Australia’s humanitarian (refugee) program 2016-2017

Submission to the Federal Government’s pre-budget consultations[i]

Frank Salter, 27 March 2016

I am a political scientist with a specialty in ethnic diversity and conflict. I have published research on the effects of ethnic diversity in relation to multiculturalism, welfare, and organised crime, in addition to ethical dimensions.[ii]

Australia’s refugee program has become so large and permanent that, per capita, it surpasses in scale many countries’ normal immigration intakes. Yet the Government’s policy is to increase the base level intake from 13,750 to 18,750 by 2018-2019, which does not include the planned special intake of 12,000 Syrians in 2016-2017. Australia is taking in refugees at the rate of 1% of its population every 17 years, soon to be every 13 years. This is not a new situation. In 1986 Australia was already taking more refugees for permanent settlement than any other country, 8 per 1000 population, or 1% of Australia’s population every 13 years.[iii]

The refugee intake is so large that it constitutes a form of immigration, though of an exceptional kind. Cumulatively, our refugee intake is sufficiently large to affect economic performance, community identity, and social stability. But compared to many normal immigrants, refugees are not generally screened for economic and social compatibility. However imperfect the regular immigration program – and it has deficiencies – its selection criteria protect Australia’s way of life much better than those applied to refugees.

This submission will argue that as presently configured in size and makeup, Australia’s refugee intake is having negative impacts on those variables. A fundamental rethink is needed to make the humanitarian program compatible with national security and social cohesion.

The submission consists of the following parts:

  • General costs of ethno-religious diversity;
  • Specific costs of diversity caused by the present refugee program;
  • Australia’s social fragmentation and government’s ahistorical rhetoric;
  • Refugee advocacy organizations;
  • Policy recommendations.


General costs of ethno-religious diversity

As presently configured, Australia’s refugee program is contributing to Australia’s ethno-religious diversity. To understand the special costs imposed by refugees, it is necessary to be familiar with the state of sociological research into the general costs of ethnic diversity. “Ethnicity” is often misunderstood. In this submission I adopt the mainstream definition which includes the following elements: a named population sharing belief in descent from common ancestors, a shared history, and sharing distinctive elements of culture, which usually includes religion.[iv] Thus ethnicity is simultaneously conditioned by history and culture and beliefs about shared descent.

A full analysis of the impacts of ethnic diversity is beyond the scope of the present submission, though a summary and sources are available in my recent analysis of the European refugee crisis.[v] In that analysis I summarise the social impact of rising ethno-religious diversity under six headings: rising social conflict; more crime from some immigrant groups; weakened social welfare net; greater ethnic inequality; racialised politics; and reduced civil liberties. Some of these headings are discussed below.

Numerous studies that compare societies around the world show that as diversity rises, social cohesion and trust tend to fall. At the same time, ethnic conflict occurs more frequently. The best known academic study of the costs of diversity was published by Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam in 2007.[vi] Putnam surveyed a large sample of US citizens in many cities. He found that diversity undermined social capital, which consists of neighbours participating in group social activities, helping and trusting one another. These findings have not always been replicated at the national level, but refined methods have confirmed the results at the neighbourhood level.[vii]

A converging series of studies using biosocial theory and methods preceded and confirmed Putnam’s finding, while adding the dimensions of inter-ethnic conflict, degraded welfare and economic measures.[viii] A recent confirmation by Finnish sociologist Tatu Vanhanen compared rates of ethnic conflict in 176 societies in the year 2010. Conflict was broadly defined, to include discrimination, the formation of ethnic parties and interest groups (racialised politics), as well as ethnic violence and civil war. Vanhanen found that ethnic diversity explained 66% of global variation in ethnic conflict, while other variables, such as per capita income, level of human development, and level of democratization, explained only 6 to 16% of the variation. In other words, much of the difference between united peaceful countries and those riven by ethnic conflict is the latters’ ethnic diversity.

Australia is not immune from the costs of diversity. Repeated studies by Australian academics find that ethnic diversity undermines social capital. An example is research conducted by Andrew Leigh, professor of economics at the Australian National University before becoming Labor’s Shadow Assistant Treasurer.[ix] Another example is work done by Professor Andrew Markus, at Monash University, who manages the Scanlon Foundation surveys of social cohesion, conducted since 2007. The surveys find that areas of high immigration settlement undergo a loss of social trust and other measures of cohesion. “This finding supports Putnam’s interpretation that ethnic diversity has a significant negative impact on social cohesion.” [x]

One cost of diversity deserving attention is the loss of civil liberties. In immigrant societies governments come under pressure to suppress “hate speech”, which can include statements of opinion and fact. In Australia Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act allows prosecution of individuals who state something “reasonably likely … to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people” based on their “race, colour or national or ethnic origin”. The Section has been used by some minorities to silence their critics. And several minority leaders combined to defeat the Abbott government’s attempt to reform Section 18C in order to continue silencing critics.[xi] Whether or not one agrees with such legislation it is evidence of ethnic conflict.

