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A call for the big picture

By Conrad Liveris - posted Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Chatter around immigration at the moment is rather banal. It is focused on the humanitarian efforts and refugee issues. This constitutes but one section of the breadth of the Australian immigration policy.

Australia has an active and intricate immigration process that has historically worked very well serving both the national interest and been responsive to humanitarian issues.

Arguably, the conversation is stagnant. We could be reflecting on what immigration policies have served us well, and which haven't. Why are we not talking about the suitable level of immigration? We seem to be avoiding it.


This focus on asylum seeker issues is frustrating – it seems as if nobody is terribly happy. While some Australian's would like to open our borders others want them closed and locked with the key thrown away.

It is a policy area that evokes strong emotions and opinions. It has magnified attention because boat arrivals to Australia constitute a very minor number, less than 1.5% of new migrants.

Australia is not carrying a global burden in the slightest when it comes to maritime arrivals.

When the Fraser Government instituted a policy increasing migration from Vietnam, out of the Vietnam War, it has been viewed as a positive thing. We now have vibrant Asian communities in primarily Sydney and Melbourne.

We rose to the call of duty then, and I think we can do it again. The numbers of Vietnamese people coming by boat weren't high or excessive but it was politically controversial.

What Australia lacks is a solid idea of what our immigration should look like. We are very focused on the minute rather than the big picture.


I am a product of European migration to Australia, and many of you will be too. My father's family comes from Greece and my mother from the UK. Many of my friends wear their family's migration proudly - Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa.

For Australia to continue to be the great melting-pot of multiculturalism, which we used to wave so proudly, we need to think beyond one asylum seeker boat.

In her last QandA performance, Judith Sloan correctly noted that Australia has a well-functioning migration scheme. For a long time we have benefitted from the huddled masses yearning for freedom and those who long for liberty and acceptance.

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About the Author

Conrad Liveris is a Community Advocate and Operations Analyst, working in business development and policy with a focus on gender equality and intergenerational issues.

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