By: Dr. Binoy Kampmark in Melbourne, Australia

It was never spectacular, but the Australian media scape is set to become duller, more contained, and more controlled with changes to the Broadcasting Services Act.  In an environment strewn with the corpses of papers and outlets strapped for cash, calls for reforming the media market have been heard across the spectrum. 

The foggy deception being perpetrated by the Turnbull government, assisted by the calculating antics of South Australian senator Nick Xenophon, is that diversity will be shored up by such measures as the $60 million “innovation” fund for small publishers while scrapping the so-called two-out-of-three rule for TV, radio and press ownership. Such dissembling language is straight out of the spin doctor’s covert manual: place innovation in the title, and you might get across the message. 

As Chris Graham of New Matilda scornfully put it, 

“The Turnbull government is going to spend $60 million of your taxes buying a Senator’s vote to pass bad legislation designed to advantage some of the most powerful media corporations in the world.”

Paul Budde of Independent Australia was similarly excoriating.

“To increase power of the incumbent players through media reforms might not necessarily have an enormous effect on the everyday media diversity, but it will allow organisations such as the Murdoch press to wield even greater power over Australian politics than is already the case.” 

As the statement from Senator Xenophon’s site reads, 

“Grants would be allocated, for example, to programs and initiatives such as the purchasing or upgrading of equipment and software, development of apps, business activities to drive revenue and readership, and training, all of which will assist in extending civic and regional journalism.”

The communications minister Mitch Fifield went so far as to deem the fund “a shot in the arm” for media organisations, granting them “a fighting chance”. 

The aim here, claims the good senator, is to throw down the gauntlet to the revenue pinchers such as Facebook and Google while generating a decent number of recruits through journalism cadetships. Google, claimed Xenophon in August, “are hoovering up billions of dollars or revenue along with Facebook and that is killing media in this country.”

Google Australia managing director Jason Pellegrino had a very different take: you only had to go no further than the consumer. 

“The people to blame are you and I as news consumers, because we are choosing to change the behaviour and patterns of (how) we are consuming news.” 

Xenophon’s patchwork fund hardly alleviates the consequences that will follow from scrapping of the rules on ownership. Having chanted the anti-Google line that its behaviour is distinctly anti-democratic, his agreement with the government will shine a bright green light for cash-heavy media tycoons keen on owning types of media (radio, television, papers) without limits. The line between commercial viability and canned journalism run by unelected puppet masters becomes all too real, while the truly independent outlets will be left to their social Darwinian fate. 

Labor senator Sam Dastyari saw the Turnbull-Xenophon agreement has having one notable target, and not necessarily the social media giants who had punctured the media market with such effect. 

“They are doing in the Guardian. You have thrown them under the bus.” 

The measure is odd in a few respects, most notably because regional papers were hardly consulted on the measure. This, it seemed, was a hobby horse run by the senator through the stables of government policy. In the end, the horse made it to the finishing line. 

The very idea of linking government grants to the cause of journalism constitutes a form of purchasing allegiance and backing. How this advances the cause of civic journalism, as opposed to killing it by submission, is unclear. The temptation for bias – the picking of what is deemed appropriately civic, and what is not, is all too apparent. 

The package supposedly incorporates an “independence test” by which the applicant publisher can’t be affiliated with any political party, union, superannuation fund, financial institution, non-government organisation or policy lobby group. Further independence is supposedly ensured by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which will administer the fund. 

The decision about which organisation to fund is already implied by the scale of revenue. The cut-off point, for starters, is an annual turnover of not less than $300,000 in revenue. The other end of the scale is a ceiling of $30 million, which, for any media outlet, would be impressive. 

This media non-reform package also comes on the heels of another dispiriting masquerade: an attempt to import a further layering of supposed transparency measures on the ABC and SBS, a position long championed by senator Pauline Hanson. This reactionary reflex, claimed the fuming crossbench Senator Jacqui Lambie, was “the worst lot of crap I have seen”, the sort of feculence designed to punish the public broadcaster for being “one step ahead when it comes to iView and their social media platforms.”[6] 

Between the giants of Google and Facebook, and a government happy to sing before the tycoons, a small publishing outlet is best going it alone in an already cut throat environment, relying on the old fashioned, albeit ruthless good sense, of the reader. Have trust that the copy will pull you through, or perish trying to do so.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMITUniversity, Melbourne.

Published in Top Stories

By: Tim Mayfield in Melbourne, Australia

The latest Australian census data is in and it makes for interesting reading. Of particular note, 72 per cent of residents reported speaking only English at home, down from nearly 77 per cent in 2011. Moreover, for the first time since colonisation, most of the Australians who were born overseas came from Asia rather than Europe.