Specific costs of diversity caused by the present refugee program

These costs of diversity are magnified by the refugee intake because refugees are not selected to suit Australia’s needs. The points system and employer nominations used to select many regular immigrants reduces the diversity of the intake by nationality and class, compared to what would result from random selection of immigrants from around the world.[xii] English language is an advantage in the points-tested independent sub-programs of the skilled intake, and in most of the other sub-programs of the skilled intake, as is possession of occupational skills. It is more difficult to acquire these skills in countries in developing economies, such as are common in Africa and the Middle East and parts of Asia. At the same time societies with small middle classes are more prone to authoritarian regimes and civil wars, major causes of refugee flows. As a result of these factors, a much higher proportion of refugees find it difficult to find work or fit into society in Australia. They are more likely to come from Africa and the Middle East, and more likely to be Muslims, increasing Australia’s ethno-religious diversity more rapidly (per capita intake) than does normal immigration.

Also relevant is evidence that conflict is intensified when the antagonistic parties have different religions.[xiii] The resulting dysfunction has been inflicted on working class suburbs in the large cities.

The result is that refugees and their descendants are more prone to indigence and crime, especially those from Africa and the Middle East. One only need follow the news to document the harm done. Recently Sudanese and Pacific Islander[xiv] youth rioted in Melbourne (Saturday 12 March 2016), overwhelming police. There were similar riots in Melbourne by African youth on New Year in 2014, when Salvation Army staff described the situation as resembling a “war zone”. Most of the Africans originate from refugees taken in from Sudan and other trouble spots in Africa. Sudan is a largely Muslim society. Further back, another problem group has been Lebanese Muslims whose parents were accepted as refugees by the Fraser government in the 1980s. The result has been chronic unemployment and criminality, including the tribal pack rapes of Anglo girls.[xv]

Problems with integrating Sudanese were admitted by Kevin Andrews, the Immigration Minister in the Howard Government, in 2007. The Sudanese intake was reduced before all applications from Africa were suspended for a year. This was in response to problems with Somali refugees, also Muslims. At the time Andrews explained that “some groups don’t seem to be settling and adjusting into the Australian way of life as quickly as we would hope”. That has proven to be an understatement. These examples of poor integration by African and Arab refugees continue to scar Australian communities. They were grievous errors of judgment by governments on both sides of politics.

The fallout from bad refugee policy is a real and continuing threat. NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas, the senior officer responsible for diversity issues, warned in August 2015 that terrorism was a real possibility wherever Muslim communities develop. He pointed out that the terror threat was not limited to big cities, but to emerging “Middle Eastern” communities in regional centres, such as Newcastle, Wollongong, Coffs Harbour, Wagga and Dubbo. He was especially concerned about refugees, young men who had fled conflict zones such as Somalia, Afghanistan and the Middle East. They were especially vulnerable to being recruited by criminals and extremists, he said. The risk posed by these communities would remain for generations, Kaldas stated.[xvi] Kaldas did not explain why Middle Eastern refugee groups pose the greatest risk, why they suffer economic and educational failure, nor why they will remain such a persistent threat to their local communities and to Australia. Such analysis is not part of the policing function. But it is critical to the formulation of prudent policy.

No wonder Australian public opinion has hardened against illegal immigrants. It is also becoming more negative towards legal immigration, especially of Muslims.[xvii] According to a qualitative survey of 1,349 respondents conducted by the Australian Institute for Progress, in 2015 only 8% of citizens thought that Muslim immigration had been good for Australia. Forty eight percent thought it had been bad for Australia.[xviii] That this is a selective reaction against Muslims is indicated by the previously mentioned Scanlon Surveys, which found in 2014 that 11.5% of respondents in immigrant areas expressed strongly negative attitudes towards Muslims, but only 2% were similarly critical of Buddhists.[xix]

This negative reaction to Muslims is not only or largely due to terrorism. It is mostly due to a failure to integrate into Australian society and economy. The problem was described by journalist Greg Sheridan in 2011, well before home-grown Islamic terrorism took its first victims.[xx] Until then Sheridan had been a leading exponent of multiculturalism and the diverse immigration that feeds it. Sheridan reported many examples of anti-social behavior by Muslim Australians in his neighbourhood near the Lakemba Mosque, in Sydney. These included racially-motivated attacks against Anglo Australians. He interviewed a senior police officer who reported that Arabs in the Lakemba area of Sydney presented a severe policing problem, with high rates of violent crime.

Like the other costs of ethno-religious diversity, restricted civil liberties can also be attributed disproportionately to Australia’s refugee intake. Groups that feel especially threatened by Islamist extremism are lobbying for ever tighter restrictions on racial vilification. In October 2015, six ethnic and cultural organizations joined with the peak Jewish organization in NSW to call for stronger criminal sanctions to be applied against expressions of racial hatred. This was in response to the NSW authorities’ failure to prosecute a leader of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, who sermonised that Muslims should engage in jihad to “rid” the world of “Jewish hidden evil”.[xxi] None of the six complainant organizations was Islamic or Arabic, indicating that the immigrant community has become polarised between two camps, Muslims and non-Muslims. As we have seen, the growth of the Muslim community is significantly accelerated by Australia’s large refugee intake. Stiffening laws against racial hatred seems common sense for citizens subjected to virulent verbal attacks, which could incite violence. Unfortunately the effect is to limit freedom of speech, a basic civil liberty. Organic social cohesion is far preferable to that imposed by coercive social controls, such as the Racial Discrimination Act, its Orwellian section 18C, and the associated apparatus of commissioners and courts. But natural cohesion requires vigilance in selecting immigrants and refugees.

