Monday 5 December 2016

Eoin Hahessy: Abbott may be good for the Irish, but his rise to top is bizarre

Eoin Hahessy

Published 10/09/2013 | 05:00

Tony Abbott flanked by his family, from left, daughter Frances, wife Margie, daughters Louise and Bridget
Tony Abbott flanked by his family, from left, daughter Frances, wife Margie, daughters Louise and Bridget

For more than a year, Australia has been caught in a neverending election groundhog day. The days began with one breathless electioneering announcement after another, political footballs being hoofed around as the media jostled to cover a truly surreal campaign.

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It wasn't long before the Irish, or to be more precise the 457 visa that has allowed 12,500 of us to start new lives Down Under, got drawn into the melee. The 457 visa has been Australia's main mechanism to bring skilled migrants to its shores. In 1998, 30,000 visas were issued but in recent years this has risen to more than 120,000 and a disenchanted, but ill-informed, union base of Kevin Rudd's Labour Party had had enough. 'Protect local jobs' became the rallying cry as anti-visa stories were fed to a hungry media.

With a useful re-energised political base created, the ever-acquiescent Rudd duly ensured changes were suitably made. He pumped up the cost, and the bar, to obtain the 457 visa and promised more once he retained the reins of power. As the third highest recipients of 457 visas, we Irish felt the cool unloved chill. We listened humbly to error-strewn debates while gently spying our bags and contemplating their packing.

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