So what to make of these shifts?

On the face of it, the data indicates that Australia is becoming an even more diverse society with greater links into our immediate region and beyond. However, these numbers don’t tell the full story.

To properly assess where we are at as a nation, we need to critically examine the quality of the engagement between Australia’s ethnic communities, as well as the depth of our links into Asia (given that our immediate neighbourhood is so crucial both in terms of trade but also as the major source of new immigrants).

According to these criteria, there is much work to be done. The shortfall is borne out by a quick examination of the state of Australia’s second-language teaching from early childhood through to tertiary level.

Australia is not just failing at languages (especially Asian languages), we are failing spectacularly. The percentage of students studying a foreign language in Year 12 has decreased from 40 per cent in 1960 to around 10 per cent in 2016 – and this includes native speakers.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Simply put, we must change our collective mind-set around the importance of languages to our continued wealth and prosperity.[/quote]

It just doesn’t make sense in the context of our increasing interconnectedness with the global community both at home and abroad.

Of course, one could argue (and plenty do) that because Australia’s foreign language capability is on the rise, driven by immigration, there is a decreasing need to commit time and resources to second language learning.

There are several issues with this perspective. The first is that our collective commitment to multiculturalism should not start and end with those who arrive on our shores. For multiculturalism to work, it requires genuine commitment to engagement and mutual understanding from all sides.

Learning a second language is both an end in itself but also an effective proxy for the kind of intercultural understanding that will be essential if Australia is to continue to thrive in its diversity. Assistant Professor Ruth Fielding argued recently that Australia’s multilingual diversity is being stifled by a monolingual culture and approach to curriculum in schools.

By engaging with an unfamiliar language, students are also engaging with the culture and history that comes with it. In doing so, they gain perspective into a world beyond their immediate experience, greater insight into their own communities and curiosity to broaden their horizons.

This latter point is crucial when it comes to preparing the students of today for the jobs of tomorrow. Simply put, we must change our collective mind-set around the importance of languages to our continued wealth and prosperity.

The reality is that nearly all young Australians are likely to be working either in highly culturally diverse communities in Australia or in global teams with global clients and markets. Bilingualism is a skill most people will benefit from, and is something that other countries have recognised for years. That’s why Australia is now lagging at the very back of the OECD pack when it comes to the time our school students spend learning a second language.

We have been coasting for too long on the natural advantages of being a developed nation, proficient in the world’s lingua franca, and with an economy powered by an abundance of natural resources.

That is all changing. As Australia’s economy continues to transition to services, so too do the requirements of our workforce. New opportunities will be driven by evolving skills and possessing a second, third, or even fourth language will be prime among these.

It is therefore a matter of great urgency that governments at all levels get the policy settings right. At the moment, our track record on languages is abysmal. The first step to a solution is admitting there is a problem. The second is developing a road map for this vexed area of education policy. The Asia Education Foundation (AEF) has undertaken considerable research to address this second aspect, especially at the senior secondary level.

We advocate expanding opportunities to study languages in senior secondary certification structures. Simultaneously, governments and schools need to provide access to high quality languages programs to build and sustain student participation.

These efforts must be supported by engagement with all relevant parties (including students, parents and educators) to recognise and promote the value and utility of languages. At a higher level, governments and sector bodies should collaborate nationally to support languages planning and implementation in a unified way across the country.

The question is who within government and the education sector will drive this change? 

Tim Mayfield is the Executive Director of the Asia Education Foundation at the University of Melbourne. This article has been republished with permission.

Published in Education

Commentary by Aleem Ali in Brisbane, Australia

A few career changes ago, I managed a branding and design agency. Our primary task was to help our clients communicate their organisation, product or service. We worked to create a strong brand so that people would choose our client’s company or service over and above their many competitors.

Since I ran that agency 15 years ago, much has changed in the world. But some things still hold true, and many issues have grown in scale. Talk to retailers, tour operators and educational institutions. Talk to employers. They will tell you that competition is only increasing, not diminishing. And the competition is now global, not local.

Last year, not long after the launch of Welcoming Cities, I received a phone call from the CEO of a Regional Business Council. They outlined their challenge as follows: “We have a large infrastructure project in our community. When the project is complete, we know that we won’t be able to attract enough people domestically to fill all the jobs. So, we need both a national and international solution. But we are struggling to attract people. There is a perception of our community that we are not welcoming. Because of this perception, Australian residents and migrants don’t want to move here, live here, or work here. We need to change that perception. We don’t just want to be a welcoming city; we NEED to be a welcoming city.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Our international reputation of a fair go, cheering for the underdog, and boundless plains to share no longer seem to ring true.[/quote]

This story, or at least the sentiment behind it, seems to be a growing challenge.

