Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of interview with Miranda Devine: Miranda Devine Live: 28 May 2018: migration

Download PDFDownload PDF

Monday, 28 May 2018

Interview with Miranda Devine, Miranda Devine Live Subjects: Migration


MIRANDA DEVINE: Now the attacks on Luke Foley - the Labor Opposition leader in New South Wales - over his use of the term white flight was absolutely pathetic last year- last week, I mean, especially from Premier Gladys Berejiklian and National's leader John Barilaro. Talk about confected outrage. Luke Foley was using the term to describe the exodus of long-term residents of the Sydney suburb of Fairfield, where most of the extra 12,000 refugees that we invited in from Syria and Iraq have settled. Now, white flight is not a racist term. It's a well-known sociological term for a phenomenon first used in the 1950s to describe movements of European-background Americans from racially-diverse inner cities in the United States to more homogenous outer suburbs, and there is no denying that parts of south west Sydney, around Lakemba and Fairfield, are dominated by new migrants and refugees. And Labor's Opposition leader has just highlighted a very important demographic trend and shouting him down doesn't make it go away.

The fact is that the infrastructure in that area has not kept up with the dramatic influx of refugees and his purpose was to highlight that truth and for some reason the left and the Liberal Party jumped on him. But I know one man who doesn't do that is the Federal Assistant Minister for Cities [sic], Angus Taylor, who's on the line.

Hello, Angus.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Good afternoon, Miranda.

MIRANDA DEVINE: Now look, I know Luke Foley's on the other side of the fence and he's obviously used the term ‘white flight’, but that's a well-known term, isn't it, that's been around for 30 or 40 years?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah look, it's been used in academic literature in the past peer-reviewed articles no less Miranda, but the people who don't want to debate the issue, who don't want to debate social cohesion and immigrant integration, which are the substantive issues here, want us to debate the words. They want to argue that the words are what matters here. Well, I don't think they are. I think what matters is the phenomenon, and the phenomenon here is increasing concentration of overseas-born populations in some suburbs and the problem that's creating for our traditional model of social integration that has been so successful for so long, it is now challenged and one of the symptoms of that is a movement of many Anglo-born Australians, as well, by the way, as immigrants from UK and New Zealand backgrounds to the edges of Sydney, including my electorate and to the sort of what they call the peri-urban areas, which are the areas just outside the traditional Sydney

boundaries. You're seeing- there's no doubt that's happening. I mean, I see it all the time and I speak to people in my electorate all the time who have moved for those reasons.

MIRANDA DEVINE: Well you see, for instance Picton, just outside Sydney, which is in your electorate, I know. It's a fast-growing area and also in the Yarra Valley on the edge of Melbourne, those are the sort of alleged white flight places and it is human nature isn't it, Angus Taylor, that people like to be with people who speak the same language, share the same culture, but our recent history is of not integrating new migrants and it means that people end up feeling like strangers in their own home.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well that's right. So what we're seeing is increasing geographic concentration of these overseas-born populations as I said and don't take my word for it. The Scanlon Foundation does work on this, on social cohesion. Does a survey each year to look at this and there's no question they're seeing this now - 67 suburbs in Sydney with more than 50 per cent born overseas, 28 with over 60 per cent. We're seeing similar concentrations in Melbourne and what we're also seeing in those areas is falling English language skills. Now, the issue with that is that it's much harder- they're much less likely to have contact with people who have been here for a generation or longer and integration therefore is much slower. If you've got a concentrated diaspora, as they're called - concentrated immigrants - they're much less likely to connect to others and we don't see the integration which Australia is famous for.

Look, I grew up in one of the great immigrant towns of Australia, Cooma, which was of course the heart of the Snowy Mountains Scheme and it was an extraordinary place to grow up with Italians, and Greeks, and Yugoslavs and you name it. But they saw themselves as sharing basic Australian values. They participated in their community. They learn English, albeit they didn't have perfect English, a lot of them, but they learnt English and they were they were wonderful Australian citizens and local community participants and that's the model of integration Australia is famous for that we need to keep pushing back towards.

