we do and we are still seen as providing opportunities, we might be able to bounce back to pre-COVID-19 levels.”

Economy to bounce back slower

Economists say the drop in migration will have significant economic consequences for Australia’s coronavirus recovery.

Migrants are workers, taxpayers, consumers and big players in the housing market. Many economists believe they also play a role in driving long-term innovation and productivity.

Population growth and economic growth exist side-by-side and migrants have “historically played quite a big role” in both, Grattan Institute CEO John Daley said.

“Real economic growth in Australia over the last couple of years has been around 2 to 2.5 per cent. Of that, almost one per cent has simply been the effect of migration,” he said.

“Every year on average there’s one per cent more people born overseas living in Australia than there were last year, [causing] a one per cent increase in the total Australian population. When you have a one per cent increase in the population, you get a one per cent increase in GDP, more or less.

“In many quarters over the past couple of years Australia has had almost no economic growth apart from the growth in population, and of that growth, about two-thirds have been migrants.”

Mr Daley said economic recoveries were always slow and a shock “of this kind” means it’s likely to take the economy “several years” to completely bounce back.

“Absolutely that will be accentuated in Australia by the fact there will be fewer migrants,” he said.

Commsec senior economist Ryan Felsman said even just a 10 per cent reduction in overall migration numbers would remove a “significant tailwind” from the Australian economy.

“The longer our borders are closed, the more likely it is Australia will have a slower economic rebound than other countries,” Mr Felsman said.

Source: Coronavirus has halted immigration to Australia and that could have dire consequences for our economic recovery