I recently met with Local Government employees of a major capital city. Their focus is on increasing social cohesion and economic participation in their region. They’re concerned by political sentiment and what they perceive to be regressive policies and divisive rhetoric. One of the people in the meeting commented that “Brand ‘Australia’ is damaged. There’s no evidence this will improve anytime soon. We need to do something about it.”

Brand Australia needs some serious help

The compelling and disconcerting truth of this statement struck me. Brand Australia needs some serious help. Our international reputation of a fair go, cheering for the underdog, and boundless plains to share no longer seem to ring true. The growing perception is that we demonise people fleeing torture and trauma, are intolerant of diverse cultures, and newcomers risk vilification. Brand Australia is now associated with a fair go for some, but not all.

Tourists, international students, and skilled migrants are vital contributors to our prosperity as a nation. And when it comes to the choice of coming to Australia, or not; perception is everything. If brand Australia ceases to be open, welcoming and generous, then the damage will not only be to our reputation but also the ongoing success of our nation.

The time to address that damage is now. It’s time to refuse small-minded, divisive politics. It’s time to stop waiting for politicians to cast a vision of a generous, welcoming and inclusive Australia and to grow this work ourselves. It’s time to lead. It’s time for community groups, small businesses, educational institutions, peak bodies and corporations to come together. It’s time to welcome newcomers to our shores and ensure that everyone can take part in social, economic and civic life.

It’s time to be deliberate, strategic and collaborative. To put policies and practices in place that value our First People’s, long-term residents and new arrivals. It’s time to rescue brand Australia. More than a branding exercise, this is a renewed commitment to an inclusive, multicultural Australia. 

Awarded and recognized for his contribution to the community, Aleem Ali has spent the past 20 years seeding and mentoring the development of various programs. Aleem is currently the National Manager at Welcoming Cities, in addition to lead roles with For the Common Good, and FOUND

Published in Commentary
Friday, 10 February 2017 13:07

Friendly Advice to Trudeau from Australia

Commentary by Binoy Kampmark in Melbourne, Australia

It was a moment of delightful reflection. The indecently smug politicians of a distant island continent, wealthy, cruel in refugee policy and lazy in development, stunned by encountering a short fused U.S. President who had little time for a “dumb” deal.

That deal, prematurely hatched during the last stages of the Obama administration with the Turnbull government, would see 1,250 refugees on Australia’s questionable offshore centres on Manus Island and Nauru, settled in the United States.

(As Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau heads to Washington for his first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump and the province of Manitoba deals with a large number of refugees streaming across the border, Turnbull's experience could prove useful. As has reported, the visit comes on the heels of reports of diplomatically bruising phone calls between Trump and both Turnbull and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, in which he apparently broke diplomatic protocol and slammed both for an Australian-US refugee-swapping deal and Mexico’s handling of “tough hombres.”)

Australia’s fanatical insistence on not processing refugees and asylum seekers arriving by sea lanes has produced a flawed and unsustainable gulag system in the Pacific, along with deals of mind scratching eccentricity.

Poorer countries such as Cambodia and Nauru are deemed appropriate processing centres and places of re-settlement, despite local hostilities and incompatibilities.  Wealthier countries such as New Zealand tend to be ignored as optional points since resettlement there, should it happen, would be embolden new arrivals.  The one exception – the United States – was largely premised on both its distance from Australia and daftness of mind amongst Canberra’s policy fraternity.

In its desperation to find customers in the global supermarket of refugee shopping, Washington offered a tentative hand to feed the Australian habit.  That hand was rapidly withdrawn on Donald Trump’s signing of the Executive Order banning travel from seven mainly Muslim states.  Many of these nationals feature in the 1,250 total, with Iranians making up the largest cohort.  (It was a deal that Turnbull, incidentally, refused to condemn: Australia, he realises, knows what bans and bars to immigrants and refuges look like.)

According to the Washington Post, Trump explained in exasperated fashion to Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull by phone that the agreement was “the worst deal ever” and made it clear he was “going to get killed” politically if it was implemented.  In his pointed assertion, Turnbull was effectively attempting to export the “next Boston bombers” to the United States.  Australia, usually painfully supine before the wishes of the United States, had surprised Trump with “the worst call by far.”

