"Sweden has failed to integrate the vast numbers of immigrants it has taken in over the past two decades, leading to parallel societies and gang violence, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Thursday, as she launched a series of initiatives to combat organised crime." Australia, however, oft
Australia's immigration problem
“Merely adding more people isn’t a sustainable economic strategy. We can’t pretend that high immigration comes without a cost and growth should not impose an unfair burden on those who are already here. Excessively rapid growth puts downward pressure on wages and upward pressure on housing prices, both of which have sorely stung workers and aspiring home-owners in Sydney and other parts of NSW for a decade. When you look at the numbers, it’s no surprise communities in Sydney are feeling the pressure. In 2006, annual net overseas migration to Australia increased to roughly double its pace across the preceding 25 years.” (Dominique Perrottet as Treasurer in 2018)
To the horror of many Australians, Perrottet has recently called for 'explosive immigration' to Australia, purportedly as an economic fix. In this interview we see how shockingly cynical this call really is, in the light of Perrottet's own history.
Dominic Perrottet’s ‘explosive immigration surge’ will be a disaster
Kelvin Thomson, after quoting Dominique Perrottet above, added, “He told your colleague Michael Mclaren, in an interview in 2018, that simply because the treasury bureaucrats might tell you that putting in more people drives economic growth, that is lazy economics. That’s what he should have told your bureaucrats now, instead of apparently falling hook line and sinker for what he was able to recognize as rubbish three years ago.”
Candobetter Editorial comment: It is obvious that immigration adds pressure on politicians too. Was giving the growth lobby 'explosive immigration' the price Perrottet paid to be NSW Premier, causing him to eat his 2018 words? NSW people and the rest of Australia will also pay for this if it goes ahead.
In the podcast we link to above, Luke Grant is joined by The Hon. Kelvin Thomson, Former Federal Member for Wills & spokesman for the Sustainable Australia Party, who advises that NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet rule out proposals for an “explosive” immigration surge which would bring in 2 million extra migrants over the next five years.
Mr Thomson says, “Not only will 2 million extra people be an environmental disaster, it will be a disaster for young Sydney-siders.”
“For the first time in years the Reserve Bank and leading economists have seen signs of wages growth and increasing job opportunities for young people.”
“The “explosive” two million extra people would detonate those opportunities, blowing the chances of young people to have secure full time jobs right out of the water.”
“The “explosive” surge would also be bad for Sydney’s housing affordability, traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, open space and tree canopy cover.”
The Victorian Government’s master planning document, Plan Melbourne— which drives high density development throughout our suburbs—assumes continuing rapid population growth over the next decade. The coronavirus pandemic, and the Federal response to it, means this assumption has been overtaken by events, and that Plan Melbourne is out of date. The Morrison Government expects a fall of up to 300,000 people moving to Australia over the next 2 years. The Federal Government expects net overseas migration to fall by 30% in the current financial year, and to crash by 85% in 2020-21 to around 40,000.
Some of the drivers of this fall are outside Australia’s control, such as lockdowns in other countries and a collapse in international air travel. However the Federal Labor Opposition has also signalled a reduction in migration, calling for Australia’s immigration to be overhauled and curtailed in the wake of the pandemic. Opposition
spokesperson, Senator Keneally, has written,
“Do we want migrants to return to Australia in the same numbers and in the same composition as before the crisis? The answer is no”.
Against this background, the Victorian Government needs to quickly reassess Plan Melbourne—which makes high rise and high density housing a planning priority at the cost of any other considerations. Otherwise we risk being caught living in the past. It is likely that businesses that have developed a dependence on rapid population growth will struggle, and the Victorian Government needs to plan for this.
It would also be wrong for the Government to continue to impose rules enforcing denser populations on communities that don’t want them. Plan Melbourne has been a vehicle for Councils to be told they have to accommodate “their share” of Melbourne’s population growth. The Government should revisit its population projections, and not be caught out by a potentially fast changing population landscape.
It certainly should not continue to impose high-rise coronavirus traps, forcing people to live on top of each other, on unwilling communities.
The evidence around the world is clear –a dense population is a vulnerable one. The Victorian Government needs to understand that the game has changed, and move with the times.
Labor MP, Anne Aly, has been widely publicised objecting to immigration and population being mentioned together by Kristina Keneally, Shadow minister for immigration and citizenship, and NSW Premier from 2009 to 2011. Aly's tired cliches have predictably summoned up a dog-pack of growthists claiming to hear dog-whistles and to see Pauline Hanson look-a-likes. The growth lobby and its spokespeople are panicking, because the chickens of their land-speculation are coming home to roost, as COVID-19 dries up immigration. The more Anne Aly supports them, the more publicity she will get - always useful for an aspiring politician - and damn the consequences for Australians.
Kenneally's 'offending words':
"As a result of COVID-19, Australia will soon have an opportunity to do something we have never done before: restart a migration program. When we do, we must understand that migration is a key economic policy lever that can help or harm Australian workers during the economic recovery and beyond.
We must make sure that Australians get a fair go and a first go at jobs. Our post-COVID-19 economic recovery must ensure that Australia shifts away from its increasing reliance on a cheap supply of overseas, temporary labour that undercuts wages for Australian workers and takes jobs Australians could do." (Kristina Keneally, "Advancing Australia," Sunday Age, 3 May 2020.)
Anne Aly's 'indignant' response:
Showing woeful or feigned ignorance of the components of population growth in Australia, to the acclaim of the big end of town, Labor MP Anne Aly has objected to immigration and population being mentioned together by Kristina Keneally.
