From today's Weekend Australian –
(Pic courtesy of The Age).
The Rudd .Government is under pressure from all fronts, even Labor colleagues, to overturn a decision denying German doctor Bernhard Moeller permanent residency in Australia because his son Lukas has Down syndrome. The Immigration Department this week rejected Dr Moeller's application for permanent residency, saying the potential cost to the taxpayer of 13-year-old Lukas's condition was too great. Politicians, disability groups and the small Victorian town of Horsham, where Dr Moeller is the only specialist physician, were outraged by the decision and have called on Immigration Minister Chris Evans to intervene on the family's behalf.
This situation would seem to put our federal government at odds with its own anti-discrimination legislation. The cold reality of this decision is that it puts a diminished value on the life a child with a disability.
Having spent the best part of forty years working with this particular group, it makes me wonder whether the people who developed our current immigration policy have been living on another planet. Apart from the doubtful assumption that this child's life will impose a burden on the community (measured by whom and how – I wonder*) it ventures into entirely dodgy territory by attempting to put a value on human potential.
I wonder how it is possible to predict the future contribution of any able-bodied child immigrant. It's entirely conceivable that an immigrant child could grow up to become a criminal and cost the community a fortune. Are potential child immigrants profiled? If they aren't and children with disabilities are, doesn't this say something about our national values?
Kids with Down syndrome, unless there is some other factor involved, are not, in my experience, a future burden. A very large proportion become independent contributing members of society. I don't believe too many go on to a life of crime, costing the community a fortune in custodial situations.
If we were to forget the economic rationalist view of the world for a moment, and apply a humanist (dare I say Christian) perspective, this policy looks completely out of step. I'd like to think we live in a country that welcomes and seeks to include all potential citizens, providing that they wish to contribute to the future of the nation to the best of their ability. This potential should not be referenced to race, creed, or disability.
*"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted" - Albert Einstein