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John Findley Blog

John Findley is a China specialist having lived, off and on, in China for around 30 years. He now lives in Newcastle. He is a highly experienced senior executive and now runs his own migration business (a genuine independent contractor) supporting high-end executives to work in Australia.

19th Century Labor-inspired White Australia racism

Friday, March 08, 2013

I can state quite frankly my belief that the language requirements under Australia’s worker visa requirements are racist, harking back to the shameful White Australia policy.  That policy grew out of trade union pressures, just as it does these days.

At the behest of the trade union movement, Prime Minister Barton introduced into the first federal parliament the White Australia policy - the Immigration Restriction Bill (December 1901). That policy was carried into effect by the administration of a language test.  See below for an extract from the old Act:
1. This Act may be cited as the Immigration Restriction Act 1901.
2. In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears,—“Officer” means any officer appointed under this Act, or any Officer of Customs ;
     “The Minister” means the Minister for External Affairs.
3. The immigration into the Commonwealth of the persons described in any of the following paragraphs of this section (herein-after called “prohibited immigrants”) is prohibited, namely:—
(a) Any person who when asked to do so by an officer fails to write out at dictation and sign in the presence of the officer a passage of fifty words in length in an European language directed by the officer;
A century later, Prime Minister Gillard is following the precise same pathway, and once more at the behest of the trade unions.
100 years ago, they didn't have IELTS (The English language test required by the Immigration Department). We are now more advanced and have managed to dress our racism in pseudo-scientific terms possessing an inoffensive acronym.  The effect of the IELTS requirement is exactly the same as s3(a) of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901, but it sounds so much more impartial, scientific and palatable. It remains racist.
On the other hand, China has welcomed foreigners. I have lived and worked in China for over 20 years, and although I had no practical Chinese language skills, I ran major construction projects for foreign investors (the price tag would be much greater these days than the cumulative USD20million of the olden days).  Operating with translators, I executed the projects and passed on skills to the staff.  Some of the young engineers who worked for me took skills into their careers; one now runs an rmb5 billion annual turnover division of a construction company, another has his own construction business generating USD1million per year profit (regrettably, 12 years ago I declined an offer to take up a 30% share of that company).
GB commented on 08-Mar-2013 05:19 PM
It seems that part of the issue we are facing is a complete misunderstanding (lack of knowledge and experience) by the government and its advisors of how private companies function.

As a small business owner myself, I would much prefer to employ a local person than to sponsor a foreigner to come and work here, if I can find locally the skills (and willingness to work) that my company requires.

If anything, it would simplify the administrative burden associated with immigration, which I have no time for, as I am running and developing a business (and trying to keep 40 people employed in sometimes tough circumstances).

It also makes economic sense as, by employing locally, I would be saving:

- the immigration costs, (immigration agents are not cheap)
- the overseas-recruitment fees,
- the travelling expenses and relocation package,
- the health insurance fees (which I might have to throw in to attract anyone from a country that has social security),
- the temporary accommodation (whilst my new employee is finding permanent one),
- the cross-cultural coaching to ensure they are efficient in their interaction with their "local" colleagues,
- the partner support (most partners want to work, and my employee will only be effective if their partner is happy)

All this upfront investment (with money borrowed from the banks at quite high rates...if they accept to lend to me) for a 4-year contract, that my new employee can break at any time with no consequence to them.

Why don't government officials understand that sponsoring a foreign employee is the last resort as opposed to the first port-of-call??!!
Or is the rethoric purely for political purpose, and vote-grabbing?

PS: I am a migrant myself (originally on a 457 visa, now a citizen). I have been paying taxes in Australia for 23 years, and created jobs for 40 people. We export 30% of our turnover, improving Australia's trade balance in the process.

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