O’Connor’s evidence free policy: Leadership does matter

just-the-facts (4)In his guest post, Tad Tietze observed of Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor’s fact free rhetoric on 457 visas:

…there is no publicly available evidence that this mass rorting is actually happening.

O’Connor, you might recall, made a lot of hyperbolic claims about visa rorts, accompanied by hyperbolic rhetoric about numbers of international workers purportedly exceeding the population of Wollongong. He was criticised widely for failing to substantiate any of the claims on which he claimed to rely.

The Minister has now come clean. Sort of. The figure he’s been bandying around is a “forecast”:

”Well, I’m making a forecast. I’m making a forecast like others have made forecasts. The difference is I seem to be being challenged – fine,” he said.

”My point is this: There are transgressions, there [are] more than a few, they’re more than negligible. I’ve sought to estimate what I think is the appropriate number.

”We don’t have an exact, precise figure. That’s not possible under the current arrangements, but it is significant and I make no apology [for] fixing a scheme that has problems.”

This really is a disgrace.

Almost a month ago, I commented on how wonk language was used to disguise racist policy. Now it looks like any reference to fact is considered optional.

There is no doubt in my mind that this appalling race to the bottom is a consequence of the leadership decisions that the Labor Party has made, among other factors. It’s completely puzzling as an election winning strategy, but no doubt it’s not one. It’s a desperate scramble to “save the furniture”, playing to the imagined prejudice that is encapsulated by the “Lindsay test”.

The truth is, of course, that Labor has never won an election on race-baiting.

In another post in April, I referred to Lindy Edwards’ analysis of the differences between the political/philosophical positions represented by Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd’s contrasting styles of leadership. Edwards wrote:

This is not just personality politics. This is big questions about what it means to represent people, what social justice looks like, and how it can be best achieved in the modern world.

This is not the only question of philosophy being contested. Gillard has also staunchly pushed a socially conservative view on most of the liberation movement issues.

Her stances on boat people, 457 visas and gay marriage have been particularly disappointing to many progressives. People have also, I think rightly, detected that she thinks jobs are more important than climate change.

On these issues, Gillard is quite different to Rudd. Rudd’s signature achievements were big liberation movement issues, such as the apology to the stolen generations, softening the line on refugees, signing the Kyoto Protocol, and his advocacy for action on climate change.

It simply astonishes me that some progressive folks can’t see that ideology is at stake in Julia Gillard’s troubled ascendancy. We are living through the “lurch to the right” Kevin Rudd warned of the night before he lost the leadership.

Chris Bowen must be very pleased not to be Immigration Minister any more. Despite the appalling Malaysia Solution, something no doubt imposed on him, he was strong in championing multiculturalism and human rights as the fundamentals of immigration policy. We don’t see that from Brendan O’Connor, who it must be said, is one of Julia Gillard’s closest lieutenants of longest standing. What we see is a contempt for truth and a willingness to articulate inflammatory and thinly veiled racist rubbish at the drop of a hat.

Chris Bowen, of course, resigned as a minister because of his support for Kevin Rudd.

No doubt, some will accuse me of sour grapes, and of not Uniting Behind the Leader. All I will say in response is that we are now seeing what a cabinet purged of any residual Ruddism looks like. Perhaps some think all this disgraceful stuff is some regrettable blip. I don’t. I think it’s core policy for the cynical, manipulative and politically stupid crew of acolytes, “faction leaders” and right wing reactionaries now running the federal Labor show.


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92 responses to “O’Connor’s evidence free policy: Leadership does matter”

  1. Sacha Blumen

    I pretty much agree with this, Mark.

    Can I say one thing – I have no doubt that the 457 thing is directly targeted at ‘core’ voters in Western Sydney and possibly elsewhere. At least one federal Labor MP from western Sydney has said that many of their constituents were strongly opposed to overseas workers on the basis of a ‘they’re stealing our jobs’ mindset. This MP didn’t share this point of view of course, but indicated that it was a challenge to navigate their constituent’s views.

  2. Mindy

    Shame Rudd didn’t do a better job then isn’t it.

  3. Peter Murphy

    What is about Western Sydney that makes it so magically easy to impugn racism to it? Last time there I stayed in Bankstown, which appeared to be fairly multicultural to my eye. (Or is Bankstown “Eastern” Western Sydney, and doesn’t count?)

  4. Mindy

    Good point Peter, where does “Western Sydney” start there has to be more than just Rooty Hill.

  5. Sacha Blumen

    I also strongly believe (but no direct evidence) that the 457 focus is completely cynical – the Federal Government doesn’t actually believe what it says but is attempting to appeal to particular voters (and also some trade unions).

    Peter, this particular federal Labor MP mentioned that it was several generation “whiteys” who held those views.

  6. Peter Murphy

    Sasha: is that federal Labor MP looking likely to be an ex-federal Labor MP?

  7. Sacha Blumen

    There is a full day federal campaign meeting put on by NSW head office coming up in a couple of weeks. Part of me falls like going along just to see what is being said.

  8. Sacha Blumen

    Peter, I won’t give an indication as their comments weren’t public.

  9. patrickg

    Amen, Mark. Holding out the bogeyman of Tony Abbott as a raison d’etre for a Labor govt grows increasingly tired as the Gillard govt looks more like a Coalition one with every passing day.

    This pathetic and last ditch attempt to whip racist fervour is not just immoral, but also short-sighted and futile.

    Questions for Labor:

    1. Are asylum seekers actually a vote breaker for swinging voters, if so, how many and where? I.e. Will Labor voters that are racist switch their vote from Labor to Coalition cause of this?

