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Tag Archives: citizenship

Why would anybody want to re-elect this government?

Voters must have an intense dislike of asylum seekers.

The latest Morgan Poll is great for the government, which sees them leading the opposition 56.5/43.5.

Taking away personalities (ie, disregarding that many people obviously like Malcolm Turnbull), it really is hard to see what the government has going for them.

If re-elected, they will make life harder or more miserable for near on all of the population. “Yes we can” says the poster. And yes they will. For example, if re-elected they:

  • will be doing nothing to address climate change
  • will possibly increase the GST, costing each family about $4,000 a year
  • will continue to ignore science of any description
  • will be doing nothing about housing affordability
  • will be doing nothing about the high unemployment levels
  • will be providing us with internet speeds that are the worst in the world
  • will continue to tighten the screws for people on welfare or income support
  • will still be giving billions to the mining companies
  • they will do nothing about the huge gap in wealth inequality (quite the opposite, they will continue to pander to the rich)
  • will do nothing to help the disadvantaged in our society (they will probably cut funding even further)
  • will continue to beat around the bush as far as same-sex marriage goes
  • have intentions of changing the media ownership laws which will give Murdoch even more control of our media (and they’ll probably cut funding to the ABC even further)
  • will continue to demonise innocent people (Gillian Triggs is a good example)
  • will make it more costly to see a doctor or a specialist
  • if economists are correct, the government will lead us into a recession
  • will keep ripping coal out of our beautiful country – coal that nobody wants
  • will make tertiary education unaffordable
  • will strip away our citizenship if (as a dual citizen) we do as much as destroy a government owned coffee table
  • will spy on our every movement
  • will jail anybody who dares report on atrocities committed by the government
  • . . . and on and on the list goes

But . . . they will keep telling us that they’ve stopped the boats and we’re safe from all those murderous would-be terrorists that did sneak through because they’re all locked up now on Nauru or Manus Island and with any luck they will either rot to death or be sent to a country with an unpronounceable name where they can perish without our knowledge.

And no matter how much misery this Coalition government casts over our own lives we will vote for them because of their asylum seekers policies.

And it’s got me beat.

 

Aliens, Allegiance to Australia and 1984

What do aliens, allegiance to Australia and 1984 have in common? Surprisingly, not George Orwell’s spookily accurate prediction of life under the Abbott Government in 2015; albeit 30 years later than anticipated. The plot of Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-four, is scarily similar to the current political regime; an authoritarian government controlled by the privileged and elite, a climate of perpetual war, mass surveillance, public manipulation through media control, and the persecution of dissenters. While there are no aliens in Orwell’s fictional masterpiece, aliens are certainly relevant to Abbott’s utopian concept of Team Australia in an increasingly dystopian nation. And crucial to the notion of allegiance to Australia.

Abbott is obsessed with national security. He has strengthened anti-terror laws, passed legislation to mandate data retention, enacted draconian measures to deter refugees seeking asylum in Australia, threatened jail for doctors and teachers and nurses speaking out about abuse in detention centres, and undermined the independence of the national broadcaster.

Most recently he has proposed stripping dual nationals (and sole nationals if Abbott has his way), of citizenship. This builds on the existing and fervently applied law used to deport non-citizens who do not pass a so-called ‘character test’. According to existing law from the leading case of Shaw v MIMA [2003], the Government has free reign to deport non-citizens, even if a person has spent decades living in the country.

There is no doubt that the Parliament can enact laws for the purpose of national security and take steps to protect Australia’s borders. The Constitution in section 51 gives the Federal Government powers to enact laws ‘for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth’ in areas such as naval and military defence, naturalisation and aliens, immigration and emigration, the influx of criminals and external affairs.

While Abbot’s dual citizenship plan and concept of Allegiance to Australia is arguably unconstitutional, how does it relate to the deportation of permanent residents, which at the moment appears to be perfectly lawful?

It comes down to the concept of aliens.

In the ordinary sense, an alien is a person of a foreign country. And the Government, according to the Constitution, has the powers to make laws on aliens. The long title of the Migration Act 1958 states that it is: ‘An Act relating to the entry into, and presence in, Australia of aliens, and the departure or deportation from Australia of aliens and certain other persons’.