In fact immigration has, until a recent pause due to COVID-19, composed more than 60 per cent of Australia's shockingly rapid population growth for nigh on a decade. So, what's Anne Aly's problem with the truth, that she thinks gives her licence to attack Kristina Keneally (or by implication anyone else) for voicing it? Worse, Aly, who is supposed to be representing Australians, has criticised Keneally for wanting to put Australians first. If not Australians first, then who, Ms Aly?
Aly is not the only one doing service for the growth lobby in the ALP, which is known for its massive investments in property finance and development. (See, for instance, /node/1781.)
The ABC's The Drum ran an item on this on Monday 4 May 2020. The clip starts around the 30 min mark on the ABC podcast. Geoff Gallop and the rest of the panel, including Abdul Rizvi (ex immigration public servant from 1990s to 2007), uncritically recited the usual propaganda about how immigration creates jobs, Australians don't want to do some jobs, Australia needs it to cope with ageing (they must be pleased with COVID-19's lethal effect on the elderly), falling natural increase, etc. A union representative did mention the problem of exploitation through the short-term work visa system. Rizvi acknowledged this is a problem. As an incorrigible immigration advocate, however, he claimed it is solvable. Whilst it might theoretically be solvable, like world hunger, it has actually been getting much worse, due to legal and constitutional changes. As we have come to expect from the ABC, unfortunately, there was no sign of an articulate representative of an opposing view.
Kristina Keneally was interviewed by Fran Kelly on Tuesday morning (5 May 2020) on ABC RN. Kelly basically accused Keneally of dog whistling and undertones of racism in her weekend article. (This was also articulated by Australian Director at Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson, in a punishing tone last night on Q and A, egged on by the presenter of course.) I thought Keneally held her position very well in the face of Fran Kelly's interrogation, and came across as coherent and reasonable. She also put her position in a human context, with her call for temporary migrants who are stuck here due to Covid 19, being given government assistance, as are Australian workers. The part of what Keneally wrote, that Kelly latched onto, was that Keneally advocated Australians being catered for first in the post COVID-19 job market before importing workers from overseas.
This was supposedly sounding like Pauline Hanson and that is bad because Pauline Hanson said it (!). Furthermore Pauline Hanson has thrown the spotlight on it as something she's been saying for years.
Seems we are still stuck in a closed circuit where anyone who raises the issue of immigration in any form will be hammered back in the media with accusations of racism. It has worked so well that those who benefit from it will never tire of it.
Jobs and growth
The Financial Review editorial for 4 May 2020 would have the reader think that Australia and Australians have been prospering over the last three decades. Ordinary Australians have lost heavily and continue to.
Jobs and growth have not brought prosperity. In fact "jobs" has meant overwork for some and underemployment stress for others. "Growth" has meant overcrowding, housing stress and reduced quality of life, including destruction of the environment. What's growing is just the number of people partaking in this!
The Financial Review editorial criticises the need to even talk about immigration numbers policy in Australia, since the numbers have dropped with the closing of our borders due to COVID-19. But this is precisely when we should talk about it, because, to a certain extent, the pressure from the growth lobby has to relent during this pause. Or you would think so, however, they are coming out in force, as we can see from the above.
Sometimes you hear the other side, as in this SBS article:
'Industry professor Warren Hogan, an economist from the University of Technology, Sydney,has said now was a good time to have the debate about migration levels. “There is no doubt that Australia is probably the highest immigration nation in the world. This is a chance to think about if that’s the right strategy going forward,” he said.' (Source: Jarni Blakkarly, "Reimagining a new Australia': Experts back calls for a debate about Australia's migrant numbers post-coronavirus," SBS News, updated on 4 May 2020.https://www.sbs.com.au/news/reimagining-a-new-australia-experts-back-calls-for-a-debate-about-australia-s-migrant-numbers-post-coronavirus)
But if you read the whole article, Professor Hogan is outnumbered, two to one, by pro-immigration 'experts', with their mass-produced cliches.
"University of Sydney Associate Professor Anna Boucher agreed it was an opportunity to examine Australia's migration program, she said it was important to acknowledge migrants have an important role to play in the recovery."
(Source: Jarni Blakkarly, "Reimagining a new Australia': Experts back calls for a debate about Australia's migrant numbers post-coronavirus," SBS News, updated on 4 May 2020.https://www.sbs.com.au/news/reimagining-a-new-australia-experts-back-calls-for-a-debate-about-australia-s-migrant-numbers-post-coronavirus.)
"Associate professor of human geography Alan Gamlen from Monash University said migration levels would need to stabilise at around the same rate as pre-coronavirus in order for Australia to return to the same level of economic growth." (Source: Jarni Blakkarly, "Reimagining a new Australia': Experts back calls for a debate about Australia's migrant numbers post-coronavirus," SBS News, updated on 4 May 2020.https://www.sbs.com.au/news/reimagining-a-new-australia-experts-back-calls-for-a-debate-about-australia-s-migrant-numbers-post-coronavirus.)
The real problem is that greedy land-speculators who have been running the country for years and who have borrowed to build apartments to sell to new migrants, are now looking at financial collapse, while the rest of us are looking at a lower cost of living as population-pressure on housing-prices finally falls.
But the growth lobby knows how to put the wind up the powerful, and the Australian Prime Minister knows which side his bread is buttered on:
"Cutting immigration would hurt the economy and communities: Morrison." Sydney Morning Herald, 5 May 2020.)
Hallelujah! It didn't take him long. But what about COVID-19? It hasn't gone away. The Prime Minister also said he was going to a football match despite the pandemic, then backed down, shortly before we all went into lock-down.