    2. Will racists who decide their vote on this issue ever vote for Labor regardless of what Labor does, given that Coalition will always be more right wing on the issue god help us.

    3. Has anyone in the Labor party noticed that Rudd was at his most popular when being quite left wing with grand gestures etc? And his so called demise (in the public eye, which in light of Gillard’s subsequent popularity is positively hilarious) was due in no small part to perceptions of caving in on Carbon and Mining tax? i.e. not being left?

    Shame Rudd didn’t do a better job then isn’t it.

    It really, genuinely is a shame for anyone on the left in Australia that he didn’t do more to convince the factions he was an ally, as his government was far more left in terms of agenda and outcomes than Gillard’s, and far more popular.

  10. patrickg

    I think he was quite right to think of the factions as reactionary and useless and almost totally self-interested, patrickg.

    Oh I agree, but I wish he had convinced the factions of otherwise!

  11. Peter Murphy

    Fair enough, Sacha. (And apologies for misspelling your name on LP.)

  12. Mindy

    It really, genuinely is a shame for anyone on the left in Australia that he didn’t do more to convince the factions he was an ally, as his government was far more left in terms of agenda and outcomes than Gillard’s, and far more popular.

    Absolutely, this was never his problem. Well the factions were but he made some fundamental mistakes early on that he was never able to recover from and probably still can’t. Gillard takes most of the blame for where Labor has gone wrong, but Rudd must take his share too. Rudd’s actions as PM towards his own colleagues not to mention pissing off the media were his mistake.

    That said I can’t explain the tack the Gillard government has taken.

  13. Mindy

    I can see what you are getting at but why is she responsible for what other adults decide to say? Also the media haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory reporting a lot of what goes on, so aren’t we judging her solely on the bad stuff that does get reported? I’m not saying it isn’t bad, just that we aren’t hearing the full story.

    It may just be history now, but if Rudd had done a better job to begin with we wouldn’t be here. Rudd and probably Turnbull would be facing off and Australia would be a much more leftist place I suspect as a result. And I might have a chance of getting the NBN before next century.

  14. Mark

    Mindy, she’s the PM. He’s her appointment. We have collective cabinet responsibility.

  15. FMark

    This may be simplistic, but I don’t lamenting Rudd’s failure to please the factional power-brokers on the basis that had he done so, we would still have a more progressive government is sensible. Structure beats agency in this case, I reckon.

    As I see it, the propositions are:
    1. The factions support reactionary policies geared at passing the Lindsay test
    2. Factional power-brokers dislike of Rudd was in good part a result of his progressive politics on issues like asylum seekers, climate change, etc.
    3. Rudd would still be in power had he better appeased the factions

    If these propositions are correct, then to appease the factions, Rudd would have had to compromise his progressive politics, leading to a reactionary government in any case. His progressive prime-ministership was then always living on borrowed time. So I don’t think that wish he were better at it is sensible. Instead, we should be making plans to reform the ALP (or replace it).

  16. Terry

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the CFMEU in relation to the 457 visa issue. The CFMEU has been opposed to 457s for pretty much as long as the program has existed. Yet in the period when Chris Bowen was Immigration Minister and Martin Ferguson had the Mining portfolio, these complaints fell on deaf ears.

    In the current configuration, where the support of the CFMEU is as important to Julia Gillard, and for Labor getting how to votes doen in September, as the support of the AWU, a hard line on 457s can be seen as a quid pro quo.

    Do note that Michael O’Connor, National Secretary of the CFMEU, is Brendan O’Connor’s brother, and Brendan and Julia Gillard have been friends going back to Uni days. He is also – and I literally only just discovered this – an ex-partner of Julia Gillard.

    I wouldn’t assume that this is all just about the “Lindsay test”.

  17. Peter Murphy

    On Michael O’Conner (from the link kindly provided by Terry):

    He earned Keating’s eternal wrath by helping to organise a loggers’ blockade of Parliament House in 1995; a decade later, he threw his support behind John Howard when Mark Latham supported a pro-conservation policy in Tasmania. When Anthony Albanese described old-growth logging as “environmental vandalism”, O’Connor slammed him as a “political hooligan” who needs to grow up.

  18. Terry

    Mark, I’d be surprised if the 457 visa issue is generating a strong swing to the Greens. If that is the case, they may not have read Adam Bandt’s statements on the issue:

    Greens Deputy Leader and workplace relations spokesperson Adam Bandt says the PM’s promise on s457 visas rings hollow, given the failure of the government to require jobs to be advertised locally first.

    Allowing the big miners to use secret Enterprise Migration Agreements also showed the Labor government wasn’t really serious about putting locals first, Mr Bandt said.

    “The PM is ramping up the rhetoric on overseas workers to compete with Tony Abbott while actually doing little to protect local jobs. Employers should be made to advertise locally before they bring in overseas workers,” Mr Bandt said

    “The changes to the 457 visa scheme are really just election window dressing. If Labor were serious, they would bring back proper labour market testing and require jobs to be advertised locally first.”

    “Labor’s Enterprise Migration Agreements will also make it easier for the big miners to import overseas workers.”

    “Like the mining tax, the tough talk hides some big loopholes.”

    “The Greens’ Protecting Local Jobs (Regulating Enterprise Migration Agreements) Bill would require jobs to be advertised to locals first.”

    “The government should also be allowing the 10,000 asylum seekers living in the community to work, strengthen skills training and make sure apprentices have a living income before allowing more overseas workers in.”

