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White flighting and the case for rethinking the migration & refugee program

Laurie Ferguson, parliamentary secretary for multicultural affairs, says that because Australian families are ‘white flighting’ – withdrawing their kids from public schools and placing them in church or private schools to avoid unsought impacts migrant communities on the schools – that more needs to be done to avoid children from places like Africa, who had grown up in refugee camps and had limited education, being heavily concentrated in some areas and schools.

A report by the NSW Secondary Principals Council in 2006 raised concerns about ‘white flight’ undermining the public education system and threatening social cohesion. It showed the percentage of Anglo-European students in public schools had decreased by a third in western NSW, by 42% in North Sydney and 37% in New England.

The need Ferguson thinks is to diversify the location of housing for refugees and humanitarian entrants.

A moment’s reflection suggests this policy has no chance of success. Residents will just ‘flight’ further or relocate. Perhaps, instead, we need to rethink the current direction of the migration program to reduce the pace of migration from areas that are slow to gain acceptance in Australian communities.

Some weight in immigration policy should be placed on the attitudes of those communities accepting the migrants – it is wrong even in refugee policy – to consider only the needs of the immigrants.

This is quite apart from the fact that some migrants we are accepting seem to be completely inappropriate. Even in terms of general immigration and refugee policy the preferences of local residents matter.

My own preference is to switch the composition of our migrant intake towards accepting more migrants from Asia. The sons and daughters of these migrants do well in our schools and the families integrate well into local communities.

11 comments to White flighting and the case for rethinking the migration & refugee program

  • conrad

    With approximately 4,000 unrented premises in Melbourne (most presumably not “cheap” accomodation), I imagine the problem of refugees concentrating in the same areas in Melbourne is pretty much going to solve itself. Where they go at all is probably going to be a bigger problem.

    I think part of the problem is that the government is too politically correct. If you are going to take refugees from some of the most hopeless places in the world, then you should really admit that and be prepared to spend the money that is needed to integrate them. That might be very costly for some groups with no education at all. Its no surprise the current strategy of taking them and just dropping them somewhere without doing this leads to social problems (and no doubt endemic ones too unfortunately).

    Of course, I doubt it makes sense to spend large amounts of money on individuals from one group, when it is possible to help more in just as bad conditions from another group with the same amount of money. In this case, I agree with you (possibly for different reasons?) that some groups are going to be better to take than others.

  • rabee

    In Armidale parents are fleeing schools because they don’t want their kids mixing with Aboriginal students.

    In Western Sydney they don’t want them mixing with Asian students.

    I think you called this kind of thinking “aspirational parents” last year Harry.

    My feeling is that if parents don’t want their kids being around indigenous kids, then they should pay for their education and shouldn’t expect handouts from the rest of us.

    I’ve never understood why there is an expectation that the government should subsidize schools who’s entry rules are not transparent and are not covered by anti-discrimination laws.

    The consequence of such subsidies is that we are subsidizing (non-price) discriminatory attitudes on the part of private schools as well as some parents.

    This is John Howard’s Apartheid. Thank goodness he’s gone.

  • hc

    Conrad, One response to dealing with immigrants who are disadvantaged with low human capital is to give them money and to invest huge sums in their human capital. As you note another approach is to select migrants with higher human capital who more readily fit into the economy and the society. Its as usual in economics a balance between the needs and wants of thodse being selected for society and the interests and needs of the newcomers.

    Rabee, There is some anti-Howard bile but notot of sense in your comment.

    I don’t call people who dislike aboriginals or Asians aspirationals – I never have.

    But I do recognise that people in the community have preferences in public education and that there are big external costs in sending your kids to school with disadvantaged kids who don’t have much education.

    The aboriginals are the original people of Australia and we should not put ourselves in the position of thinking about excluding them from any part of Australian life. Immigrants are not – they are a selected from a much larger group of people seeking admission to Australia.

    My point is that residents have a right to an input into the types of people they want. Generally residents do not want rapists or members of criminal gangs even if they did have horrific backgrounds. You seem to be denying them any right at all.

