15 February 2010

A few thoughts on parents

I lodged a Contributory Parent application for a client on 6 January. The Department receipted the fee on 19 January and sent out an acknowledgement letter on 27 January. Why rush? It's going to be well over a year before the application is processed.

For this the couple will pay in excess of $70,000 to the Australian government. If they can't afford that, they can do a Casablanca (wait.... and wait..... and wait).

But hey, they are old folks aren't they? Not much older than me, actually. The rationale is apparently that the money is intended to cover the enormous drain on the public purse of bringing in a couple of old codgers who will presumably go straight into high cost medical care.

It's certainly true that in the later part of our lives most of us will end up costing the taxpayer a lot of money. My parents worked and paid taxes all their lives and then required some expensive care before they died, but that was only a small return for what they had spent, wasn't it?

No it wasn't. That's bad economics. My parents taxes were fully expended on the government services of the day, including my education. Their health care was paid for by my taxes, and yours, and the taxes of millions of migrants working in today's economy.

So if those migrants are paying their taxes just like me, why can't their parents get the benefit of them like mine did? They paid for their children's education like my parents did, either through taxes or privately, and the Australian economy gets the benefit of that. Their children don't get a tax deduction because their parents aren't here.

Besides, $35,000 a head is only a fraction of what it costs to provide health and social security support for the elderly. As is so often the case in our spin-politics age, it's more for show than anything else.

It's just one more example of the mentality that sees migrants as commodities to be exploited for the quickest short-term gain.

08 February 2010

Latest unfair policy change will not go unnoticed

The Daily Telegraph said it all. The screeching headline "MIGRANTS KEPT OUT" appeared under a banner saying "Unskilled foreign workers told they're not wanted". Then the first paragraph: "Twenty thousand foreigners applying to move to Australia will have their applications ripped up to stop an army of cooks, hairdressers and accountants from swamping our immigration system."

Sensationalism and mixed metaphors aside, the Sydney tabloid captures the flavour of the latest policy change with terms like "kept out", "not wanted" and "ripped up". Whether or not the target is such an unlikely invasion force as the one described, intent on swamping the system (in which case wouldn't it be a navy rather than an army?), is a technical detail the paper no doubt thinks is too complex for its readers to grapple with.

The changes announced today cover a wide field, but the decision to "cap" (or, as the Tele puts it, rip up) all skilled migration applications lodged before 1 September 2007 seems to be the one getting all the media attention, and for good reason. It is grossly unfair and will reflect badly on Australia's reputation in the long run.

On 1 September 2007 the Department of Immigration introduced electronic lodgement for offshore skilled migration visa applications. Resources were thrown into the new system and paper-based applications lodged before that date were put to the end the queue. By the time they were coming up for consideration early last year, the first wave of "priority processing" was introduced, which threw them back further.

Who are these people? A few cooks and hairdressers no doubt, a few more accountants, quite a lot of IT professionals, specialist managers, a lot of teachers, in short the people the Australian government said it wanted. They looked up the rules, correctly calculated their points, paid their fees (including fees for skills assessments, medical and police clearances and in some cases legal or agents fees) and waited patiently. On the reasonable expectation that they would be migrating to Australia they may have made choices such as turning down job offers, not applying to migrate elsewhere, decisions about property and education, etc.

How would you feel? What would you think about the country that treated you like that? What would you think of that country's attitude towards foreigners? Would you feel inclined to buy Australian goods, come here on a holiday, do business with this country? Would you communicate your negative feelings to others?

Apparently our political leaders have learnt nothing from the handling of the attacks on Indian students. It would be interesting to know how many of the 20,000 applications being ripped up came from Indian citizens.

More on the rest of the changes in another post.