Thursday, July 9, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Welcome flat
Australia will not take tens of thousands of Hong Kongers

Protesters hold up blank papers during a demonstration on July 6, 2020 in Hong Kong. (Photo by Billy H.C. Kwok / Getty Images)

Liberal senator James Paterson said last week that it was “hard to think of a more attractive group of potential migrants” than Hong Kongers, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison and acting immigration minister Alan Tudge were exceedingly cautious in today’s announcement that Australia would suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and introduce new visa arrangements to allow about 10,000–12,000 Hong Kong passport holders on student or temporary work visas to stay here, including pathways to permanent residency. The government also flagged enhanced efforts to attract businesses from Hong Kong, but there were no plans for a special humanitarian intake. Asked to estimate how many additional Hong Kongers might come here, based on applications so far to Australia’s consulate, Tudge said, “I think you’re talking in the hundreds, or low thousands”. That compares with the pathway to citizenship that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has offered to up to three million Hong Kongers born before the 1997 handover to China. Morrison said the UK had “a very special relationship with Hong Kong and a very special set of responsibilities, and they’re talking about numbers which are not in contemplation in Australia”, adding that “most of the changes will impact on those who are already here in Australia”.

Today’s moves are a response to China’s imposition last week of draconian national security laws, which the PM said had undermined the “One country, two systems” framework, Hong Kong’s basic law and the high degree of autonomy guaranteed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. “This is not just our view, this is, I’d say, a shared view of many countries,” said Morrison, “and that is a matter of public record from Australia’s point of view.” The China–Australia relationship continues to deteriorate, though trade is at a record high, as UTS professor James Laurenceson pointed out on the ABC’s RN Breakfast this morning. Yesterday, the Department of Foreign Affairs updated its travel advice, warning Australians against travel to China due to the danger of arbitrary detention, a move that the Chinese embassy in Canberra described as “ridiculous” and “disinformation”. 

Under the new visa arrangements for Hong Kongers announced today, temporary graduates and skilled workers will be offered an additional five years of work rights in Australia on top of the time they’ve already been in Australia, with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of that period. Students will be eligible for a five-year graduate visa from the conclusion of their studies, with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of that period. Future Hong Kong applicants for temporary skilled visas will be provided with a five-year visa, based on meeting the updated skills lists and labour market testing requirements. The government also said it would develop further incentives to attract more than 1000 international companies that have their regional headquarters based in Hong Kong, and which might consider relocating to Australia. 

While today’s announcement is significant, it is nothing like former Labor PM Bob Hawke’s compassionate declaration, in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, that tens of thousands of Chinese students already here could stay permanently. Perhaps the government is wary of a further backlash from China, or perhaps it is sensitive to suggestions of a double standard, if wealthy Hong Kongers proficient in English are welcomed with open arms while desperate asylum seekers – many from predominantly Muslim countries – are rejected or remain in indefinite detention. 

Shadow foreign affairs minister Penny Wong said this afternoon that Labor supported the PM’s announcements, but suggested they did not go far enough: “It is not clear from the government’s announcement the extent to which these arrangements will be more broadly available to the people of Hong Kong. Family reunion is not clear, there are many people ineligible for the pathways proposed, and I would urge the government to clarify this urgently.”

“[It] has had a direct impact on staff morale in terms of course closures, campus closures and loss of opportunities for our students … Scott Morrison has said very clearly that he wants to see over a million Australians back in work, and yet his rhetoric around vocational education simply omits to mention TAFE.”

Australian Education Union national president Corenna Haythorpe, speaking on the release of the AEU’s once-in-a-decade “State of our TAFE” survey, which finds 68 per cent of staff had courses cut, while 81 per cent had departmental budgets slashed.

“The allegations stem from a workplace-relations complaint involving a young woman. It’s in circumstances where police have had three months to investigate, and we will be vigorously defending the application and any potential charges which may or may not eventuate.”

Lawyer Michael Moussa, speaking in Sutherland local court yesterday on behalf of former academic Frank Zumbo, advisor to Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly. Zumbo appeared in Sutherland local court yesterday, as Zumbo faced allegations he harassed young female co-workers at the federal MP’s suburban electorate office – allegations he denies.

Morrison’s rule by ‘Henry VIII’ clauses
During COVID-19, the government has been increasingly using legislative powers to bypass the parliament. So-called ‘Henry VIII’ clauses mean some of these laws cannot be amended or overturned.


Australia position as the world’s top exporter of fossil fuels, with emissions from nations that bought our coal, gas and oil rising 4.4 per cent in 2019, according to a new report from the University of NSW.

“Where a sole trader has a quarterly tax period, they will not be able to satisfy this integrity rule [stipulating a sole trader needed to have a monthly tax reporting period to be eligible for JobKeeper if they started business after 1 January 2020] unless they commenced business before 1 January 2020.”

A spokesperson for the ATO explains why 8000 new sole traders – most of whom have quarterly reporting periods by default – have been found ineligible for the JobKeeper payment and may now have to pay back the money they have already received.

The list

“If the Darling Downs is Australia’s bible belt, Toowoomba is its buckle … On the 2000th anniversary of Jesus’s controversial homebirth in a Middle Eastern manger, Shelton, the mild-mannered church worker, ran for council on a high-and-mighty platform of objecting to pornography, pokies, strippers and prostitution. He was Ned Flanders with a country Queensland twang, thin and neatly dressed with a good-natured grin.”

“The person kneeling before me is a professor of public policy at Auckland University of Technology and is often considered the founder of the academic discipline of feminist economics … In 1975, aged only 23, [Marilyn] Waring became the youngest ever member of the New Zealand parliament, part of the conservative National Party government led by Robert Muldoon. She could not have been a more radical political outsider: young, gay, feminist and female.”

“Biennales of this size and scale can often buckle under their own weight, but NIRIN is tightly curated and opens up a rich dialogue between artists, audiences and institutions. The various perspectives from the edges of Eurocentrism are woven into a whole that challenges us to think deeply about a dominant Western centre seemingly on the verge of collapse.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.


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No, ex-minister

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Cold comfort

The Morrison government gave us a recession we didn’t have to have

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