Panic among the growthists
The growth lobby and its spokespeople are panicking. Maybe because they don't want Australians or those living here to realise they enjoy aspects of their lives now, not tearing around, having some time for themselves off the work-commute treadmill. They (the growth lobby) are saying, "Don't get used to it. You must take The Economy's medicine, even though you don't like it. You all understand why chickens are raised in crowded conditions. It's good for the bottom line. Likewise, when you are more crowded in, it is better for the bottom line - not yours exactly, but that of your owners - just like the chickens. You just have to believe that what is good for someone else's bottom line is good for yours. It takes a certain way of thinking. You have to believe.
 "Coronavirus: Aussies-first rhetoric must stop in immigration debate, says Anne Aly," The Australian, 4 May 2020.
"The greatest threat to our environment is not carbon dioxide but unsustainable immigration. As the son of a farmer, I was taught from a young age about carrying capacity and never to overstock your paddocks. Yet immigration is doing just that, causing major city congestion and overdevelopment on our city fringes. Meanwhile, regional communities are struggling as opportunities, from the lack of infrastructure, go begging. While I agree with the government's wind-back of permanent visa places to 160,000 annually, the almost two million temporary visa holders living in Australia should also be reduced." "All war is a failure of diplomacy. The current military intervention in the Middle East has lasted almost as long as World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined. It has gone on for too long and needs to end. Bin Laden is dead, Saddam is dead and there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. ISIS will only be defeated when the world calls out the Milo Minderbinder who is funding them."
First Speech: Chamber Senate on 10/09/2019 
Mr President, I would like to acknowledge my colleagues in the chamber and special guests in the gallery who are here today. I would also like to thank the people of Queensland and the LNP for the faith they have placed in me to represent them over the next six years.
Self-belief is the conviction that leads to achievement. It is the optimism that inspires hard work, that turns adversity into opportunity and convict colonies into countries. From humble beginnings modern Australia has overcome immense challenges to become one of the world's great liberal democracies. Few countries epitomise the power of self-belief and the ethos of 'a fair go' better than Australia, a country that remains a beacon to those fleeing persecution and those who seek a better life for themselves and their children. Gratitude towards our forefathers who built this nation and in doing so gave us so many opportunities is what drives me to see this country continue to provide opportunities for our children. It is that aim that brings me here today.
Of all the issues faced by Australia, few are more damaging to our country than the fiscal imbalance and ambiguous responsibilities between state and federal governments. You've really got to ask why Australia, a country of 25 million people, has nine growing health bureaucracies while maternity wards are being closed in my home state of Queensland.
Our Constitution was designed to hold government to account by the people, yet 120 years of compromise has rendered it ineffective. It is time for COAG to hold a constitutional convention to clearly define and separate these responsibilities, with proposed changes put to a referendum. The blame game needs to end. Australians deserve accountability.
People pay taxes in return for essential services, not more regulation. They expect governments to build infrastructure, not sell it. Despite this, governments have privatised much of the infrastructure that delivers those services. At the same time, they have marched into the family home, the bedroom and the classroom, telling people how to live their lives, parents how to raise their children and owners how to run their businesses. The jackboot of bureaucracy is suffocating everyday choices, the very thing liberal democratic governments are meant to defend. Is it any wonder that people are cynical about governments when they walk away from providing services while imposing more regulation? Australians smell a rat when it comes to asset sales. At almost every opportunity, they have rejected it. Foreign owners, superannuation funds and corporations aren't elected, so how are they held accountable to the Australian people if they fail to provide essential services? They aren't. As such, privatisation undermines accountability, the bedrock of democracy.
The sale of critical assets to offshore entities also undermines our security and sovereignty. Just look at the Darwin Port, neoliberal economics at its finest. It seems ludicrous that Australian super funds invest $580 billion in offshore equities and bonds, yet critical national infrastructure has to rely on foreign capital for funding. This is a classic case of ideology gone mad. Our founding fathers Barton, Deacon, Isaacs and Higgins—all members of the Protectionist Party—would be turning in their graves. My forefathers left Ireland during the great famine, when powerful foreign landlords exported wheat rather than selling it to feed the starving population. National interest should always take precedence over vested interests.
Most infrastructure assets are monopolies that aren't subject to competitive market forces that drive efficient outcomes. Australia's high energy prices are one example of what happens when a market is artificially manipulated to achieve a predetermined aim. Only six per cent of superannuation is invested in infrastructure. This needs to increase.
Today, more than ever, governments need to build income-generating infrastructure such as dams, power stations, rail and ports. Just as Governor Macquarie funded an ambitious building program through the issue of the holey dollar, a government owned infrastructure bank should be created to do the same. Funding could come from infrastructure bonds and superannuation. These measures would provide essential services, employment and fixed income for retirees. It is a much better option than interest rate manipulation, which has only punished savers and prospective homebuyers. If dairy farmers can't set the price of milk to earn a fair return on their efforts, then why does the RBA, an unelected body, get to fix the price of money on behalf of the money markets? Why is there one rule for one industry and not the other?
Australia is endowed with vast natural wealth, yet until the last quarter it has run current account deficits for the best part of 50 years. In the last financial year, despite a trade surplus of $50 billion, Australia plunged further into debt, with a current account deficit of $12 billion due to capital profits paid to offshore entities. Because of the tax treaties, most of these profits are taxed at around 10 per cent or less, while profits retained in Australia are taxed at 30 per cent. Our own taxation system acts as a reverse tariff on entities domiciled here in Australia, sending profits and business offshore because of the regulatory and taxation burden placed on them. The solution to this is to ensure that the withholding tax rate on profits transferred offshore is the same as the tax rate on profits retained in Australia. Given there is $2.8 trillion in super, tax concessions for foreign investors need to stop. Australia has no shortage of capital. Increasing withholding tax revenue could fund cuts in both payroll tax and income tax. This would give workers more money in their pockets, increase business turnover and boost productivity. It's a win-win.