    “Until the Prime Minister is willing to properly regulate EMAs and 457 visas her local jobs promise will ring hollow.”

  19. akn

    Yeah mate:

    We don’t see that from Brendan O’Connor, who it must be said, is one of Julia Gillard’s closest lieutenants of longest standing. What we see is a contempt for truth and a willingness to articulate inflammatory and thinly veiled racist rubbish at the drop of a hat.

    It’s Gillard.

    You can take the girl out of Wales but can you take Wales out of the woman?

  20. Craig Mc

    Blame the organ grinder, not the monkey.

  21. Peter Murphy

    On the “drawing a long bow” scale, akn, I’d rate that 326 kiloAgincourts.

    Gillard migrated to Australia in 1966. Your article talked about anti-Bangladeshi racism, but there weren’t many people of Bangladesh origin in Wales at the time. That would have happened after 1971, when the country seceded from Pakistan with millions of refugees. Your reasoning seems extremely specious.

  22. GregM

    [email protected] is not your post, with its link, a clear illustration of your own deep seated racism.

    The link takes us to an article headed Racism is still a ‘significant issue’ in Wales, warns new report

    From your linking to that report, (which attributes racism in Wales to the prevailing economic conditions there, not to Welsh ethnicity), it is clear that you attribute racist beliefs and policies to Julia Gillard, who left Wales to migrate to Australia with her family when she was four years old, on the basis that her heritage is Welsh.

    At four years old she can hardly be expected to have assimilated the social attitudes of the Welsh on any matter.

    One can only conclude that you hold the racist view that undesirable social attitudes are genetically inherited and that therefore because some people in Wales in a survey in 2013 were found to hold racist attitudes Julia Gillard, being of Welsh descent, must hold them too and must therefore be a racist by reason of her Welsh descent.

  23. akn

    PM: families are funny things. They transmit attitudes and values in ways that are, as yet, not described very well by any of the human sciences. Gillard has dog whistled and accepted and furthered the Howard consensus for reasons that go well beyond political expediency; they go, I suspect, to who she is. So, it might be a long bow to you but it is one I’m prepared to draw because I don’t have a simplistic understanding of humans and what motivates them. Just thinkin’ out loud, you know?

  24. akn

    Craig Mc @ 28: apropos organ grinders and monkeys – I was astonished at my gut reaction to Greer’s comment that Gillard dressed like ‘an organ grinder’s monkey’; I thought, ‘she’s right!’. It occurred to me, much later, that Gillard looks like the organ grinder’s monkey from Ginger Meggs.

    In any event, who is the organ grinder to whom you refer?

  25. akn

    Greg M: see @ 31.

    I didn’t say she was a racist and I could have linked to any number of recent articles highlighting the specifics of racism in Wales that clearly distinguish the specifics of Welsh racism; I don’t buy the idea that racism is merely the product of economic conditions; it has a history of its own well beyond any Marxist historical determinist understanding.

    The real issue is her failure to bust the Howard consensus. Ask why? Maybe she really buys into it?

  26. Terry

    I’m not sure the CFMEU would welcome the proposition that they are a bunch of racists on the basis of their position on 457 visas. Nor would Adam Bandt.

  27. GregM

    Anthony @33

    Look at what you said @27.

    You clearly implied that she was a racist because of her Welsh heritage, by linking to a report on racism in Wales.

    Your snide comment @31 does nothing to reduce the import of what you said @27. You have no idea what values her parents transmitted to her and it is indecent that you involve them, by implication in your post, as the source of whatever opinions, policies or attributes of her that you find objectionable.

    Julia Gillard deserves better than that.

    She deserves to be evaluated and judged on her own conduct and the circumstances in which she has conducted herself and not on the basis of what is, to be frank and honest about your comment @27, a snide, nasty and reprehensible reference to her ethnic background.

    I also think that the people who read and contribute to LP posts, who are overwhelmingly decent and fairminded people, deserve better too.

  28. jules

    What does who is Gillard’s ex partner have to do with anything?

    Also – Rudd called climate change the greatest moral challenge of all time then failed to make anything happen; apologised then failed to stop the intervention, or turn into something worthwhile; kept some dodgy aspects of Workchoices such as lockout rights, but no right to strike; he couldn’t stand up for himself or his MPs when the bullshit brouhaha over “school halls” and “pink batts” happened and then he suspended the processing of Afghan and Sri Lankan claims for asylum despite brutal wars in both countries, one of which we were involved in. That last failure was in response to Abbott and Turnbull’s gutless cry of “stop the boats”. If he was a real leader that wouldn’t have happened.

    Admittedly he got shafted because of the power of the mining industry, but if he was a halfway decent pm that wouldn’t have happened either. The best thing about Rudd is that he wasn’t Howard. Thats about it. Any ALP (and a few lib) leaders would have made the apology, it certainly wasn’t his idea and the rest of time as pm was marked by his failure as a leader.

    On balance Gillard is no worse (- none of them are any good imo).

    Of course her policies are racist. She is a pollie in Australia post Howard. This country is racist as – structurally, procedurally and historically.* It took extraordinary times and extraordinary leadership to even begin to deal with that, and one pm who was a gutless shit to ruin the hard work. But Rudds actions wrt to Afghan and Sri lankan asylum seekers was just as racist and you can’t see Gillard’s actions on their own. They are part of a continuum that includes Rudd, Howard/Hansen and to an extent Keating. Rudd had a real chance to break that cycle and failed when the pressure came. So blaming Gillard alone for failing to stop the Howard/Hansen consensus is itself sus.

