Why was the Federation of Australia created?

Dealing with migrants

Sigrid Baringhorst

To person

Dr. phil., born 1957; Professor of Political Science at the University of Siegen.
Address: University of Siegen, Faculty 1 Political Science, Adolf-Reichwein-Str. 2, 57068 Siegen.
Email: [email protected] siegen.de

Publications a.o .: (Ed.) Politics of Multiculturalism, Baden-Baden 1994; Politics as a Campaign, Opladen 1998; Australia, in: Wolfgang Gieler (Ed.), Handbook on Immigration and Integration Policy, Münster 2002.

Multiculturalism and migration policy in the light of neoconservative reforms

In Australia, multiculturalism has given way to a more restrictive immigration policy. The policies pursued by the neoconservative government since 1996 correspond to the fears of large sections of the population of an Asian invasion.

I. Backlash Down Under - anti-immigrant populism on the rise

Until the 1980s, Australian immigration and multicultural integration policy was based on a consensus among the major political parties, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the conservative Liberal Party. The party political consensus was based on broad support from relevant social interest groups. First of all, the employers' associations should be mentioned in this context. The construction industry in particular, as well as other branches of industry that are dependent on domestic demand, have repeatedly advocated generous immigration regulations and successfully opposed an initiative by the Labor Government when it advocated lowering the maximum number of immigrants in the late 1980s.

A second influential lobby group are representatives of immigrant and ethnic communities. The associations of Greek and other southern European immigrants are considered to be particularly well organized and politically influential. While employers emphasize the economic rationality of high immigrant numbers in debates on immigration policy, representatives of immigrant communities advocate family reunification measures and the financial strengthening of immigrants' self-organizations.

Human rights organizations form the third relevant interest group in the area of ​​immigration and integration policy. In close cooperation with the immigrant organizations, they are particularly involved in questions of welfare state support for migrants, although since the neo-conservative government under John Howard came into power in 1996, the increasingly restrictive and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers has been the focus of their criticism.

While employer, immigrant and human rights organizations successfully put pressure on the ALP governments (1983-1996) not to reduce the number of immigrants and to expand welfare services for migrants, immigration policies among the Australian population came under pressure, not least because of rising unemployment figures since the mid-1980s Years of growing rejection. In a survey from 1990, 58 percent of those questioned felt the number of immigrants as "gone too far" or "gone much too far". [1] In 1993, 70 percent of those questioned supported this criticism of the immigrant numbers that were perceived as too high; According to a survey by Newsweek, 71 percent of those questioned in the 1996 election year agreed with the statement that "the total number of migrants coming to Australia each year is too high" [2]. Family reunification is considered to be particularly unpopular and is seen as the main reason for the significant increase in Asian immigrants. In contrast, there is still quite broad support for an immigration policy that selects purely on the basis of economic efficiency criteria. [3]

In terms of party politics, the growing resentment in the population about the immigration and integration policy of the Labor government was expressed in the success of the right-wing populist One Nation Party under Pauline Hanson. In her speeches, Hanson castigated multiculturalism as a source of social disintegration and called for an immediate halt to the immigration program, an immediate return to assimilation policy and a reintroduction of the White Australia policy, which was officially abolished in 1966, according to which immigrants were selected based on their skin color and cultural assimilability. In the 1998 elections, the One Nation Party received 8.4 percent of the votes cast, with an extremely high voter share of 14.3 percent in Hanson's home state of Queensland. In the last elections in November 2001, their share of the nationwide votes dropped to 4.3 percent, which corresponds to 412,000 votes. [4]

This decline in votes for the anti-immigrant, nationalist One Nation Party is attributed to internal party quarrels, scandalized corruption cases and the party's critical stance on the United States in the context of the war on terrorism. On the other hand, the increasing insignificance of the right-wing extremists, as will be explained in more detail below, is not least a consequence of the radical changes in Australian immigration and integration policy under the coalition of the Liberal and National Party, which has been in power since March 1996. Radical restrictions in the area of ​​family reunification combined with a clear primacy of economic criteria in the selection of potential new immigrants, a reduction in financial resources and a reorientation of multicultural politics as well as a rigid and partially unhealthy treatment of unwanted immigrants, which has not gone unnoticed by the international public, are shown as signs interpreted as a migration and integration policy backlash, which in some respects is also evident in recent political developments in Europe, such as in Great Britain or the Netherlands.