Natasha Bita, The Australian, July 16, 2014
Higher migration levels are favoured by a fifth of Australians, in an exclusive Newspoll survey revealing robust support for the most multicultural society on earth.
Nearly half the people surveyed support Australia’s existing immigration intake, which settled 190,000 immigrants last year in the world’s largest per capita intake. Two-thirds were skilled migrants.
Twenty-two per cent favour an even higher intake, with support strongest among the young, those on high incomes and capital city-dwellers.
European, African and Asian migration enjoys the strongest public support, with 26 per cent of Australians desiring more migrants from Europe. Another 18 per cent want to see more Asian migrants, and 20 per cent support more immigration from Africa.
In contrast, just 14 per cent of Australians want to see more Muslim migrants, and 37 per cent favour a cut.
The survey shows 27 per cent of Australians want the program cut, with low income earners the most likely to regard immigration as too high. Older Australians tend to favour the status quo, or a cut in immigration, while those aged 18 to 34 prefer an increase.
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Social Services, says Australia has peacefully absorbed 7.5 million migrants since the end of the last World War, including 800,000 refugees.
“We put our commitment to Australia and its values first, and we are a culturally diverse nation with one of the most cohesive societies on earth,’’ the daughter of Italian immigrants said yesterday.
The Newspoll shows, however, that Australians still regard racism as a national trait, half a century after the White Australia policy was extinguished.
One in five people agrees the word “racist’’ describes Australians “a lot’’, while two-thirds agree it describes them “a little’’. Only 12 per cent of people believe Australians are not at all racist.
Women are more likely to regard Australians as very racist, along with people living in the capital cities, and those on high incomes.
Older Australians, and middle income earners, are the most likely to view Australia as a tolerant society.
Newspoll found that one in four Australians believes indigenous people remain as disadvantaged now as they were half a century ago.
Sixty per cent feel the gap between indigenous and other Australians in terms of health, job opportunities and education is smaller than it was 50 years ago.
The survey reveals a nation divided on indigenous assistance: nearly as many Australians believe governments must do more to close the gap, as those who think enough is being done.
Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane says 90 per cent of Aboriginal people have been verbally abused or insulted on racial grounds.
Australians engage in “casual racism’’, he says, disguising bigoted comments as “jokes’’ or off-hand remarks.
“You don’t have to be a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan to say or do something with racist implications,’’ he said.
Federation of Ethnic Communities Council spokeswoman Eguenia Grammatikakis said racism should never be tolerated, but often faded with time.
“Every wave of migration in this country since the 1940s has experienced racism and xenophobia,’’ she said.
“But as they integrate into the community, and as the years go by, the broader Australian community has been very accepting.’’