Politicians trashing immigrants and refugees are the real danger to social cohesion

Dutton-Shoot-themThe ConversationFrom the Betoota Advocate with thanks

Andrew Jakubowicz, University of Technology Sydney

In a bid to defend Immigration Minister Peter Dutton following his controversial comments on refugees, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in a Fairfax op-ed made unjustifiable claims about the relationship between his government’s multicultural policy, Australia being a multicultural society, and stopping the boats.

Turnbull’s op-ed contained four serious implications:

  • that public support for multiculturalism as a policy for settlement and social cohesion solely depends on governments demonstrating control of borders;
  • that there are only costs associated with refugees (which “we do not begrudge”);
  • that the threat to multiculturalism comes only from unauthorised asylum seeker arrivals and any increase in authorised numbers that would overwhelm settlement services; and
  • that Australia is “the most successful and harmonious multicultural nation in the world”.

Each of these propositions is disingenuous and misleading.

Does multiculturalism depend on ‘strong borders’?

The issues of multiculturalism and immigration need to be separated. There is evidence uncontrolled borders erode community support for large immigration numbers. However, there is little evidence that support for multiculturalism is directly tied to support for particular levels of immigration.

Multiculturalism is a process of settlement and the building of mutual respect, not a basis for admission into the country. Support for multiculturalism in Australia hovers at about 80%, even while support for immigration levels rises or falls in relation to the perceived control governments have over national borders.

Research dating back to 1998 demonstrates that Australian support for high immigration levels remains well above 50% – unless people become anxious that multiculturalism will cause them specific harm.


The costs associated with the settlement of refugees are significant.

However, the additional costs the government claims an increased refugee intake would generate are tiny. Labor, which is promising to lift the intake from 13,750 to 27,000 by 2025, points out there would be no change in numbers until the fourth year of the forward estimates, and then only small numbers. At a A$17 million difference, it would hardly destroy the budget.

Even then, this addition at the margins would be well offset by the impact of refugees’ high propensity to consume, with its multiplier effects through the economy. They tend to spend nearly everything they get in their first few years in Australia. Begrudging the investment would be foolhardy given the benefits it generates.

Settlement services throughout Australia have been developing new strategies to engage with the one-off intake of 12,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in the Middle East.

NSW Premier Mike Baird has appointed a co-ordinator-general for refugee resettlement, Peter Shergold. Early reports suggest a greater level of integrated service planning and delivery than has ever happened before. This is generating higher efficiencies, greater community, institutional and business buy-in, and a more productive system unlikely to be overwhelmed by the intake Labor proposes.


While support for high levels of immigration has been more varied, the real killer for multiculturalism is the anxiety factor about the perceived threat of cultural diversity versus the perceived benefits.

The last time this was seriously tested was in 2007. Then-immigration minister Kevin Andrews announced, just before the election, the slashing of the African refugee intake. In another exacerbation of community anxiety, he claimed Africans apparently integrated poorly into Australia.

This was not only wrong – African young men were the target of racist violence, not the perpetrators – and insulting, but it shifted public opinion away from support for immigration and multiculturalism.

Tony Abbott repeated this in relation to Muslims. Senior politicians traducing the reputation of immigrants does more to erode support for multiculturalism than do uncontrolled borders.

Is Australian multiculturalism the world’s best?

There are two major indices that test this proposition. The Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) covers 28 countries. The Multiculturalism Policy Index (MCP) covers 21 countries. It contains three elements – immigrants, indigenous minorities and national minorities.

The 2014 MIPEX places Australia eighth out of 28 countries, marking it down on family reunion and other human rights issues. This is a more rigorous and extensive index. Its results do not support Turnbull’s claims.

The 2010 MCP immigrants list, which was undertaken during the Labor government and therefore not adjusted for changes under the Coalition, placed Australia at the top of the list with a “perfect” score. However, its indigenous minorities list of nine countries placed Australia fifth.

