Thursday, March 14, 2013

457 posturing

Earlier in March, Political bottom feeders in Western Sydney, provided a brief comment on the Australian PM's campaign in Western Sydney. Today I wanted to record Mark Kenny's 'Aussies first' pledge over jobs hits spot with Labor voters' for later reference.

Those dreaded focus groups. All this is just so NSW. Meantime, ABC Radio National's Big Ideas had an interesting session last night: WHAT'S WRONG WITH OUR LEADERS? And no, it's not quite what you might think. It's actually a reasonably academic exploration of the role of leadership in democracy linked to different democratic models. The program summary states:

Leadership by definition offenses against fundamental principles of democracy – John Kane and Haig Patapan discuss the unique character and always fragile legitimacy of democratic leadership in order to explain why we so frequently suspect our political leaders of being less than honest with us.

The discussion draws out some of the complexities involved.


This short post must have seemed remarkably obscure to readers outside Australia. Briefly, the 457 visa scheme allows workers to enter Australia for a period to meet particular needs that cannot be met locally. Its quite a complicated process, wrapped up in a lot of rules in part because of the risk of abuse.

Up until the PM's visit to Western Sydney, she and the Government had been defending the program, declaring it a success, as indeed it has been. Now she seems to have switched tracks to an Australian jobs for Australians' first mantra. Who could argue with that?

Well, there are two problems.

The first is that the the 457 visa program is designed to fill jobs for which there are no Australian workers available at a point in time, and it seems to have done that reasonably well. The question of why there are no Australian workers available through lack of skills or choice (choice is quite important) is a different question requiring a different response. The second is that she seems to be using shonky statistics to buttress her argument.

I said those dreaded focus groups, adding that this was just all so NSW. I then added a link to a radio program on the role of leadership in democracy.

One of the symptoms of the NSW disease that has now infected Federal Labor lay in the way that policy responses came to be determined by and targeted at community views at a place and at a point in time; the need was an immediate fix, something that would gain a positive response or at least minimise a negative response in the now; the result was a growing addiction to the short term political rush.

I have consciously used drug language, for that best fits the case. As with certain drugs, the immediate brilliance of the rush faded; the fix had to be repeated; the impact diminished with time, while other health problems grew. In the end, NSW Labor sat alone in a delusional world, aware that it was alone, but unable to fix the problem except by even more of the same.

Leadership in a democracy is complex, never correct, always riven by contradictions.

A little while ago on this blog, I asked a question: how come in the space of a bit less than thirty years such a fundamental political shift, the end of the White Australia policy, occurred with so little social disruption? I will now ask another question: could it occur today?

To my mind, the answer is probably no. How could it, when every one of the market measurement techniques now in use to measure opinions and tailor responses for maximum immediate political effect would have shown White Australia's importance?


Anonymous said...

Dear Jim

Re posturing: my copy of the KS only goes up to page 69. How do you do a 457, and does it involve goats?


Jim Belshaw said...

kvd, I'm sorry, but I don't have my copy of the KS handy, but its after that in the advanced session. Very few people can manage it properly.

Unless properly executed, it involves an inordinate amount of time and effort. By the time they arrive exhausted, sore and sorry, at the end many find the climax a distinct let-down.

And no, no goats are involved.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jim

Well I'm just exhausted by the reading of your description. One imagined a sort of convoluted stance involving the complete abandonment of one's normal position; plus goats.

Aside: what a varied life you city folk lead!


ps you're absolutely sure about no goats? Interesting nevertheless.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Jim

Whenever I see such flubbage as "Leadership by definition offenses against fundamental principles of democracy" I force my inner pedant to concentrate upon the more important things in life. Such as goats.


Jim Belshaw said...

Now wash your mouth out with soap, kvd. City folk indeed! If you would like to play by introducing goats, I'm sure that another variant would be acceptable!

Jim Belshaw said...

Actually, kvd, you should listen to the program. It ain't quite like that. Now would have thought that goats would be so important? Perhaps you should change the kennels!

Anonymous said...

Jim please forgive earlier flippancy. Was passing the time before retiring to be with the iPad so as to listen to the link you gave.

I want to note that your now extended posting is very good and makes a lot of sense to me. But also, or mainly, your reference again to the WAP: I'd suggest part (not all) of the relative ease was that the 'acceptance' occurred in a period of relative full employment (less than 3% not employed?) and the resulting migrants filled jobs and skills that 'we' wished to have, but did not wish to do for ourselves.

Longwinded, and probably badly put, but anyway I'd be interested in your own answer to your question.

Could it occur today? If you factored in a need for skills and/or labour and removed the political efficacy of painting a new influx as 'threatening' then, yes, it wouldn't surprise to see another successful shift of opinion and acceptance.

It's not unique to Australians, but I believe we are basically a fair-minded lot who just want to get on with things. Our current pollies are actively destroying this, but the wheel will turn sometime.


Jim Belshaw said...

I will answer my own question on the White Australia policy later, but its quite a big writing job. If you remember the way I posed the question originally, I was challenging conventional answers including my own.

The really distinctive thing about it was the size of the shift involved. I am sure that full employment helped. Without that, it might not have occurred. I agree that Australians are generally fair minded at a person level; that helped too.