Australia and the USA Compared
Monash Studies in Global Movements series
Edited by John Higley, John Nieuwenhuysen and Stine Neerup
Chapter 5: Immigration Policy in Australia
Bob Birrell The headline story on immigration levels in Australia is that after a period of stringent reform and relatively low permanent entry programme numbers in the 1990s, there has since been a dramatic expansion. By 2008–09 the programme had reached the record level of just over 200 000. There are some Australian commentators who see this outcome as an inevitable consequence of economic globalization and consequent increased cross-national movement of people. For example, Castles and his American colleague Miller argue: ‘Barriers to mobility contradict the powerful forces which are leading towards greater economic and cultural interchange. In an increasingly international economy, it is difficult to open borders for movements of information, commodities and capital and yet close them to people’ (Castles and Miller 1998, p. 290). There is no doubt that the increased exposure of national economies to the international marketplace brings in its train pressures for more international movement of personnel. In particular, if firms are to compete in the global marketplace they may have to look outside their country’s borders to recruit the required skills. The logic of globalization, as summarized, may seem convincing. However, the removal of barriers to population movement across national borders is far more contentious than the movement of goods and money. WHY IMMIGRATION IS DIFFERENT To understand why immigration is contentious requires a brief foray into the history of the nation state in the post-Second World War era. In post-war Europe politics largely revolved around class accommodation. The Second World War...
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