    The 457 thing isn’t particularly racist in itself either given the CFMEU represent people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds who had in common the fact that they were Australians working in CFM&E. It is nationalist and exclusionary to a point tho. But I think its fair enough to keep pressure on over that issue when mining, industry and business groups are saying Australia is too expensive and difficult to do business in when we all know that means working people earn to much and have too many legal protections. It may not be driving down wages now, but that visa system could be used that way in the future, especially under an Abbott govt. Extra especially when some of our most successful business leaders praise $2 a day wages and refuse to use Australian manufactured products (like steel) for their businesses, and have Tony Abbott before them on bended knee at IPA shindigs.

    *its also amazingly tolerant and a brilliant example of successful multiculturalism, cos life is full of paradoxes and anyone who wants to argue about how it can only be one thing or another needs to build a bridge.

  29. Mariah

    Can’t forget when Julia Gillard was attacked by Aboriginal Protestors on Australia Day. Should one smile or cry?

  30. Chris

    Can’t forget when Julia Gillard was attacked by Aboriginal Protestors on Australia Day. Should one smile or cry?

    Weren’t they actually after Abbott though? She was collateral damage.

  31. jules

    Are you a real person Mariah?

  32. Golly Gosh

    Thanks Terry Flew for stating the obvious.

  33. akn

    GregM: Jules above says it better than me; wot he says, then, in reply.

  34. Helen

    Mariah is some kind of USian spammer.

    Thanks to GG for reminding me the other day that LP policy forbids “Imputing ideas or motives to others or stereotyping them because of perceived group membership or ideological affiliation.” This policy appears to go out of the window when JG is being discussed.

  35. jules

    Helen is Mariah even a real person, or just a persona? Monbiot wrote about astroturfing with fake personas last year in the guardian. mariah looks like a badly put together persona used by some pr agency to astroturf.

    I’m sure there are real people called Mariah Perez, i just don’t think that webpage Mariah’s name links to belongs to any of them.

    Of course if I’m wrong I’ll happily apologise.

  36. Golly Gosh

    Clamping down on 457’s is reason #11,789 why talk of an omipotent neoliberal hegemony is such risible nonsense. Indeed, the idea of open borders is touted by such neoliberal figures as Bryan Caplan and seriously discussed in popular right wing magazines like Reason.

    Open borders would crush the last vestiges of the blue collar union movement and, as Milton Friedman noted, finally smash the welfare state. This would be a neoliberal dream.

    Open borders will not become policy for the major Anglosphere right wing parties (at least within a time frame meaningful to us) because they are an amalgam of classical liberalism, conservatism and pragmatic realpolitik.

  37. Ootz

    Mariah – “2. …… Mariahs have gypsy powers that they hide but unleash on the unlucky and unwanted.”

    Ditto, apologise.

  38. SD1981

    I have a suspicion that this whole campaign is being orchestrated by John McTernan from the Prime Minister’s office. He was part of the Blairite New Labour clique whom, while in government, showed no qualms about wolf-whistling on immigration and race issues if it scored them cheap political points. I recognize some of the same kind of rhetoric on immigration coming from Gillard and her cabinet as I did some from Blair and his ministers and I don’t think it’s a coincidence

    You are right to point out that O’Connor is a Gillard lieutenant and I have no doubt that he is just spouting the lines and the arguments dictated to him from the Prime Minister’s office. I’ve never seen him have an original thought or intellectual argument of his own either before or after he came to office. He’s a flunkey and a lackey of the highest order and epitomizes all that’s wrong with the Labor Party

  39. SD1981

    That should be
    I recognize some of the same kind of rhetoric on immigration coming from Gillard and her cabinet as I did from Blair and his ministers and I don’t think it’s a coincidence

  40. Liz

    “Dresses like an organ grinders monkey”. It’s interesting how this crap flares up whenever Gillard gets mentioned at LP. And doesn’t get slapped down immediately.

    I wonder whether there’ll ever be an article here about the good stuff she’s doing? NDIS anyone?

  41. Paul Norton

    I’m somewhat stunned that Greer would be the source of that comment, and wouldn’t have thought through its appalling connotations. It’s unfortunate, to put it no more strongly than that, that it has appeared on the same thread as comments that referred to Gillard’s present and past associations with the O’Connor brothers. Having known all three individuals in the days of a certain defunct student union (cue Sam) I can confidently assert that she wouldn’t be getting any ideas from either of them (as neither have ever had any ideas to give).

  42. Liz

    So, looking at Bandt’s quote, it seems that the Greens aren’t too keen on 457 visas either and would like the scheme to be tightly regulated. Interesting. I wonder if this is only a racist policy when Gillard proposes it?

  43. Peter Murphy

    As far as I know, Bandt did not engage in hyperbole, pull out magical numbers from nowhere, and then changed his claims to alleged forecasts.

  44. Adrian

    Well said, Mark.

    And regarding the NDIS, Gillard’s political ineptitude has turned what should have been a positive into a depressing negative.

  45. akn

    Well, Liz, I’ll leave it to you to do the slapping then, shall I? I hope you would’ve been as quick to jump to the defense when people made reference to Koala McMahon’s ears.

    OTOH, as I’m sure you’re aware, there is a strong tradition dating back at least to the French Revolution in one instance and Aristophanes in another, of ribald satire directed at those in power and authority.

    Still, I take your point that the left must conduct itself according to your proscriptions on how to do humourless post-Marxism and henceforth commit to do nothing other than sing the praises of Gillard and the way that she fouled up the politics of the NDIS by putting it forward as an election platform rather than wanting to put it up for the current parliament.