Ultimately, markets are a mechanism for buying and selling goods, not for producing them. The mechanism for that is the Australian people. When the convicts got off the boat, all they had was their will to survive. There were no financial instruments, regulations, scoping studies or subsidies in sight. Our prosperity has come from the hands of our carpenters and mechanics, the minds of our scientists and engineers, the hearts of our teachers and nurses and, most importantly, the persistence and innovation of small business owners. Yet today financial rewards go to the paper shufflers—bureaucrats who impose red tape, lawyers who argue semantics, fund managers who trade financial instruments and universities who sell degrees.
A true market economy is a system in which individuals own most of the resources and control their use through voluntary decisions. It is a system in which the government plays a small role as regulator. This is no longer the case in Australia, where combined government spending accounts for around 37 per cent of GDP. Our remaining GDP is becoming more concentrated between a handful of oligarchs and superannuation funds where there is very little competition or innovation. Australia will not continue to prosper while such a power imbalance continues. Innovation and productivity are driven from the ground up by individuals' hard work, not top-down by vested interests shuffling paper. As Adam Smith said:
The directors of … companies … being the managers … of other people's money … it cannot well be expected that they should watch over it with the same anxious vigilance with which … partners … watch over their own … Negligence … must always prevail …
While economic growth is important, it should not come at a cost to our quality of life. It is time immigration levels were reduced so communities can deal with infrastructure, the environment and skills shortages. Despite almost a doubling of the population in the last 30 years, state governments have built very few base-load power stations or dams. They need to address declining services to everyday Australians before the population increases any further.
The greatest threat to our environment is not carbon dioxide but unsustainable immigration. As the son of a farmer, I was taught from a young age about carrying capacity and never to overstock your paddocks. Yet immigration is doing just that, causing major city congestion and overdevelopment on our city fringes. Meanwhile, regional communities are struggling as opportunities, from the lack of infrastructure, go begging. While I agree with the government's wind-back of permanent visa places to 160,000 annually, the almost two million temporary visa holders living in Australia should also be reduced.
Skills based training through TAFE should take precedence over non-vocational university studies. Too many young people are graduating from university with massive debts but no employment prospects, while business import labour to fill skills shortages. The government's incentive payment schemes for apprenticeships are a step in the right direction. Sending everybody to university has not resulted in a well-educated population. It has resulted in worthless degrees, dumbed-down standards and vast amounts of student debt. It is a sad indictment of our education system that Australia, a First World country, has to import skilled labour, especially doctors, from developing countries.
There are over 600,000 foreign students studying in Australia, who use infrastructure funded by the taxpayer. They can also work up to 20 hours per week, competing with unemployed Australians looking for work. It is time universities, and not the taxpayer, funded the economic cost of hosting them. Universities should also underwrite student loans, which total over $60 billion. Why should the taxpayer underwrite this without a guarantee from universities that their graduates will get a job and repay their debts?
Almost 20 years ago, I finished a seven-year journey around the world that took me to most corners of the globe. The Elamite tells in Iran, and the Aleppo souk and Palmyra ruins in Syria were some of the more spectacular places I saw. It would be almost impossible for me to travel to those places today, which is a shame. As the birthplace of writing, irrigation, astronomy, algebra and our major religions, the Middle East is the cradle of our civilisation.
All war is a failure of diplomacy. The current military intervention in the Middle East has lasted almost as long as World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined. It has gone on for too long and needs to end. Bin Laden is dead, Saddam is dead and there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. ISIS will only be defeated when the world calls out the Milo Minderbinder who is funding them. As Eisenhower said:
No nation's security and wellbeing can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow nations.
Any nation's attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible. Twenty-first century foreign affairs have been characterised by belligerent rhetoric and an unwillingness to seek peace through diplomatic channels. This needs to change. Sound diplomacy and strength of position is the foundation of peace.
Of all the foreign policy achievements in my lifetime, none was more inspirational than Reagan and Gorbachev in ending the Cold War. Their willingness to work together is the example that world leaders should follow today. As Reagan said:
People want to raise their children in a world without fear and without war. They want to have some of the good things over and above bare subsistence that make life worth living. They want to work at some trade that gives them a sense of worth. Their common interests cross all borders.
Australia needs to continue the good work the government is doing by building alliances with our Indo-Pacific neighbours. We are only as strong as we are united and as weak as we are divided. We also need to strengthen our defences here in Australia, using superior technology that will protect Australians and not line the pockets of vested interests.
The undeniable truth I learnt from my travels is that we're all the same. We all want a roof over our head, food in our stomach and a better life for our children. What binds us together is much more than what drives us apart. We must promote a unified Australia, rather than ideologies that seek to divide us. To rephrase Reagan, our common interests cross all identities. Cicero once stated: 'Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.'
There are so many people I have to thank for being here today, but first I would like to acknowledge a special place—my home town of Chinchilla. As a small agricultural town of around 6,000 people on the Darling Downs, it has played a major role in the development of the gas export industry in Queensland. Despite this, there has been a gradual erosion of essential services to it and many other small towns in Queensland. Worst of all was the loss of its maternity ward. When I grew up, Chinchilla had at least three midwives, one of whom was my mother. Despite a much larger economy today, it has none. The people of Chinchilla deserve better.
