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Migrants are integral members of Australian society, not just economic units to be managed

Isn’t it interesting that no migrants’ voices have been heard during the chaotic debate about migration?

Remembering the first time I applied for an Australian visa when I was a teenager, a campaign slogan on the application form shocked me.

It read: “People Our Business.”

It was too strange to forget, and made me laugh at myself — I was just a business.

The recent debate, particularly Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s budget reply speech last week, has brought up memories from nearly two decades ago.

Having lived in Australia for nearly two decades, I have a better understanding of how the business works than some politicians.

A perfect example was the shadow treasurer’s speech at the National Press Club this week.

As Treasurer Jim Chalmers said about Angus Taylor’s budget reply: “He couldn’t explain the migration numbers.”

“This was the most shambolic appearance by a senior politician at the National Press Club in memory.”

Growth vs burden

Australia needs migrants to contribute to the growth of this country’s prosperity.

But it sounds like our politicians think they are burdens.

When I was an international student, I was just a number in the Net Overseas Migration (NOM) data — which includes both permanent and temporary migrants.

There was a noticeable economic impact after Scott Morrison told international students to leave Australia during the pandemic.(Reuters: Jason Reed)

However, when I became a permanent resident, I was considered part of both the NOM and the permanent migration intake figures.

If Dutton and his party intend to cut the NOM figure — which we don’t know yet — then it is cutting opportunities for Australia’s business.

The impact could be huge.

Just think about when the Morrison government told international students and working holiday-makers to go home during COVID-19.

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Australians who had invested in properties near universities suffered huge losses after tens of thousands of apartments across the country were vacated.

Many restaurants serving large numbers of overseas visitors struggled and plenty had to close.

Hundreds of migration firms went into limbo due to a lack of customers.

A lot of those businesses were owned by Australians, many from migrant backgrounds, whose voices were not heard.

Repeating the practice of cutting down the NOM could further damage Australia’s global reputation as a country that wants immigrants.

Whose benefit?

Cutting down the NOM — of which international students make up a significant part — will not solve the housing crisis.

According to research from the University of South Australia, international students are more vulnerable in securing accommodation.