It’s time to embrace the Australian model. Boris Johnson is a known fan, for a start. So is Nigel Farage. More and more people see it as fair, desirable and hugely attractive in the face of possible competing alternatives.
Of course we’re talking about the Australian model of points-based visa eligibility; not anything in a bikini along the lines of Elle Macpherson, as fair, desirable and hugely attractive as she may be.
Farage restated his call for the system on Wednesday when he said that under the Australian-style points-based visa system he wants, a bare 27,000 people would have qualified to come to work in the UK last year.
So how does it work? It’s basic premise is that to live Down Under you have to pass a test and accrue enough points to satisfy officials that you can both support yourself and contribute to Australian society.
It began in 1972 Australia when decided migrants would be granted a visa based on their personal attributes and ability to give, not take.
The previous policy, which selected migrants largely on a racial and ethnic basis, was discarded.
The points system, formalised in 1989, has gone through several variations with the most recent updates in July 2011. The migration programme now in place divides available visas into two broad classes: skilled worker and employer-sponsored.
Skilled-worker visas are points-tested. To be eligible, a person must meet a 65-point minimum and no, before you ask, the ability to play cricket, drink beer or handle a set of BBQ tongs does not enhance your score.
Skilled workers include professional and manual workers, with accountants and mechanics alike earning 60 points for their occupation. Those on the lower end of the scale, at 40 points, include youth workers and manual laborers.
Points are accrued based on education, health, English language ability and lack of a criminal record.
For people in a job on the skilled-worker list, points are further awarded for factors including age, recognised qualifications and previous experience working abroad.
Those on employee-sponsored visas are not points-tested.
That’s it. Prove you can contribute and you have an excellent chance of acceptance. As long as you are fit, healthy, skilled and not in immediate need of medical care there is no bar.
That works because Australia has sovereign borders. It alone decides who comes to its shores and the manner in which they come.
Currently the UK has no such provision because it remains impossible to control migration within an EU of open borders. Labour’s Human Rights Act and our signing of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) combine to form almost insurmountable legal stumbling blocks to reverse that flow.
Of course, David Cameron is all front and no sides when it comes to immigration policy. Time and again he has promised to cut the inbound flow of foreign nationals into the UK and every single time he has been shamed by the numbers.
In 2010, Cameron famously said the annual limit of 100,000 would be hit with “no ifs, no buts”.
Let’s look at the scoreboard to see how that all worked out.
Net long-term migration to the UK was estimated to be 298,000 in the year ending September 2014, a statistically significant increase from 210,000 in the previous 12 months, according to numbers released last week by the Migration Statistics Quarterly Report.
The PM’s only comfort in conspicuous failure can be found in the fact that that flow is still below the peak of 320,000 in the year ending June 2005 (which came courtesy of Tony Blair).
Theresa May has pledged any future Conservative government will again promise to keep net migration to 100,000 per year – despite the Government’s repeated inability to reach that target.
The trouble is, none of the legacy parties can begin to stop the human flow because they lack the mechanism to do it. Instead they do as they are told by Brussels.
Only Nigel Farage and UKIP have categorically stated that the UK’s membership of the EU must end without delay.
Lib/Lab/Con have danced around the subject and variously offered opt-out referendums, but all is predicated on the notion of one of them winning a clear working majority at the coming general election.
Ultimately it is a good rule of life and politics – especially politics – to trust less of what people say and more of what they do.
On that basis Lib/Lab/Con do not have the answer to soaring immigration numbers.
Only UKIP has said categorically it wants out of the EU. If we take UKIP at its word then it alone has a solution to the problem that consistently ranks among the major concerns in the nation today.