Today Tanya Plibersek let the genie out of the bottle of all the critics of Peter Dutton writes Dinesh Malhotra

‘Xenophobia latest weapon employed in election 2016’ cried a headline. ‘Dutton inflames refugee debate’ shouted another while media began to see ghosts of the mother Australia – Pauline Hanson; in the candid and honest words promulgated on Sky News by the Minister for Border Protection Peter Dutton in caretaker mode.

Commenting on the idea of jacking up the refugee intake to numbers quadrupling the current numbers, Peter Dutton had said:

“They (refugees) won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English,” Mr Dutton said.

“These people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that.

“For many of them that would be unemployed, they would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare and the rest of it so there would be huge cost and there’s no sense in sugar-coating that, that’s the scenario.”

Peter Dutton was responding to a Greens idea to boost the refugee intake to 50,000 while Labor is supporting the increase to 27,000.

Soon as Peter Dutton spoke, all hell broke loose.

It’s only week two of an eight-week campaign and already the switch has been thrown to xenophobia.

“When you can’t cajole the voters it’s best to play to their darker angels and nothing is darker than foreigners, refugees or migrants – it doesn’t matter – coming to bludge on taxpayers and take jobs”, wrote one commentator.

Rather than seeing the honesty and frankness in Peter Dutton’s comments, he saw a conspiracy (by the Liberals) to win the election they were losing.

“… if history is any guide it could prove a winner for the government. A hard-pressed John Howard did it to great effect in 2001 and “stopping the boats” helped float Tony Abbott’s victory in 2013” he concluded

Almost all commentators pointed to the fact that immigration – read ‘people’ in economic terms; is an economic driver which, rather than stealing them from Australians, creates jobs. This fact is loaded with potency of truth of million atom bombs but requires a very honest dichotomy and “unspinning” which I will come to in a moment.

Jumping on the band wagon – of how Australia was made great by the people who have arrived Down Under to settle here, were in hordes, commentators from all over Australia.

And not surprisingly, aping Waleedy Aly’s recent pitch(on ISIL or Daesh) on The Project (‘I won’t be manipulated’…) who had won appreciation for winning Gold Logie earlier, Karl Stefanovic went hard on Peter Dutton and asked him to apologize for having made those statements – which according to Karl – were “un-Australian”.

He made the case for the apology by citing his own parents and parents of his colleague – Tim Gilbert whose parents also came to Australia with no English.

Many commentators cherry-picked success stories of refugees and migrants to make their case. The Age story traveled to Shepparton to speak to Bagiri family who had successfully transitioned from Nauru into Australian society and co-owns an orchard.

Being interviewed on ABC 24, Labor’s Tanya Plibersek spoke of her parents coming to Australia with no English many decades ago and her father having never been out of work – not even for one day and successfully raising their children.

The idea was the success of that wave of migrants who found plenty of work around even if they did not know English.

And then to a question – what was wrong with government’s argument of controlling the number to be able to again manage the programs in place successfully for the incoming migrants, she said, there were no programs in place – people came and people went to work, suggesting again – migrants had made a huge contribution.

This answer by Tanya Plibersek lets the genie of the bottle of all the critics of Peter Dutton.

The times Karl’s and Tim’s parents came to Australia were pre-Medicare and there were hardly any government run programs costing the government millions of dollars on delivering support services. Most of the services in those days – were delivered through charities and peoples’ or neighbours’ goodwill.

The question is – will the Bagiri family in Shepparton – take responsibility to take in one family from offshore processing centre and finance each and everything Peter Dutton has to, with current programs in place?

Consider the job of finding 50,000 of the Bagiris to take on the role – people played in the days Karl’s or Tim’s parents came to Australia and the government perhaps can make some contribution through Church as it would have done back then.

Perhaps Greens’ Richard Di Natale has a house big enough to lead the way.

The fact is, Peter Dutton put out his message very crudely and here I fully agree with Paul Bongiorno.

But for the ALP to exploit that is just being hypocritical to the core. Take a hypothetical but a real life case of throwing 50,000 refugees into the suburbs of Melbourne. They may not be all illiterate but they will not be looking for a lecturer’s or barrister’s position the first day of their life. What will actually happen is – they will go out and look for any work – and the only work easily available – menial work.

You get it now – the hourly rate is not something they would like to or have the ability to negotiate.

The result – employers will hire them for pittance and who will lose?

Someone, who was getting paid better. And without fail he or she will not be student or someone not authorized to work in Australia.

Thus the increase in intake, year after year, will only replicate the above hypothesis in real life and drive wages down which is not what the ALP really stands for.

The argument of policing through Fairwork will remain on paper – the gap between the real life experiences of day to day market forces and the difference between the illusion and reality of successful policing of wrongdoers (VET fee-help is a case in point) are two entirely different phenomena.

The increased cost of policing may be another item, political honchos may have to factor in.

All those champions of increased intake (myself included), cannot be oblivious to the costs of managing government programs already in place.

Huge success of people having come in to settle here – is something to celebrate – but in most cases – that success – has taken the lifetime of the first generation settlers.

The nerve of Pete Dutton’s argument is that the resources tap to support such people coming in has to be turned on, from the moment they are allowed to set their foot on Australian soil.

And the resource being a finite quantity – will, inevitably be shared among the people who are already here. It is no rocket science. And those asking for the apology should ‘unspin’ their own argument before they start proselytizing.

And those conspiracy theorists, who want to see Peter Dutton as demonizing the migrants rather than appreciating the financial argument behind it, are in fact, vicariously doing the work for him!

(Dinesh Malhotra is the founding editor of Bharat Times)

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