Caught by the icy fury of the Trump blast, the conversation between the two leaders was cut short: what was slated for an hour became a 25 minute heckle and boast.  The size of Trump’s electoral college win was reputedly mentioned, while the number of refugees was inflated.

Did The Donald hang up on the stunned Turnbull?  The meek response followed: “I’m not going to comment on the conversation.” The official record from Washington made the school boy encounter dully deceptive: “Both leaders emphasized the enduring strength and closeness of the US-Australia relationship that is critical for peace, stability, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and globally.”

Taking to his preferred medium of announcement and expression, he tweeted in disbelief that he could be bound by a previous undertaking: “Do you believe it?  The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia.  Why?  I will study this dumb deal!”

Turnbull preferred an Alice in Wonderland approach to Trump’s tongue lashing, beating a hasty retreat down the rabbit hole in confused hope. Citing what seemed to be a distinctly different, mutated conversation, a brow beaten Turnbull preferred to refer to the president’s official spokesman who confirmed that “the president … would continue with, honour the agreement we entered into with the Obama administration, with respect to refugee settlement.”

This parallel diplomacy approach was also adopted before the National Press Club: “The Trump administration has committed to progress with the arrangements to honour the deal… that was entered into with the Obama administration, and that was the assurance the president gave me when we spoke on the weekend.”

To be fair to the confused Turnbull, the Trump administration is proving to be quite a tease.  Volcanic contradictions are fizzling out of the White House on a daily basis, the toddler, as he has been accused of being, ever erratic with his tempers.  Trump pours cold water on the deal; the White House spokesman Sean Spicer, probably informed by a different set of whispers, comes up with another statement that Washington would, in fact, follow through: 

“The deal specifically deals with 1,250 people,” explained Spicer to the White House press corps, “they’re mostly in Papua New Guinea, being held… there will be extreme vetting applied to all of them as part and parcel of the deal that was made.”

Even if this near aborted deal were to revive in spectacular confusion, it would only apply to refugees who “express an interest” in being settled in the US, and who satisfied an “extreme vetting” regime.  Numbers matter less than process, or, in the words of secretary of the immigration department Mike Pezzullo from November, this was “a process-driven arrangement rather than a numerical arrangement.”  What price humanity.

This entire incident is being taken as a litmus test of Trump’s relations with his allies.  Will the man boy behave or berate? Towards Mexico and Australia, his approach is one of irritable businessman rather than sober statesman.

Nor should the other side be neglected in this farcical cut of entertainment.  Canberra could have embraced the other option, one unacceptable for the Turnbull government: abide by the Refugee Convention and duly settle the refugees in Australia. Can the cant; observe international law.  Trump’s fumes of indignation would be avoided and Canberra would be doing something near unprecedented: implementing an approach of independence and obligation.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. This commentary was adapted from Counter Punch. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in Commentary
Thursday, 17 November 2016 18:26

Trump’s Impossible Deportation Goals

Commentary by Dr. Binoy Kampmark in Melbourne, Australia

Throughout the campaign for the White House, Donald Trump sensationalized one of the great sores of U.S. political and social life: the issue of immigrants, notably the undocumented, and what his presidency would do to them.

As Trump asserted to Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes, the target here was deporting “the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, we have a lot of people, probably two million, it could be even three million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate.”

To that end, he has also promised to create what he has termed a “deportation force” specifically to “round up” undocumented residents, enabling the “good” ones to enter on a legal basis. This view, incidentally, is common in such countries as Australia and some in the European Union.

Building the wall

Throughout its history with immigration, the United States has had a complex association, swerving between nativist impulse and economic accommodation.  The issue of Hispanic immigrants, most notably Mexicans, riles various U.S. citizens concerned that a reconquista, pecking away at U.S. sovereignty, is in the making.  Trump’s promised Wall along the Mexican border is not so much a practical response as a viscerally padded one, rooted in the symbol of control long lost.

Since a Trump administration is supposedly going to be all about business, the near impossibility of achieving the totality of such an ignoble dream will come to the fore. The balance sheet of contributions by immigrants, whatever their status, has always outweighed by some good margin what negative aspects the vast pool offers the United States.  Furthermore, the undocumented pool provides a class that enables prices, however justly this may seem, to be kept down.

To deport on scale millions of immigrants deemed unsuitable to the U.S. dream would not so much make America great again – to use Trump’s tiresome, sales-pitched line – as it would unmake it.  That is merely an observation on consequence, and possibly one the non-ideologues will pick up on.