The Coalition specifically opposes key multicultural policy initiatives. It abolished (under John Howard) and now opposes an Office for Multicultural Affairs. It opposes and refuses even to discuss a Multiculturalism Act. But its multiculturalism minister, Craig Laundy, has identified the main advisory body, the Australian Multicultural Council, as unrepresentative and requiring change.

Finally, the Coalition has no plans to re-establish a policy–linked research capacity outside the limited program inside the Department of Social Services. This is despite its members supporting this move in opposition.

Turnbull was more correct to say governments that lose “control” of their borders see a decline in support for higher immigration levels. But to lose support for multiculturalism, governments have to trash the reputation of refugees, raise community anxiety and watch while they trigger the added complication of fragmentation in community cohesion.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Launch The Boy on the Tricycle by Marcel Weyland

Andrew Jakubowicz  Launch 12 May 2016 at the Polish Consulate Woollahra Sydney.


Andrew, Regina, Marcel, Veronica Sumegi (publisher), Phillip


While I have been in Marcel’s consciousness some few years more than he has been in mine, I am honoured that he has asked me, the nephew, to help launch this memory of a life well lived.

Consul Regina Jurkowska, Marcel Weyland, Phillip Hinton


From my earliest memories he was part of my family world, with the trips from Bondi to the rambling mansion at Mosman, and my getting to know the line of cousins and that mysterious string of Irish relatives brought into our family through his marriage with Philippa.

Paul and Julia Pokorny (daughter Marcel) play at beginning of evening

His life has trailed the history of the modern world, starting from the calm comfort of a bourgeois home in Lodz, Poland, and being completed but by no means finished now in the other bookend in Sydney, Australia, his ever spreading offsprings’ offspring melding with the children of other immigrants from all over the world.

En famille…

I have seen his memoir emerge at a steady pace, and watched how memory and contemporary prospect intertwine and feed on each other. In June last year some of his memoir was shared via video in progress with family, friends and interested observers at a ceremony I attended in the Synagogue in Warsaw. Then three months later, the invitation to him I had been handed there and trusted to deliver by Japanese officials, was realised as he was guest of honour at a ceremony in Kaunas Lithuania to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the role that Chiune Sugihara had played in the survival of our family. While Marcel was in Kaunas, Mara and I were in Shanghai watching a musical “The Jews of Shanghai” performed to celebrate the end of the war against Japan, which permitted him to take the final voyage to freedom in Australia.

The Eagle, Andrew, Marcel

This is very much Marcel’s night, and it represents another milestone in an extraordinary career that he has developed as a bridge between the many societies where his life paused in its trajectory. Born in Poland, saved firstly from the Holocaust in Lithuania by British officials representing Poland, and by a Dutch and Japanese official who was running Polish secret agents, and then a Soviet officer, then permitted to escape across the USSR, settled for a time in Kobe, Japan, then shifted unceremoniously to Shanghai, where suddenly all forward movement halted, Marcel arrived with my parents and his mother in Sydney in September 1946 where his sister Maria, greeted him. This sputtering but magical journey is only one part of a tremendous life, part luck, part courage, part adventurous imagination.


There were many moments of extraordinary luck and serendipity, which he records with a wonderfully wry style in this book.   We were discussing one of those – why and how did he get to Shanghai, last year. I wanted to know more and after the trip to Shanghai and a turn in the archives there I had even more questions. There are at least three heroes in Marcel’s story – Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Kaunas; Jan Zwartendijk, the inventive Dutch honorary consul in the same city; and the Polish Ambassador to Japan Tadeusz Romer, who was moved from Tokyo to Shanghai about the same time Marcel was shipped from Kobe to that same city.

