Wednesday, 22 August 2018
Statements by Senators
If Labor and the Greens, supported by Senator Fraser Anning, thought their stunt on Monday would silence me on immigration, they are dreaming. The Labor-Greens alliance is afraid to tell voters that from December 2005 to December 2016 Australia's population grew from 20.5 million to 24.4 million and that 62 per cent of this growth was from overseas immigration. Further, they are afraid to ask voters at the next federal election the question, 'Do you think the current rate of immigration is too high?' Fear that this information will be given to every voter at the next general election is a reason Labor and the Greens voted against debating my private senator's legislation entitled the Plebiscite (Future Migration Level) Bill 2018.
We know voters are concerned about the level of immigration and the pace of population growth, but what is less well known is that Labor and their partners, the Australian Greens, need very high levels of immigration for their political future. Labor holds all the seats where the overseas-born population is above 50 per cent and heading for 60 per cent. Labor holds the vast majority of seats where the overseas-born population is above 40 per cent and heading for 50 per cent. These electorates are close to Sydney and Melbourne. How does the government expect new migrants to learn about Australian values and Australian law when everyone around them was born overseas? Over 40 per cent of the members of the lower house in this parliament represent electorates where over 30 per cent of the population was born overseas. Is it any surprise the Lowy Institute survey found a sharp spike in anti-immigration sentiment in 2018, causing their annual sentiment measure to change from positive to negative? The same survey found four out of 10 Australians say, 'If Australia is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation.' No other comparable country in the world is pursuing legal immigration at a pace where the population is growing at 1.7 per cent a year. How do we expect migrants to develop a sense of belonging when the majority of migrants settle in regions where people born overseas outnumber people born in Australia?
Some in the government have acknowledged we need to slow the rate of immigration, but Labor and the Greens want higher levels of immigration than we have today. If voters are experiencing problems with 200,000 permanent migrants a year, just imagine what Australia will feel like when Labor returns to permanent immigration levels of 300,000-plus. Who is to say the immigration level under Labor will not be much higher?
Labor and their partners, the Australian Greens, are playing a high-risk game of poker with our future and the future of our children. These socialist parties want the next election to be about anything but immigration, but every issue keeping Australians awake at night is related to immigration. Immigration levels are now just too high for us to manage. For the majority of Australians, however, high immigration levels mean poorly paid jobs, high electricity and water prices, unaffordable housing, long waiting times for access to health services, insufficient money for schools, and congestion on public transport and on our roads. Australian voters need to understand the next election is about immigration.
One Nation's policy on immigration has been misrepresented, and it is time for me to set the record straight. We recognise the invaluable contribution of overseas-born Australians. They have enriched our culture and committed to our values, our law, our political institutions and equality of the sexes, and I thank them. When they come to embrace our way of life, not to change it, the contribution of migrants and their families to Australia is undeniable. Most Australians believe multiculturalism has been good for Australia, but the right to express cultural identity comes with a responsibility to accept Australia's liberal democracy, and to read, write and speak English.
I support English as Australia's official language because it's a unifying force and it advances migrant communities as well as Australia's interests. Labor and the Greens believe hand gestures and a few words of English are enough to integrate into Australia, and that is why they would not support the government's proposed legislation to strengthen the English commitments for Australian citizenship. Right now, the English standard required for citizenship is getting 12 out of 20 multiple-choice questions right. This is the lowest standard of any comparable country in the world.
In a country taking in migrants speaking over 100 languages, English helps us get along together, and that is critical to the working of our democracy. Parliamentary business is conducted in English, and the record of the parliament is also in English. How can we expect anyone to cast an informed vote if they cannot understand, in English, the issues of the political parties seeking their vote? There is no guarantee that information provided in other languages is accurate. Of course, it suits Labor to have as many voters as possible unable to understand their poorly thought out policies.
One Nation's legislation to amend the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, titled the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Commitments for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2018, is currently before a Senate committee. Similar legislation was withdrawn by the government because Labor and the Greens would not support strengthening the commitments required of migrants to gain citizenship. These commitments relating to core values and English requirements are essential to integration. Labor and the Greens do a disservice to new migrants, especially those here under the Humanitarian Program, when they keep expectations low, because English is necessary for employment and participation in our society.
Labor and their mates in the press find it offensive when I say Australia has the right to choose the number and mix of migrants to ensure that immigration is in the national interests of existing citizens. I will not apologise for saying the interests of existing citizens come first. Australia's Constitution prevents us from asking the religion of those who seek to migrate to Australia. But, equally, we cannot ignore their potential to integrate into Australia. I believe we should add this criterion to our assessment process.
When we look at countries with high living standards, we can see that they have relatively small populations and that those populations are in harmony with the natural carrying capacity of the country. One Nation believes the best population growth comes from Australian citizens having children. We want Australians to have the number of children they can afford to look after, but we also want to reduce the barriers to Australians having children, including lowering the cost of housing—something which would follow a reduction in the cost of immigration.
Governments, both Liberal and Labor, have based their immigration targets on the ridiculous belief that high rates of immigration will prevent or slow the ageing of Australia's population. Yes, migrants are younger on arrival than the average Australian, but migrants get old, and the only way to keep Australia forever young is to increase year on year the number of new young migrants settling permanently in Australia. This population Ponzi scheme will end when social cohesion breaks down, and that day is not as far away as you might think. Governments, both Liberal and Labor, argue that immigration is good for the economy, but economists know that immigration benefits specific interest groups like property developers. In the short term, immigration reduces per capita income, which is why wage growth has been low and will stay low. In 1945 we were short of labour and it was thought that we needed to be a much bigger population to defend ourselves, but today we are a population of 25 million people and there is no need to have the highest level of legal immigration in the world.