Financial costs are also special to refugees. Beyond the substantial cost of training, housing and welfare is the need to invest in infrastructure. In a modern society such as Australia, infrastructure includes not only water, gas, electricity, and telecom lines, but power generation, schools and teachers, roads, police and courts. Economist Jane O’Sullivan estimates those costs to total more than $100,000 for every new citizen.[xxii] These costs apply to all immigrants but those admitted under the general program are likely to begin to repay those costs not long after arriving. A much lower proportion of refugees become productive members of the workforce. Many never pay into the system. Australians should be informed that their largesse towards refugees as presently chosen not only has severe social impacts, but financial ones also.

This has resulted from the policy of excluding a significant fraction of Australia’s immigration intake, the 5-10% made up of humanitarian cases, from responsible selection criteria.

Australia’s social fragmentation and government’s ahistorical rhetoric

The present Federal Government implicitly admitted to a crisis in social cohesion when, in 2014-2015, it consulted the public on how citizenship might be used to reduce Islamic terrorism. Those who wrote the discussion paper were ambitious. They demanded that citizenship, a legalistic concept, should alone be sufficient to foster love of country and respect for other Australians. The paper was full of the usual multicultural platitudes, such as: “As a nation, we have found unity in our diversity and respect in our differences.” Continued immigration was “non-negotiable”, the paper declared.[xxiii]

Readers might never guess that the same fallacious citizenship doctrine – that legal statutes can substitute for organic ties developed over centuries – allowed the social fragmentation being experienced by Australia and many other Western societies. The paper did not let on that homegrown terrorists had attacked police and civilians in Melbourne and Sydney, that security agencies had warned that further attacks were probable, that hardened jihadist fighters would be returning to Australia from the Middle East, that the NSW police expert on diversity issues believed the threat from radicalised Muslims would last for generations, that surveys had shown that the more diverse a suburb the lower its occupants’ sense of security and cohesion, and that the negative reaction of third-generation Australians against Muslims was especially strong.[xxiv] The authors of the paper did not connect these many signs of an unravelling society with immigration and multicultural policies, the overt racialisation of electoral politics, or with decades of high refugee intakes. The authors – the Australian Government – were clueless about the relevance of Australia’s falling level of volunteering[xxv] and about the difference between a nation and a (political) state.[xxvi]

The same ideology – a version of citizenism – was part and parcel of the multicultural experiment initiated by the Fraser government in the 1970s against the will of the Australian people, that has given us rising social chaos and home-grown terrorism, where young people born and raised in Australia join overseas terrorist groups. It is no coincidence that the same Fraser government initiated a permanent refugee intake coordinated with the United Nations.

It should be noted that Australia ratified the UN Refugee Convention in 1954, at a time when people smugglers and long-distance flows of refugees were almost unknown. It is widely acknowledged among responsible analysts that the UN Convention is a failure, that it is undermining the national interests of receiving nations and promoting people smugglers.[xxvii] By handing over some control to the UN, a body with a long track record of anti-Western bias, Australia has yielded control of an important part of its immigration program to people who do not share our national interests.

Poor governance of refugee issues has been associated with rhetoric divorced from history. In initiating the consultation over the humanitarian intake, the Minister for Immigration, the Hon. Peter Dutton, boasted of the success of Australia’s original refugee program, after WWII, implying that we should continue to accept large intakes from around the world. As noted earlier, the Government has announced that our already high intake will be increased to 18,750 places by 2018-19 (again, not including the special intake of 12,000 Syrians).[xxviii] Dutton did not note that the post-WWII program was made to conform with the selection criteria applied to immigrants at that time. Refugees were chosen to be culturally assimilable. In other words, the refugee intake was made part of the immigration program. The abandonment of that principle in the 1970s had dangerous social consequences for Australia, contributing to a rapid rise in ethno-religious diversity, the transformation of cohesive local communities and rising levels of ethnic conflict.

Refugee advocacy organizations

The Minister deserves praise for opening up the humanitarian program to democratic consultation. For too long the process has been an elite conclave, “conducted in quiet consultation with refugee, church and ethnic community groups”.[xxix] Ian Rintoul, spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition, is worried that allowing the public to express its views might introduce a proposal to reduce intake numbers. Fear of the public is understandable, because consultations have been monopolised by individuals and organization who act as advocates for refugees, without taking into consideration the interests of the Australian people. Neither have governments seen fit to include in the consultation process bodies that place Australia’s interests first. This has been the case since the 1980s or earlier, and helps explain the extremity of refugee policy since that time. To better make this point, this section examines perhaps the most important refugee advocacy body, the Refugee Council of Australia.

The Refugee Council is the peak non-government agency focusing on refugees. It is typical of bodies supporting generous humanitarian intakes. It holds a privileged position in the consultation process, being invited annually since 1984 by federal governments to provide advice on policy for the upcoming year.[xxx] The RCOA boasts of consulting with stakeholders around Australia on the needs of refugees, how Australia might better meet their needs, for example in the post-arrival settlement process, and how large the intake should be.

