FEDERAL BUDGET 2002-03
And now onto the main topic of this editorial and that is the recent Federal Budget. It included an announcement, as expected, of a big rise in immigration numbers. A figure of 110,000 was given but this does not include refugees and no doubt the total intake will end up being more that stated. It could be argued that increased immigration will raise aggregate demand for goods and services but its doubtful this would be enough to provide enough extra jobs for the migrants and those already searching for jobs. There have been two interest rate rises recently and this will lower demand for goods, services and people. The government's actions seem to be more likely to exacerbate the problems rather than help those looking for jobs.
Also announced was a $220 million detention centre for boat people on Christmas Island, $28 million to increase Coastwatch air surveillance, $77 million to double maritime surveillance and $75 million to fight people smugglers. All this money of course will not eliminate the problem and most of the expenditure would not be necessary in the first place if the Government simply refused to accept applications for asylum from anyone entering the country illegally.
Another $500 million has been allocated to the defence forces for the war against terror. More money spent of defence is welcome although considering that we have not been a target of this terrorism one wonders if the money will be spent where it will best benefit the defence of this country. Another worry is that our unreserved support of Americas war in Afghanistan may lead to serious and unforeseen problems.
A positive aspect of the budget was the introduction of the so-called baby bonus. With the bonus ranging from $500 to $2,500 a year it is not over-generous but it is a step in the right direction. Likewise the raising of the threshold for the Medicare levy for low income families.
On a less positive note is the Government's attempt to make the disability pension much more difficult to obtain and the decision to slash the subsidy on prescription medicine. These seem pretty mean, although at time of writing these measures had not gone through.
In contrast to that meanness, is the level of handouts both the Federal and state Governments give to particular firms under various industry assistance schemes. These include simply handouts of money, often millions of dollars, or various tax breaks. The state governments are often the worst offenders, competing with each other to attract large firms to their state. The Beattie government in Queensland managed to coax Virgin Airlines to settle on Brisbane, although the airlines maintenance facilities went to Melbourne, and won a second aluminium facility for Gladstone. Government's argue that this will create jobs. Its arguable however that at least as many jobs would have been created by spending the money elsewhere roads, schools, hospital or other public infrastructure. We are not talking about small amounts of money either, the Federal Government hands out about $4 billion a year to industry and state and local government handouts total about $10 billion. Mitsubishi has been paid $285 million over the last couple of years and Comalco received a similar amount to set up in Gladstone.
Australia, of course is not the only country to give inducements to business, America hands out around $150 billion a year, but it makes a joke of the free trade concept and its hard to see why straightforward protection like tariffs were ditched. At least tariffs were a form of income for government that could be spent on services to benefit all the country, not a few very fortunate businesses. I think those about to lose their disability pensions would agree.
THE TWO AUSTRALIAS
The pattern of migrant settlement and substantial changes between English speaking and non-English speaking settlers has left a marked difference in ethnicity in various parts of Australia. The diversity noticeable in Sydney and Melbourne is not so apparent in other areas, especially outside the capital cities.
Between 1986 and 1996 the proportion of Sydney residents born in Australia dropped noticeably but the proportion of migrant residents from the main English speaking countries also fell. The proportion of Sydney's population made up from migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds increased. The percentage born in Europe stayed about the same but the percentage born in the Middle East increased while those from Asia more than doubled.
A similar pattern occurred in Melbourne and to a certain extent in most other capital cities. Noticeable exceptions were Hobart where the proportions stayed the same and Darwin where the proportion of migrants fell a little.
When looking at figures for the rest of New South Wales we see that the proportion of Australian born has stayed considerably higher than Sydney and the ratio of English speaking to non-English speaking has stayed the same. The pattern is similar in other states.
When looking closer at migrants countries of origin we again find serious differences in settlement patterns.
In 1996 only 19% of those from British Isles, 19% from Germany and 23% from New Zealand had settled in Sydney. At the same time 73% of those from Lebanon, 69% from Korea, 57% from Fiji and 56% from China, were resident in Sydney.
If we look at religious background we find that those from a non-Christian sect are more likely to settle in the capital cities. From 1996 to 2001, Sydney became home to 39% of Buddhist, 52% of Hindu, 42% of Moslem, 54% of Jewish and 50% of Sikh settlers.