A rural upbringing has given me a deep appreciation of the land, its people and the challenges they face. I will stand up for our regions to ensure that they receive their fair share of government funding and services. Their contribution to this country has been the foundation of our success.
I would not be standing here today if it wasn't for the support and hard work of the party members. The LNP, as a volunteer organisation, only survives thanks to the tremendous hard work of its grassroots members. When the media ask, 'Who is the "base" of the party?' the answer is simple. It is the members and volunteers, who give up so much time and effort to run election campaigns, organise meetings, write up the minutes and keep the books. Without volunteers, the party and our communities go nowhere. They represent the silent majority who are proud of their country and their way of life. Thank you for your support.
Special thanks to my fellow Senate candidates Paul Scarr, Susan McDonald, Amanda Camm and Nicole Tobin, and to my fellow LNP Queensland colleagues for their invaluable advice and support. I also acknowledge all the candidates who ran in the federal election for having a go. Our democracy is only as strong as the courage of the people who are prepared to stand up for what they believe in.
To my mates here today, thanks for taking the mick! God forbid we ever take ourselves too seriously!
To my elder siblings, Michelle, Jim and Caroline, thanks for guiding your little brother here today. I know mum would be proud of us all.
To my in-laws, Robyn and Darcy, thank you for all of your support and help over the years.
To Dad, you've been my political mentor throughout my life, and your values and views I will carry with me in this chamber.
To Mum, I wish you could be here. Your unconditional love has, without a doubt, made me the person that I am today.
Family and self-reliance are values I hold strong. The family unit is the foundation of a stable society. As a father of three, I believe in the saying, 'It is not what you do for your children, but rather what you teach them to do for themselves.' We need to teach our children that with self-belief comes self-reliance.
That same attitude is one all Australians should adopt. We should not take our success for granted. To remain self-reliant, Australian control of our infrastructure, defence and natural wealth is vital. How can we teach our children to be self-reliant when we've left them with nothing in the cupboard for them to rely on?
For the last four years, I have had the pleasure of staying home and raising my young children. So I know how important it is that parents are with their children at such a young age. There is no greater bond than that between the parent and the child, and it is one that governments should seek to preserve. There is no substitute for mum and dad.
This brings me to my two great loves, my wife and children. Lauren, you are a wonderful mother and a fantastic wife. I couldn't ask for anything more. To my children, Sean, James and Scarlett, staying home to help raise you for the last four years has been the greatest pleasure of my life. And, while I will miss you, always know that, just as I have found strength and support from my family and friends, you will too. We live in a great country that with self-belief and hard work will reward your efforts.
In the words of Henry David Thoreau:
… if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected … He will … pass an invisible boundary … solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty, nor weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
To that end, I look forward to serving the Australian people to help nurture their aspirations so they too can build their castles in the air. Thank you, Mr President.
 This speech is published in Australian Hansard, Tuesday, 10 September 2019, p.68. https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/chamber/hansards/fa4eb7cb-4d6f-4c8d-9f9d-61609bc1003a/toc_pdf/Senate_2019_09_10_7134.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf#search=%22chamber/hansards/fa4eb7cb-4d6f-4c8d-9f9d-61609bc1003a/0146%22">
Australia’s political economy has turned into one gigantic lie. Via AAP:
Pauline Hanson’s push to have a national vote on immigration levels has been crushed in the Senate.
The One Nation leader on Monday asked the Upper House to support a plebiscite, arguing the country’s roads and health system were buckling under the weight of new migrants.
But Senator Hanson and her partyroom colleague Malcolm Roberts were the only votes in favour of the Bill, which was thrashed 54 votes to two.
Pauline Hanson is 100% right. Australian standards of living are tumbling owing to the mass immigration economic model:
- wage growth is finished;
- infrastructure is crushloaded;
- house prices are pressured higher and quality control has collapsed.
These are simple statistical truths. They are not racist. Yet we can’t talk about them because Pauline Hanson does. Perhaps it’s the other way around, Pauline Hanson talks about them so we refuse.
Either or both ways, if Pauline Hanson said the world was round, the national discussion would declare it was flat.
This stranglehold of the imagination is gutting what was once great about Australia: fairness, classlessness, meritocracy and democracy. Replaced by exploitation, class war, corruption and oligarchy.
That this is led by the Left is one the great ironies of contemporary politics. The Right simply loves it. It is its natural tendency.
Article originally published by Houses and Holes in Australian Economy, Australian Politics, at 11:45 am on July 30, 2019.
Australian employer groups frequently claim that a strong ‘skilled’ migration program is required to overcome perceived labour shortages – a view that is shared by Australia’s state and federal governments. However, the available data does not support their assertions.
Article first published at by Unconventional Economist in Australian Economy at 12:12 am on June 10, 2019
First, while Australia’s is said to run a ‘skilled’ migration program, the Productivity Commission’s (PC) 2016 Migrant Intake into Australia report explicitly stated that around half of the skilled steam includes the family members of skilled migrants (secondary applicants), with around 70% of Australia’s total permanent migrant intake not actually considered ‘skilled’:
…within the skill stream, about half of the visas granted were for ‘secondary applicants’ — partners (who may or may not be skilled) and dependent children… Therefore, while the skill stream has increased relative to the family stream, family immigrants from the skill and family stream still make up about 70 per cent of the Migration Programme (figure 2.8)…
Primary applicants tend to have a better fiscal outcome than secondary applicants — the current system does not consider the age or skills of secondary applicants as part of the criteria for granting permanent skill visas…
Second, the Department of Jobs & Small Business produces an annual time-series tracking skills shortages across occupations, which shows that skills shortages across managerial and professional occupations were running well below the historical average and close to recessionary levels:
This matters because out of the 111,099 permanent visas handed out under the skilled stream in 2017-18, three-quarters were for professionals and managers, where skills shortages are largely non-existent, as shown above.
