Should the Immigration Minister sit on the National Security Committee of Cabinet?

The Immigration Minister might not sit on the National Security Committee of Cabinet. Does this mean anything?

Yes.

Forget about political payback because Dutton supported Abbott. This is a whacky theory concocted by those drunk on leadership talk. Instead give the Prime Minister the luxury assumption he is behaving because he has Australia’s best interests at heart.

Bill Shorten did not think much of this move:

I would have thought that if you’re fair dinkum about national security then you would have your representative in border security sitting regularly, permanently, on the national security committee of cabinet,” the Opposition Leader said.

 

I assume Peter Dutton doesn’t think much of it either.

But there are two other considerations. The first is purely practical. Is this the best use of the Minister’s time? This is the line the Prime Minister pursued on RN Drive last night defending his decision. Peter Dutton will be there when it is relevant to border protection.

But a different tack is whether Immigration should be represented on the National Security Committee?

I believe an Immigration Minister prioritising national security sends the wrong signal to the Minister and the bureaucracy. Any benefits are outweighed by playing into nationalistic stereotypes aroused by the combination of migration, security and borders. This creates terrible incentives for people who make decisions each day about what to prioritise in migration and border policy. Economic, social and cultural considerations are each pushed away from resources when security is raised.

Over Australian history, the negatives of migration pale in comparison to the benefits. Yet the explicit focus on security, fear and risk pose an existential threat to how we think about migration in the future. If Malcolm Turnbull has managed even a small step away from the current trend of embedding migration and security ever closer together, I for one am glad. There are many more steps but Australians who believe in a robust, generous multicultural Australia should applaud this decision.

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