Immigration policy up north and down under — Harper borrowing Abbott and Howard

Oct 20th, 2010 | By | Category: In Brief

PM Harper greets a young new Canadian at Ottawa Citizenship Ceremony.

It’s no secret that Stephen Harper likes to swap notes, and speeches, with his Australian counterparts in the conservative Liberal Party.  Mr. Harper  once shamelessly plagiarized a speech about the war in Iraq from the man he fairly swooned over, former Australia Prime Minister John Howard.  It seems that Mr. Harper and/or his advisers have also been taking careful note of what the current Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott has been saying lately about immigration. The Canadian prime minister’s remarks at a Citizenship Ceremony in Ottawa yesterday would have sounded eerily familiar to any Australian who was listening.

Tony Abbott and former PM John Howard meet up at a fundraiser in Sydney, during recent Australian election campaign. Picture: Ray Strange Source: Herald Sun.

Mr. Howard, Australia ’s prime minister from 1996 to 2007, used the immigration issue  ruthlessly and effectively during much of his time in office. His conservative Liberal Party under Mr. Abbott continues to this day to run the same simplistic rhetoric.  It goes like this.  There are good and decent people who want to flee persecution but who wait patiently in the queue to enter Australia .  And then there are opportunist queue jumpers who pay wads of cash to people smugglers to have them sail in a leaky boat from Indonesia to the vast northwest coast of Australia .  This latter group of people will be shown no mercy by the government.  Asylum seekers who pay people smugglers will be detained behind razor wire and people smugglers will subject to criminal laws which are even more severe than those which confront persons accused of terrorism offences.  And hey don’t feel guilty about these hordes of people who want to come and live in Australia , because it is one of the most generous countries in the world.

This sort of argument goes down a treat with voters who feel a sense of economic and social insecurity, and who are unnerved by the prospect of Muslims or Sri Lankan Tamils living next door.

Pupil Stephen Harper listens carefully to master John Howard, at Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ( APEC) meeting on September 8, 2007 in Sydney, Australia.

Stephen Harper’s remarks yesterday can be fairly compared to those made by Mr. Abbott in a speech delivered in May this year.  Both leaders are keen to exploit that level of fear which exists in nearly all developed world countries about the immigration.  “I do not blame Canadians whether it is established Canadians, or new citizens such as yourselves, for shaking your heads over this, for becoming cynical or for demanding that we act. But I do worry about the consequences of not acting, because a failure to act and act strongly, will inevitably lead to a massive collapse in public support for our immigration system, “ Harper told his audience.

Here’s Abbott on the same theme.  “The increasing flow of boats has strained our capacity to deal with illegal migrants, disrupted our capacity to handle refugees who aren’t “jumping the queue” and, perhaps most seriously of all, helped to undermine the public’s confidence in the legitimacy of Australia ’s wider immigration programme.”

Former Australian PM John Howard and admiring friend, back in the old days: “almost word for word the Australian premier’s speech justifying the invasion of Iraq mirrors that of Canada’s Stephen Harper.”

In other words, both Abbott and Harper are playing along with those in their respective communities who think that somehow the borders of their countries are collapsing.

Not that Harper or Abbott would want you to think for a moment that they are xenophobes.   “[N]ot only do we have relatively speaking the largest immigration program in the world; not only do we have the most generous system of sanctuary for refugees in the world; We also have a level of public support for immigration that is unparalleled elsewhere in the world. And that must continue. Because our economy will need even more immigrants.  And, even if it didn’t, our country will always need more people like you who bring your dreams and thus help build our country’s future.” says Harper.

“Immigration to Australia has been a success almost unparalleled in history,”  opines Abbott, warming to the same theme. His Liberal Party “gratefully acknowledges the role of immigration in Australia ’s economic and cultural development and salutes the individual contributions that millions of migrants have made to our country’s success.”

“Tony Abbott wears a rainbow hair net as part of an organ donation campaign. Photo: AAP.” Does this also remind you of another ami of Stephen Harper’s?

But people smugglers and asylum seekers — those who jump the queue — must be stopped because they represent a “sinister” force and insecurity.

So what will Stephen Harper do?  “We shall be taking action, action to ensure public confidence in our immigration system and in our borders. Action, to ensure that people who abide by our laws and patiently proceed through our system, like everyone here today, are not made to wait even longer. During this session of Parliament, strong new laws are coming to deal with these deeply disturbing trends of mass arrivals through human smuggling. They will provide strong incentives to turn those who want to live in Canada away from this kind of behavior and toward the legitimate channels of entry that you have pursued,” Harper said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledges applause following speech before the Australian Parliament in Canberra, September 2007. Tom Hanson/Canadian Press.

Gee, that’s exactly what Mr. Abbott thinks is the solution!  “A strong border protection policy is perfectly consistent with a large and inclusive immigration programme.  In fact, it’s probably essential if the public is to be convinced that Australia ’s immigration policy is run by the Government rather than by people smugglers,” Abbott said in May.  And in a media conference on July 6 this year Abbott berated “people who have broken the rules and tried to jump the queue by coming to Australia through the people smuggling rings.”

The sort of policies and rhetoric that Mr. Abbott and his predecessor Mr. Howard have peddled over the past decade in Australia on the immigration issue have been divisive. And they have rightly seen Australia treated with opprobrium by the world media and NGOs such as Amnesty International. Now it sounds like the copy cat Stephen Harper has been taking lessons from his Australian friends and wants to take Canada down a similar path, to divide his opposition and win cheap votes: “The example of Tony Abbott is reminding some around Harper that confrontation can be smarter than conciliation. That kind of attitude won’t win a broad coalition of support. But in Canada, about 40 per cent is all you need for a majority” (of seats in Parliament at least).

Tags: , , ,


2 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. […] about the identity of the country receiving them.” So now, what about Canada?? Canada – Prime Minister Harper stated: “Our economy will need even more immigrants…we have the most generous system…for […]

  2. […] way in which Harper and Abbott are aligned, is in their attitudes towards immigrants, women and homosexuals. Both men are misogynist homophobes who are insidiously imposing their […]

    http://cinova.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/a-tale-of-two-demagogues/

Leave Comment