Although Sydney gets the greatest number of migrants it is not getting the same quota of skilled migrants. In 1996 Sydney was home to 20.9% of Australia's population. From then until June 2001 it received 39.0% of the total migrant intake but only 37.8% of the skilled migrant intake. In the same period Brisbane received 7.8% of the total migrant intake but 9.2% of the skilled intake. Perth with 7.0% of the population took in 12.1% of all migrants and 15.8% of the skilled migrants.
The large capital cities took in migrants in greater or roughly equal proportion to their share of the nation's total population. On the other hand, most areas outside the big cities received migrants in noticeably smaller proportion than their share of the nations population. The tendency for migrants, especially those from non-English speaking backgrounds to settle in our large cities while our rural areas receive far fewer migrants means that the differences in ethnicity between metropolitan and rural areas will continue.
(Source: "Two Australias: Migrant Settlement at the End of the Twentieth Century" by Bob Birrell and Virginia Rapson, People and Place, vol. 10. no. 1, 2002)
THE REAL TRUTH HURTS
Apparently not having anything better to do with their time a group of wankers within the University of New South Wales have set up something called the Centre for Refugee Research. This group has recently brought out a booklet called "The Truth Hurts: Facts and Stories about Boat People and Asylum Seekers".
Judging by what's written in the booklet the so-called research is woeful and the booklet serves more to distort the truth than give us the real facts.
The booklet presents myths the authors claim abound in the Australian community, and then it gives what they consider the truth backed up by a heart-wrenching story of a particular refugee.
Here are a few examples. One so-called myth is that "Asylum seekers are queue jumpers they take places from refugees waiting patiently in refugee camps". The booklet claims that there are no queue jumpers as there is no standard process where people wait in line, for many people there is no queue and those who use people smugglers are desperate people whose options have run out.
These so-called facts hardly answer the question. Australia is one of the few nations that accept applications from refugees overseas, generally from among the 20 million plus refugees in United Nations run camps in the Third World. These include Afghans and other nationalities represented among the boat people. There is a limit to how many refugees we can take and there is no reason why boat people should get preference over those sweating it out in refugee camps. Someone hardly becomes more desperate simply because they can obtain forged passports or pay for the services of people smugglers.
Another so-called myth is that "Boat people are not refugees". The booklet claims that most boat people that reach Australia are genuine refugees and more than 80% have been granted refugee status by the government. In 1999, 97% of those from Iraq and 93% of those from Afghanistan were "found" to be refugees.
In actual fact asylum seekers from most parts of the world have a considerably lower than 80% chance of being accepted as refugees. Those from the Middle East have been luckier but Australia uses much laxer criteria for determining refugee status than the UN. Many have not so much been proved to be genuine refugees but have simply been given the benefit of the doubt. Some of those allowed in as Afghan refugees were found later to be neither refugees nor Afghans.
Another myth the booklet deals with is "There is a flood of refugees heading to Australia". It's probably true that there is not quite the flood of potential asylum seekers likely to enter Australia as some people fear but this is largely due to three reasons the booklet does not deal with. Firstly, many people in the Third World are so poorly educated that they have probably never heard of Australia let alone have any knowledge of our living standards or welfare system. Secondly, many would not have the money to pay people smugglers, and thirdly our policy of mandatory detention has put many people off trying to enter this country illegally.
The booklet claims that Iran and Pakistan have over a million refugees and the poorest countries carry the real burden of assisting refugees. This claim is misleading; while most refugees are located in Third World countries, they are fed and sheltered by the UNHCR or non-government organisations, which in turn are funded by people in First World countries like Australia.
Next so-called myth is that "Asylum seekers will take jobs away from Australians or will rely on our welfare system". Contrary to what the booklet claims a big proportion, in fact about two-thirds of those granted asylum in recent years have gone onto welfare. Even those groups who arrived years ago are often characterised by higher than average levels of welfare dependence and involvement in crime. This could hardly be beneficial to the Australian economy.
A few of the truths the booklet does not mention further weaken its argument. It fails to mention that most refugees are women or children, in fact in some Third World refugee camps about two-thirds are children, whereas most asylum seekers are adult males. It ignores the enormous cost involved in processing and settling asylum seekers in relation to the much smaller amount spent on those in refugee camps.
Its an unfortunate fact that there are hundreds of millions of poor, oppressed and simply hungry people in underdeveloped countries. Many, if not most could benefit by migrating to the West, but if too many migrate they will just transfer the poverty and other problems to the countries they settle in. Many so-called asylum seekers are simply taking advantage of the compassion of Westerners. They are in no more dire circumstances than millions of other people and are not worth the money and angst currently being expended by Australians or other Westerners.