Shallow on facts

The figure of two to three million drawn out by Trump out of his not so magical hat is also questionable. The Department of Homeland Security doesn’t have those figures, at least in so far as they are of the bad egg variety. The Donald, as ever, continues being shallow about the facts.

Trump is also going to be facing considerable opposition on the ground, both from the legal side of matters, and logistical frustrations. The machinery needed to fulfill the removal of such immigrants is patchy, often stuttering due to local measures.

The Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution stands out as one the greatest impediments. Full removal proceedings must be undergone in court. Time is required, with the government having to show grounds of alienage and deportability, with the respondent permitted grounds of defence and opportunities to plead for relief from deportation. These points are also outlined in measures implemented by Congress. A burdensome road for the government indeed.

The scale also being promised would be staggering – the ACLU suggests that the whole mass deportation scheme, were it to be implemented, would require the arrest of 15,000 people a day on immigration charges, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  Courts charged with immigration cases are bound to suffer acute paralysis.

Hotspot California

In hotspot California, opposition and resistance to any such policy from a Trump administration is being promised.  In Los Angeles alone reside up to a million undocumented immigrants of the total 11 million in the country.  Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said on Monday that no favours were going to be given to the federal government, making the point that the LAPD would not abandon precedent in favour of Trump’s new calls.

“We are not going to engage in law enforcement activities solely based on somebody’s immigration status.  We are not going to work in conjunction with Homeland Security on deportation efforts.  That is not our job, nor will I make it our job.”

Since 1979, then police chief Daryl Gates signed Special Order 40 prohibiting officers from making contact with someone on the sole grounds of determining whether he or she was in the country on legal grounds.  During Gates’ tenure, the supply of those arrested for low-tier crimes to federal agencies for deportation started to dry up.  The LAPD, in other words, was uninterested in doing the dirty work of the federal authorities.

Sanctuary cities

This effectively undercuts the issue of identifying the undocumented non-citizens in question. To deport, you would have to have the means, and complicity of state authorities, to conduct the round-up. Such behaviour, if conducted to scale, would result in mass violations of the Fourth Amendment, a true police state measure.

Trump has a few bullying tricks up his sleeve. He has threatened to withdraw funding from police departments and sanctuary cities that persist in their pathway of protection and stalling on the issue of how to deal with undocumented residents.  But government is not merely about hard cash and threats of targeting budgets. Ideas and pragmatism count, and Trump’s self-proclaimed embrace of shallowness in search of success will have to bend – at least at points.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This commentary has been republished from Global Research with permission from the author and has been lightly edited for the Canadian context.

Published in Commentary
Tuesday, 18 August 2015 18:12

No Easy Options for Europe's Refugee Crisis

by Dr. Gerry Van Kessel in Ottawa

As many as 1,200 boat people drowned attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea headed for Europe during a 10-day period last April. The drownings drew media attention to a growing and cyclical phenomenon: the arrival in Europe of large numbers of migrants and refugees, particularly by sea. Over 225,000 have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year, mostly bound for Greece and Italy, severely stretching their resources; 2,100 have drowned.

Migrant boats have a way of focusing public attention that other means of migration do not. Arrivals by land and air are far more numerous, yet it is boat arrivals that arouse the interest of the media and the public. This includes Canada. Boat arrivals have resulted in some of the most negative public comments about the Canadian government’s management of immigration. The arrival of a boat filled with Tamils in 1986 and another boat with Sikhs a year later led to an emergency recall of Parliament. The four boats with Chinese migrants in 1999 and the boat with Tamils in 2009 kept immigration in the spotlight for months.

The number of persons claiming refugee status in Europe this year is likely to exceed the previous high of 672,000 in 1992. In the first quarter of of 2015, there were 185,000 claims made, an increase of 86 per cent over the previous year's first quarter.

Global trend

These numbers reflect what is happening globally. In 2014, there were a record 51.2 million people displaced from their homes. Most -- 26 million -- were displaced in their own countries, while 13 million were refugees outside their country. An increasing number find their way to wealthy countries to make refugee claims. The unrest in the Middle East and North Africa and the poverty of sub-Saharan Africa do not suggest any diminishing of the numbers seeking a better life in Europe.

A plea for burden-sharing by Italy and Greece for help from other European Union members has been largely unsuccessful.

