A Debate We Cannot Ignore

This piece appeared in News Weekly, 5 September 2009

The recent call for a review of Australia’s migration intake has, in my opinion, a great deal of merit.

In fact, I am pleasantly surprised that the usual assortment of jibes attacking those who advocate for a more measured migration program hasn’t yet taken place.

Perhaps that’s because this time, the advocacy comes from a leftist Labor politician. I have no doubt that if a conservative made such a call the cries of ‘xenophobia’ and ‘dog whistle politics’ would have been deafening.

Who knows, perhaps those claims will be made after reading this comment.

But before you rush to judgment, let me make something very clear.

I have benefited from migration more than most Australians. My father came here from Italy in 1958 and my wife is an Irish migrant. I have an extended family comprised of Australians who have originated from Malaysia, Denmark, Austria, Ireland, England and Italy.

They all add to the richness of my life and that of our nation, which is why I don’t want any of you to construe what I am writing today as me being anti-immigration. Nothing could be further from the truth.

But there is something clearly wrong with our current migration system and it is about time we had a decent conversation about it. Unfortunately it is a conversation that many conservatives shy away from due to the vile and outrageous pot-shots it often provokes.

I recall receiving a most abusive (and frankly inappropriate) email from an ABC journalist over a previous comment that dared to question the high level of benefits given to those entering our territory illegally and claiming asylum.

The facts apparently meant nothing to this supposedly unbiased reporter from our national broadcaster who told me what he thought in no uncertain terms.

The ‘coincidental’ inclusion of a grammatical error from that same comment on the ABC’s Sunday morning show Insiders suggests how upset he was when confronted with reality rather than the fantasy world he has created at taxpayers’ expense.

But the immigration problems we need to deal with are not limited to illegals. Our authorised migration processes are clearly not working effectively either.

The past few years have seen what can only be described as an explosion in race-oriented violence ranging from terrorist plots and riots in Cronulla to stabbings and gang rape.

The question is ‘Why?’

Shooting from the hip, my view is that it comes down to assimilation – or lack of it.

Unfortunately, too many new Australians put their faith, their clan or their historical hatreds ahead of the values of their adopted country.

They seek to use our freedoms, our systems and our tolerance as a means of undermining our values and indulging in behaviour that is anathema to most Australians.

The suggestion that our migrant intake should be reduced to ensure sufficient vetting of applicants and their background is a step in the right direction. But I believe there is a bigger problem.

Evidence suggests that the many so-called ‘race’ problems are not caused by the original immigrants but by their radicalised children. Somehow the progeny of those who have been offered a better life in Australia are keener to continue ancient rivalries or religious hatreds than their forebears.

Such beliefs can only be cultured by the same extremist poison that is far too prevalent in the UK, Europe and parts of Africa and South East Asia.

The question many ask, but too many of us avoid answering, is where does most of this indoctrination of hate begin?

For some it is in the home but evidence suggests that for many it begins in the mosque. Yet to say so is to subject oneself to claims of intolerance and bigotry.

Frankly it is time for the excuses to stop.

For how long can we be expected to accept sermons of hate dismissed as ‘incorrect translations’? Surely it is right to ask how the self-proclaimed ‘religion of peace’ can be so regularly used as an excuse for murder and destruction from some of the very people endorsed as scholars of its holy book?

This past week, the activities and arrest of an alleged Islamic terrorist were blamed on the Australian welfare system by one of his relations. Let me tell you, if this was a genuine reason for the dismantling of the welfare state then I’d probably join the campaign.

The problem though is that this claim, like many others, is a load of rubbish. It is simply seeking to blame Australian society for the alleged vile activities of a religious extremist.

The same types of excuses were used by radical Islamists (and others) to endorse or justify the catastrophic events of September 11.

In Australia we are yet to see the public protests advocating death to infidels or open displays of bilious hatred that have occurred in other countries. The day we do, and are expected to accept it as freedom of speech, is the day our nation ceases to become the egalitarian one that previous generations have fought so hard to defend.

You may ask, as I do, how we can prevent the expansion of racial and religious hatred from infecting Australian society? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer.

However, it is clear to me that unless we are prepared to stop making excuses for those who support the doctrine of intolerance and hatred, and until we are prepared to talk openly about the problems associated with immigration policy and assimilation, we will be ignoring a battle that must be won.

It is a battle for the very future of our country and winning it will require a great deal of courage from our politicians, transparency from members of the fourth estate and support by members of the public.

We must now be willing to engage in the same debate that too many nations have ignored to their own regret.

Unless we are prepared to learn from the experience of others, the difficulties we are experiencing today may just be the genesis of a problem that could change our country forever.

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