VilnaRebbeMeilichSongMusic copy
Marcel sang this song, in English (his translation), all verses at the launch: originally performed in Vilna in Polish, during winter 1940/41, in a refugee cabaret: Gila Helman perished there under the Nazis

Marcel and the family were on the last boat to Shanghai. Up until July 1941 the expectation of most of the 2000 Polish Jews who had used Sugihara and Zwartendijk papers to get to Japan, was that they would get out to North America, South America, Australia or Palestine. Maria had already secured a link to a refugee accepted by Canada, later known as Stefan Golston, serendipitously as we now know also a translator of Polish poetry. However at the end of July all shipping out of Japan to the west was halted, as was the flow of money to support the refugees from the USA. The civil authorities in Kobe decided that the final 1000 Poles had to leave, and they sent three ships to Shanghai. Our family remained in Kobe, maybe because they still hoped to get to Canada, maybe because unlike many others they were not destitute as my father worked for the local JewCom.

In Shanghai the Japanese military authorities were very unwelcoming; in their view the Polish Jews were undesirable and would not be allowed to land in Hongkew where the Jewish community had housing. The Vichy French banned entry to the French Concession. The Jewish community confronted the Shanghai Municipal Council, an international body run by British officials, and demanded they help, or they would cable Kobe and tell the refugees not to leave.

The confrontation continued – the community had housing where there was no entry allowed, and where entry was allowed they had no housing. When the third boat arrived at the end of August the passengers disembarked on the Bund and were first housed in the Museum Road synagogue.


The following day the community reported the synagogue as over crowded to the Council, demanding it find alternative accommodation. This ruse did not work but soon after the arrivals were allowed into some of the housing in Hongkew; the rabbinical students (about 300) stayed in the synagogue, and the others moved to the Jewish club in the French Concession. Marcel and our family arrived on a fourth ship that left Kobe on September 15. They were then moved to a house belonging to the Catholic church in the French Concession – we visited it again last year, preserved by the Shanghai city across the road from the Shanghai Hilton.

As the memoir notes, Marcel then tracked off to find a school, repeating an adventure from Kobe, and by October he was at the Shanghai Jewish School. Michal their father urged Maria, who had the Canadian visa, to take the last berth on a Dutch boat heading for Australia, entry arranged through Romer’s good offices. It would turn out to be the last ship out, and their expectation that Maria would do the necessary to help them also leave did not occur until June 1946.

The singer sings his song

In 1943 the remaining family members were ordered to move into Hongkew (The Designated Area), where they lived in a house in Dalny Road. Mara and I saw it being demolished in 2000 for the new metro station near the Jewish Refugee Museum.

I want to make short mention here of five of the Polish Jews whose lives ended in Japanese custody, when they protested the move to the Ghetto. They tried to assert that they were Polish citizens not stateless refugees: to no avail. The five had all received Sugihara visas in Lithuania in 1940; they had travelled across the USSR and found refuge in Kobe in 1941; they had been shipped to Shanghai in late 1941, two on the last ship in September. In a very real sense they were the Jews who martyred themselves for the Polish cause; their names were Josef Altminc (from Warsaw, 45 yo, JDC Vilna list 64, Sugihara list 157, Polish consulate list 1340); Berysz Abramowicz (Sugihara list 1376, Polish consulate list 1054); Aleksander Halperson (Sugihara list 370, Polish consulate list 1200); Gersz Praskier (Sugihara list 1048, Polish consulate list 1131); and Teodor Finkelstein (Sugihara 1680).

In September 1946 Marcel and his mother, with my parents, arrived by ship from Hong Kong on the SS Yochow, at Woolloomooloo. Michal had died of cancer in Shanghai in 1942. My father’s parents had perished in 1942 in the Litzmannstadt ghetto (Lodz) and at Kulmhof death camp (Chelmno) in Poland.

Last contact: his father to my father, May 1941.

With great emotion and heartfelt thanks for his life and the magic that allowed him to live it, I declare the memoir of the boy on the tricycle launched, and ask Phillip Hinton to read to us from its wonderful text.


Phillip Hinton in full flight

The Crowd

Election 2016: the most exciting time to be multicultural in Australia?