Europe's continuing dilemma is that it is impossible to keep everyone out and impossible to let everyone in. The rather paradoxical compromise, apparent in various degrees in all Western countries, is one that takes steps to keep migrants out, but for those who manage to get in, have a legal process that allows persons found to be refugees to remain in the country. However, governments generally want to make sure that this acceptance does not become a "pull" factor for other migrants. Changes to this compromise are most likely to be in the direction of greater enforcement and control as the European public becomes increasingly concerned about integration, multiculturalism and terrorism.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Europe's continuing dilemma is that it is impossible to keep everyone out and impossible to let everyone in.[/quote]

The Australian model

There are other options being advanced, but not specifically by the EU. One option advanced by pro-immigration groups is for Europe to open its borders to legal migration in the way that Canada, the United States and Australia do. In this way, it is argued, Europe will absorb the migratory pressures it faces in a legal manner and avoid the negative consequences, such as drownings at sea, of irregular migration and compensate for the continent's low birth rate. The problem with this approach is that that there is no balance between what European countries can (even where they willing to do so) absorb and the demand for migration, a demand far greater than the total of displaced persons. Just in Libya, there are reported to be a million people waiting to enter Europe.

A very different option is the so-called Pacific Solution followed by Australia. It is frowned upon by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and pro-immigration groups. Its focus is the elimination of boat arrivals by moving the examination of asylum claims from onshore to third countries. It has been advanced by the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark individually, but not by the EU as a whole. Australia processes the claims of persons intercepted on boats in Papua New Guinea and Nauru and the current Canberra government reports that only one boat has made it to Australia.

Predicting what the future holds is difficult. The EU's hope is that the flood of refugees will ebb, as they have in the past. This will avoid the issue of broad policy changes.

The signs, however, suggest that migratory pressures will increase, public anger at governments' failure to manage the issue will grow and cries for radical solutions by anti-immigrant parties will become louder.

Gerry Van Kessel is retired from a career with Citizenship and Immigration Canada where he was Director General, Refugees from 1997 to 2001.  From 2001 to 2005, he was Coordinator, Intergovernmental Consultations on Asylum, Refugee and Migration Policies (IGC) in Geneva.  He dealt with the issues discussed in this article in both posts.  

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Published in Commentary

by Themrise Khan in Ottawa 

Renowned migration scholar, Graeme Hugo, Australian Research Council (ARC) Professorial Fellow and professor of geography and director of the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, was in Ottawa recently as a faculty member for the Metropolis Professional Development inaugural training week. Prof. Hugo granted New Canadian Media a short, sit-down interview: 

Q: From your work in population studies, how convinced are you that immigration is the answer to today’s global challenges?

A: It would be wrong to think that migration is the answer to an aging population. But it is part of the answer. Aging is a reality. Between 2010 and 2020, populations between the ages of 18-64 will decline by 20 million in OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries and will increase by 1 billion in low-income countries. But migration is not a solution to aging. Migrants also age. In Australia, 1 in 3 persons is born outside the country. In the 1950's and 60's, there were big waves of migration (to Australia) and studies have shown that they can contribute by increasing productivity of the population. But one of the ways of increasing the productivity of the workforce, is also to increase the age of retirement. So migration should be part of a much larger integrated strategy. The demographic lesson in this is that migration is going to continue to occur, so to try and stop it altogether will not solve any problems.

Q: How is migration different now than it was a few decades ago?

A: Migration is much more complex these days. But it has also become much more democratic and broadly based than it used to be. But the change now is that the difference between countries is widening. There are wider wage differentials for instance, and differences in rights and freedoms which are greater now (between countries) than they use to be.  The 3 Ds as I call it (development, demography and democracy) are more significant now. As I see it, there are three factors that drive migration now: The first is networks. Every time someone moves, there is a movement of social capital. Networks can be very intensive and intimate, as people are now in daily contact with each other. The second is the immigration industry. Legal and illegal migration, lawyers, travel providers, agents, etc., are a major driver of migration. And a third driver is the globalization of the labour market. People are looking across countries for jobs now. This is a function of changes in the global economy. None of these factors are going to go away. There is the belief that so much policy making is predicated that we won't need migration after a while. But this is not true.

Q: What are the best ways to manage migration?

A: Managing migration is not easy. But whoever is talking about it is talking about policy. Countries which earlier had very little migration now have a lot and don’t have the institutions to deal with it. The latest UN data shows that South to South migration (migration between developing countries) is increasing rapidly. The traditional thinking is that the top 5 Western countries are still the top destination for migrants. However, Asia is becoming a major destination. China, which is one of the largest countries to send migrants, is developing its own policy on migration.

Q: How do you think the area of migration studies should be evolving to reflect these new trends?

A: Migration has always been an interdisciplinary area of study, as it should be. What I would like to see (included) in migration studies is people who are involved in the migration process, rather than academics. We should be training people in migration careers. People should not be trained on border controls as police officers.