Striking – by its absence – is any consideration of how refugees harm Australia or consultation with bodies motivated to provide relevant information. The RCOA treats its role as advocacy for refugees, unqualified by concern for Australia. They promote ever larger refugee intakes in an open-ended manner. For example, in September 2015 the RCOA president, Phil Glendenning, criticised Australia for not taking an additional 20,000 refugees from Syria, despite this country having one of the most generous resettlement program on a per capita basis in the world. He accused Australia of having a special responsibility to open its borders to refugees because it indirectly contributed to the war in Syria, ignoring the fact that Australian forces were deployed against the terrorists. He praised Germany for taking in almost one million refugees, implying that doing so was responsible policy. These views went uncorrected by the ABC interviewer.[xxxi] RCOA and the ABC were engaged in advocacy for refugees, not formulating responsible policy that treats Australia and other Western societies as stakeholders with real interests to protect.

A responsible approach that balances refugee interests with those of the Australian people is left to the Federal Government. But until recently no government, from either side of politics, has sought out advice from those who advocate for Australian national interests. It is a scandalous record. To its credit, the present Coalition government cut funding to the RCOA in 2014 after belatedly realizing it to be an advocacy group. The powerful interests behind the body maintained its core revenues of $888,000 in the 2015 financial year.[xxxii] The Government is now opening consultation to allow the public to voice opinions.

In 2015 the RCOA had over 200 institutional members.[xxxiii] These included a cross-section of humanitarian bodies, with human rights bodies and churches well represented. There was also a large number of ethnic lobbies, consisting of 45 pro-immigration and pro-multiculturalism groups, advocating for minority ethnic groups, and 21 ethnic associations which also advocate for non-Anglo minorities.[xxxiv] It is remarkable that not one member organization represents the Australian majority or the Australian national interest. Why is protecting Australians not considered a humanitarian goal? Equally remarkable is the moral contradiction that allows humanitarians to work cheek by jowl with tribally-motivated ethnocentrists, who are interested mainly in benefiting a particular people or group of peoples. These ethnic activists pay lip service to universalist ideals but their ethnic organizations have very different motivations to their Christian and other humanitarian allies. For the multicultural lobby, humanitarian rhetoric is often a vehicle for advancing ethnic interests. They are happy that the same vehicle rides roughshod over Australians’ national sentiments, which they view as tribal competition. But how, in good conscience, can the genuine humanitarians in the RCOA facilitate tribal aggression, especially when directed against their own nation? The RCOA appears to be morally corrupt and disloyal to Australia, yet is the peak NGO advising on refugee policy; it is treated with respect by the mainstream media and politicians.

Policy recommendations

The Government’s briefing paper asks those making submissions to answer detailed questions concerning refugee policy.[xxxv] This assumes an insider’s knowledge of the system, which is unfair to most Australians wishing to express an opinion. It is also inappropriate that the questions do not canvass opposition to the system as a whole.

Instead of answering these questions in detail, I shall recommend broad principles for reforming the refugee program, and note those principles’ likely impact.

In the foregoing analysis I have argued that the refugee intake constitutes a sizable immigration program in its own right. That program’s exemption from normal immigration criteria has harmed the fabric of Australia’s society. Governments should put Australia’s national interests first.

Any sizeable refugee intake – more than dozens annually – should be subjected to the same criteria that have been relatively successful in choosing peaceful, productive immigrants. Any improvements made to the normal immigration program would then automatically flow onto selection of refugees.

Australia should withdraw from the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and work towards a new agreement that respects national interests.[xxxvi] In addition, the planned intake of 12,000 Syrian refugees should be reassessed. The Government has belatedly indicated its intention of allocating most places to non-Muslim minorities but that degree of selectivity falls short of the criteria applied to immigrants.

The effect of applying immigration-standard criteria will be drastically to reduce the refugee intake. Some of the resulting savings, which will be large, should be switched to funding humanitarian assistance overseas, especially in our region.

A practical and moral consideration in deciding refugee policy is the very large numbers involved. By the end of 2014, UNHCR estimated that, globally, there were 59.5 million people displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, generalised violence or human rights violations. Of these, 19.5 million were classed as refugees (i.e. outside their country of origin), 38.2 million as internally displaced, and about 1.8 million were asylum seekers. To those numbers must be added those economic migrants who pose as humanitarian cases. A large fraction of the million-plus individuals who entered Europe in 2015 during the Syrian crisis were not from Syria, but from Africa, Lebanon, Afghanistan, even as far away as Pakistan.

This continuing humanitarian disaster confronts those with good will. Given that resources are limited, should a tiny number of cases be raised to the pinnacle of living conditions offered by citizenship in a first world economy, or should a much larger number, many hundreds of times larger, be given emergency aid in or near their countries of origin. Australian governments have adopted the first option, the luxury option, at the cost of abandoning millions to their fate and diminishing the security and cohesion of their own society.

