‘Stunning’: Hanson claims vindication
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has claimed vindication for "decades of being labelled racist" after Labor immigration spokeswoman Kristina Keneally's call for Australia to rethink its migration system.
In an opinion piece published by The Sydney Morning Herald over the weekend, Ms Keneally said the coronavirus pandemic had given the nation an opportunity to "put Australian workers first" and "shift away" from temporary foreign labour.
"While Australia's high level of migration played a key role in our economic prosperity, in recent years the shape and size of our intake has hurt many Australian workers, contributing to unemployment, underemployment and low wage growth," she wrote.
"The post-COVID-19 question we must ask now is this. When we restart our migration program, do we want migrants to return to Australia in the same numbers and in the same composition as before the crisis? Our answer should be no."
She said governments run by both major parties had relied on high levels of migration to fuel economic growth - calling it a "lazy approach".
"Letting lots of migrants come to Australia is an easier way to drive economic growth than increasing productivity or investing in skills or training," said Ms Keneally.
She argued that temporary foreign workers make up a higher proportion of the workforce than people realise.
"Migrant workers don't just pick fruit. One in five chefs, one in four cooks, one in six hospitality workers, and one in 10 nursing support and personal care workers in Australia hold a temporary visa," said the Senator.
"As economist Stephen Koukoulas pointed out before the crisis, there are 725,000 unemployed and 1,150,000 underemployed Australians who, with the right training, would love to have these roles.
"As a result of COVID-19, Australia will soon have an opportunity to do something we have never done before - restart a migration program. When we do, we must understand that migration is a key economic policy lever that can help or harm Australian workers.
"We must make sure that Australians get a fair go and a first go at jobs. Our post-COVID-19 economic recovery must ensure that Australia shifts away from its increasing reliance on a cheap supply of overseas, temporary labour that undercuts wages for Australian workers and takes jobs Australians could do."
Ms Hanson quickly pounced on Ms Keneally's piece yesterday, claiming Labor had adopted her own party's rhetoric after criticising it for years.
"It's enough to make you sick," she wrote on Facebook.
"Despite decades of being called 'racist' for my strong stance on jobs for Australians first, and my constant call to reduce immigration numbers to keep up with the country's infrastructure demands, the Labor Party may finally be listening.
"I guess we'll have to see whether they're genuine when we get back to parliament."
The One Nation leader continued to rub it in during an appearance on Channel 9's Today program this morning.
"Kristina Keneally, first time she's probably agreed with me," Ms Hanson said.
"To call for protecting Australian jobs, and to cut immigration - you know, when I said it I was called 'racist'. When Kristina Keneally says it it's supposed to be 'controversial'. It's a debate that we need to have.
"Why shouldn't we protect Australian jobs? Why shouldn't we look at immigration numbers? The government's used immigration over the years purely to prop up the economy.
"It's just ridiculous we keep bringing these numbers, people who are not compatible with our culture and our way of life, and yet we bring them in purely to prop up the economy. It's got to stop somewhere, otherwise it's a Ponzi scheme.
"Labor talk about Australian jobs. Under Labor, they brought in 130,000 457 visa holders.
"It's about time they woke up to themselves, and hopefully it will come out of this coronavirus, because we need to get on track."
And Ms Hanson followed up that TV spot with another boastful statement on social media.
"For decades One Nation has correctly claimed that Australia's high rates of immigration must be cut. Now some in the Labor Party have admitted we were right," she wrote.
"This stunning backflip has led to an explosion of infighting within their ranks as many still don't want to have the debate.
"For years I have warned against relying on mass migration to prop up the budget. Now many are learning why. It's time to reset Australia's immigration policy."
Of course, the coronavirus has already reset our immigration policy, at least in the short term.
On Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government expected a 30 per cent drop in net overseas migration in the 2019-20 financial year, followed by an astonishing 85 per cent fall in 2020-21.
What does that do to the numbers? Last year Australia experienced net population growth of 240,000 from overseas migration. Next year that figure could fall below 40,000.
"It is a significant drop. I mean, it's currently sitting around, in the last year I think they had 240-odd thousand. And so that's a significant fall," Mr Morrison said.
"You'll be well aware from past budgets the importance of those numbers, and how they contribute to overall gross domestic product and its growth each year. So that is a significant change."
Worse, it's a change that currently has no end date in sight. Australia's borders are likely to remain closed well after other restrictions on socialising and movement are eased.
The government's acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge had a go at trolling Ms Keneally on Twitter after her piece was published.
And @KKeneally clearly missed our announcement yesterday that migration will be down 85% next financial year.— Alan Tudge (@AlanTudgeMP) May 2, 2020
On a more serious note, he accused Labor of being "all over the shop" on migration policy.
"Labor cannot stick to one position on migration from one day to the next," Mr Tudge said in a statement.
"For weeks the Labor Party has been criticising the government for not giving temporary migrants access to the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments to help them stay in Australia.
"They have criticised the government for asking temporary visitors to return home if they cannot support themselves.
"(Now) Kristina Keneally has called for the temporary migration program to be cut. She wants to give temporary migrants welfare payments so they can stay in Australia, but now says she doesn't want temporary migrants."
For now, Ms Keneally's position on the issue is merely her personal opinion, rather than official Labor policy. Today the Herald reported Labor MPs were "blindsided" by her piece, causing frustration within the party.
Migration policy has reportedly been discussed by Labor's shadow cabinet, but no decision has been made.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has yet to comment.
Originally published as 'Stunning': Hanson claims vindication