Is it time to say goodbye to fair play in the politics of Australian population growth? Welcome to a new, hard-nosed concept in immigration—the Successful Integration Index.
The main idea of this article is to offer a practical and objective tool for selecting immigrants, based on the record of immigrant groups already settled in Australia. At present we choose immigrants based on their predicted future value to society—judging by their skills, age, capital, connections to Australia and so on. However, such predictions are fallible.
How can we predict the future ability of potential immigrants to integrate into the new and sometimes alien culture of contemporary Australia? I suggest including the statistically valid record of integration into Australian life of the immigrant group a potential settler is a part of. This review could be based on the country of origin or ethnicity or religious affiliation or all of these indicators together. But until more sophisticated techniques can be developed, country of origin would have to suffice for now.
As an indicator of future behaviour, the past is one of the most reliable predictors we have. When we look for someone to do a job of work, the most important criterion in our decision is the previous experience of the individual. We use the individual’s past experience to predict the likelihood of future employment success. In psychiatry the assessment of an individual’s likelihood of suicide depends to a considerable degree on the existence of previous suicidal attempts. The assessment of an individual’s dangerousness is also based mostly on any history of violence.
The validity of basing predictions on the previous experience of individuals has been demonstrated countless times, aberrations and mistakes notwithstanding. If we were to accept that a group of people from the same background would, statistically, have some common features, then the same group of people would statistically have similar responses to the same conditions, pressures and challenges. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to extrapolate this hypothesis to the supposition that the various immigration groups’ responses to the challenges of immigration and absorption would have consistent statistical patterns, and that these patterns would vary from group to group.
It therefore makes no sense not to use the previous integration and absorption track record of various immigrant groups in assessing their future members’ statistical suitability for settlement in Australia. Those who ignore the lessons of history are bound to repeat them.
Few subjects in the national discourse provoke as much heated debate as the composition and size of our immigration intake. Cries of racism, emotionally laden pleas for compassion, subjective and sometimes downright irrational diatribes dominate the immigration discourse. The seemingly inexhaustible plethora of visa categories, unending streams and waterfalls of bureaucratic appendices, corrections, clarifications and addenda applicable to eligibility criteria in the next half an hour but not tomorrow, the zigs and zags of political vacillations—our immigration system at the moment amounts to a veritable migration agent’s paradise.
In the never-ending population debate, the question of utility occupies a poor second or even third place; fairness and non-discrimination seem to be driving our immigration program. We are so preoccupied with the non-discriminatory nature of the immigration process that we accord an equal status to all groups of prospective immigrants, regardless of the records of their absorption history. In other words, we seem to put more emphasis on what others might think of us than on the national interest. I believe the time has come to disregard the criteria imposed on our national discourse by others and unashamedly look after our own future. To do this, we have to compare the record of integration of all immigrant groups by country of origin, religion and ethnicity. We should ask a simple question: How well did these groups integrate? If certain groups are unsuccessful in the process of integration in Australia, should not we start asking hard-nosed questions:
• Do we want these people?
• Do we need these people?
• Are they likely to be successfully absorbed and integrated into the complex and multicoloured fabric of contemporary Australia?
• Are they likely to be a drain on the public purse?
• Are members of these groups so reliant on government largesse that they draw unemployment benefits generation after generation?
• Are they peaceful?
• Is there statistically valid evidence of increased violent crime or incarceration among the group?
• Are they paying their fair share of taxes?
• Are subsequent generations, the children of the original immigrants, working, studying and intermarrying with Australians from outside their group?
• Or does this progeny give reasons for concern by their anti-social behaviour?
On the other hand, with the groups that are successful in their integration efforts—should we not increase their immigration numbers and reduce or abolish completely the numbers of the unsuccessful? This would put the onus for an improvement of the Successful Integration Index on the members of the existing immigrant group members. They, quite naturally, would wish to improve their index in order not to lose the immigration numbers available to their group. Therefore, the important principle of personal as well as group responsibility could be established—the better an immigrant group integrates, the more chances it gets to bring its loved ones to Australia.
I do bear in mind the potential for law-abiding and productive members of the unsuccessful group to be unfairly affected by this approach. But in this case the successful members of the unsuccessful group would feel personally motivated to increase the Successful Integration Index of their group by displaying less tolerance towards the recalcitrant, anti-social members of their group.
Before the multicultural brigade starts jumping up and down and hurling accusations of racism at me—the reaction which is, invariably, the fate of debate on many inconvenient topics in Australia—let me state clearly and unequivocally: I don’t care about the race, colour, religion, ethnicity of a potential immigrant to Australia. My only reason in writing this article is my unwillingness to live next door to people who are unable or unwilling to integrate into our society. The consequences of this unwillingness or inability could be catastrophic to the nation. Just keep in mind the recent Paris riots and the ugliest features of Londonistan.
I suggest an approach to the assessment of the integration success of immigrant groups, which includes refugees, on the basis of a relatively simple ratio. I offer only two criteria for such an assessment, where, in fact, many more could be utilised because the number of factors, or confounders, influencing the type of conclusion one could come to is endless.