Where legally feasible, recent refugee intakes should be reversed, with individuals who have not yet become citizens being placed overseas by a dedicated bureaucracy. A truly humanitarian program must take into account the security, prosperity and unity of the Australian people.



[i], accessed 19 Feb. 2016.

[ii] Salter, F. K., Ed. (2002). Risky transactions. Trust, kinship, and ethnicity. Oxford and New York, Berghahn.

Salter, F. K., Ed. (2004). Welfare, ethnicity, & altruism: New data & evolutionary theory. London, Frank Cass.

Salter, F. K. (2008). “Westermarck’s altruism: Charity releasers, moral emotions, and the welfare ethic.” Politics and the Life Sciences 27(2): 28-46.

See Frank Salter’s experience and publications at:

[iii] World Refugee Survey, US Committee for Refugees, 1986. As reported by John Masanauskas (1990). “What to do with the world’s refugees?”, The Age, 14 June.

[iv] Smith, A. D. (1986). The ethnic origins of nations. Oxford, Basil Blackwell, pp. 22-30.

[v] Salter, F. K. (2016). Germany’s jeopardy: Could the immigrant influx “end European civilization”?, Social Technologies,, 6 January.

[vi] Putnam, R. D. (2007). “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and community in the twenty-first century. The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize lecture.” Scandinavian Political Studies 30: 137-174.

[vii] Laurence, J. and L. Bentley (2015). “Does ethnic diversity have a negative effect on attitudes towards the community? A longitudinal analysis of the causal claims within the ethnic diversity and social cohesion debate.” European Sociological Review.

[viii] Salter (2002; 2004), op cit.

[ix] Leigh, A. (2006). “Diversity, trust and redistribution.” Dialogue: Academy of Social Sciences in Australia 25(3): 43-49.

The finding was confirmed by:

Healy, E. (2007). “Ethnic diversity and social cohesion in Melbourne.” People and Place 15(4): 49-64.

[x] Markus, Andrew (2012). 2012 Scanlon Survey, Local Areas Report, p. 21.

[xi] Salter, F. K. (2014). Section 18C, multiculturalism and power. Quadrant Online.

[xii] The regular immigration program is more amenable to national interests despite serious shortcomings. New Zealand immigrants enter freely with minimal screening, due to the special relationship between the two countries. The growing social and economic incompatibilities of Pacific Islanders in Australia originates from this lack of selection. Another deficiency in the regular immigration program is that the points-based component of the general intake has been reduced in favour of employer nominations, which opens the process to corruption. See:

Birrell, B., E. Healy, et al. (2011). Immigration and the resources boom mark 2. Melbourne, Centre for Population and Urban Research: 49 pp.,

Also, many skilled migrants from non-English speaking countries (NESC) are slow to find employment in their fields of specialization. Indeed, a major component of the NESC program, students who have studied in Australia, are the least successful in finding employment in their professions. See:

Birrell, B. and E. Healy (2008). “How are skilled migrants doing?” People and Place 16(1): Supplement, 19 pp.

[xiii] Rummel, R. J. (1997). “Is collective violence correlated with social pluralism?”Journal of Peace Research 34(3): 163-176.

[xiv] Most Pacific Islanders come to Australia from New Zealand, and thus are not screened for economic or social compatibility.

[xv] Martin Chulov, “Rape menace from the melting pot”, The Weekend Australian, 18-19 August 2001.

[xvi] Dan Box, “Police set sights on extremist risk in regional migrant communities”, The Australian, 13 Aug. 2015, p. 7., accessed 24 Feb. 2016.

[xvii] 2012 Scanlon Survey, Local Areas Report, p. 30.

[xviii] Young, G. (2015). Australian attitudes to immigration. Brisbane, Australian Institute for Progress: 33 pp.,, p. 22. Accessed 20 March 2016.

[xix] 2014 Scanlon Local Area Survey, p. 4.

[xx] Sheridan, G. (2011). How I lost faith in multiculturalism. The Australian. Sydney, News Limited.

[xxi] Anthony Klan, “Ethnic push to boost race hate laws”, The Australian, 2 Oct. 2015, p. 2., accessed 24 Feb. 2016.

[xxii] O’Sullivan, J. (2012). “The burden of durable asset acquisition in growing populations.” Economic Affairs(February): 31-37.

O’Sullivan, J. (2015). Submission to the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into migrant intake into Australia. Brisbane,

[xxiii] Discussion paper: Australian citizenship – Your right, your responsibility.

[xxiv] 2014 Scanlon Local Area Survey, op cit., p. 4.

[xxv] Volunteers decline for the first time: Australian Bureau of Statistics”, SMH 3 July 2015.–australian-bureau-of-statistics-20150703-gi47cw.html

[xxvi] Salter, F. K. (2015). Towards a Ministry of Emigration – Australian citizenship and domestic terrorism. Submission to government inquiry into Citizenship Policy, conducted by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Canberra,

[xxvii] Khalid Koser (2015). “Australia and the 1951 Refugee Convention” Lowy Institute for International Policy. 30 April., accessed 20 March 2016.

[xxviii] Jared Owens, “Public input invited on refugee intake size”, The Australian, 18 Feb. 2016, p. 5.

[xxix] Owens, op cit.

