Backbone of a nation

Those of us who are older remember well how Australia was flooded with migrants in the years after the Second World War. My own experience was in Melbourne where Italians and Greeks congregated in massive numbers. So much so that Melbourne, for decades and perhaps still, was the fourth largest ‘Greek city’ in the world!

These new settlers had a major impact on how our nation developed and how we saw ourselves. The Italians were unbelievable in their attachment to concrete and buried untold numbers of green suburban backyards and front yards into grey, utilitarian spaces that seemed so alien. Yes, just as many showed us how to establish vegie patches but the concrete was a standout. Many Greeks, bless their hearts, opened fish and chip shops and gave us a defining element of our national culture and cuisine.

Today they are as Aussie as the rest of us. Which is why deposed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is spot on in saying skilled migration and population growth are essential to our continuing national prosperity. Oh, he is doing so in pointed contrast to the woman who supplanted him, current PM Julia Gillard, who is setting our national identity back decades by decrying highly-trained workers who come here on short-term visas to plug gaps in our national skills base.

This is the same PM who has opened her own office to such a migrant who is her media guru. Did we have no-one with the requisite skills who speaks with an Aussie accent, PM? Or does she just like this Machiavelli’s Scottish brogue?

For sure, Kevin makes more sense, highlighting that Australia has become the world’s 12th-largest economy thanks in large measure to our migrants.

But Gillard will have none of that and, instead, demonises these new workers, saying they are stealing Australian jobs. How she reconciles that with the reality that it was the refusal or inability of good old Aussies to take available positions, largely in the mining industry, that created the need for the skilled migrants is anyone’s guess. Few of us can work out what goes on inside her head.

One thing is for sure, though. If Gillard’s approach has won the backing of xenophobic crazy, Pauline Hanson, then she is welcome to the ratbag minority of benighted fools who share that woman’s backward, racist attitudes. It is remarkable how almost every time she opens her mouth, this Prime Minister makes Kevin Rudd look good. Not good enough, heaven forbid, but better than the incumbent. She is an embarrassment.


Acknowledgement: Phillip Coorey, The Australian Financial Review