Andrew Jakubowicz, University of Technology Sydney

Malcolm Turnbull and his multiculturalism minister, Craig Laundy, believe Australia is the world’s most successful multicultural society. However comforting that declaration may be, the major parties have very different views on some of the hot-button issues deeply embedded in contemporary multicultural Australia.

Multicultural issues may not decide the election. But the multicultural voting make-up of many marginal electorates will play a critical part in who wins these seats.

In interviews with me, Laundy, the shadow multiculturalism minister, Michelle Rowland, and Greens leader and multicultural affairs spokesperson Richard Di Natale identified their priorities and passions within their parties’ multicultural agendas.

The big pictures

Hot-button issues include the place of Muslims in Australian society, the role of the heavily criticised Australian Multicultural Council, whether Australia should follow Canada and pass a national Multicultural Australia Act, the whiteness of mainstream Australian media, whether religious beliefs should be protected from vilification, and where “multicultural awareness” should sit in the whole of government.

The opportunities multiculturalism presents are key for minister Craig Laundy.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

For Laundy, the opportunities multiculturalism presents are key. Cultural diversity is the launching pad, for instance, into international trade under the new free trade agreements. The Chinese businesspeople of Burwood, in Sydney’s inner west, are for him the epitome of what Liberal multiculturalism can achieve. This is not a “migrant problem” perspective, but rather an “unblocking contribution” challenge.

Care issues focus on the aged. Laundy is “not aware” of any issues of accessibility around the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for multicultural communities.

Rowland projects a more Laborist perspective. For her, the critical issue is economic participation. She agrees with Laundy about the central role of English-language acquisition but would push availability more strongly.

Rowland notes the NDIS has seriously let down multicultural communities. The more well-established ethnic communities have taken effective advantage of the aged-care program. But she says the newer communities – especially from the subcontinent – are facing crises in their elder care, especially without culturally appropriate respite care.

Labor plans to re-establish an Office of Multicultural Affairs with whole-of-government responsibilities but leave it in the Department of Social Services, with a focus on English language skills and employment. It will reintroduce the Community Capital Grant program that the Coalition stopped on winning government, and introduce a “human capital” scheme to support staffing development in the multicultural sector.

Total new expenditure over the forward estimates is about A$28 million.

Richard Di Natale and the Greens’ key multiculturalism focus is on human rights.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Di Natale has spent the longest of the three in this portfolio. He knows it and the arguments well. He is close to the thinking of the national lobby, the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia. The Greens start with ensuring “diversity in our own team” by selecting candidates who encapsulate contemporary Australia.

The Greens’ key focus is human rights. This is demonstrated in their strong opposition to the mooted changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and the ending of the Migrant Community Employment Fund.

For Di Natale, the demographic changes in Australian society must be reflected in cultural changes in how government works. This would mean the aged care workforce can actually engage with ageing multicultural communities, and the NDIS recognises and remedies the under-representation of cultural diversity among those who receive its trial programs.

In close

Significant differences emerge on key issues.

Laundy does not believe in setting targets for diversity inclusion, preferring to let the market sort it out. Given the clear precedence of Australian law in all cases, as a practising Catholic, he strongly supports the freedom of communities to use religious tribunals to provide guidance for individuals in conflict. He cites Catholic Canon Law, Jewish Beth Din and Islamic Sharia as appropriate.

Laundy is opposed to extending racial vilification protection to religious vilification. He argues that religions are far stronger and don’t need it.

He is also opposed to a Multicultural Australia Act, rejecting even the option of debating it. He does not believe there is any need for a Multicultural Affairs office in the prime minister’s portfolio, nor mandated participation for cultural minorities in government advisory bodies.

Laundy accepts, however, that the Australian Multicultural Council needs serious work, with its membership changed to be far more representative.

As someone who has spoken out in defence of multiculturalism, he says:

I know the views that vilify me are those of a small minority. Most Australians like what multiculturalism has done for the country.