[xxx], accessed 19 Feb. 2016.

The 2015 submission:

One-sided advocacy is also evident in its 2001 submission: file:///C:/Users/Frank/Desktop/http—, accessed 19 Feb. 2016.

[xxxi], accessed 19 Feb. 2016.

[xxxii], accessed 19 Feb. 2016.

Refugee Council of Australia Financial Statements for year ended June 2015:, accessed 19 Feb. 2016.

[xxxiii] Refugee Council of Australia Annual Report 1014/15, pp. 13-14., accessed 19 Feb. 2016.

[xxxiv] The count is based on organisations’ names.

[xxxv] Questions asked of the public by the government’s briefing paper.

  1. In your view, how many places should Australia attribute to the offshore component of its Humanitarian Programme?
  2. What do you think should be the proportion split between the Special Humanitarian Programme and Refugee categories in the offshore component of its Humanitarian Programme?
  3. To which regions (Africa, Asia or Middle East) do you think most places should be allocated?
  4. In your view, how important is the Woman at Risk programme?
  5. Should the available places under the Community Proposal Pilot be increased?
  6. Do you have other comments, particularly on the offshore component of the 2016-17 Programme?

[xxxvi] Reforming the 1951 Refugee Convention is proposed by Koser, op cit.

The late Peter Walsh on Australia’s hostile elite

Nick Cater has recorded some views of Peter Walsh, Australian Finance Minister in the 1980s, who died in April 2015 aged 80. Walsh served in the Hawke and Keating cabinets but was suspicious of their embrace of multiculturalism (“Prescient warnings of a minister of common sense”, The Australian, 14 April 2015).

In his memoirs, Confessions of a Failed Finance Minister (1995), Walsh defended Australia’s Anglo-Celtic culture against those attacking it. The intensity of those attacks are indicated by Walsh’s guess at the motives of the critics: “What psychotic disorder, what deep-seated se1f-loathing, causes people who are the beneficiaries of that heritage to constantly vilify and denigrate it?” (Cater did not provide the source for this quote.)

Cater points out that Walsh was not tertiary educated, leaving school at age 10. Walsh believed that his Labor Party had been captured by a tertiary-educated elite, an “authoritarian group which regards itself as Left progressive” and served the “bourgeois Left and middle-class trendoids in the gentrified suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne”. In particular he was critical of the “amoral” political tactics of his colleague Graham Richardson, who he thought sought to hold power for its own sake, not advance particular policies.

Walsh also criticised Paul Keating, prime minister from 1991 to 1996, for pandering to vocal minorities which had good media connections, including Aboriginal and other ethnic activists. Keating thought that he could retain power by pleasing minorities. He judged Keating to be gullible when he accepted ethnic activists as leaders of their communities. And he objected to the Keating government’s stiffening of the Racial Discrimination Act with section 18c which outlawed causing offence to ethnic or racial groups.

Walsh’s views on immigration are not quoted. But if he resented vilification and denigration of Australia’s core identity, he certainly would have rejected any attempt to subject Anglo Australia to cultural genocide using replacement-level immigration, as described by senior journalist Greg Sheridan.

Acknowledgment of Nation

We acknowledge the explorers and pioneers and their descendants who planted the British flag and Christian faith on this continent, creating the Australian nation.  We acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have lived here since the Dreamtime. And we acknowledge the Federal Commonwealth of Australia, created by the nation under the Crown to guard the liberty of all citizens

Performance notes. Detail should be added to fit the occasion. For example, the identity and achievements of the pioneers and indigenous peoples might be elaborated, as might the functions of the Commonwealth.

Version date:  22 January 2015.

Explanatory notes

Summary.  The “Acknowledgment of Country” (AoC) ceremony purports to recognise Australia’s origins but focuses exclusively on indigenous peoples.  It purports to respect the traditional owners of the land but ignores the nation’s sovereignty.  There is no counterbalancing statement of national origins used in school assemblies or public meetings.  To correct this imbalance, an Acknowledgment of Nation is suggested that supplements recognition of original indigenous habitation with acknowledgment of the origins of the Australian nation and the Federal Commonwealth it created under the crown.

In the last several years I have observed many “Acknowledgment of Country” (AoC) ceremonies. The wording varies but typically, at the start of a meeting, the master of ceremonies declares that the meeting is being held on the traditional lands of a particular indigenous people or peoples in general, describes them as the traditional custodians or owners of the land, acknowledges their close tie with the land and pays respect to their elders. I have observed versions of this ceremony at public meetings, for example at the New South Wales Parliament, in school assemblies, and on television and radio broadcasts.

My impression is that the ceremony is performed at schools and public meetings throughout the country.

That is a pity because, whatever its motivation, it amounts to a psychological assault on most Australians. Because it is not accompanied by an acknowledgment of national origins the ceremony ritually degrades most Australians’ sense of national identity and alienates the nation from its homeland and from most of its history.