The power for the Minister to cancel the visa of an Australian resident is found in section 501 of the Migration Act. Visas can be cancelled for a range of reasons, including failure to pass strict ‘character tests’, being a threat to national security, or where a person has a substantial criminal record. In some cases there is no right to natural justice, and no right to see any of the evidence on which the Minister based his decision.

In the past year alone, the Minister has cancelled over 600 visas. Many of the people deported or facing deportation are classed as British subjects, are eligible to vote and have lived in Australia since childhood. This is significant.

But what of aliens?

While Australians have referred to themselves as such for the best part of a century, up until 1973 they swore allegiance to the Queen of the United Kingdom, and they had the status of British subjects until 1987. In fact, in the 1971 census, 12,033286 of 12,755638 Australians reported that they were British. There was no option to report as an Australian Citizen despite the Nationality and Citizenship Act creating the concept of the Australian citizen in 1948. As late as 1967, Australian passports still bore the words, ‘British Passport’. It wasn’t until changes to the Citizenship Act in 1969 that Australians became citizens first and British subjects second.

In 1973, the title of Queen of Australia was created by statute, replacing the Queen of the United Kingdom for the purposes of allegiance.

The question must be asked:

Did Australians, born as British subjects and under allegiance to the Queen of the United Kingdom, individually and formally swear allegiance to the new Queen of Australia in 1973? Did all those Australians, born in Australia before 1973 renounce their allegiance to the Queen of the United Kingdom? Of course not.

In 1973, the residents of Australia, whether or not born on Australian soil, became subjects of the Queen of Australia, by way of being resident in Australia at that time. They still remained British subjects.

And until 1987, an alien was defined as a person who did not have the status of British subject.

This is where it gets confusing.

The Migration Act, while purporting in the long title to be about aliens, now refers to non-citizens rather than aliens.

And just like that, with the change of a couple of words in a statute, British subjects who were not naturalised, but who until that time had been lawfully living, working, voting and participating in public life in Australia, become subject to the Migration Act, were classed as statutory aliens and liable for deportation.

The Australian Constitution does not mention citizens. It refers to people of the Commonwealth, and people and residents of the States. The Members of the House of Representative and Senators are elected by the people of the Commonwealth and the people of the States who are eligible to vote. The Constitution also states in section 41, that where a person has the right to vote, they cannot be prevented from voting. Before 1973, the status of Australian residents was clear. They were British subjects. Citizenship was irrelevant to their capacity to participate in public life. And the status of Australians after 1987 is also clear. Australians must now be citizens to participate in public life and have security of domicile. Before 1987, but after 1948, those born in Australia were both Australian citizens and British subjects. However something has clearly gone wrong for non-naturalised British subjects who became subjects of the Queen of Australia in 1973, and are for all other purposes Australian.

But why is 1984 relevant?

The Government has previously recognised the unique status of non-naturalised British subjects in Australia. Those who were not citizens, but were on the Commonwealth electoral roll on 25 January 1984, retained the right to vote and participate in both state and federal elections. Not only did they have the right to vote, they were legally obliged to.

So the question must be asked:

How is it that a person, previously afforded full rights, protections and responsibilities by their status as a British subject, lose those same rights on the whim of a Government who has changed the statutory definition of who is entitled to remain in Australia?

How can a British subject who migrated to Australia before 1973, when all Australian’s were classed as British subjects and under allegiance to the Queen of the United Kingdom, and who became a subject of the Queen of Australia in 1973 by way of residence, suddenly become classed as an alien?

At what point, did a British subject, not only permanently residing in Australia, but eligible to vote and elect the Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, become considered an alien?

At what point did a Government Minister, elected by the votes of the people of the Commonwealth including those British subjects eligible to vote, gain the power to deport those same people who by fulfilling their legal obligation to vote, helped elect said Minister?

At what point, did the same British subject, eligible to vote in a referendum – the mechanism by which the Constitution may be changed, lose the right to permanently live in Australia and be liable for deportation?

Can the Government even change the constitutional meaning of an alien, to make unlawful a person previously lawful, without a referendum?

