Labo(u)r Bells and Whistles

The Currency Lad challenges “Laborite bloggers and columnists” to discuss the AWU’s opposition to Chinese workers as guest workers in the fruit picking industry. I’m happy to take him up on it. The Labor Party was rightly condemned for some marginal seat campaigning in the election which sought to raise fears about “foreigners taking our Aussie jobs”. The AWU may well have some legitimate concerns, but to the degree that their stand has resonances with racism (and they ought to be aware of these resonances), they stand condemned. This debate ought rather to be couched in terms of the problems of productivity and labour shortages which are only belatedly and half-heartedly being addressed by the Federal Government.

In turn, I hope that right-wing bloggers and commentators will join me in lauding the contribution made by refugees as workers in regional Australia in particular, and in a call for the conditions under which refugees who are making a productive contribution can transfer from TPVs to permanent residency to be liberalised and reformed.

Oh, and I disagree with Rafe Champion writing at Catallaxy that this vindicates Keith Windschuttle.

ELSEWHERE: Rob Corr at Kick & Scream has also posted on this issue.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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2024 years ago

I’m not aware of any right wing bloggers who’ve spoken against the industry and contribution of refugees. And I didn’t say the AWU stance vindicated Keef.

I implied that it gave a living demonstration of what had always been the motivation for the old WAP (industrial protectionism). Like Windschuttle, you admit you partially accept the legitimacy of WAP thinking.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2024 years ago

Fair enough, C.L. I guess I was assuming that your reference to WAP II and the “excoriation” of Keef added up to a claim that his argument was vindicated. But I’m happy to accept the clarification, and withdraw!

But in turn, I’m not sure how you construe my remarks as a defence of industrial protectionism. I’d certainly want to distance myself from both Windy and also WAP thinking.

2024 years ago

There’s no doubt that a good percentage of refugees are good workers, Mark. I don’t see anyone claiming otherwise.

Many backpackers are also good workers, but I don’t hear anyone calling for them to be offered residency at the end of their working holiday visas.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2024 years ago

I think, Yobbo, my point was that the current visa regime doesn’t recognise adequately the contribution of refugees as workers. Perhaps that wasn’t clear enough. So I’d hope that others would join me in calling for a re-think on this one.

2024 years ago

I have no opposition to this if the workers are paid as Australian’s get paid, and rights as workers are not unduly taken away.
Same work, same pay is what I say.

2024 years ago

I don’t think so Mark. I have a number of friends from England who are very good, skilled workers and have been making a significant effort to migrate to Australia. They work primarily in the construction industry which is drastically short of skilled workers at the moment.

I don’t see why refugees should be given preference for migration over them. They should be assessed on the same basis as everybody else.

Tourists and working holiday makers can’t transfer to a migration visa no matter how much of a “positive contribution” they are making. Why should refugees be any different?

2024 years ago

yeah, Yobbo, but the point is that refugees have fled their country of origin because of political or religious persecution. presumably yr friends from England are voluntary migrants…

2024 years ago

Sure, tourists and holiday makers can’t upgrade to a migration visa but they can subsequently apply for citizenship.

If refugees were assessed the same way as UK workers we would never see any refugees here because they generally don’t speak the language and have no useful skills.
However the refugee families working in the abbortoir at Young show that argument to be flawed.

Yobbo evidently agrees that we should allow short-term refugees into Australia. The inherent problem with this is that there is no guarentee that they will only be short-term. After a certain number of years, if it is still not safe to send them back to their country, we have to gove them residence here (or get someone else to take them permanently). Obviously we will give residency to those refugees most useful to us. The Young abbortoir workers made their own case by offering to work outside the metro area in a less than salubrious job.

The alternative to residency is a permanent state of limbo. This is extremely undesirable.

Thus the skilled refugees will get in ahead of skilled non-refugees. So what?
This has nothing to do with fairness, so Yobbo, you can’t argue it from a position of fairness.
It’s pragmatism.

I don’t doubt that Yobbo knows good skilled people. I don’t doubt that 5 million Australians know someone in another country who is skilled, wants to move here and will be an asset. It doesn’t mean we can take them all. It also doesn’t mean we should take them all. At some point we have to use a lumbering impersonal beuracratic system that tells us who can come in or not.

Why do we accept immigrants at all?
The cheif reasons are economic. Again, nothing to do with fairness.

2024 years ago

Walking a fine line

The Currency Lad urges Laborite bloggers to discuss the AWU’s criticism of employers who use Chinese guest workers. No worries. As Mark Bahnisch points out, the racist overtones of the AWU’s comments are undeniable and unacceptable.

However, it is…