Reflecting on the past, he notes:

Any prime minister who doesn’t support multiculturalism does so at his own peril.

Rowland shares many of Laundy’s social values. Labor, she stresses, has no policy for a Multicultural Act, though she also points to the party’s strong defence of Section 18C, especially through the shadow attorney-general, Mark Dreyfus.

Rowland agrees that perhaps an incoming government might charge a revised Australian Multicultural Council to explore legislative options for national multicultural legislation. But it is unlikely to be an election policy, and she doesn’t have a view.

Labor’s spokesperson, Michelle Rowland, believes religious groups should play no role in any Australian legal situation.
AAP/Lukas Coch

The wider issues of diversity and representation have not been on Rowland’s radar. She admits she has never discussed with the shadow communications minister, Jason Clare, issues of diverse representation on either the ABC board or in its programming.

Rowland takes a diametrically opposed position to Laundy on where religious law sits. She believes religious groups should play no role in any Australian legal situation. For her, the law is and must remain secular – be it for Jews, Catholics or Muslims.

She is also wary of whether religious vilification should be part of the Racial Discrimination Act, flipping it to Dreyfus as his responsibility. She would, however, have the review of the Multicultural Council as a pressing issue, especially in terms of its ability to advise government on key areas such as employment, support for grassroots organisations, and the building of more community hubs.

Di Natale brings an additional spin to the debate. He points to major issues affecting elderly immigrants as the Commonwealth moves to digital delivery of information. The government, he reflects, is poorly prepared for older people who are not literate in English or often their original language, losing English skills as they age, but who are expected to have access to and use the internet.

He says:

There is a real potential these people will be left behind.

Like Laundy but unlike Rowland, the Greens are willing to ensure that culturally appropriate conflict resolution (he includes Koori courts) can be extended more widely. This includes using religious institutions as points of contact and resolution.

Structurally, the Greens are the most committed to institutional reform, such as moving multicultural affairs back into the prime minister’s department and reconstituting the Multicultural Council.

The Greens support and will promote a debate on enacting Multicultural Australia legislation to clarify rights and determine responsibilities for all Australians. This would open up a wider conversation of inclusion.

Di Natale is wary in the first instance of religious vilification legislation. He fears opponents of the Racial Discrimination Act might use the opportunity to wreck the current legislation, when so much political energy was expended.

A debate about cultural inclusion, however, would have many long-term benefits. Some might turn up in legislation. It might lead to cultural change and institutional transformation such as through social media campaigns against racism, and by resolving what the Greens see as the racism inherent in the treatment of asylum seekers.

Multicultural excitement

Where initiatives are interrogated from a perspective that incorporates cultural diversity, the policy settings look different enough to affect some people when they decide how they will vote.

The new anti-terror surveillance laws may affect some members of some communities, as may the blocking of overseas Chinese investors buying into local property, from mansions to cattle ranches.

While Labor’s initiatives are small, they do reinvigorate the capacity of communities to participate in debates about cultural diversity’s future in Australia.

The government has yet to indicate any election initiatives, other than the budget statement about extending community hubs and a long-awaited career pathways pilot for skilled migrants without local experience. These will cost $11 million over three years.

Some election sweeteners are planned. We await their release after the first fortnight of the “jobs and growth” message.

In seats like those of the main multicultural spear-carriers, such engagement may well prove crucial.

The Conversation

Andrew Jakubowicz, Professor of Sociology, University of Technology Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The end of the print Herald: the view from 2011

With Greg Hywood foreshadowing the abandonment of weekday print SMH and Age editions, I am reminded of a 2011 blog post I wrote for the CQ section of SBS online. Here is the critical paragraph….  scary! And only out by one year (though it may yet all fall into place as I foretold).

With the print newspaper now effectively gone, the last hard-copy edition of the Sydney Morning Herald had been produced in 2017 for that year’s double dissolution Federal election, tablet-based multimedia communication units now carry instantaneous news updates tailored to individual pro-sumer profiles.