Opinion: A quick history lesson for Senator Fraser Anning

Source: SBS

Western Sydney University's assistant vice-chancellor has some words of advice for Senator Fraser Anning.

In his maiden speech in parliament last night, Katter Australia Party senator Fraser Anning insisted we need to “restore the cohesive vision of our founding fathers.”

Bringing up the White Australia Policy and related institutional prejudices is not a new angle. Only, when someone brings it up, they’re usually offering it as a warning.

Oh dear.

Anning singled out three priorities he will chase down during his time as a senator: agriculture, infrastructure and immigration.

Here’s a quick history lesson for Anning.

Agriculture in Australia rose on the back of migrants. German farmers in South Australia and Victoria in the 1860s, Chinese market gardens across the country from the 1870s, and the shameful history of migrant “sugar slaves” in Queensland are just some of the many, many migrants who have ploughed our soils and put food on our plates.

But he doesn’t need to look to the past. Just last week, Reserve Bank of Australia governor Phillip Lowe said immigration has made the country's population younger overall and helped the Australian economy outperform those of other developed nations. And results published this week from a three-year study of settlement outcomes of recently arrived refugees found that regional Australia can take more permanent migrants and they often receive a warm welcome. That’s right, migrants are breathing new life into old country towns.

The same goes for infrastructure. Our largest and most-ambitious engineering and construction accomplishment, The Snowy Mountains Scheme, is famous for its origins in migrant design, know-how and labour. And today, Australia’s information technology, fin tech, and engineering sectors are all being driven by skilled migrants.  

If Anning is serious about reviving agriculture, and if he is committed to attracting investment in infrastructure, then he needs to accept – and celebrate – that non-European migration is a gateway to economic advantage.

Oh, and by the way, immigration is intrinsic to Australia’s vibrant, dynamic and inclusive culture.

Recommended viewing for Fraser Anning:

Dr Andy Marks is assistant vice-chancellor at Western Sydney University.