    Australia is not a social experiment for a few bourgeois revolutionaries to play around with. It is the hom,e of the Australian people who do have a right to determine who should come through the door.

    The government does nor subsidise any schools. The taxpayers of Australia do and many of those taxpayers evidently have values and views that differ from yours. Some generously contribute about $11,000 per public wschool student to provide for a public education. They have a right to expect that a much smaller proportion of vthyeir taxes be allocated to the particular schools they seek to send their children to. Presumably you seek a one-size-fits-all system.

    “John Howard’s Apartheid’ – what nonsense – aid to independent schools has been endorsed by all political parties and Kevin Rudd will retain essentially the Howard formula. The most dominant group in private schools I am aware of are Asian Australians. No discrimination there but quite a few preconceptions on your part.

  • Anonymous

    Mr Clarke,

    it would be pertinent I believe, to produce some evidence for theories.

    This theory has no evidence what so ever to back it up.

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous [at 12:25pm]:

    Before you dismiss “white flight” and Aussie-bashing as merely “anectdotal” or something like that, I suggest you step out into the real world and talk to the people involved: Aborigines, “Anglos[??]”, Asians and anyone else affected by the school system.

    A collection of very nasty problems have developed because nobody had the guts to come out of hiding and admit there were problems …. or worse yet, to deny problems existed.

    Now, what can be done?

    Graham Bell

  • Anonymous

    Ooops. Kindly change “to deny” to “denied”.

    Denying that problems exist only exacerbate them.

    Graham Bell

  • TerjeP (say tay-a)

    I believe that bilateral free immigration agreements (FIAs) achieves much of what Harry wants without closing the door on people from other nations.

    http://alsblog.wordpress.com/2007/05/17/free-immigration-agreements/

    EXTRACT:-

    The spectre of more immigration scares many people, but it would be possible to introduce FIAs in a way that removed most of the costs sometimes associated with immigration — such as abuse of welfare, undermining democracy, crime & rapid social change.

    FIAs could be negotiated with countries that share our basic values (rule of law, democracy) and only in situations where there is no expectation of a surge of immigration. In most cases, this would require that the partner country has a standard of living similar to Australia. Migrants between FIA countries would have the rights of a permanent resident, but would retain the citizenship of their home country (so can be deported if necessary).

    Australia already has an “open-door” policy with New Zealand and people move relatively freely between Australia and New Zealand to the benefit of both countries. Good candidate countries for an FIA include Singapore, Canada, Hong Kong, the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands among others.

  • hc

    Tergep, These agreements can only work if the immigration policies across the mutually-consenting countries are coordinated.

    NZ has relatively lax agreements now with respect to third-countries while Australia has stronger restrictions. migrants from problem areas for australia first go to NZ, gain citizenship and then come here. Its a problem.

  • terjepetersen

    Harry,

    New Zealand no doubt buffers the flow to some extent even whilst providing a back door. However if you are really concerned about the flow on effect then we could aim to make the first FIA with somewhere like Switzerland where the waiting period for citizenship is 12 years. And if they were concerned about having an FIA with us then we could lift our waiting period to match and encourage New Zealand to do the same. In fact it would be better all round if most of the democractic developed nations traded in the short waiting periods for citizenship and went with something more like a ten year figure, whilst at the same time moving ahead with more FIA agreements.

    Citzenship waiting period for some other countries:-

    Germany = 8 years
    Spain = 10 years
    Italy = 10 years
    Switzerland = 12 years

  • terjepetersen

    p.s. In 2005 the citizenship waiting period in New Zealand was lifted from 3 years to five years. However as the change does not applies to those that became permanent residents before 21 April 2005 the effect will not yet be notable.

  • Bush Beaters

    “White Flight” ? Seems everyone wants to live with the White Man, even to the extent that European community and culture, as the reason for immigrating, exist no more.

    The non-White immigrants will then Piss and Moan that things just aren’t the same as they use to be before everyone else arrived.

    Cut the bullshit and legislate a transparent immigration policy that openly and unashamedly protects the existence of European derived majorities because they are, and should be percieved to be, as intrinsically valuable as any other.