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The Asianisation of Australia: volume 2, part 5

Part Five

Government Lies and Immigration Statistics:
A Case Study

This case study is a look at just one example of the official lying that constantly takes place in regards to matters of immigration and Asianisation.

In his book All For Australia (published in 1984), Geoffrey Blainey wrote a section about the "Decline In European and British Immigration", where he exposed the way in which the Government misled the Australian people over the pro-Asia bias in the immigration programme:
"In the last year Asian peoples appear to have been favoured. They increased at a time when immigrants from the other main sources - Europe and the British Isles - were declining. In the calendar year of 1983 the immigrants from Asia increased, at the expense of the traditional sources of immigrants. Permanent settlers coming from the United Kingdom and Ireland fell by 46 per cent, a drastic fall. Permanent settlers coming from continental Europe fell by 42 per cent.

"The government, faced with such figures, argued that it was simply applying the same criteria to applications from every corner of the world, and that it so happened that a growing number of Asian applicants must have put forward the superior case. The government explained that part of the answer lay in Europe and the British Isles, where people were no longer so keen to migrate. The immigration rules had also changed in recent years, the impartial scoreboard and its 60 points being altered in such a way that it favoured Asian applicants. This was true. The increasing emphasis on family reunion, whether intentionally or not, did favour Asian applicants. They valued the family more. Economic conditions in Asia also gave them a strong incentive to value the family, because the family-reunion scheme enabled them to immigrate from a land of poverty to a land of opportunity and social services. To be on the dole in Australia was like paradise compared to working hard in Indo-China. To find a well- paid job in Australia doubled the joys of paradise. The refugee programme also favoured Asians, for we brought refugees from Indo-China rather than other regions in the troubled world. That many refugees were not really refugees was simply one of the risks of any humanitarian or supposedly humanitarian policy.

"This was not a sufficient explanation of the rapid turnabout in the ratio of Asian to European and British immigrants. Perhaps, in addition, all those cities from Athens to Dublin had decided that Australia was no longer the promised land? They hesitated to migrate to Australia, and so our government perhaps had no alternative but to award fewer places to Europe and the British Isles. Here was an effective way of shrugging off part of the responsibility for the change in immigration policy. Here was a way of quietly explaining that now our immigrants would come increasingly from an enthusiastic Asia than from a lukewarm Europe and the British Isles.

"In the federal parliament in May 1984, Mr Hawke and Mr West employed this argument. They said that they themselves were not discriminating - far from it. Immigrants from Europe and the British Isles were rather discriminating against Australia by saying that they did not wish to live here. This argument dovetailed with the anti-British stance of the Labor government.

"Mr West gained prestige by explaining to parliament that fewer British were applying to settle in Australia than in former years, but they were still treated favourably compared with applicants from Europe and Asia. 'It can be seen that of these three regions, the British ratio of successful visas to applications for the first nine months of this year 1983-4 was by far the most favourable.' The newspapers and radio accepted the argument, for it seemed to them to be more persuasive than the Liberals' arguments. But was it valid? The officials of the immigration department did not necessarily agree with the prime minister and the immigration minister. Faithful public servants, they said nothing. But their silence had not extended to the paper they prepared for parliament. In that paper they warned of the danger of making the kind of observation that Mr West and Mr Hawke made to parliament. Explaining that delays in the processing of immigrant applicants were variable, the officials warned - and placed their warning on paper - that 'it is not possible to calculate valid success or failure rates' within any given period. In short, the immigration officials, in possession of the facts, had stated that the interpretation that Mr Hawke and Mr West placed on the facts was 'invalid'.

"There must have been some gaping mouths in the immigration department when those speeches were made and those reports published. High officials, in briefing the minister, must have explained that they could not prove that enthusiasm for immigration had declined startlingly in Ireland, Great Britain and Europe. We can see the pains they had taken. In the minister's own speech the notes appended to the official statistics on immigration are emphatic that figures on British and Irish applications to settle in Australia can't be take too seriously. They had been counted primarily as a way of measuring the amount of paperwork and interviews and report writing that falls to the Australian immigration officials at the various embassies. These figures should not be used for any other purpose: 'they have not been collected or used as an objective measure of interest in migration'. The minister for immigration ignored those warnings. He went on to cite the statistics as proof that British interest in immigration was waning.

"We know how the British - and possibly the Europeans - are excluded from a larger share of the migrant places. The word spreads that it is difficult to win a place in the migrant queue to Australia. In one sense this is true, because Australia now wants migrants only in those restricted categories to which the British and Europeans do not fit so easily. But the elimination of many who do apply is pressed further in Australia House in London. When applicants write to express interest in migrating, they are sent first an information form. If they remain interested, they are sent a preliminary inquiry form, which they answer in some detail. The form is read by the immigration officers in London; and if the applicant has no chance of succeeding in the next stage of the selection process, the form is filed away. Incredibly, this preliminary inquiry form is not recorded as a statement of interest in migrating. Accordingly, the English public interest in migrating to Australia is far larger than the official applications indicate. In the Australian embassy in some countries, by contrast, the preliminary inquiry form is counted as a measure of local interest in migration. Indeed, in some Australian embassies the immigration officers, as a matter of clerical procedure, count many of the applicants twice, once when they submit the preliminary form and again when they submit the more formal application. The outcome of those discrepancies is that British interest in migration is much understated.

"When, on 30 May 1984, Mr West explained to parliament that he was not discriminating against the British, he had before him several warnings about the statistics on which he had rested his case. The warnings were like the small print in a contract, the whereases and the wherefores and the aforesaids, but they were arresting. In effect the statistics in the minister's hands told him sternly: 'Use me at your peril'. Before him stood a sentence that in its utter simplicity should have advised him to abandon his central argument, that 'total applications have fallen significantly from the UK, Ireland and Europe as the tables show; and applications are rising from Asia'. He decided to press on, insisting that he was merely preferring Asians to Europeans because they especially wanted to come.

"That he was misleading parliament stands out in Hansard, the record of parliamentary debates, for 30 May 1984. The sentence quotes the figures reporting 'applications' by potential migrants from many parts of the world: 'These figures are collected as a means of providing general information on the workload of individual posts; they have not been collected or used as an objective measure of interest in migration.'

"That sentence demolished his tables of statistics claiming that European and British interest was declining and that Asian interest was rising. Only an impartial survey would tell us whether British interest in migrating to Australia was declining or was increasing. Nothing in the statistics used by the minister enables us to answer that question with confidence"(64).
Blainey's conclusions were supported by the research of John Grover: The Herald reported that "Mr West rejects fears that Australia is becoming 'Asianised', a word he dislikes tensely" (West said "I don't like the expression because all human beings should be treated equally"); and quoted some further comments from Immigration Minister Stewart West: The lies of Stewart West and his ilk stand exposed, particularly in relation to the anti-British/anti-European bias that has characterised Australia's immigration policies, and their lies that in 1984 only about 2% of our nation's population was Asian, and their ridiculous claims that Australia "won't become increasingly Asianised".

The Asianisation of Australia:
Statistics (Immigration, Ethnicity, and Trade) (Volume 2)

Australian Nationalism Information Database -