The saddest examples are recitations at school assemblies, where children are told, repeatedly throughout the year, that their country belongs to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.  The Acknowledgment appears to have taken the place of the loyalty pledge.  Usually words other than “owned” are used, but the meaning is clear.  One school I have observed concludes its ritual with the words “under the concrete and asphalt, this land was, is, and always shall be, the traditional lands of [the local indigenous people]”. The ritual makes no reference to the ancestors or national identity of the overwhelming majority of students – only 3 per cent of Australians are of indigenous descent.  The Acknowledgment is a ritualised slap in the face to most Australians.

We all need secure communal identities that position us historically, culturally and geographically.  That is especially true of children and young adults.  The Acknowledgment of Country ritual is meant to affirm that identity and pride for indigenous peoples.  But it ignores the origins of the nation as a whole.  The Aboriginal acknowledgment is justified as a statement of origins.  But national origins consist of much more than indigenous prior habitation.  The AoC needs to be supplemented to become an Acknowledgment of Nation (AoN), one that accurately describes national origins.

Any recitation of national origins should have at its heart a historically accurate description of how the nation was founded.  Indigenous Australians are a part of that story because their ancestors occupied the land when it was settled under British auspices.  Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders are Australia’s first peoples. Anglo Australians are Australia’s first nation.

An acknowledgment of the historic nation needs to talk primarily about the people among whom national consciousness first arose in the late nineteenth century.  Who were they and who did they think they were?  The acknowledgment should also state the connection between this national awakening and the establishment of the Commonwealth, formed in 1901 when the self-governing colonies became states within the new Federation.  It is often asserted that the nation began in 1901 with Federation, but that is not true.

National consciousness arose among people of mostly British descent who thought of themselves as such.  At the time there was no Commonwealth but self-governing colonies.  Most thought of Britain as the mother country but also identified with Australia.  This was the most cohesive class of nation, an ethnic group living in its homeland.  It was not the type of “nation” whose only social glue is belief in an ideology or set of values or a constitution.  It was the heavy duty type of bond, the kind needed to undertake great things.  Indeed, this identification inspired and facilitated the constitutional conventions of the 1890s, with the goal of federating the colonies for the purposes of common defence and economy.  The nation created the Commonwealth.

An organising principle of the proposed AoN is that peoples take priority over political systems.  The nation has priority of recognition because it was the first nation in Australia and created the Commonwealth.  It represents continuity of identity stretching back to the emergence, in the second half of the nineteenth century, of national feeling among people who thought of themselves as a branch of the British people and Empire. That consciousness and descent connected the new nation to the First Fleet of 1788, to Britain and its constituent nations, to Christendom and its European precursors in ancient times.  In that sense the Australian nation has roots as ancient as the indigenous peoples it absorbed.  In addition the descendants of the historic nation and those who have assimilated into it remain the largest ethnic group in Australia. It is also the leading culture in the sense that all other ethnicities tend to acculturate to it more than vice versa.

The indigenous peoples should be acknowledged because they identified with their parts of Australia long before British colonisation began.  Any recognition of origins demands acknowledgment of indigenous peoples, whether one believes that their lands were annexed or conquered by the British.

The Federal Commonwealth should be acknowledged because it is the original instrument of continent-wide government and the institutional basis for citizenship, which defines the rights and duties of all Australians.

A brief statement necessarily fails to acknowledge all contributions to origins, some important.  For example, the statement recognises the explorers and pioneers and that they came under British auspices but it does not acknowledge the nations of Britain – England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.  Nor does it acknowledge the investment made by the British people through their government in colonising Australia.  The statement does not mention convicts, subsuming them under the category of (involuntary) pioneers.  Nor does it mention the contributions of law, politics, culture, national character and technology brought by the largely British settlers.  Also unmentioned are the hundreds of indigenous peoples and languages, their way of life and spirituality, and special connection with their lands.  It would be appropriate for acknowledgments recited in particular districts to name and describe the local culture, which would convey a greater degree of particularity.

The Christianity of the nation’s founders is made explicit in the proposed Acknowledgment because it was a prominent conscious element of their identity, as it was of Britain and the remainder of Western civilisation in Europe and America.

Some will object that the proposed AoN omits the non-Anglo-Celtic identities that now form a substantial fraction of the population.  Typically those identities are encompassed using the adjectives “multicultural” and “diverse”.  It is sometimes contended that Australia is no longer an Anglo nation, that it has become a new type of nation whose identity consists of the multicultural character of its citizens.  It is sometimes argued that Australia’s lack of a single cultural identity is now its identifying mark.  And a likely assertion will be that an acknowledgment that omits the non-Anglo elements of the nation would be divisive by creating ill-feeling among millions of citizens.  This potential objection should be taken seriously, though it is noteworthy that those who promote and accept the present acknowledgment ceremony express no concern about its own exclusions.

It is reasonable to reject the objection on two grounds.  Firstly, the diversity that has arisen in recent decades was not part of national origins.  Recall that the nation emerged by about 1880.  It is wrong to claim that diversity was a founding principle then or in 1901.  Not diversity but continuity with British and European identity was in the minds of the Founders and in the census statistics.  The nation and Commonwealth were in existence long before diversity began rising after the Second World War.  Unless the Acknowledgment is to become a running commentary on every demographic change, it should remain focused on origins.  If it were to focus on the present population instead of origins, that would necessarily demote the indigenous component.  If they were given a special acknowledgment, it would be unprincipled to ignore the historic nation.