It does not make sense that a person should be legally obliged to vote in a referendum, when the desired outcome is to enable the mechanism to deport that same person. It would be akin to signing their own deportation orders.

And in the same way, it does not make sense that the Government can change the status of Australians, so that those Australians, albeit not naturalised, lose the rights to domicile and vote, when that Government was elected by and to represent those same people now at risk of deportation.

In 1993, the Federal Government created an invisible type of visa for every person permanently resident in Australian but not naturalised. It did not matter if this person arrived before 1973, or if they were eligible to vote or stand for public office. Each and every one of these people was issued with an invisible visa. It is this invisible visa, created by statute and applying retrospectively, that the Minister is cancelling in accordance with section 501 of the Migration Act. And this means that of any one of the 162,928 British subjects on the Australian electoral roll in 2008 could be deported.

The ramifications of the proposed Allegiance to Australia Bill emerge. If the Government can change lawful residents into aliens by virtue of legislation – lawful residents who had the same rights and legal status as citizens, can it change the status of Australian citizens and turn them into aliens too? Could a person, born in Australia and having lived in Australia all their life, suddenly be declared an alien and deported, on the whim of the reigning Government? Could legislation be enacted and apply retrospectively, depriving an Australian of the only home they have ever known?

The concept of the Australian Citizen is found in legislation. It did not exist before 1948. And somewhere between 1973, when all Australians were classed as British subjects, and 1987, when the Australia Act came into effect, those British subjects who were not born in Australia lost the protection and certainty of domicile.

A team of Tasmanian lawyers are challenging the notion of what it means to be an alien. Led by Barristers, Mr Greg Melick SC and Mr Ray Broomhall, an application has just been filed in the High Court of Australia to argue that the Migration Act 1958 does not apply to a British subject, resident in Australia before 1973 and enrolled to vote in 1984. The Applicant, Mr Cayzer, is challenging his deportation on the basis that the Minister cannot cancel the visa of a person who until recently, had exactly the same rights and responsibilities of an Australian citizen. Mr Cazyer asserts that the Minister simply cannot redefine what it means to be an alien by legislation then retrospectively apply that definition to people who have always called Australia home.

In the leading case of Shaw, Mr Shaw, a British subject, arrived in Australia after 1973, so did not have allegiance to the Queen of Australia. He was not eligible to vote. Mr Cayzer’s case can be distinguished from this by the fact he actively and lawfully participated in public life in Australia. Mr Cayzer was a British subject who arrived in Australia in 1965. He has voted as a person of the Commonwealth to elect representatives in the federal parliament. And those representatives are now seeking to strip him of his right of domicile and right to vote.

The High Court has never before been asked to differentiate between a non-citizen resident in Australia before 1973 and who has the right to vote, and one who arrived after that time. While Mr Shaw was found to be an alien for the purposes of the Migration Act, Mr Cayzer alleges he became a subject of Australia in 1973.

There is no guarantee that the High Court will accept the application and answer the questions. But if it does, it will be an important case. It will redefine what it means to be Australian.

And it will have serious implications for Abbott’s concept of allegiance to Australia.

 

Absolute crap

One thing that has become increasingly apparent about Tony Abbott is that he gears his words to his audience.  If that meant explaining policies at a level that the audience could comprehend, that could be a good thing, but in the case of our Prime Minister, it means saying what you think they want to hear even if it is inconsistent with, or even diametrically opposed to what you have told a different audience.

When Tony visited a meeting of 130 farmers and townspeople in Beaufort in September 2009, he called for a show of hands on whether the Coalition should support the ETS. Only a handful voted yes.

Abbott, until that point Turnbull’s main defender on the ETS, quickly donned his sceptic’s hat and played to the room discussing how there had been many changes of climate over the millennia not caused by man, leading to that infamous quote

“The argument is absolute crap. However, the politics of this are tough for us. Eighty per cent of people believe climate change is a real and present danger.”

His comments were warmly received in this rural heartland and that was when Tony realised that he may have a shot at the leadership if he became a climate change denier.

After he staged his leadership takeover, Abbott tried to cover-up his backflip describing his use of “crap” as “a bit of hyperbole” and not his “considered position” and said it was made “in the context of a very heated discussion where I was attempting to argue people around to what I thought was then our position”.