  46. Paul Norton

    PM: families are funny things. They transmit attitudes and values in ways that are, as yet, not described very well by any of the human sciences. Gillard has dog whistled and accepted and furthered the Howard consensus for reasons that go well beyond political expediency; they go, I suspect, to who she is.

    Given what we know of the late John Gillard’s views on the asylum seeker issue, in the context of the current discussion this comment could be taken as doing him a gross disservice.

  47. Liz

    Gee, akn. I think I heard that the NDIS legislation is going before the Parliament in May. Oh, but she stuffed that up too, did she?

  48. patrickg

    I wonder if this is only a racist policy when Gillard proposes it?

    When the Greens start using racist language, scare-mongering, and supporting terrible detention policies for asylum seekers in tandem, I would suggest.

    Sheesh, this is not controversial.

  49. Liz

    I agree with you about asylum seekers. Labor and Gillard are appalling on that issue. But, the 457 issue is somewhat different issue.

  50. Paul Norton

    Patrickg @55, you’ve touched on one of Gillard’s biggest political failings – her penchant for announcing and promoting policies with gratuitous swingeing rhetorical appeals to the crassest elements in the audience. I don’t know where she gets it from, and it’s not without precedent from Labor PMs – think of Bob Hawke’s “We’ll abolish the dole!” moment – but it’s dreadful politics.

  51. akn

    Liz: yes, but only after a significant display of disgust from the public will the NDIS now be advanced prior to the election.

    PN: perhaps. The point remains, however, that the ALP has not been able to break the Howardite consensus since coming to office. We are entitled to seek reasons for this failure; I posit that this is because the ALP and many members agree with the xenophobia that informs it. A realist assessment of Gillard on refugees is that she has done nothing to show leadership and nothing to improve either the conditions even of those who are incarcerated let alone do anything to stem the flow of boat arrivals.

  52. Chris

    I agree with you about asylum seekers. Labor and Gillard are appalling on that issue. But, the 457 issue is somewhat different issue.

    They essentially started the political debate about 457s. Why didn’t they have the stats and a plan designed before doing so? To me that indicates it was purely a bit of dog whistling with little intent to actually do something about it.

    Its something they want to take to the next election, like they also intended to do with the NDIS, but accidentally got forced into introducing legislation which is good for the scheme itself, but will render the issue fairly useless for scoring political points if it goes through with bi-partisan support.

  53. Terry

    A tougher line on 457 visas is a shared policy of the ALP, the ACTU and The Greens at this point in time. Sheeting it all home to Julia Gillard – let alone to some quirk of Welsh ancestry – is fatuous.

  54. akn

    Terry: that tougher line was run by the ACTU and associated unions like the CFMEU well before Gillard started dog whistling. Acquaintance with the issues as presented by unions would show you that they were concerned to protect the conditions and wages of visa workers, to advance OH+S and to protect them from hyper-exploitation; there was little to no concern to ‘protect Aussie jobs’.

    As to sheeting it home to Welsh ancestry being fatuous – it is your deliberate misreading of what I’m saying that lacks credibility and what I’m saying is that we’re entitled to seek reasons other than political expediency for the dog whistling on visa workers. Both class and ethnicity are significant identifiers within the ALP and I don’t see that either Gillard or the ALP should be immune to speculative comment about exactly why this issue has been flunked so badly.

    Anyway, that’s all for me; I’m off to a sub-alpine NP for a few days.

  55. Brian

    Chris, the 457 thing started with a real incident, not a confected campaign. They didn’t have the stats because the Immigration Dept only monitors 4% of visas. I think I’ll do a separate post on the underlying ‘real’ issue, rather than try to dribble stuff in here.

    Liz, the latest story on the NDIS is not about the policy, but about how how Gillard pursued the issue politically by insisting that Abbott and the LNP support the medicare levy before she brought it to parliament. I thought she was flushing Abbott out in his predictable game of opposing the levy, then later saying, it’s there now so we might as well keep it. Remember, Hockey was opposing the levy while Abbott was riding his bike.

    But no, Barrie Cassidy says she won the policy but probably lost the politics. Geoff Kitney in the AFR, who has never been known to say anything positive about Gillard, was less nuanced, Gillard had plumbed a new low in political expediency.

  56. Helen

    It’s also drawing conclusions about her based on her membership of an ethnic (cultural?) group, which is supposed to be against commenting rules (thanks GG), but that seems to have been waived.

  57. Helen

    That said, maybe that commenting rule as a blanket statement is untenable and unworkable. A privileged*, white immigrant from the UK suspicious of brown people? Unsurprised.**

    *Yes, yes, she’ll bang on about how her family do it hard, but she has a huge dollop of privilege and so have other white immigrants who have managed to do very well, thank you…

    **This comment, you will notice, is critical of JG and it may confuse some people who are being presented with a manichaen all-for-her- or-all-against -her template through which to view these policies and events. My view and that of others is somewhat more complex and our refusal to be pigeonholed does not constitute a rah-rah support of everything she does, or the naive acceptance of any “meme”.

  58. akn

    Helen: I can’t help this – so LP is to run itself behind a Rawlesian veil of ignorance? Oh the irony!

  59. Brian

    To add to @ 63, Kitney is saying that the only purpose Gillard had was to wedge Abbott and create a point of difference for voters in September.

    It’s a bit off topic here, but it points to the fact that for some Gillard can do no right. I have little doubt that Mark is right in that the xenophobic massaging is deliberate, but it’s an overlay on a policy issue that needs to be fixed, and which John Quiggin quite reasonably suggested should have been fixed long ago by Labor in power.