Q: How can we reflect the perspective of the immigrant into migration policy?

A: Most migration decision making around the world is not evidence based. It is based on bigotry, racism and political advantage. The most effective form of migration management is to base policy on evidence. We need high quality balanced research. The reality is that migration has had both good and bad effects. But right now, countries are only being presented the bad effects of migration. There should be a balanced presentation reflecting both sides.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Most migration decision making around the world is not evidence based. It is based on bigotry, racism and political advantage.[/quote]

Q: How important is it to discuss environmental change in the migration policy discourse?

A: The overwhelming evidence is that environmental change has been neglected in the past. We are seeing more and more disasters occur. In the past and in the future, most of the mobility environmental change is going to create will be within countries. The numbers of those being affected by climate change and those who will actually move are different. It is rarely a single case of migration and it is flawed to think that one can create a dedicated argument on environmental change for migration.

Q: What can Canada and Australia learn from each other in the immigration context?

A: I honestly think that I am not very close to the immigration bureaucracies in both countries. But both countries are very close. There are many cases like the regional migration programs in Australia that take from Canada. Both countries are in a category by themselves in that they have wholly planned migration policies and there is a high acceptance of immigration. Because these migration programs are so similar, we have  a lot to learn from each other. So there should be more comparative work between the two countries.

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Published in Policy
Friday, 21 February 2014 18:04

Citizenship: Finding the Right Balance

by Andrew Griffith in Ottawa

Now that we know what the government has in mind for the Citizenship Act, let's talk about the longer-term implications of the proposed changes.

Traditionally, Canadian citizenship policy has balanced “facilitation”—making citizenship easier to acquire — and “meaning” — ensuring integrity in citizenship tools and processes. Past governments inclined towards facilitation through a relatively easy and short acquisition process that eased integration through the extension of voting rights and other privileges.

The Conservative government made major shifts towards the “meaning” end of the spectrum: a more comprehensive study guide, the Discover Canada orientation package for newcomers a more difficult citizenship test, more rigorous application of language requirements, anti-fraud (residency) measures, an increased public profile for the citizenship program and ceremonies, and support for the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) and its various activities. Taken together, these measures improved the integrity of citizenship.

More hurdles for citizenship applicants

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s proposed changes take this further. They're taking place in a context of ongoing economic and social globalization, driven by cheap travel and communications, making identity more fluid and varied — and making links between diaspora and domestic politics more complex.

Let’s look at how his proposed changes stack up. One of former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney's lasting legacies in the portfolio was greater integrity in the citizenship program. Most of the proposed changes focus on further increasing the integrity of Canadian citizenship, making it “harder to get and easier to lose.”

And so, Mr. Alexander wants to make it crystal-clear that residency means being in Canada and wants to extend the residency period required. He wants to expand the knowledge and language assessment to cover both younger and older applicants. He wants stronger penalties for fraud, and streamlined and broader authority for citizenship revocation, including a “national interest” provision for dual nationals.

He is ending the practice in place since the Diefenbaker government of treating all citizens the same, whether born in Canada or naturalized. The potential implications of such a policy change are broader than the specific issue of 'national interest’ revocation.

Mr. Alexander also wants an “intent to reside” provision. As this only applies during the application process, and not after citizenship is granted, this appears largely symbolic.

One of the weaknesses of previous changes to the citizenship program pertain to implementation short-cuts and approaches that made citizenship less fair and more difficult to obtain for groups with lower educational or language levels (e.g., immigrants or refugees from Afghanistan, Somalia, Cambodia, Burma and Vietnam).

Mr. Alexander is silent on providing every applicant a fair chance. No commitment to focus group test citizenship materials for comprehension and readability. No commitment to provide additional citizenship knowledge and test preparation for groups that are having difficulties.

However, to Mr. Alexander’s credit, the remaining “lost Canadians” (largely descendants from those born before 1947) will have their citizenship recognized, and the children of Crown servants born abroad will be able to pass on their Canadian citizenship.

Harder to get and easier to lose

Importantly, Mr. Alexander has managed to maintain the overall competitiveness of Canadian citizenship compared to other countries like Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. The government has managed to ratchet up requirements significantly without dissuading the increasingly educated and mobile immigrants Canada seeks from choosing Canada.

The proposed changes also reflect the need to improve citizenship business processes. Most are non-controversial, such as the removal of citizenship judges from the decision-making process, the ability to cancel incomplete applications, and allowing for electronic means to verify citizenship.