Absolute crap say the people who were at the meeting.

Event organiser Jim Cox said Abbott’s comment was “very well received” and he quickly realised “he was on a bit of a winner”.  Vice-president of the Beaufort branch of the Liberal Party Joe McCracken said Abbott looked relieved by the applause.

Buoyed by his success, Tony used the same approach when he attended a luncheon event on International Women’s Day in 2010.

What would women want to hear?  I know…we are going to give you universal paid parental leave on replacement wages plus superannuation for six months and we are going to scrap Labor’s $150,000- a-year income limit on the $5185 Baby Bonus.

Instead of being grateful, women, who are in the main smarter than Tony Abbott, realised this fell into the ‘too good to be true’ category.  As subsequent actions have shown, Tony’s feigned concern for women and families was absolute crap as was his promise not to introduce any new taxes. (Who could forget that humiliating interview with Kerry O’Brien?)

Not only have we lost the Baby Bonus, and lost the right to claim paid parental leave from both our employer and the government, eligibility for Family Benefit payments has been tightened up and increases frozen.  The appropriateness of these measures is debatable but Abbott’s backflip is not.

Going into the last election Tony Abbott promised a ‘unity ticket’ on education.  The Liberal Party education policy also clearly stated “We will ensure the continuation of the current arrangements of university funding.”

Absolute crap.

When Tony Abbott addressed the IPA at their 70th anniversary dinner, he spoke of freedom.

Freedom can only exist within a framework of law so that every person’s freedom is consistent with the same freedom for everyone else.  At least in the English speaking tradition, liberalism and conservatism, love of freedom and respect for due process, have been easy allies.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is the foundation of our justice. “Love your neighbour as you love yourself” is the foundation of our mercy.

..a democratic parliament, an incorruptible judiciary and a free press, rather than mere law itself, are the best guarantors of human rights.

You campaigned against the legislative prohibition against giving offence and I’m pleased to say that the author of those draft laws is now leaving the parliament. Well done IPA! And, of course, you campaigned against the public interest media advocate, an attack dog masquerading as a watchdog, designed to intimidate this government’s media critics and that legislation was humiliatingly withdrawn.”

Abbott sucked up to the IPA telling them what they wanted to hear but where is the due process for citizens returning from the Middle East?  Where is the justice and mercy for asylum seekers?  Where is the concern for human rights?  Where is the freedom to criticise this government?  And who is Abbott to speak of humiliating withdrawals?

That speech had more crap in it than Chinese berries.

Tony speaks of his commitment to tackling the scourge of domestic violence and to closing the gap for Indigenous Australians while slashing funding for frontline services.  We have seemingly endless funds for defence, national security and border protection.  We can even find $40 million to give Cambodia to take four refugees.  But we cannot fund refuges, legal services and advocacy groups.

The lip service paid to the protection of our vulnerable has been proven absolute crap by the actions of Abbott’s mob.

And when it comes to the economy, everything the Abbott government says is crap.  Despite significantly increasing the debt and deficit and having to downgrade projections with every fiscal statement, they try to convince us that they have cut billions from the debt they inherited.  It makes no sense whatsoever to compare trajectories in ten years’ time and claim credit for things that haven’t happened and aren’t likely to.

After campaigning widely on the supposed “debt and deficit disaster” and trash talking our economy, Joe Hockey warns us now of the irresponsibility of such talk because of its negative affect on confidence.  Whilst reining in government spending, he encourages us all to get out there and spend up big to stimulate the economy.  Joe, you are full of it.

On many occasions before the election, the Coalition promised to build our new submarines in South Australia.  It even appears in their defence policy released on September 2, 2013.

“We will also ensure that work on the replacement of the current submarine fleet will centre around the South Australian shipyards.”

When Tony’s leadership was threatened in February, he promised his South Australian colleagues that would be the case – at least that’s what they thought he promised.  Even they must now realise that was absolute crap.

Before the election we were promised “no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS” and no adverse changes to superannuation.

Absolute crap.

In his victory speech on September 7 2013 Tony Abbott made the following promise:

“In a week or so the governor-general will swear in a new government. A government that says what it means, and means what it says. A government of no surprises and no excuses. A government that understands the limits of power as well as its potential. And a government that accepts that it will be judged more by its deeds than by its mere words.”