Let us, as a start, equate the success of integration with the ability to contribute to the public purse by paying taxes. In my opinion, the best way to assess the usefulness of a migrant to the country is to follow the money trail. It could be done by calculating the median per capita monetary contribution of Mr and Mrs Average Immigrant of XYZ group to the national economy by the amount of taxes they pay. It should be relatively simple to compare immigrant groups on the basis of the country of origin after, say, ten or fifteen years of life in Australia.
However, after several unsuccessful attempts to gain the relevant statistical data from the Immigration Department, the Tax Office, Centrelink and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, I had to give up. This kind of data is guarded well. It appears to be a state secret. Here I appeal to the readers of Quadrant—is there anyone with access to this kind of information and the resources to process it? I promise complete confidentiality. Surely, both political parties would be interested. Or not. Too controversial. Could be politically incorrect. Even the brave and intellectually robust campaign by John Stone did not seem to produce an appropriate response from our politicians.
With increasing life expectancy and the ageing of Australian society, the rationing of public resources is fast becoming reality. The increase in public spending, especially in health care and allied areas of expenditure, such as Medicare, veterans’ affairs, housing, psychogeriatrics, personal care and pharmacology is going to increase exponentially. The tax base needed for such expenditure is going to be inadequate, unavoidably leading to service rationing. The most dangerous but rarely mentioned result of this process is the increase of the power of the bureaucracy in charge of the rationing over the lives of Australians. It will lead to the curtailment of the personal freedom we value so much and currently take for granted. The bureaucrats will have to make life-and-death decisions, governed by little else but economic considerations. Quite simply, there are not enough resources to go around. The great majority of aged Australians will have to rely on the crumbs from the resource table with grievous results to themselves and their families.
The answer, unsurprisingly, lies in widening the tax base, by increasing the taxpaying population. That’s where the unproductive immigrant, apart from drawing scarce resources away from those who have paid taxes all their lives, decreases the freedom of all Australians, by increasing the power of bureaucrats in charge of resource distribution—precisely the Soviet model so many people came to Australia to avoid.
The mean per head public resources expenditure used while assisting new arrivals to settle could be regarded as a fair reflection of the ease or the difficulty of absorbability. In other words, the more public money had to be spent on the statistical Mr and Mrs Average Immigrant, who came to Australia from the same country of origin, the less promising their group is in terms of integration. However—we still do not know these figures. Call it value for money, drain on the public purse, call it what you will. Some people use public resources as if they are entitled to any amount of it regardless. Ideally, of course, immigrants who require a minimum of public expenditure are preferable. I suspect that we might find considerable differences between various immigration groups as far as public payment for their integration goes. These differences, I expect, would be measurable by the best yardstick available—dollars and cents. I also suspect that the average per capita proportion of some immigrant groups would be well represented within the Centrelink and Medicare systems, being the long-term recipients of public largesse. I would even hazard a guess that some groups might be over-represented. It should not be difficult to correlate the statistical average of per capita long-term Centrelink payments with country of origin. It would also be instructive to know whether this expenditure goes up or down time goes by. After all, how long should it take after arriving in the country to find a job and start paying taxes?
Do we need to import overseas thugs to supplement our home-grown ones? Some immigrant groups seem to be involved in more violent crime than others. The impact of violent crime, like almost any other sociological phenomenon, could and must be expressed in dollars and cents. This impact should be calculated in relation to both personal and social costs, including monetary damage to the victims’ lives and their ability to pay taxes, and their rehabilitation costs. The overall cost of policing, crime investigation, court procedures and incarceration should be added to the bill. If this hypothesis were borne out by the statistical evidence, the rational response would be:
• Reduction or even discontinuation of migration from this violent source and the transfer of the freed eligibility to a more peaceful source.
• Imposition of the obligation on the perpetrator to repay the costs and damages before deportation. (The payment of these costs, by the way, should be a required part of any violent crime retribution, regardless of the origin of the offender, but this is from another opera.)
The habitual perpetrator or repeat offender, if not born in Australia, should be deported regardless of any acquired Australian citizenship, which should be stripped. Some European countries have started doing this.
In the case of a violent crime committed under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs, the influence of these substances should be regarded as an added evidence of guilt and merit a higher degree of a punishment.
In the uncertain world of today we are all affected by potential threats to our way of life. Radicalisation of some religious and political groups is a fact of our reality. I am not talking about the seedy anarchists, stoned Trotskyites and other anti-capitalist braves who have not noticed the fall of the Berlin Wall. These old warriors (or should I say fossils?), are as relevant as the news that the English are coming to attack their rebellious North American colonies. The beauty and quiet strength of Australian democracy are such that even these ossified relics are able to openly broadcast their views on the radio without fear for their freedom or safety. We could be reasonably sure that the 3CR revolutionaries and the pinot noir Marxist academics from our universities are not even remotely interested in making a revolution in Australia. They prefer it to happen somewhere else.