To add further insult to injury, the top five occupations granted visas under the skilled stream in 2017-18 were as follows:
- Accountants (3505)
- Software Engineer (3112)
- Registered Nurses (1561)
- Developer Programmer (1487)
- Cook (1257)
According to the Department of Jobs and Small Business’ list, not one of these professions was considered to be in shortage over the four years to 2017, whereas Software Engineer has never been deemed to be in shortage over the entire 31-year history of this series.
The situation is little better for Australia’s Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa system. According to the Department of Home Affairs, there were 34,450 primary visas granted in 2017-18, of which 25,620 (74%) were for professionals and managers; again where skills shortages are largely non-existent.
The failure of Australia’s so-called skilled migration program to alleviate genuine skills shortages is hardly surprising given almost any occupation is eligible, as the below list attests:
- 216 occupations are eligible for the Employer Nomination Scheme visa (subclass 186)
- 673 occupations are eligible for the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187)
- 212 occupations are eligible for the Skilled Independent Visa (subclass 189), the Temporary Graduate Visa (subclass 485), and the Skilled Regional (Provisional) Visa (subclass 489)
- 427 occupations are eligible for the Skilled Nominated Visa (subclass 190)
- 504 occupations are eligible for the Skilled Regional (Provisional) Visa (subclass 489)
- 508 occupations are eligible for the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa (subclass 482).
The above lists do not require that these occupations are actually experiencing skills shortages, which means that these visas can be used by employers to access cheap foreign labour for an ulterior motive, including to avoid providing training and lowering wage costs.
Accordingly, the 2016 Senate Committee report, entitled A National Disgrace: The Exploitation of Temporary Work Visa Holders, found temporary skilled visas were “not sufficiently responsive either to higher levels of unemployment, or to labour market changes in specific skilled occupations”.
Adding to the mess, the salary floor for TSS visas has been frozen at the pathetically low level of $53,900 since 2013-14, which is $32,700 below the average full-time Australian salary of $86,600 (which comprises both skilled and unskilled workers).
Given the above, it is not surprising that actual pay levels of ‘skilled’ migrants in Australia are abysmally low.
According to the ABS’ most recent Personal Income of Migrants survey, the median employee income of migrants under the skilled stream was just $55,443 in 2013-14.
Several surveys have similarly shown that most recently arrived skilled migrants are working in areas well below their reported skill level.
For example, analysis by the Australian Population Research Institute (APRI), based on 2016 Census data, revealed that most recently arrived skilled migrants (i.e. arrived between 2011 and 2016) cannot find professional jobs. That is, only 24% of skilled migrants from Non-English-Speaking-Countries (who comprised 84% of the total skilled migrant intake) were employed as professionals as of 2016, compared with 50% of skilled migrants from Main English-Speaking-Countries and 58% of the same aged Australian-born graduates.
APRI’s results were supported by a 2017 survey from the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, which found that 53% of skilled migrants in Western Australia said they are working in lower skilled jobs than before they migrated to Australia.
With this detailed background in mind, it is interesting to read that the Morrison Government has announced reforms to Australia’s permanent residency points system in a bid to ensure it is better targeted towards skilled migrants. From SBS News:
In April this year, the immigration department announced some changes to the point system. These changes will come in effect from 16 November 2019.
According to the new rule, applicants who do not have a spouse or de facto partner will get 10 points.
“Points are awarded for attributes that are linked with the applicant’s ability to make the greatest economic contribution, as the key purpose of the skilled migration program is to maximize the economic benefits of migration to Australia,” the legislation reads…
“The idea is to bring more skilled migrants and discourage unskilled partners who come with married skilled migrants.
“Married invitees with kids fill more places with non-skilled migrants and leave lesser places for skilled migrants,” says [[Immigration Expert Rohan] Mohan.
The reforms are in response to the PC’s findings (above) that half of the skilled stream is taken up by family members of skilled migrants, many of whom are unskilled.
While the changes announced are good in theory, members of the Indian community are already working out ways to game the system and skirt the rules:
[Immigration Expert Rohan] Mohan says many of his clients are waiting for November.
“People have put their marriage on hold to claim these extra points. Earlier people would get married before applying to claim five extra points on behalf of their partners. Now we can see the opposite trend”…
Dilip Kumar, an Australian visa-hopeful says these extra points will help him in a big way.
‘My IELTS score is not very high, so I am counting on the extra points,’ says Dilip who is an auto mechanic in Karnataka and preparing his application for an Australian visa.
Education and Migration agents are also advising clients on Facebook on how to fill in forms to avoid scrutiny by the Department of Home Affairs:
This kind of visa system gaming is common among applicants from India’s Sub-continent, as explained by Melbourne Indian community leader Jasvinder Sidhu, who also acknowledged “widespread… corruption from top to bottom”, with “thousands and thousands of people… being sponsored and they’re all fake”:
JASVINDER SIDHU: These people just get away. Even if they’re caught, media or otherwise through police and thing, they just go on bail and I think the system is very, very easy on these sort of things.
NICK MCKENZIE: It’s easy to rort?
JASVINDER SIDHU: Yes, very easy to rort. You have 10 ways to rort and then if the Government has one rule, you have actually 10 responses how to basically bypass those rules.