  60. Liz

    No, Terry you’ve got it wrong. Gillard is a racist. It’s because she’s Welsh. Or dresses badly. Or isn’t Kevin Rudd. Or something.

  61. Liz

    Oh c’mon Helen. You’re one of those Feminists Who Think That Gillard Can Do No Wrong. I must be one of those as well. Even though I think her asylum seeker policy is appalling and stupid in every way. The cuts to tertiary education are really stupid, too.

    Brian, I also thought she snookered Abbott well and ensured the NDIS passed with bi-partisan support. But, undoubtedly for some reason there are people for whom Gillard can’t do anything right.

  62. Brian

    Helen, back in this post, Mark said:

    Labourism, Gillard government style, has difficulty in reaching out beyond its attenuated base because its positive ideational appeal – the dignity and worth of labour – does not speak to the experiential politics of the everyday, unless it does so through precipitating class antagonisms. (Emphasis added)

    I’ve said on another thread that there are two ideas that Gillard feels in her gut, one is the dignity and worth of paid labour, almost irrespective of what the job is, and the opportunity to get a good school education.

    akn is right, I think, in saying that this is part of who Gillard is. He’s wrong in attempting to attribute causes of this. That’s beyond anything we have evidence for and should be left to biographers.

    I feel that Gillard lacks the intellectual tools to conceptualise Labor values, to develop policies from them, and to use them to critique existing policies or policies generated by others. In this she’s not unlike many other PMs but her political instincts don’t see her through.

    I thought some of the comments were a bit bizarre but intervening is another matter, it’s not my thread and by the time I saw them others had commented on them, so there’s a kind of self-regulation going on. Which is probably the best way.

  63. Paul Norton

    Brian @70:

    I’ve said on another thread that there are two ideas that Gillard feels in her gut, one is the dignity and worth of paid labour, almost irrespective of what the job is, and the opportunity to get a good school education.

    Yes. A third that I’d suggest, also based on my own youthful dealings with her and on some of her statements that I recall from her time in the Socialist Forum, is a belief in the importance of electing Labor governments and Labor-aligned leaderships of unions, and of those Labor governments and leaderships being able to get their way.

    I feel that Gillard lacks the intellectual tools to conceptualise Labor values, to develop policies from them, and to use them to critique existing policies or policies generated by others. In this she’s not unlike many other PMs but her political instincts don’t see her through.

    Again I agree, and again it gels with my memories of the 1983 AUS President, and reading of the Socialist Forum organiser, who displayed no interest in or capacity for big ideas. There is a stark difference IMHO with Keating, who had what some have called his “republican agenda” of the republic, reconciliation, and engagement with Asia, and Hawke who had his big idea of “national consensus” and the resolution of conflict, which the Left ridiculed at the time but which did have resonance with some European social democratic traditions.

  64. Martin B

    I’m not generally inclined to draw as neat an ideological line as Mark is: much of Rudd’s genuine conservatism seems to be air-brushed, and he was at least as obsessed with focus-group poll-driven media management as Gillard is.

    However on this matter it is hard to disagree. It has been appalling from Gillard and it is hard to imagine Rudd going there.

  65. Golly Gosh

    Of direct relevance to the issues raised on this thread is the council election results from this week in Britain:

    Labour at 29%,
    Conservative 25%,
    Ukip 23%
    Liberal Democrats 14%.

    The Guardian, has this to say on the the anti-immigration UKIP voter base-

    “Initial evidence showed that Ukip drew most support from socially conservative, older, working-class voters, especially in East Anglia, the south and south-west.”

    So Left parties risk losing a huge chunk of their support base if they don’t listen to the genuine concerns of working class people. That is to say, the very people who have to compete for jobs and housing with new arrivals, be they 457s or otherwise.

  66. Brian

    This came in earlier today: Coalition supports 457 visa changes:

    The opposition has backed most of the government’s planned changes to the 457 visa scheme, calling the reforms sensible ”housekeeping”.

    So we have furious agreement on the actual policy, it seems.

    Here’s an item from yesterday about the Govt defending its position.

    The December discussion paper just released under FOI is downloadable from here.

    I haven’t had time to look at it yet.

  67. BilB

    Sour grapes?

    ” we are now seeing what a cabinet purged of any residual Ruddism looks like”

    These people purged themselves with their bad judgement in supporting attempts to re-install Rudd as PM, and that is indeed a loss to the balance of the party. This further demonstrates Rudd’s failings as a leader in that his Latham gene has allowed this to continue rather than stay engaged and balance the internal debate.

    I doubt that there is much evidence required on the 457 visa issue. Business has long demonstrated its penchant for exporting jobs out of the country. And the most glaring example is the pathetic use of overseas call centers which cause more racial intolerance than any bombing attack.

    I am still 2 months down the track in the process of changing to Telstra’s ADSL package deal. After around twenty abortive phone call attempts through Philippines call centers to get this process underway, attempts where each new person cancelled the previous persons work and started again, I finally reached a guy in Melbourne, a real Telstra employee, and the entire mess began to unravel for progress to get underway. I still don’t have the ADSL but that turns out to be because we are waiting for a new ADSL module to be installed at our local exchange just 300 metres away. These modules support 180 connections and cost $50,000 , so they wait until the have a number of connection requests before putting the hardware in place. I found this out from a service technician who came to reconnect some of the lines that were broken when a truck ripped out overhead telephone wiring outside my factory.

