We’re watching in awe:
Gillard and the criminal Â thugs who support her display Â an almost surrealistic skill in turning reality on its head. Â Just like the Obama regime Â in the U.S., this is only possible due to a complicit state run propaganda apparatus.
Gillard can always rely on the support from union thugs and useful idiots.
457 reasons Labor has lost the plot
JULIA Gillard’s decision to exploit foreign worker xenophobia in western Sydney contradicts her immigration policy, weakens her political authority and reveals yet again the flawed judgment that bedevils Gillard’s election agenda.
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Let’s get the facts on the table. Despite Labor’s cynical rhetoric it runs an expansive 457 temporary foreign workers visa intake into this country that in January this year totalled 105,325 workers, or 189,784 people when family members are included – far in excess of the Howard years.
After five years of Labor rule, that’s the policy. And that’s a lot of people. The program is uncapped, driven by employer demand when skilled shortages exist and visas can last up to four years. Forget the nonsense that 457 visas are just a marginal element in our skilled immigration intake. In a world of growing labour mobility, these visas are now fundamental to Australia’s skilled migration agenda.
Are there rorts in the program? Yes, at the margins. Labor tried to fix them in 2009 and has launched another crackdown. As the economy slows, demand for 457 visas will also slow. The real story, however, is that 457 visas are a brilliant innovation of immense benefit to Australia’s economy and society and this program has become an indispensable centrepiece in ensuring that migration to this country remains in the national economic interest.
So what is Labor doing in its campaign? What would you expect? It’s bagging the 457 program. It’s playing politics as part of a re-election tactic. It’s putting the odious foreign worker rorting stamp on the scheme. It’s deliberately exaggerating the rorts, denigrating 457 visas as a John Howard idea and attacking Tony Abbott on the grounds that he will give the scheme free licence and sell out “Aussie jobs”.
This script is a farce. It shows how debased our politics has become. Labor is not telling the truth about its own policy or the Opposition Leader’s policy or the operation of 457 visas. It assumes the Australian public are dumb and people in Sydney’s western suburbs are the dumbest of them all. You don’t have to ask the final question: somewhere Labor has research saying this sort of pitch is really clever.
The Prime Minister’s message in western Sydney is that Labor will “stop foreign workers being at the front of the queue”. She attacked Abbott because he champions the 457 program and, in April last year, described the scheme as a “mainstay” of the immigration intake. But the 457 program is a “mainstay” already under Labor. Indeed, it peaked under Gillard at a whopping 125,070 workers in the 2011-12 year. The crude numbers tell the story. In 2012-13 Labor plans a permanent skilled migration intake of 129,250, not much more than current 457 numbers.
Professor of demography at the Australian National University Peter McDonald calls 457 visas the “centrepiece” of Australia’s skilled migration scheme. That’s the reality. But the politics demands a phony reality or, if you prefer, a shallow electoral stunt.
With the labour market softening, the government has launched a new 457 crackdown on employers, provoking hostility from the business lobbies, sucking Abbott into rejecting the crackdown and allowing Gillard to finesse the latest stage in her pitch to the battler vote via the “Aussie jobs first” mantra that has been her theme over the past fortnight.
The stakes are getting higher. The Aussie jobs message is now becoming tied to Gillard’s survival. Opinion polls early next week will be interpreted as either success or failure of her calculated exercise in economic nationalism. Will the western suburbs “buy” her “Aussie jobs” pitch or will they decide it’s a fraud motivated by Gillard’s needs rather than theirs?
The optics remain terrible. There are two public campaigns being waged against so-called excesses in the 457 visa system. The first is by Michael O’Connor, national secretary of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, a trusted political supporter of Gillard whom she praised in her maiden speech and a person with whom she remains in contact, who has mounted a television campaign against migration agreements on resource projects and wants, in effect, to throttle the 457 visa system.
The CFMEU campaign calls upon Labor to “immediately suspend” 457 visas in construction and all trades with new laws to create a “legally enforceable first right to jobs” – proposals guaranteed to cripple the 457 program.
The second campaign, incredibly and ironically, is being waged by the newly promoted Immigration Minister, Brendan O’Connor, a close political ally of Gillard and her staunch supporter against Kevin Rudd. On February 23 O’Connor announced a series of reforms to tighten the 457 visa process, igniting business anger.
Since that day O’Connor has been conspicuously aggressive in his rhetoric, which bears a striking resemblance to that of the CFMEU, although there is no prospect Labor would implement the full list of CFMEU demands.