NICK MCKENZIE: The Australian Border Force has spent the last 12 months investigating criminal syndicates involved in visa rorting, but insiders say the problem is massive. One of the Immigration Department’s top officials until 2013 has now broken his silence. He says visa rorting was and is endemic and has largely been ignored by politicians focusing on the boat people issue.
Joseph Petyanszki managed investigations for the department for eight years. He wouldn’t be interviewed on camera, but has given 7.30 a statement about what he calls, “The shocking and largely unknown fraud within our working and student visa programs”. He describes a world of “shonky immigration agents” where, “fraudsters …. enter the community with ease”. He points to immigration law “loopholes”, “major integrity problems” and a department which has struggled to cope with such an, “attack on the integrity of our systems”. Petyanszki blames a, “lack of funding and politics”. He says, “It’s been easy to deflect the public’s attention to boat arrivals,” but this fear-mongering has totally ignored, “where the vast bulk of real fraud is most significantly undermining our immigration programs”…
JASVINDER SIDHU: Yes, there’s corruption from top to bottom. Thousands and thousands of people are being sponsored and they’re all fake. The whole system cannot work that smoothly if there’s no corruption in the system.
NICK MCKENZIE: Someone on the inside has to know?
JASVINDER SIDHU: Oh, yes, definitely. Even if you do a bit of overspeeding, you are caught, but this is a huge corruption – huge level of corruption and it is so widespread.
Clearly, Australia’s skilled migration program is a giant fraud that is failing miserably to meet its original intent, lowering wages, crush-loading Sydney and Melbourne, and wrecking overall liveability.
It needs root-and-branch reform, not token changes like those announced above by the Morrison Government.
An alarmist headline? Not really. This judgement follows from an analysis of Labor’s proposed temporary visa for parents of existing migrants, entitled, a ‘Fairer Long stay parent visa for Australia’s migrant and multicultural communities’. The proposal was announced on 22 April, 2019.
Labor’s proposal is for an uncapped, low cost, temporary parent visa open to all migrant families who are citizens or are permanent residents. It will cost $2,500 for five years regardless of sponsors’ income or capacity to provide for their parents. All four parents in each household can be sponsored. The children eligible to sponsor their parents include all those who are permanent residents or citizens of Australia.
The visa will be renewable thus enabling parents to stay in Australia for ten years without having to leave. This means it is a de facto permanent entry visa since, as sponsors will know, it is highly unlikely that parents who have lived here for a decade will be required to return home.
Labor’s ‘temporary’ parent visa is an unprecedented offer. No other western country provides any similar parent visa. The trend across Western Europe is to tighten already stringent rules on parents’ access to obtain permanent residence status. The US, though it allows adult migrant children to sponsor their parents, has many hurdles, including that the sponsor must be a citizen and must meet financial capacity guidelines. Even Canada, the most overtly welcoming migration country in the west, has an annual cap of 17,000 on parent visas and, as with the US, sponsors must prove that they can meet stringent financial capacity criteria.
As we will see, Labor’s parent proposal dismantles all the careful rules successive Australian governments have, over thirty years, put in place to control parent migration. The door is now wide open for parent sponsorship. This is an especially attractive prospect of Australia’s more recently arrived Asian and Middle-Eastern communities. And here it should be noted that Australia’s Asian- born population (at just over 10 per cent) is higher than any other western country.
Australia is an enticing destination to migrants from Asia because of the large gulf between the political, social and cultural conditions here and in most Asia countries. Given that many immigrants would welcome in-house help with child care and that most Asians recognise obligations to care for their parents, the potential for Australia’s Asian and Middle-Eastern population to take up Labor’s offer is huge.
At present most permanent entry parent visas are from China, mainly because there is a balance of family rule in place. This requires that half or more of siblings are resident in Australia. Many readers will be aware that there is a waiting list of Chinese applicants for Australia’s existing permanent entry parent visa of near 100,000. They will likely take up Labor’s proposed temporary parent visa. However, many more Chinese will also become eligible. (These are people who don’t meet the present financial criteria for sponsorship, which are outlined below.)
The really big change in eligibility will come from Australia’s Indian subcontinent and Middle Eastern communities. They constitute a larger group of potential sponsors than the Chinese. Most do not currently meet the balance-of-family test or the financial requirements of the existing permanent entry parent visa.
Labor’s proposal will make then eligible to bring their parents to Australia. They will have at least as powerful a motive to avail themselves of this opportunity as the Chinese.
Labor’s proposal could easily generate at least 200,000 parent applications, mainly from Chinese, Indian subcontinent and Middle Eastern country residents of Australia, over a three-year period.
The number depends, of course, on how the visa is implemented. This is explored below. The information we have at this point on Labor’s proposal is that it will be open-ended.
To grasp the significance of Labor’s proposal it needs to be seen in the context of Australia’s present rules governing the issuance of permanent entry parent visas. There are two subclasses for parent visas in operation. One is a contributory parent visa where the parents have to pay some $43,600 as an upfront contribution to the likely public costs of their stay. In 2017-18 6,015 of these visas were issued. By June 2018 there was a backlog of applicants of 44,886. The other entry point is a non- contributory parent visa with much lower up-front fees. In 2017-18 1,356 of these visas were issued. For this non-contributory visa there was a backlog of 50,642 and a wait time of over thirty years.
In effect, together the current permanent-entry parent visas are capped at less than 8,000 a year.
Moreover, both permanent-entry parent visa subclasses are only available to pension-aged parents who can meet the balance of family test. This is why most of the parents visaed are from China – since most Chinese residents are from one, or at the most, two sibling families.
However, there is another parent visa option, soon to be available for those wishing to sponsor their parents. This is a temporary parent visa which the Coalition legislated in November 2018. Residents can apply from 17 April 2019 to establish their eligibility as sponsors of their parents.