My judgement?

Tony Abbott will say whatever he thinks people want to hear because, far from being a leader, he is a dishonest inadequate man whose only motivation is to keep his job.  This makes him susceptible to manipulation.  We are in the position where focus groups, vested interests, lobbyists and party donors are dictating policy because our PM is a weak man with no vision whose words mean nothing.

Absolute crap, indeed.

The death of due process, transparency and accountability

Increasingly this government is seeking to subvert due process and impose their agenda in totalitarian fashion.

Regardless of whether you think the increase in fuel excise is an appropriate measure, the move to introduce it through regulation rather than legislation is specifically designed to bypass parliament.  The regulations will need to be backed up with proper legislation by the Senate within 12 months or the money raised will have to be refunded.

As reported in the SMH

“The government believes the ploy will put Labor and Greens senators in a bind at that time forcing them to choose between keeping the escalating revenue stream, or voting it down forcing the government to pay potentially hundreds of millions of dollars collected from motorists back to oil companies.

While the incremental inflation adjustments will raise an expected $167 million from motorists by November next year, little-appreciated new compliance costs for service stations are calculated at $5.06 million according to Treasury estimates.”

So much for cutting red tape to help small businesses.  They also ignore the flowon costs to households as businesses pass on increased delivery expenses, and the cumulative effect of twice yearly increases.

And it seems they may be trying to introduce the GP co-payment in the same way.

Initially, on Tuesday Peter Dutton said:

“There is no capacity to introduce a $7 co-payment through regulation, the advice from our legal people within the department as well as with attorneys is the $7 co-payment needs substantive legislation to support the co-payment.”

But yesterday he changed that message, refusing to rule out the introduction of the $7 levy by regulation to bypass the need for legislation.

“I am not going to rule things in or out. I am saying that there are options that are available to the Government,” Mr Dutton said.

Finding ways around our parliament and our laws is becoming a habit.

After the High Court ruled in June that the federal government could not directly fund religious chaplains in public schools, Christopher Pyne chose to give the money to the states with the direction that it could not be used for secular welfare workers.

So much for their claim that education decisions should not be dictated by Canberra.

In February, a Senate inquiry paved the way for the Parliament to give Environment Minister Greg Hunt legal immunity against future legal challenges to his decisions on mining projects.  It will protect him from being challenged over deliberate or negligent decisions that do not comply with the law.

The Coalition government has now licensed Greg Hunt to avoid compliance with the EPBC Act.  The amendment retrospectively validates ministerial decisions – even if they did not comply with the EPBC Act when they were made.

We are also losing our right to appeal development decisions.

The Abbott government’s move to establish a single approval process by passing environmental approval responsibilities onto the states and territories creates a conflict of interest as they raise revenue from land sales and mining royalties.

In early 2014 the Queensland government proposed to confine the objections and notifications process for a mining lease to people owning land within the proposed lease.

The Coordinator-General is fast becoming an almost supremely powerful czar for large projects in Queensland, subject only to the political whims of the state government.  He can also prevent any objections to the environmental authority for a coordinated project from being heard by the Land Court. When combined with the severe restrictions on objections to mining leases, very few people can now challenge matters such as impacts on groundwater of large mines that are declared a coordinated project.

Under the federal Coalition’s one-stop shop the Coordinator-General is also proposed to have power to approve projects impacting on matters protected under federal environmental laws.

And that’s not the only avenue for appeal that is being shut down.

Australians could be left with no appeal rights against government secrecy by the end of this year.

The May budget cut $10.2 million funding for the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) which handles Freedom of Information appeals.  The government wants appeals to be handled by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal instead.  This move is being blocked in the Senate so we will be left with effectively no avenue for appeal.

But perhaps the most blatant disregard for the law is being shown by Scott Morrison who, in a Napoleonic gesture, has conferred on himself the power to revoke a person’s citizenship.  The new laws provide the Minister with the power to set aside decisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) concerning character and identity if it would be in the public interest to do so and confer on the Minister the power to make legislative instruments.

