The Elderly Migrant Tsunami By Peter Bennett

     Dr Bob Birrell predicts a flood of elderly migrants to Australia. Good grief, what next!

“An alarmist headline? Not really. This judgement follows from an analysis of Labor’s proposed temporary visa for parents of existing migrants, entitled, a ‘Fairer Long stay parent visa for Australia’s migrant and multicultural communities’. The proposal was announced on 22 April, 2019. Labor’s proposal is for an uncapped, low cost, temporary parent visa open to all migrant families who are citizens or are permanent residents. It will cost $2,500 for five years regardless of sponsors’ income or capacity to provide for their parents. All four parents in each household can be sponsored. The children eligible to sponsor their parents include all those who are permanent residents or citizens of Australia. The visa will be renewable thus enabling parents to stay in Australia for ten years without having to leave. This means it is a de facto permanent entry visa since, as sponsors will know, it is highly unlikely that parents who have lived here for a decade will be required to return home. Labor’s ‘temporary’ parent visa is an unprecedented offer. No other western country provides any similar parent visa. The trend across Western Europe is to tighten already stringent rules on parents’  access to obtain permanent residence status. The US, though it allows adult migrant children to sponsor their parents, has many hurdles, including that the sponsor must be a citizen and must meet financial capacity guidelines. Even Canada, the most overtly welcoming migration country in the west, has an annual cap of 17,000 on parent visas and, as with the US, sponsors must prove that they can meet stringent financial capacity criteria. As we will see, Labor’s parent proposal dismantles all the careful rules successive Australian governments have, over thirty years, put in place to control parent migration. The door is now wide open for parent sponsorship. This is an especially attractive prospect of Australia’s more recently arrived Asian and Middle-Eastern communities. And here it should be noted that Australia’s Asian-born population (at just over 10 per cent) is higher than any other western country.

Australia is an enticing destination to migrants from Asia because of the large gulf between the political, social and cultural conditions here and in most Asia countries. Given that many immigrants would welcome in-house help with child care and that most Asians recognise obligations to care for their parents, the potential for Australia’s Asian and Middle-Eastern population  to take up Labor’s offer is huge. At present most permanent entry parent visas are from China, mainly because there is a balance of family rule in place. This requires that half or more of siblings are resident in Australia. Many readers will be aware that there is a waiting list of Chinese applicants for Australia’s existing permanent entry parent visa of near 100,000. They will likely take up Labor’s proposed temporary parent visa. However, many more Chinese will also become eligible. (These are people who don’t meet the present financial criteria for sponsorship, which are outlined below.) The really big change in eligibility will come from Australia’s Indian subcontinent and Middle Eastern communities. They constitute a larger group of potential sponsors than the Chinese. Most do not currently meet the balance-of-family test or the financial requirements of the existing permanent entry parent visa. Labor’s proposal will make then eligible to bring their parents to Australia. They will have at least as powerful a motive to avail themselves of this opportunity as the Chinese. Labor’s proposal could easily generate at least 200,000 parent applications, mainly from Chinese, Indian subcontinent and Middle Eastern country residents of Australia, over a three-year period.

The costs of Labor’s parent visa will soon be evident as the total climbs towards the 200,000 level mooted above, in just three years. Most of the parents will locate in Sydney and Melbourne, since that is where the bulk of potential sponsors reside. The initial concentrations will be in municipalities with high concentrations of Chinese-born residents. Some of these are relatively affluent, including Chatswood and Ryde in Sydney and Monash and Box Hill in Melbourne. However, as the projected flow from the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East ramps up an increasing number of parents will locate in relatively low-income outer suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne. The main initial stress point will likely emerge via competition between these recent arrivals and the established communities for access to already scarce medical and welfare services, especially within the public hospital network. Problems within the health insurance system are certain to emerge. Labor’s proposed visa will require parents to take out private health insurance. But how will the private insurance sector react to pricing this insurance? The sector will have to take on parents likely to need expensive hospital treatment but who have made no lifetime contribution to the funds. As has been well documented, the sector is already struggling with low membership levels from Australia’s younger residents.

These parents will be locating in Sydney and Melbourne, the two cities that are already failing to cope with high population growth – growth which mainly derives from net overseas migration. The projected parent inflow will add to this stress. The numbers are likely to greatly exceed those resulting from the Coalition’s proposed streaming of skilled migrants into regional locations. For migration advocates, the parent influx will deliver their worst nightmare. As noted earlier, many justify the current high net overseas migration numbers on the grounds that the migrant intake is ameliorating the effects of demographic ageing. This derives from the impending retirement of the large cohort of baby boomers born between 1950 and the mid-1960s. As these advocates have  documented, this retirement will reduce the ratio of the working-age population relative to those of retirement age. Incoming migrants help to mute this effect, because they are currently younger, on average, than the resident population. The impending parent influx will have the opposite effect. For the hard-heads in the Treasury it will soon be apparent that the long-term costs of Labor’s parent visa are mounting as it morphs into a de facto permanent-entry program. Governments will be forced to acknowledge that these ‘temporary entry’ parents are in fact here to stay. They will then have to face the budgetary costs of providing them with the same aged person pension and health benefits as other aged residents receive.

It will not be easy to exit from Labor’s proposal once it is legislated. The current reluctance of the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, to even mention the issue is an indication. Since Labor’s parent visa announcement on April 22, apart from an initial critique from David Coleman, the Minister for Immigration, neither Coleman nor the Prime Minister has had anything to say about the issue. This is presumably because the Coalition feels it has more electoral skin to lose by antagonising migrant voters than it has to gain by telling other voters about the serious consequences of Labor’s proposal. It took thirty years for the opening up of family reunion in the early 1980s to be wound back. The process eventually involved a mobilisation of mainstream voters concerned about the impact of migration and multicultural polices favouring the migrant constituency. This first occurred conspicuously at the time of 1996 Federal election. It will probably happen again, but at what cost to community harmony in Australia? It would be nice to allow Australians of Asian descent to bring their parents here. But these residents knew what the rules were when they came to Australia. They know that no other Western country provides anything like the open-door policy that Labor’s proposal offers. As for Australia’s majority non-migrant community, they will have good cause to be concerned about the proposal once they understand the likely numbers involved. The influx will add to the urban congestion and to the fiscal costs of accommodating Australia’s rapidly growing population. Yet, under Labor’s proposal, these parents arrivals will not be required to make any contribution to these costs.”

     Immigration is destroying Australia. It has to stop, as we are being immigrated to death. We need our own yellow jacket protests, parallel to France’s, but peaceful ones.



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Thursday, 20 June 2024

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