THE FERTILITY AND POPULATION GROWTH IN THE THIRD WORLD
A recent article in Australasian Science discusses the problems of future population growth, particularly in Asia. The worlds' population may grow by as much as 100% over this century with almost all of the growth in developing countries. Meanwhile population growth in developed nations will slow and a number, such as Japan, Germany and Russia will probably decline in population.
Many poorer countries are heavily dependent on aid to stop them starving and their high growth rates are having a deleterious effect on the environment.
China has had some success in population control and reduced its birthrate by half in 20 years. At the same time their maternal mortality rate halved and infant mortality dropped by three-quarters. Nevertheless China's population is expected to grow from 1,290 million in 2000 to 1,569 million in 2025.
At the same time the populations of India and Indonesia will grow to 1,365 million and 265 million respectively. By this time Australia's population may reach around 23 million.
Many in the poorer countries cannot now secure a livelihood due to the effects of drought, soil erosion, desertification, deforestation, population growth and global warming. In 1995 there were an estimated 22 million environmental refugees and these numbers are expected to grow to 200 million sometime this century. Australia is expected to be targeted by these refugees.
The effect of the AIDS pandemic cannot be ignored although it is impossible to really gauge its likely effect on population growth. What is likely however is that the number of those infected will increase and may reach a billion by 2050. Islamic countries may be spared the worst of this (male circumcision, practised by Moslems reduces the likelihood of infection) but other Asian countries, especially India are likely to suffer as much as black African nations do now.
What can Australia do about the population explosion? What has been recommended is that we increase foreign aid and especially so with family planning. At the moment the amount AusAID spends on assisting family planning is so low as to be virtually worthless. Restrictions include a prohibition on abortion funding, or anything to do with emergency contraception.
This seems short-sighted if not ridiculous when in Australia we have the second highest abortion rate in the world.
(Source: "The Future Fertility of Mankind" by Roger Short, Australasian Science, May 2002)
RACIAL ANCESTRY OF THE AMERICAN POPULATION
Americans have tended to adopt the "one drop" rule in determining who is to be designated black (or alternatively if one grandparent is pure African). This means that a lot of people of mixed ancestry were designated black. The so-called black American golfer, Tiger Woods for example is largely of Asian ancestry with some white, black and American Indian admixture.
Nevertheless in a recent census, one in eight Negro babies were designated by the parents as "black and other".
Using molecular techniques, anthropologists at Penn State University such as Prof. Mark D. Shriver have shed new light on the racial ancestry of modern day Americans. If the researchers got there figures right, up to 50 million white Americans have some black ancestry. Nevertheless the amount of intermixing is not as high as could be expected considering that the first blacks were brought to Anglo-America in 1619.
Of those identified as white about 30% have some black African ancestry, about 2.3% on average. Of all those who identify as white the average black ancestry is only 0.7%. This is equivalent to one black ancestor to 127 white ancestors.
Those identified as black are more mixed but not as much as once thought. It used to be estimated that the black population actually had 25 to 30% white ancestry but it now looks likely to be 17 to 18%. According to the researchers only 10% of blacks have 50% or more white ancestry.
The amount of white ancestry among Negroes varies quite a deal. The least white are the Gullahs of the Sea Islands off South Carolina and Georgia, who are about 3 to 4% white while the most white are those in California and Seattle.
Mexican Americans seem to average about 58% white ancestry. Hispanics in certain areas of New Mexico and Colorado had 58% white, 39% Amerindian and 3% Negro ancestry.
Anti-miscegenation laws were still in force in 19 states of the US until 1967. This could explain why black genes have not spread as far as they have in some other populations. Mexico's population is thought to be of, on average, 5% African ancestry but this has diffused through the population to the point where only 1% of Mexicans are identified as black.
Most Mexicans identify themselves as Mestizos, a mixture of European and Amerindian ancestry. Nevertheless there is a tendency for full-blood, or near full-blood Indians to be at the lowest end of the socio-economic scale while those with the least Indian blood to be on the higher levels. Mexico's rulers tend to be white or white in appearance, such as President Vincente Fox, grandson of an Irish-American born in the Cincinatti. Whiteness seems to go with social prestige and Mexican television stars tend to be European in appearance.
(Source: Steve Sailor, UPI National Correspondent