Morrison has condemned innocent people to indefinite incarceration and washed his hands of any responsibility for their welfare.  He has ignored warnings that his actions are in breach of human rights and is actively outsourcing our responsibilities under the Refugee Convention at enormous cost to this country.  He is now even blocking refugee applications from people coming through official UNHCR channels.

Journalists have been denied access to detention camps.  Even the head of the Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, was denied access to child asylum seekers on Nauru on the grounds that the commission’s jurisdiction did not extend beyond Australia’s borders.  The cost of a single-entry media visa to Nauru rose from $200 to $8,000.

And if any of us report on the machinations of this government, our fate is in the hands of Attorney-General George Brandis who has the individual power to determine if we should face a possible ten year jail sentence.

So much for free speech, transparency and accountability.

“Trust me,” they say.  Not friggin’ likely.

 

Tony Abbott Changes Liberal Foreign Policy

Image source: truepolitik.blogspot.com

Image source: truepolitik.blogspot.com

“Let’s wait until we’ve got all the facts in before we come to hard and fast conclusions. But obviously it is the clear and settled position of the Australian Government that larger countries should not bully smaller ones, that countries should not aid people who are in rebellion against their own government and that international disputes should be settled peacefully in accordance with international law.”

Tony Abbott, 18th July, 2014

 

Waiting for the facts, now there’s a change for a start. Ok, it didn’t stop him directly blaming Russia for this tragedy before the investigations even begin, but that’s a vast improvement from when he interrupted Question Time earlier this year to announce that the missing plane was on the verge of being found.

Still, it’s an excellent move that the Liberals are now adopting the policy that “larger countries should not bully smaller ones”! This will, of course, prevent our future involvement in such events as:

  • The Vietnam War
  • Both Iraq wars
  • Our attempts to screw East Timor on oil
  • The G20
  • Trade agreements with the USA
  • Support for the Japanese effort in World War Two

As for “aiding people who are in rebellion against the their own government” – apart from annoyance at the foreign countries who may have contributed to Clive Palmer’s wealth – this probably stems from the fact that Abbott – being English – is still upset over the American War of Independence where tea was tipped into Boston Harbour, while colonials dressed as Native Americans chanted, “No taxation without representation”. The current Tea Party have drawn their name from this event, but left out the word “Boston” from their name. Similarly, in order to achieve consistency, they’ve also left out the words “without representation” from their slogan.

Now, I know some of you will object to me calling Mr Abbott “English” given that he’s lived here since childhood and that he took out Australian citizenship in his twenties. (And, as Parliamentarians aren’t allowed to be dual citizens, he’s clearly revoked his British citizenship – even though there appears no evidence of that.) However, when I complain about referring to Mr Murdoch as an Australian, I’m told that he’s born here so that makes him Australian, even if he has given up his citizenship. As Terry McCrann put it yesterday:

“In the 1960s Murdoch went to Britain, in the 1970s to the US, in the 1980s to the very different universe of Hollywood; that, and a lot more would, as they say, be and is continuing to be history.

But all through this dizzying roller-coasting cacophony of activity he never left Australia.

That’s obvious in business terms. NewsCorp is now the country’s unequalled private sector media player — bizarrely, challenged and increasingly confronted only by the nominally publicly owned but “their” ABC.

BUT he never “left” Australia in even more core personal terms. He always will be quintessentially Australian.”

So, I guess that Rupert is “Australian”; one might almost say that he’s “the Australian” – well, the only one whose opinion counts. (Who needs scientists when Rupert can tell us that the best way to deal with climate change is to build away from the sea?)  Of course, we just had the celebration of fifty years of “The Australian” – that newspaper which advocates free enterprise and not relying on handouts, while itself not actually making a profit in the fifty years of its existence.

Ah well, yesterday’s front page of another Murdoch Media Misinformation unit, assured me that Bill Shorten just doesn’t get that we have to find billions of dollars worth of savings while simultaneously celebrating the fact that the Carbon Tax is gone and we’ve removed a $9 billion impost on the economy. And we also want to get rid of that Mining Tax. Because if we get rid of taxes then that’s money that the government doesn’t have and Bill Shorten doesn’t seem to get that when you get rid of taxes like that you need to find spending cuts.

