Locating Temporary Migrants on the Map of Australian Democracy

Peter Mares

Abstract


This article asks whether there should be a limit on the number of years that a temporary migrant can reside in Australia before either being granted permanent residence or required to depart.
Temporary migration on the scale now experienced in Australia is a relatively recent phenomenon that contrasts strongly with the established pattern of permanent settler migration that characterised Australia in the 20th Century. As a result, the question of whether or not there should be a limit to temporariness has not yet been addressed in public policy debates.
Drawing on the approach of Jospeh H. Carens (2013), I take Australia’s self-definition as a liberal democracy as a standard to which the nation sees itself as ethically and politically accountable. I argue that a commitment to liberal democracy renders a purely contractual approach to migration invalid—more specifically, a migrant’s consent to the terms of a temporary visa does not provide sufficient ethical grounds to extend that temporary status indefinitely. Moving beyond a contractual approach to consider whether current temporary migration arrangements are consistent with the principles of representative democracy raises debates within liberalism, particularly between cosmopolitan and communitarian perspectives. I argue that practical policy must reconcile these cosmopolitan and communitarian positions. I consider, but reject, the option of strictly time-limited temporary visas that would require migrants to depart after a set number of years and instead recommend a pathway to permanent residence based on duration of stay.

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18357/mmd31201717071

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