These changes, along with temporary increased funding, allowed Mr. Alexander to commit to reducing the processing time from the current two years plus to less than one year. Yet, unlike in Australia, he offers no ongoing quarterly reports to show compliance (ad hoc press releases do not cut it).

Mr. Alexander’s overall approach stresses enforcement, not citizenship promotion. Perhaps he believed the previous initiatives were adequate. However, there is an ongoing need for citizenship education, for applicants and for existing Canadians, as any survey about knowledge of Canada attests. More ambition here would reinforce the overall agenda of strengthening citizenship, including in Quebec, where there are opportunities and a need to do more.

Challenges remain

The challenge for all governments is how to balance citizenship as a “place,” assuming citizens remain in their country of immigration, and citizenship as a “status,” a more instrumental view of citizenship as a means to secure employment and other rights.

It is hard for any government to craft options that address the diverse needs of people applying for citizenship. Immigrants who choose Canada for economic reasons may have a more instrumental view of citizenship. Providing them with greater flexibility, and encouraging them to choose Canada, without weakening the meaning of citizenship, or providing additional opportunities for citizens of convenience, will always be a challenge. With the longer residency requirements and “intent to reside” provision, Mr. Alexander may be reducing the attractiveness to the more highly skilled and entrepreneurial immigrants.

Mr. Alexander has come down firmly on the side of citizenship as “place.” The emphasis on integrity and streamlined business processes is understandable, with the possible exception of differential treatment of Canadian citizens and dual nationals in revocation. His inattention to fairness issues and citizenship promotion is regrettable. However, taken together, Mr. Alexander’s proposed changes remain largely within the Canadian context of encouraging immigrants to become citizens, and remaining competitive with other countries.

Andrew Griffith is the author of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism. He is the former Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism at Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). He has worked at Canadian Heritage, Service Canada, Industry Canada and Privy Council Office, in addition to Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, where he had a number of domestic and international assignments. 

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Published in Commentary
Sunday, 14 October 2012 23:45

An aus-some example

If Australia and Canada were brothers, they would very likely be twins. These two nations have evolved in parallel on either side of the globe, united by vast geography and an immigrant-based demography.

When Prime Minister Kevin Rudd read out a statement of apology to his nation’s aboriginal “Stolen Generations” in Canberra last February, he was also foreshadowing a similar sentiment in our own nation. Like Canada, the Australian government had forcibly enrolled indigenous children into residential schools, heaping indignities that have only recently been formally recognized as a gross injustice.

Australia is also the only nation on earth that has a larger foreign-born population than Canada’s. In 2005, one in four Australians was born abroad, while in Canada, immigrants represented roughly one in five. In another parallel, immigrants to both countries can broadly be classed into three groups – economic, family and humanitarian.

So, when an Australian academic, Lesleyanne Hawthorne, does a serious piece of research comparing the immigration systems of the two countries and comes to the conclusion that “economic migrants have performed indisputably better in Australia than in Canada in the past decade,” we should be asking how come?

Ms. Hawthorne, associate dean (international) at the University of Melbourne, found that at the start of the decade (2001), the outcomes for economic migrants moving to Australia and Canada were almost identical, in fact, uncannily so. Her 52-page recent research paper reported the following findings among those who had arrived in between 1996 and 2001 –

* 65 per cent of the recent arrivals to Canada were employed, compared to 66 per cent in Australia;

* Of them, 30 per cent had found “professional positions” in Canada, compared to 31 per cent Down Under;

* Birthplace strongly influenced the likelihood of immigrants gaining “professional positions” in both nations, with those arriving from traditional English-speaking nations doing far better than those from Asian countries.

But by May 2006 the situation had changed rather dramatically. While the rate of immigrant employment went down in Canada, the number of those finding jobs within six months of arrival in Australia jumped to 83 per cent. Comparing employment data between 1995 and 2001, the researcher found that those who found jobs within six months of landing in Australia went up from 57 per cent to 81 per cent, while in Canada it went south from 64 per cent to 60 per cent.

So, what was the game changer? According to Ms. Hawthorne, “Since 1999, Australia, in contrast (to Canada), has used research evidence to exclude economic category applicants economic category applicants at risk of poor employment outcomes at point of entry, by considerably expanding pre-migration English language testing and mandatory credential assessment, and awarding bonus points for high-demand occupations.”

She might as well be speaking from Immigration Minister Diane Finley’s speeches. The Australian study appears to endorse the government’s recently passed immigration reforms which – again – closely mirror the changes enacted in Australia nine years ago.

Published in Commentary

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