I am talking about the Islamist militants who thrive on the freedoms accorded by Western culture, the same culture they work tirelessly to destroy. The militant Islamic threat seems to have supplanted the communist one. Despite superficial differences, they are similar in sharing the ideology of unfreedom, a messianic mindset, and the readiness to kill non-believers. There is only one difference between these two ideologies relevant to this essay—the Soviets locked up their empire tight and did not threaten the demographic composition of Western society. The Islamists, on the other hand, use migration as just another weapon in jihad, flooding Western European countries with scarcely literate, unemployable and virtually unintegratable Islamic huddled masses.
Western Europe is in the throes of demographic and religious conflict. The USA is not. Western Europe is struggling to absorb, acculturate and integrate their Muslim populations, without visible success. The USA has no such difficulties. The Muslim youth riots and the ban of the burqa and niqab in France, emergence of areas where the local police dare not go, Muslim intimidation and violence towards the non-Islamic citizenry, murders and trials in the Netherlands, assault on freedom of speech under the banner of the defence of the prophet Mohammed in Denmark, a ban on minaret construction in Switzerland—taken as a whole it is frightening. There is none of the above in the USA, though.
Why such a difference? In my opinion, the difference is the result of the composition of the immigration intake. It appears Western Europe has lost control of its borders. As a result, anyone can come in, wanted or not. The combination of non-selective (that is, legal) and spontaneous (illegal) immigration, driven by humane considerations, by principles of equality and brotherhood, has drawn people from the poorest and least educated groups in the Islamic countries. Educated, employable Muslim migrants go to the USA and Canada, and as a rule do not subscribe to the idiocies of the proponents of jihad. As a result, Americans, by and large, do not suffer the consequences of the loss of border control, the porosity of the USA-Mexican border notwithstanding. Should not we heed the lesson?
I am a former refugee myself and I remember, with frightening clarity, the intensity of fear, uncertainty and bewilderment I experienced at that painful time of my and my family’s life. I remember the long and anxious wait for the decision to grant us entry visas to Australia, the relief of being safe and the joy of working, standing on one’s feet. I remember meeting Malcolm Fraser twenty years after our arrival, when I came up to the man by chance and said, rather emotionally, “Thank you for letting me and my family into Australia.”
I remember it all. We all remember it. Our family mark the anniversary of our day of arrival in Australia as “Freedom Day” every year. But most of all I remember the feeling of total helplessness, total powerlessness of belonging nowhere; the head-spinning joy of being accepted for resettlement came later. After living in this country for more than thirty years it is my considered belief that Australia is the kindest and fairest country on the planet in the way it treats its new arrivals. I am certain that most former refugees who were resettled in Australia would share my view. The semi-hysterical accusations of Australians as being racist do not ring true to me at all. Aussies are the most welcoming and tolerant people I have ever met in my life. But does that mean that we want the problems of the West Europeans? Does it mean that we have to act against our national interests? Or should we admit people only after rigorous screening and making sure they will not be a drain on our resources, taking away those resources from more deserving people? I do not believe Australia needs to be told by the corrupt and inept UN how to be compassionate towards those in genuine distress. We are not obliged, however, to act against our national interest, humanity and compassion notwithstanding.
This is where the index I advocate could come in useful. For example, we have a group of Tamils fleeing the consequences of the civil war in Sri Lanka. Instead of the unseemly spectacle of these unfortunate people appealing to world opinion, damaging the good name of our country in the process, our immigration people could consult the track record of the Tamil community in Australia. They could compare Australia’s resettlement expenditure versus the Tamil community’s contribution and decide whether this particular group, subject to the usual security screening, is a statistically acceptable prospect for resettlement in Australia. If the Tamil community’s contribution to Australia is at least equal to the government’s resettlement expenses for them—admit these people. No fuss, no embarrassment, no loss of face. What’s more, there is scope for a compassion element in it—we are not governed by dollars and cents alone. However, it has to be open, it has to be transparent and it has to be done within a reasonable time. Those selected for resettlement in Australia, subject to a stringent security screening, should be assisted with language and marketable skills while being processed. Let’s put the onus for admission or non-admission of refugees on their kin who are already here, instead of playing God ourselves.
I would say that immigration, including refugees, has become so difficult for one reason only—Australians are decent people, living in a decent country. So we all are, to a degree, victims of our own humanity and decency—we do not do things to others that we would not wish to be done to us. Should we be angry with ourselves that our country has become a synonym around the world for freedom, prosperity and safety? Or should we be justifiably proud? I say we should be proud but humble, humane but not a soft touch, compassionate but not suicidal in our compassion.
When we came to Australia, we learned two simple rules Australians apply to all newcomers.
The first rule: Welcome. Have a beer, mate. But leave your troubles where you came from, don’t bring them here.
The second rule: You say you can do it. We believe you. Now show us.
Australia has given every possible chance and every break under the sun to those who came to live here. The time has come to evaluate this generosity and see which immigrant groups have used it to their and the country’s advantage. Those who have been good to Australia should be rewarded.
Dr Michael Galak and his family came to Australia as refugees from the Soviet Union in 1978.