    So are IT workers being brought in on 457 visas? I have absolutely no doubt. Are there Australians available to fills many of the slots? I have no doubt of that also. A friend who is developing a very nice electronic product decided to outsource some of the board layout work so decided to advertise. He was surprised to get 50 applicants. This suited my purposes as I am now using one of those applicants to solve some of my problems.

    I suspect that the core of the 457 visa issue is an entirely different problem altogether.

    I believe that out people hiring system is well and truly broken.

    There was a time when this was simple and direct. Place an add in the classifieds then spend a day answering calls and you person is hired.

    Now an employer has to take out a contract with some organisation and pay a not inconsiderable fee. People wanting work have to register with any number of agencies and hope for the best. The whole thing is arms length and totally disjointed. I suspect that investigation would uncover that the 457 visa hiring process was cheaper for the employer and delivered people who by the very nature of the process were temporary employees, cheaper, and more highly motivated due to the circumstances of their country of origin.

    Is there a race issue in their? Well everyone that I know when they hear a Philippino voice or and Indian voice on the end of the phone hang up immediately. That has nothing to do with the government. Business created that intolerance trend.

  68. Chris

    I am still 2 months down the track in the process of changing to Telstra’s ADSL package deal. After around twenty abortive phone call attempts through Philippines call centers to get this process underway, attempts where each new person cancelled the previous persons work and started again, I finally reached a guy in Melbourne, a real Telstra employee, and the entire mess began to unravel for progress to get underway

    So if you care whether the call centre is here or overseas then why are you with Telstra in the first place? There are ISPs like Internode which have their own DSLAMs as well as are able to use Telstra DSLAMs where they don’t have their own and they have Australia based call centres. As much as people complain about overseas call centres, when it comes to making their purchasing decisions most do it on price.

    So are IT workers being brought in on 457 visas? I have absolutely no doubt. Are there Australians available to fills many of the slots? I have no doubt of that also.

    I personally know 2 IT people who came in on 457s. Both of them have skill and knowledge levels that would put them in the best of the world. And having them work here resulted in skill transfer to locals. One ended up becoming a citizen, the other returned (for no job related reasons).

    I agree its likely that there are some IT workers being brought in when locals could in a reasonably short term be trained up to do the work. But the IT community is very much a worldwide one now. So sometimes it comes down to asking whether its better to have some foreign workers working here spending much of the money they are paid locally or have the jobs themselves move overseas and have none of it spent locally. Much of the work I do for example would have been done in the US 20-30 years ago.

  69. BilB

    What I am suggesting, Chris, is that out of work specialists here are invisible due to the recruitment system. There is no co-ordination and little connection, I believe. The perfect person for a task might be just a block away, but if he is not registered with the particular recruitment agency that a firm lists their need with, then there is no resolution. It is easier for recruitment agencies to scan overseas agency’s lists that are not in local competition as the field is much broader.

    That is my theory.

  70. Tyro Rex

    I was just on a big IT project where over half the workers on the project were imported on 457 visas at one third the pay of your typical local IT professional. It was a bald attempt to save money.

  71. Chris

    BilB – I think that’s a plausible theory. I don’t think its true in the field I work in because its fairly specialised so people tend to know who has the required skills and those that have the skills know when jobs are available. But in areas where the skill set is more common and generic I can see that happening. Do you think more widespread usage of sites like linkedin would help in this regard making it easier for employers to find potential employees?

    Tyro – yea I wonder if some companies are just setup as 457 employment shops because its something you’d really need to specialise in for it to be worthwhile. I’ve seen it from both sides (I was on an H1-B in the US for a couple of years) and from a red tape point of view there is a lot of effort and cost required organising work visas.

  72. Brian

    Tyro Rex, you’ll be happy to know that Chris Uhlmann demonstrated clearly that you must be dreaming:

    JULIA GILLARD: It’s just not acceptable that information technology jobs, the quintessential jobs of the future, the very opportunities being created by the digital economy, precisely where the big picture is for our kids, that such an area as this should be such a big area for imported skills.

    CHRIS UHLMANN: But experts in both migration and computing have told 7.30 there is an information technology skills shortage.

    MAUREEN HORDER, CEO, MIGRATION INSTITUTE OF AUST.: That’s one of the growth areas, technology, so it’s not surprising that we would be looking to broaden the skill base in Australia in that particular sector.

    CHRIS UHLMANN: Since 2003, the number of jobs in information and communications technology has grown by 100,000. That’s a 31 per cent increase. 12,000 new jobs were created last year, but from 2003 to 2010, the number of domestic ICT students halved from 9,093 to 4,293.

    In fact, domestic students in Australian IT courses are outnumbered by foreign students by two to one. Demand for particular skills is so acute in some areas that it takes 247 days to fill a job. It’s numbers like that that have some members of the Government’s own advisory council on skilled migration calling for proof that locals are missing out on jobs.

    As it happens I’ve been hearing stories about this for some time. Case in point, a foreign-owned multinational with an IT branch here in Australia. Some of the local staff were made redundant, but before they left they had to train their replacements, who were on a 457 visa, on less pay. When they had gone the remaining local staff found themselves having to correct the work of the imports.

    Suncorp have brought in overseas staff to train them up here. Then they send them back and send the work after them.

    I have a memory of the head of the IT teaching department at QUT last year sometime, despairing because their local graduates couldn’t get jobs.

    The Govt should take a closer look, but the changes proposed in the discussion paper should help, and, BilB and Chris, make it more expensive to hire overseas staff, if the system is changed as proposed, and policed, which I fancy it won’t be if we vote for Mr Rabbit.