But O’Connor, as minister, has created grave concerns about how far Labor’s crackdown will extend. He says there are “too many rogue employers doing the wrong thing”, that too many local workers are “being discriminated against and missing out”, that employers are bringing in foreigners because “they’ll be compliant” (an inflammatory claim that is the ACTU’s exact language), that there is a risk employers are using foreign workers to depress wages for Australian workers (a claim the government has singularly failed to substantiate) and that Labor “will not be influenced and lectured to by billionaires about allowing rorts to continue.” You get the picture.
It constitutes a public trashing of the program with the proviso that Labor still says the legitimate use of such workers is essential to meet skilled shortages. It is a remarkable start for O’Connor in his new portfolio responsibilities. In the tight networks that define Labor, Michael O’Connor and Brendan O’Connor are brothers. The unions are hoping that Brendan O’Connor in the portfolio will prove responsive to their anti-foreign worker campaign.
In his statement on the 457 visa reforms, O’Connor made it clear that growth in the program was out of step with a softening of the labour market and actual skill shortages. This was not the view of the Immigration Department as revealed in its statement last month. The department said the decline in employer demand for 457 visas showed the program was working and was responsive to economic trends.
These changes, however, began under former minister Chris Bowen and had support from the ministerial advisory council on skilled migration. McDonald, a member of that council said: “I am in favour of these changes. There is rorting of the 457 system occurring. But it is marginal, involving only about 2 or 3 per cent of employers. I think it is important to maintain the integrity of the system and I believe Labor is still committed to the 457 program.”
McDonald rejected Gillard’s claim the program had been “out of control” under the Howard government.
However, the angry business reaction to O’Connor’s changes and Labor’s excited rhetoric reveals the collapse of business trust in the Gillard government.
The Business Council of Australia said it was “classic regulatory overreach” without any evidence of “widespread and systematic abuse”. By mid-week the Australian Industry Group chief, Innes Willox, said the debate “risks running completely off the rails and becoming an exercise in unfairly demonising companies” using the 457 system.
He said no evidence existed of widespread rorting: only three companies had been prosecuted since 2009 and “xenophobes and zealots opposed to immigration in any form” were being given a new platform. So how clever is this Gillard government tactic?
The 457 problem lies more in Labor’s rhetoric than its policy change. Gillard, overall, has three objectives in her western Sydney visit: to market her commitment and plan to boost Aussie jobs; to make an open pitch to the battler vote where Abbott has made serious inroads; and, in best retail politics, to fight on family budgets, arguing that Abbott will leave people worse off.
The extent to which the 457 visa intake now underpins Australia’s immigration program is not understood. An onslaught against 457 visas is tantamount to an onslaught against skilled immigration to Australia.
In the past 15 years there has been a revolution, temporary long-term arrivals (overseas students and 457 visa holders) outnumbering permanent migrants.
“The 457 visa has now become the major pathway to skilled residence,” McDonald said. “Looking at our skilled immigration intake, about 60 per cent of such people annually are now being recruited onshore and a significant proportion of those are on 457 visas.”
Labor thinks it has exposed Abbott for being pro-business at the price of Aussie jobs. Yet Abbott is relaxed. He feels he has been gifted a new line of attack on Gillard’s vulnerability. “I think there’s been a clear contrast this week between the Coalition and a prime minister,” Abbott said.
“A prime minister who tolerates people coming illegally to this country and then going on welfare and is now trying to demonise people coming legally to this country, paying taxes and making a contribution from day one.”
It is a lethal sledge. The reason multicultural western Sydney is hostile to boat arrivals is because it rejects people self-selecting Australia as their most desired destination via payment to smugglers, as opposed to authorised migrant entry based on skills, defined criteria and the test of making a tangible contribution to the nation.
Gillard has tried valiantly to stop the boats. But the boats are arriving in numbers. Her crackdown on 457 foreign workers cannot substitute for her failed crackdown on boat arrivals. To think otherwise is to misjudge the intelligence of the voters.
Abbott’s position is long known. In his speech last April, he tied his support for 457 visas to tough border protection. “These are the best possible immigrants to Australia,” Abbott said of 457 visa holders. He put up his values in lights – he stands for stopping boatpeople and welcoming 457 visa holders who come to do a job and pay taxes. Gillard invites the public to see the differences between Labor and Coalition on 457 visas, but this is an invitation that may backfire.