We were discussing immigration. I can’t remember the exact words but one of my number at lunch was saying that we needed a bigger Australia to defend ourselves. A worthy point. But someone responded. Defend who? He asked, pointedly. And, in my view, insightfully.
You might have to think about it. Just take a little leap into the future of this increasingly multiracial, multicultural, polyglot nation. Now think of Churchill’s speech: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” No doubt who the ‘we’ were. The ‘we’ were men and women of Britain. Thirty-two years later Gough spoke to “men and woman of Australia.” He didn’t need to say that we are many but we are one. We knew ‘we’ were one.
Since then Australia, along with most Western countries, has brought in millions upon millions of people with different traditions and loyalties, often starkly different. It’s not clear to me that the collective ‘we’ will continue to have the same currency as in the past.
Mostly when I talk apprehensively about the composition of our flawed immigration policy, I have Muslims foremost in mind. Nothing against people, as individuals, who happen to be Muslim, by the way. It’s the hateful scripture and religious ideology that spawn supremacist, radical intolerant and discriminatory attitudes that bothers me. But for that everything would be hunky-dory.
However, this time around I am not banging on about Muslim immigration specifically, but about the sheer numbers of immigrants from the non-Western parts of the world. Yes, I admit it, ‘the other’ makes me apprehensive when they are coming in very large numbers. I insist that I am not xenophobic. I simply like our way of life. And I also believe that our cohesiveness is a strength in times of distress and peril. Diversity I am not so sure about. I’m with Honest Abe: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
It’s inevitable that a large-scale immigration will include people with different traditions and loyalties. That’s fine to a point, provided their numbers are small enough to ensure that they will not Balkanise society and will eventually assimilate. Those who believe in globalism are living a myth. Whenever people get the chance they gravitate to their own kind. This does not change by stuffing them into tight geographical proximity. And, it particularly doesn’t change if separate groupings are large enough and culturally distinct enough to form ongoing separate societies within society at large.
The latest available immigration figures (for 2016-17)[i] show that the net intake of both permanent and “temporary” migrants was 262,000 (rounded). A supplementary set of tables (you have to look for them) shows migration by country. I laboriously added up migrants from countries with a Western tradition. I was expansive including, for example, migrants from south and central America, from Hong Kong and Singapore, and from Eastern Europe. I found the numbers summed to around 78,000. This leaves 184,00 from, shall we say, elsewhere.
China bulked largest, at a little over 50,000. India was a close second at over 49,000. Pakistan supplied 7,000. Nepal came in at near to 15,000. Who knew? Over 27,000 came from North African and the Middle Eastern countries (e.g., Iraq 9,801, Syria 8,170). The UK, incidentally, came in at a relatively paltry 10,690. Long gone are the days when the UK supplied more migrants than did any other country.
When I first arrived in Australia 1965 my second job was in a small departmental office of a company which made and repaired petrol pumps. There were about twelve of us: four migrants and eight Aussies. There was English me, and guys born in Italy, Holland and Lithuania. I remember the Lithuanian taking a day off to go spit at the Russian ambassador who was visiting Sydney. Another thing I remember is that there was no question of us melding into Australian society. None at all. My three fellow migrants, who had been in Australia for much longer than I, were as much a part of Australia, its values and culture, as were the homegrown Aussies.
Immigration cannot be just a numbers game. These days apparently you can discriminate on the basis of skills, on family connections and on a range of other criteria but not on country of origin or culture. Avoiding ghettos should be brought into the equation as an objective. This would inevitably lead to country-of-origin and specific-culture limits (sometimes set at zero). ‘We’ are rapidly running out of time; if it is not already too late. Of course, there will still be an Australia in name. It just won’t seem as sweet.
[i] 3412.0 – Migration, Australia, 2016-17