  73. Ex Labor Voter

    Brendan O’Connor is well known to have hung onto Gillard’s skirts ever since his brother ended their relationship. It is well known that his only pathway to career success has been hanging on tight. It is certainly not on his intellectual merit or hard work ethics.
    His continuation of the Celtic dog whistle absolutely caters to their shared xenophobic views. The irony is, his brother Michael, head of the CFMEU, is NOT an Australian citizen, he still holds an Irish passport! And yet he claims the right to tell Australian citizens who they should or shouldn’t let in to their country!
    If only we hadn’t let in this racist Celtic lot when their families arrived all those years ago. maybe we wouldn’t have such a racist government now.

  74. Lefty E

    Before anyone gets too excited about the British council elections, the turnout was 31%.

    In a general election its generally up around 60-65%.

    Austerity politics is clearly breeding new discontent with the EU, but the fact is the UKIP will be lucky to do half as well in a general turnout, which tends to bring the less committed party voters out.

  75. BilB

    Brian,

    To advance my point that a broken recruitment system is the underlying cause of the 457 visa issue, I took Chris’s suggestion and looked to see how many Information Technology positions were available through LinkIn for the Sydney CBD.

    There was one. One with Macquarie Group.

    On the strength of that evidence if I were Clive Palmer I could call a press conference and declare that there was no real demand for IT specialists in this country.

    What is the real situation?

    Has the personnel recruitment industry specialised for profit on the 20/80 basis leaving the low end 80% of job seekers with no effective method for connecting with jobs?

    If so, has this led to improper use of the 457 Visa system?

  76. Chris

    To advance my point that a broken recruitment system is the underlying cause of the 457 visa issue, I took Chris’s suggestion and looked to see how many Information Technology positions were available through LinkIn for the Sydney CBD.

    From what I’ve seen I think LinkedIn is used more by recruiters to find potential employees rather than the other way around.

    What is the real situation?

    I think its fairly common but all the full time jobs I’ve had I’ve found out about through word of mouth rather than advertising, even though some of them were advertised as well. With the growth of social networks this is probably becoming even more common.

    Brian – I had a quick scan through that discussion paper and the recommendations sound pretty reasonable to me. However some may be hard and/or expensive to monitor in practice. I’ve suggested it before, but if they loosened the restrictions on the 457 visas so that people were only bound to their employer for say the first third of the visa length then some of the concerns such as them being paid fair market rates would be mostly resolved.

  77. Ambigulous

    Apparently the Immigration Minister has decided that some asylum seekers will be eligible to live in the community on bridging visas. He argues that detention can harm their mental health.

    Who wouldathunkit?

    The main ‘evidence’ he’s relied on in this instance might be the growing Budget costs of the growing detainee populations.

  78. Liz

    Just coming back to this post, again. Mark made the argument in which he contrasted Gillard and O’Connor with Rudd and Bowen. The former being racist dog-whistlers, the latter not. Bowen is somehow excused in his role as Immigration Minister, in a way O’Connor isn’t. Poor Chris had it forced on him, unfortunately.

    Now, we find out that Rudd and Bowen are launching Nick Cater’s dreadful book, specifically designed to flatter the supposed bogans of Western Sydney. Bowen has seemed to make a speech about how the elites don’t understand the fears of ordinary Australians when it comes to asylum seekers. Why are Rudd and Bowen pandering to the racist right like this? Why are they dog-whistling in such an evidence free way?

  79. Lefty E

    I see your point there Liz, but Bowen served under Gillard in that role.

    You can chuck many things at Rudd – but running a reactionary asylum seeker policy ain’t one of them.

  80. Liz

    I’m being a bit sarcastic and grumpy, Lefty E. I just don’t think that any of these pollies are heroes or villains. It doesn’t sense to me to set up a false dichotomy about them.

  81. Terry

    Rudd and Bowen are positioning for a post-September 14 world, where Gillardism will have collapsed like a large sand castle facing a strong incoming tide, and the NSW Right will blame The Greens. Interesting that Rudd wants to be on that ship, all things considered.

  82. jules

    Lefty E, who was PM when Afghan and Sri Lankan boat arrivals had theirt processing of applications suspended?

  83. Ex Labor Voter

    Very interesting that the most popular political prop used by Brendan O’Connor, his daughter , has suddenly disappeared! Just when he might have used her to show how humane the Curtain ,Manus ,etc. camps are for families and children. Given he and his family are recent immigrants, it is very interesting his racist attitude towards other immigrants , far more deserving of Australia’s consideration for refuge and a chance at life. If only he would use his own political prop ( daughter) to test how humane these prisons are for political refugees.
    His brother, Michael, also feels it is OK to dictate to Australians who they should let in, despite the fact that he has never deigned to become an Australian citizen, Apparently Brendan only became Australian to enter parliament.
    what hypocrites!

  84. Ex Labor Voter

    You all realise, of course, that Brendan O’Connor (minister for immigration) has a brother, Michael O’Connor, who current
    Y heads the CFMEU. Michael has recently directed the xenophobic 457 policy (against coloured people) that his little brother and ex- root, Gillard have been running with! The ABSOLUTE irony, is that Michael is NOT an Australian citizen! He holds an Irish passport! despite enjoying the advantages of
    Australian lifestyle for the last 45 years, he has never felt the need to formalise his allegiance to the country that has afforded his family the many , MANY benefits they have received, via the ALP(now Gillard Party). Mummy had several jobs (and concurrent redundancy packages), and brothers, cousins etc have all been well rewarded, despite no qualifications. THIS is the irony of this racist, self-serving government. WELL may they fall! And hard!