(Typical Labor. When it was announced last year that they’d require people to keep log books on their business-related leased cars, they didn’t understand that this would lead to the death of the car industry because apparently most people weren’t using them for business purposes and if you stop a business rort, that’s bad for the economy – stopping rorts by pensioners, parents, the disabled, the unemployed and anyone else who may not have voted Liberal, on the other hand, is a good and just thing. And let’s face it – any money you take from the government is a rort unless you’re someone whose leasing a car.)

Nevertheless, I can’t understand why – even if they still try and remove the spending associated with it – the Liberals are so concerned with removing the Mining Tax, because, after all, it’s raising so little money, it could hardly be a disincentive to investment. And given some of the things that have been cut because of the “dire emergency”, you’d think every bit would count.

A Conspiracy of Convenience

Much has been written here recently about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), the job guarantee, structural deficits, fiscal statements, fiat currency and the like. But that, it turns out, is just the tip of the iceberg. There is also the neo-liberal ideology that drives our governments, the buffer-stock of unemployed so necessary, it seems, to keep wages growth in check, the fallacy of supply side economics and a host of other measures that most people don’t understand and shy away from for fear of appearing stupid.

Most of this was foreign to me except for the gold standard; I knew about that and well remember the day Richard Nixon made the announcement that the USA would no longer tie its currency to its gold reserves. I remember that the gold price was fixed at $US35.00 per ounce and Nixon abandoned that as well. But that story pretty much got lost or buried as Watergate began to encroach upon ‘Tricky Dick’s’ tenure in the White House.

 
But last Friday, listening to ABC Radio 774 in Melbourne with Jon Faine, there was a discussion raging over the 457 visa programme and as it progressed I quickly realised its proximity and relevance to the previously mentioned buffer-stock of unemployment. The 457 visa programme, as most people would know, is designed to enable a company to employ people from overseas on short term visas; people who have the necessary skills needed for particular work where the company cannot find an Australian citizen or permanent resident to fill the position.

It was heralded as analogous to plugging a gap in the wall; a short term fix. Interestingly, such a worker with the required skills did not have to be outside the country when the application was made. Importantly, they did need to have the skills required and be sponsored by an approved business for up to four years. Holders of 457 visas could bring their families and even change jobs after they arrived provided a new employer sponsored them. Even more interesting, there was no limit on the number of people a company could sponsor.

faine

Image: Herald Sun

On Jon Faine’s programme last Friday, two particular callers alerted me to what might be described as a window to rorting on a grand scale. One caller decried the system because it allowed one applicant to be sponsored and employed as a truck driver. Just how the sponsoring company was able to convince the Department of Immigration and Citizenship that they could not find any citizen in Australia able to drive a truck was beyond both me and Jon Faine, but somehow they did.

The second caller alerted me to something even more sinister. He claimed that he had received calls from a person offering him $10,000 to sign a few application forms that would enable multiple 457 visas to be issued to persons unknown for which he (the caller) had no need.

Clearly, there is something wrong here. Notwithstanding the obvious fact that 457 visas are being issued to foreign workers when local workers could quite easily be found, i.e. truck drivers, it also looks suspiciously like it is being used to maintain a buffer-stock of unemployed in the true tradition of neo-liberal economics.
rort 2In February, the Abbott government quietly lifted the cap on business nominations for skilled migrants imposed by the former Labor government and undertook a review of the scheme.
Subsequent changes meant that businesses could increase the number of foreign workers above their initial application.

The Australian Industry Group claimed the change would help those businesses that were struggling to find highly skilled people, but clearly the move has the potential to impact on wages and conditions for Australian workers and leave foreign workers vulnerable to exploitation. Currently there are more than 90,000 foreign workers in Australia with 457 visas.

unemploy

Image: Huffington Post

When we look at what is happening with 457 visas and overlay that upon the neo liberal economic platform one can see it fits quite neatly into its broader ideology and looks a lot more like a programme designed to maintain a buffer stock of unemployed than it is to help meet the sometime dubious requirements of business. It might seem to be only a small part of a much larger conspiracy, but a conspiracy nonetheless; a conspiracy that proponents of MMT could effectively highlight and expose.

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