With support from both conservatives and the Greens
TRADITIONS based on heritage, sporting culture and common language are threatened by mass immigration, a leading demographer has warned. Monash University population expert Dr Bob Birrell has said the huge influx of people with few or no English skills had created social problems in Melbourne suburbs such as Dandenong, Sunshine and Broadmeadows and most major cities were feeling the population strain, the Herald Sun reported. “This is not a pretty picture,” he said. “Social divisions are becoming more obvious and geographically concentrated and certain areas are being overlain by an ethnic identification.”
Dr Birrell made the explosive comments in an article for Policy, a magazine published by the Centre for Independent Studies, a right-wing think tank. In a plea to the Rudd Government to slash the current immigrant intake of 180,000 a year, Dr Birrell warned that the predicted population of 35 million by 2050 would be a disaster for urban living and the environment. “One would have to wander deaf, dumb and blind through Australian capital cities to not notice how urban congestion has already reduced the quality of life,” he said.
The intake dominated by people from non-English speaking backgrounds was transforming Australia, Dr Birrell said. “We are losing core elements of what was once shared. Almost all could once aspire to a house and land … and sharing a common language, sporting culture and heritage,” he said.
But mass migration was creating ethnic enclaves in suburbs with cheap housing, and planning rules were forcing Australian-born “losers” and non-English speaking background migrants to live in congested neighbourhoods, “cheek by jowl”.
Kevin Rudd has made it clear that he believes in a big Australia. In a recent speech he declared that migration was “good for our national security, good for our long-term prosperity, good in enhancing our role in the region and the world”.
But the Federal Opposition and the Greens said questions needed to be asked about Australia’s immigration plans. Opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, told the ABC there should be an inquiry into how many people the nation can support. “It’s about what the carrying capacity is,” he said. “We need to get that perspective from regional areas as well as metropolitan areas, where issues of congestion and housing affordability are major problems as well as public transport.
“What’s more important, is the process for planning. For example, the states and territories have no input into questions of immigration and migration intakes but they’re the ones at the end of the day that have to service the needs that are created by it.”
Greens Leader Bob Brown said there should be an independent national inquiry into Australia’s population target. “So that politicians do have an idea of the carrying capacity of this country, its infrastructure, its ability to deal with those quite worrying projections of 35 million people by 2050,” he said. “We’ve got to do better than just say well let it happen.”
Other leading academics have also questioned the challenge that mass intake of migrants will pose. In their book Australia’s Immigration Revolution, Andrew Markus, James Jupp and Peter McDonald agrue that while immigration “offers ‘the most immediate and simplest short term measure to deal with labour and skills shortages” it also comes with serious questions about social cohesion.
Prior to the 1950s 80 per cent of immigrants came from the United Kingdom. Between the 50s and the 1960s migrants from continental Europe became the majority.
After the abolition of the White Australia policy in the early 1970s the mixture of migration changed again. Today, the largest proportion of immigrants come from Asia and Oceania. China and India rival New Zealand and Britain as the biggest source of immigrants.