The second reason it is unnecessary to acknowledge diversity in a statement of national origins is that the proposed AoN recognises the Commonwealth and citizenship, which encompasses Australians of all backgrounds.  It is not beyond the maturity of immigrants or their children to acknowledge that the nation was in existence before they arrived.

If it were decided to acknowledge multicultural Australia, two avenues present themselves.  The first would be for the acknowledgment to list all the ethnicities of post WWII immigrants, perhaps on a first-come-first-served basis.  The second would be to refer to these peoples collectively as “multicultural”.  I think that most would reject the first approach as impractical.  However, the latter ignores the actual identities of citizens.  For example, to include Italian Australians under the heading “multicultural” would give no particular recognition to that culture; the same term would apply if not one Italian had immigrated after 1949.  The same term would apply to any diverse country.  It seems the only practicable way to recognise the country’s diversity would be in terms that are exceedingly shallow.

Placing the historic nation and Commonwealth in the acknowledgment ritual would restore their proper places in the story of Australia.  An Acknowledgment of Nation would be relevant to all Australians.

Another acknowledgment:  This is the latest in a series of versions posted since late 2014.  I thank all those who corresponded with me on the subject for their suggestions.



Parliamentary Passion

Unusual emotions were displayed last week in Federal Parliament. Moral emotions. We are used to anger, sneering, joviality, and copious amounts of straight-faced dull neutrality but not since ex-prime minister Julia Gillard’s speech in October 2012 when she accused Tony Abbott of misogyny have we seen such a display of righteous indignation.

The immediate cause was an Opposition censure motion directed at the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bronwyn Bishop. Leader of Opposition Business, Tony Burke, accused Bishop of being incompetent, showing partiality, and acting as an “instrument of the Liberal Party”. The demeanour of both sides of the House and of Madam Speaker can be viewed during many interactions on

It was the alleged partiality towards the Government that aroused indignation. Why? Two hypotheses come to mind. Both were suggested in Parliament.

The first hypothesis is that the Speakerdid show partiality. The Opposition cited evidence for this, often as running commentary on the Speaker’s behaviour. For example, at one point Opposition frontbencher Tony Burke protested to the Speaker that she had expelled an Opposition member unfairly. Paraphrasing: “You asked her whether she wanted to leave the House, and when she replied you expelled her!” Other evidence cited is that Bishop had expelled 99 Opposition MPs but no Government MP, a greater than usual ratio. Also, she continues to attend Government party room meetings, breaking a tradition of speakers standing down from such party duties.

The second hypothesis is gamesmanship by the Opposition. The Leader of the Government Business, Christopher Pyne, implied that the Opposition was not genuine in its criticism of the Speaker. He stated that this was a “stunt”, a form of gamesmanship. Evidence for this interpretation is that Tony Burke likened Bronwyn Bishop to a villainous English headmistress on her first day as Speaker.

The Opposition might have felt emboldened to attack the Speaker because of their intuition that she lacked authority with their constituents. They might have felt that the mud would stick – not because she was being grossly unfair but because her peremptory manner was readily interpretable as such, especially for some Labor loyalists.

Characteristics of Bronwyn Bishop fit this interpretation. Bronwyn Bishop is an upper class Anglo lady. Given that the Labor Party is experienced at playing identity politics it is not unreasonable to suppose that they judge her class, ethnicity and sex to be red rags to some Labor voters. From this perspective, baiting the Speaker might be seen as a tactic that will pay dividends, much like Julia Gillard’s attack on Tony Abbott’s “misogyny” was meant to elicit sympathy from women.

Without a formal comparative study this observer cannot test these hypotheses.

But both hypotheses reflect on the wisdom of the Westminster tradition. Whether the Speaker was guilty as charged or the Opposition unfairly accused her of partiality in order to undermine her authority, impartiality is prescribed in that tradition and for very good reasons.[1]

Parliaments dispense great wealth and power that affect the lives of millions. It is therefore not surprising that contests for advantage within them can become heated. Members of those parliaments are usually people of talent and energy, capable of holding their own in debate and intellectual contest. Regulating their debates requires not only skill but power. But a parliament is not a dictatorship or a politbureau or a corporate board. In a democracy parliament must be self-governing within the constitutional frame, able to censure a government that has lost support, able to eject an MP who is disruptive, able to call an election that replaces the government.

Parliaments in the Westminster tradition appoint their own speakers whose authority relies on receiving continuing support from the parliament. Speakers are appointed by governments and can continue in power despite unpopularity if the government so wishes. But speakers who rely on coercion often rule over unruly houses. The most productive parliaments are managed by speakers who are respected for their fairness. That depends on them enforcing rules in an impartial manner. That is why in making their criticisms the Opposition displayed moral emotions, instead of the usual mix. They were asserting not that the Speaker lacked power but fairness and the legitimacy and trust that brings.

[1] Salter, F. K. (2008/1995). Emotions in command: Biology, bureaucracy, and cultural evolution. New Brunswick, Transaction Publishers. Chapter 8: “Chairmen’s command of meeting procedure: The challenge of aggression”.