MIRANDA DEVINE: So how can federal and state governments make that happen? You can't really force people not to live you know where they want to.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, there is definitely an infrastructure component to all of this and that's a whole other area of policy and we need to focus on that. So, what we're doing with the Western Sydney City Deal and Western Sydney Airport, Badgerys Creek, is all about creating amenity in those outer areas. But look, there's no doubt there's a social cohesion component to this. And that's why we're working hard now on further English language assessments. That was knocked back in the Senate at first attempt, but we're having another go and the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge, is now focused on that. But we're also looking at further adoption of Australian values for citizenship and I think these are really important parts of people showing that they're taking the necessary steps before they're given permanent residency. This is something we can do at the federal level. I think it is crucial. I think if we're going to see the sort of social integration and cohesion Australia's been famous for return in force, then these are exactly the sort of things we have to do.

MIRANDA DEVINE: And of course this is a unique situation where you've got almost all those 12,000 people who've come in in the last two or three years have all settled in the one area and of course they've gone to where other Syrians and Iraqis have lived. But that in a way has been quite a remarkable tale of integration because those areas were mostly Muslim, from Lebanon and so on, and the influx has been mostly Christian and yet we haven't heard of any clashes or seen any negative outcome from that.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, there's no doubt we need to look for people who we know will integrate and being able to work is one of the critical factors, being skilled is really crucial to being able to integrate because you work and when you work you have contact with other Australians, it rubs off and you integrate. We're not talking here about what some call full-blown assimilation where we ask people to be identical. We don't, we ask them to accept basic Australian values, to be conversant in English because that helps you to participate. And we ask you to be a

participant in your local community and the Australian community more broadly. They're not big asks and that's that model of integration we can and should be asking for.

MIRANDA DEVINE: Now Gladys Berejiklian does have a point when she says that if the Federal Government is going to make a dramatic new policy like the invitation to the 12,000 Syrian refugees, as happened in 2015, that at least the states ought to get a heads-up on that because, you know, suddenly they all come to Sydney and live in, you know, concentrated in pretty much one suburb and that is almost impossible to manage. Is that something she's talking about - having a sort of a COAG conversation about migration every year - is that something that you think could happen?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well I mean, I'd defer to my colleagues in Home Affairs. I'm now Minister in the Home Affairs Department, Miranda, but I defer to them on the best way of doing this. But look there's no doubt we have to work across multiple levels of government if we're going to address these issues. And I know in my previous role focused on how we make our cities work, it was very clear to me that working closely with state and local government, making sure that the infrastructure was built ahead of the growth and making sure that these newer suburbs that are emerging are great places to live. That's a project of all levels of government and I think you've got to think about immigration in a similar way. But having a ridiculous debate about the words doesn't get us there. I mean, this is the wrong debate to have. The people who want us debating the words are the people who don't want to talk about how we succeed with our integration model in a modern world where we are seeing less diversity in some of our suburbs.

MIRANDA DEVINE: So I mean, Gladys Berejiklian was at the head of the queue describing what Luke Foley said concentrating on the words ‘white flight’ and calling it racist.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well look, and that's right. There were a number of people who jumped on this and my point is simply this: Let's not talk about- let's not debate the words, let's focus on the issues, let's focus on how we make social integration work, let's focus on how we have integration of new Australians, of immigrants, as fast as possible, getting them into work, participating in local communities, all of those good things, which we've done. I mean, it's not as though Australia doesn't know how to do this. We absolutely do. But concentration in certain geographies of overseas-born populations with falling English speaking skills, as we see from the Scanlon Foundation work, that is not the way to solve this problem.

MIRANDA DEVINE: No, absolutely not. Well look thanks so much, Angus Taylor, and I should have mentioned of course your promotion last year, Minister for now Law Enforcement and Cyber Security. Thanks so much for joining us and I know you're always- you're across all the topics.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks Miranda.

MIRANDA DEVINE: And of course that was Angus Taylor, formerly the assistant minister for cities and digital transformation, but more recently Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security and he's always very sound on these issues.

See: Index of Speeches


Last update: Tuesday, 29 May 2018