Migrants too costly

Former governor general and Labor leader Bill Hayden addressed the Paddington workers club on Wednesday 7th July 1999. This is an edited extract of what he said.

I am not a member of the Labor Party. I was required to resign in 19888 when it announced that I was going to become governor general and I haven't renewed that membership.

I have been close a few times but I have found on those occasions when I was close to re-entering the contract that something had happened with which I had a strong disagreement and I felt the power of my individuality in making judgements on such important matters prevented me from joining up, but maybe that will change in the near future after the republican debate or something like that.

I joined the Labor party more than forty years ago now, It was about the time of the big split in the 1950s and it was terribly debilitating. It kept us in opposition for something like twenty years because we were more preoccupied about fighting our internal battles than creating policies and working our way to win government.

And believe me, being in government beats the hell out of being in opposition. And you could really do things for the troops who support you, whose main expectations are to see a Labor government doing something worthwhile for the ordinary people in this country.

The Right are as barren of ideas as they have always been. But the Left doesn't seem to have any ideas either, and it seems that although the Left is somewhat fragmented, its problem is that it will now become a career-structured organisation.

There is a premium on conformity. If you agree with the mandarins who are running the Left, and that is as true of the Right too, then you can expect progress. If you don't think for yourself, if you don't buck the system, then you might end up in parliament. Or, if Labor is ever elected, an interesting appointment somewhere or other. Now that is entirely unhealthy because it means that creative thinking is not going into the party that needs to be there.

And then of course we have the family dynasties, which are now appearing of husbands and wives, those going into parliament from their faction where they have a lot of influence - or whole families. A good part of whole families are able to make their appearance in parliament.

That is an unfair development as I see it... It means that a lot of people with ability are being excluded by the raw use of numbers and over time the Labor Party is going to lose a lot of people of constructive capabilities who could take us back into government.

I represented Ipswich for nearly 30 years. It used to be solid Labor and I can tell you a lot of those people want to experience a lot more materialism before they go for post-materialism. Qualitative issues are fine, but if you're battling to raise your family on a moderate wage and all the difficulties that represents, their position is entirely understandable.

We alienated a substantial part of our base. That is the only way you can explain what happened with one Nation in Ipswich.

What they did in Ipswich very publicly at the federal election before the last one was to publicly divorce us. They had had enough of us, they felt we weren't talking about their concerns, representing them. And the tragedy of that is Hawke and Keating had done a remarkable job with the social wage, with redistribution to the less well off. But we didn't talk to our people.

We of the Labor Party would be unwise if we thought all that discontent had gone away. It's still there. It's waiting for someone to come along who knows how to tap it and release it, how to articulate the causes for concern in the community. What Labor has to do is review a lot of its policies to make sure they are relevant, that they are evolving.

Peter Dawkins and a number of other academics have written a rather compelling paper about a negative income tax, a form of guaranteed income. There can be variations of it, but it means that people who are on low income would receive a regular tax payment according to their assessed income.

It represents a redistribution. People who are better off are going to be worse off and they should be prepared to pay for the people who are not doing so well in our society. It can eliminate poverty traps and a lot of the problems we have at the present time and allow a lot of people to go back into the workforce with the guaranteed income underneath any income they could earn.

The next thing I think Labor has got to look at is immigration policies. What are the benefits we are supposed to be getting when all of the evidence is that immigration has not represented much of an addition to our economy in terms of per capita advantages. In those years when we saw the economy grow on aggregate, 1960-1970, it was associated with fairly substantial inflows of immigrants. It was also associated with a declining per capita income.

It's one of the problems of this country - an increasing population on a fixed natural resource base. It's not wise to keep the immigration policies going that symbolise what was done in the past.

This country can't carry a large population. The evidence shows that we have a huge increase in immigration inflows each year the quality goes down, and when the quality goes down it affects living standards. So the recent cuts in immigration will, it is projected, in the next 10 years result in a per capita improvement of a bit over half a percent.

And finally I'd like to say it's about time we killed multiculturalism stone dead. It's served its purpose. It unsettles people outside, it unsettles people in Ipswich. Debate has got to be opened up. Those who look after these policies and the protectors of them have got to stop calling people racist who want to ask questions about these sort of policies.

For a lot of people multiculturalism is seen as divisive, seen as a system manipulated by ethnic populations as well as our own politicians and they want more talk about Australia having a sense of unity of purposes, acknowledging all of its differences.

Together we are many but we are one. That's the sort of message they like to get.

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