Kurti defines a concept, ‘hard multiculturalism’, which he says is “a determined drive to promote diversity as a moral and political end”. This drive is said to infringe on individual liberty. Hard multiculturalism “conceives of the nation as a collection of ethnic and cultural groups, each deserving of equal treatment and respect”.
However Kurti does not identify any government policies which advocate to shape the nation this way. I have never heard a progressive politician call for multiculturalism to mean pluralism, entrenching difference. I’m also unsure of where diversity has been promoted explicitly as an outcome in itself.
Kurti raises organisations like the Diversity Council of Australia and the Australian Multicultural Council. While it is fair to object to these organisations based on legitimate ideological differences, I have not seen either organisation call for what Kurti defines as “hard multiculturalism”.
To me, this report seeks to conflate multiculturalism with radicalism. Kurti approvingly quotes Scott Morrison:
“It surely cannot be the purpose of multicultural policy that Australians elect to disengage from our society for religious, cultural or ethnic reasons.”
This again is an example of establishing a straw man argument supposedly made by progressives (Kurti singles out Bronwyn Hinz and Tim Soutphommasane, although not in relation to this specific quote). Of course that is not the purpose of multicultural policy and for Morrison to infer this is what has occurred in the past is an attempt to undermine the concept itself.
Reports like Kurti’s do not advance the cause of individual liberty. Instead, where there is potentially room for sensible discussion about multiculturalism and the institutions which support it, he fills the space with an argument against the state itself and a return to assimilation policies of the past.
Lake is a former Immigration public servant, with experience on Christmas Island, Curtin and Nauru. I’m not a religious person myself, and I struggled a little bit with the overt Christianity in this article.
However it is extremely rare to get a middle manager former public servants take on policy issues are both current and the centre of political debate. This part in particular is fascinating:
“The most challenging part of that position was when I was asked to select some people from family groups to be transferred to Manus Island.
My instructions (from the Minister for Immigration’s office) were to find families with children as young as possible (because we had to send a message to people smugglers that children, even young children, weren’t exempt). We couldn’t transfer children under seven, as they couldn’t be inoculated against Japanese Encephalitis or Malaria, so I had to choose children who looked young, to send a message to people smugglers.
As I was looking at the names of these young children, knowing that I was sending them to a place where they had no hope for the future, I found myself crossing an ethical line that I simply couldn’t live with.”
I don’t believe, in the main, it is the place of public servants to leak against policies they disagree. However someone like Lake, who quit his job and did not leak (from what I understand), is in an excellent position to help the public understand a different perspective rarely seen. This doesn’t mean his position should be accepted uncritically, only that his piece adds to a complex area of public policy where we do not see the entire story.
Another perspective we rarely hear from in labour market debates is the experience of small and medium businesses. While groups such as ACCI and AI Group know how to make themselves heard, it is always more authentic when it comes straight from employers. Seasonal labour in regional towns is a real issue, one which the Seasonal Worker Program was intended to address:
“As you are probably aware, one of the requirements we have to fulfill before being allowed by our government to employ Pacific seasonal workers is to make all positions available to Australians first. Well, so far, over the past four years, we have advertised something like 1,000 positions. We have a policy of offering a position to all Australians who complete the application. So we have offered a total of about 50 Australians positions. Of these 50 or so, we have had less than 15 starters, and less than five who have stayed for the six months required.”
1,000 positions, of which five have worked for a six month period. A less than one per cent success rate in filling vacancies with local labour.
This is a well worn discussion. Some will say to raise wages and encourage more workers. I think this is probably true. However when working off such a low base from which to start, what constitutes success? 3 per cent? 5 per cent? Stories like this clearly highlight the role for low skilled workers in parts of the agricultural industry. The fact these jobs have massive development impacts for Pacific island countries is the main benefit, however maintaining economic activity also seems like a positive contribution.
She goes on to explain the productivity gains delivered by Pacific migrants. She ends with a positive note, “I know of no employer who has tried it and then decided not to continue with it”.
The UK is in the middle of a massive public conversation about the role immigration should play. This report is avidly pro-immigration however has a good collection of views in the main body of the text, including the Minister for Immigration (driving the cap on immigration), the Minister for Business (from the Liberal Democrats and a big supporter of migration) and the Shadow Minister for Immigration.