Overseas students want “Jobs you can count on” too!
Following the racist, anti-immigration mantra of US imperialism's mouthpiece, Donald Trump, sections of the ruling class in Australia represented in the media by the Murdoch press are extending their anti-immigration attacks to overseas students.
On Tuesday 17 July, 2018 Murdoch's The Australian included an article blaming "surging overseas student numbers" for increasing net immigration to more than 240,000 per year and for "putting downward pressure on wages and pushing up accommodation costs in major cities".
The Australian refers to a report from Bob Birrell of the Australian Population Research Institute which claims that overseas students could "game the immigration system to extend their stay for years."
Shock horror! Fancy migrants coming to Australia and wanting to stay here!
Isn't this the main trend in migration to Australia for at least 100 years that many who come to Australia for whatever reason want to stay and build a decent life here?
From the Tampa experience in the early 2000s the reactionary, racist elements of the ruling class and their spokespersons such as Howard, Abbott, Dutton and Pauline Hanson have ranted that asylum seekers are not the right type of people to come to Australia echoed in a milder form by Gillard and Rudd and now Shorten. Then they broadened their attacks to minimise the opportunity of migrant tradespersons on temporary work visas to extend their visas or become permanent residents.
Now their focus shifts to overseas students. Birrell goes so far as to say that "overseas students able to work for 20 hours a week were 'the elephant in the room'...the major factor driving poor working conditions and low wages in the entry level labour market area".
This is turning facts on their head. Poor wages and conditions in the "entry level labour market area" are caused not by overseas students or migrant workers but by the ruling class who are compelled by the very nature of capitalism to maximising profits and minimising labour costs. The big corporations fight tooth and nail and all sorts of tricks to oppress and swindle the "entry level labour market area" in jobs such as farm workers, hospitality, labour hire workers to compensate these same corporations for the better pay and conditions they are forced to concede to their "core" workers who are often better organised.
Overseas Students Need “Jobs You Can Count On”
This pattern of super exploitation or swindling of migrant workers is not new and it is a misconception to think that overseas students are "happy little vegemites" regarding their working conditions and pay. Union campaigns in a range of industries have featured a high level of activism by overseas students with the 7-Eleven underpayment campaign being the one given the most publicity in recent years. Much more work needs to be done by unions in this area who need to find ways to become more in reach for migrant workers in general, overseas workers in particular.
Contradictions Within the Ruling Class
Some sections of the ruling class must surely be nervous, to say the least, about blaming overseas students for the ills of the capitalist system. The overseas student temporary migration in Australia is a growth export industry for some sections of the ruling class. Many capitalists profit from it, including the ever-expanding universities. Many of the building industry cranes in the capital cities sit on student accommodation high rise buildings. Construction companies and developers haul in big profits. The accommodation industry charges high rent which forces many overseas students to live in over-crowded "dog boxes" masquerading as “apartments". The food services, department stores and supermarket industries benefit financially as well: as strange as it may seem, overseas students have to
eat and cloth themselves too! What would happen to the "growth" strategies of cities like Adelaide if the hundreds of thousands of overseas students from mainly developing countries stopped arriving each year?
Shorten Joins the Anti-Migrant Chorus
What does Bill Shorten the aspiring Prime Minister have to say about all this? His comments about the growing number of temporary visa holders in Australia, many of whom are overseas students, sounds like a 21st century version of Labor's attacks on Chinese migrants during and after the gold rush days of the 1850s and 1860s who were marginalised and required to pay a $10,000 (today's equivalent of the 1840s ten pounds) fee to land in the port of Melbourne! Many were temporary migrants and those that stayed were not
welcomed to join unions.
In language reminiscent of those times, Shorten is reported as saying, "What they (meaning the Liberals) don't tell everyone is that under the Liberals, the number of people coming here temporarily with visas that give them work rights in Australia has blown out to 1.6 million".
How will history judge these remarks? What will come out of the reactionaries' mouths when climate change migrants, not overseas students become the growth sector of migrants to Australian shores?
One thing is sure: our future as a united working class lies in the defence of the rights of all!