There is an annual cap of 15,000 parents and accompanying dependent for this new visa. It is for five years, and will cost $10,000. There is a limit of one set of parents for each sponsoring household. To qualify as a sponsor, the Australian resident family’s annual taxable income must exceed $83,000. [Candobetter net Editor: Reference in full paper, see end of this article.]
The visa can be renewed, once, for another stay of up to five years, but the parents need to leave Australia before applying for this renewal.
There was no official statement of the likely number of applications at the time. However internal departmental sources indicate that the 15,000 annual quota is likely to be filled.
Labor’s temporary parent visa proposal was announced in response to the Coalition’s temporary- parent-visa legislation. In response to lobbying from migrant communities, the Coalition promised prior to the 2016 election that it would establish a new temporary visa for parents. As is evident, it took some time for the proposal to be legislated.
When the Labor leader, Bill Shorten, announced Labor’s proposed visa on 22 April 2019, he declared that the Coalition’s temporary parent visa option was ‘heartless, callous and cruel’. It was claimed that the Coalition’s visa was far stricter than originally promised, thus justifying Labor’s much more generous alternative.
As indicated, Labor’s initiative potentially opens the flood gates for parent migration. It appears to be a reckless and irresponsible policy bid put forward to garner migrant votes.
Did the Labor leaders consider the possible implications? It is doubtful that they did.
This article was based on the summary and background sections of the full paper by Dr Bob Birrell published by The Australian Population Research Institute (TAPRI) in May 2019. Read more at https://tapri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/final-draft-parent-visa-May-2019.pdf.
This disgraceful rebadged “Statement of Planning Policy” for Macedon Ranges (home of Hanging Rock) sets a damaging growth plan in concrete as State policy for Macedon Ranges for the next 50 years, perpetuating the direction of our previous council (and apparently the State government), not the new direction taken by the new councillors.
The fatally flawed “Statement of Planning Policy” for Macedon Ranges is now available as Attachment 5 to the Special Council meeting agenda for Thursday 13th September, available from Macedon Ranges Shire Council’s website. http://www.mrsc.vic.gov.au/About-Council/Our-Council/Meeting-Dates-Agendas-Minutes/Council-Meeting-Agendas-Minutes/Minutes-Agendas
The officer’s recommendation is that council receive (not endorse) the document; makes it clear the document is a creature of the State government; and makes suggestions for some changes. These include requesting Ministerial Guidelines to give direction on how the Statement is to be implemented, because despite recommendations and requirements that the document itself include this fundamental component, it doesn’t.
Minor changes since January simply reshuffle the deckchairs. The gross deficiencies of the original Localised Planning Statement (now re-badged as a Statement of Planning Policy) remain. It’s still a growth plan, it still doesn’t implement the recommendations of the Macedon Ranges Protection Advisory Committee, and – unbelievably – still doesn’t connect with or implement the Distinctive Areas and Landscapes legislation.
So, other than temporarily moving the settlement boundary back to the existing town boundary at Woodend, nothing you or apparently councillors or officers have said has made any difference.
The new (so-called) “Statement of Planning Policy”:
· Doesn’t make policy statements about how things will be done but a series of weak objectives and strategies about how it is hoped things might be done.
· Instead of being based on Statement of Planning Policy No. 8, condemns SPP8 to oblivion. With it goes justification for current planning controls, including protection of township character (which isn’t a “must” in the new Statement), and no further subdivision at Macedon and Mount Macedon.
Still ignores Macedon Ranges Protection Advisory Committee’s recommendations both for preparation of a statement, and policy e.g. “Landscape, biodiversity, cultural heritage and township protection must be a cornerstone of policy protection for the Macedon Ranges. The conservation of the Shire’s landscapes is of critical importance.” Not there.
· Where absolute clarity is demanded it nails nothing down, increasing uncertainty with “encourage”, “discourage”, “aim to”, “voluntary”, “should”, “consider”, “manage”, while “must” is confined to protection of extractive industries.
· Maintains separate policy domains, without saying how all of these work together.
· Is still not binding on public entities (including council), and only requires these bodies to have regard to the Statement, where relevant.
· Still singles out only “significant”, “State” “National” “high value” and “features” as important.
· Promotes extractive industries (making Macedon Ranges a target for them), and still promotes equine and intensive agriculture.
· Forgets to include almost half of the Shire’s drinking water catchments, and still makes biodiversity dependent on a website address.
Provides absolutely no guidance about dwellings or other development in rural areas, or in towns.
· Is still a growth plan that ignores the Distinctive Areas and Landscapes legislation and sets expanded settlement boundaries without parliament’s approval.
· Only provides Woodend with a temporary reprieve by excluding its investigation areas but continues to give a ‘free kick’ to development interests in other towns by including their investigation areas.
· Still doesn’t include settlement boundaries for Gisborne and Romsey.
· Elevates Kyneton to a “Regional Centre” (10,000+ population) and falsely attributes this to the Macedon Ranges Settlement Strategy when the State government is making it so.
Is based on the Loddon Mallee South Regional Growth Plan, current incomplete Macedon Ranges planning scheme and the appalling draft Visitor Economy document.
Includes the previous council’s deplorable In The Rural Living Zone document (the one based on advice from real estate interests) as a reference document AND requires its on-going implementation, including converting high quality agi soils at Romsey and Farming zone at Kyneton into 2ha blocks.
This disgraceful rebadged “Statement of Planning Policy” sets these weak, vague aspirations and a damaging growth plan in concrete as State policy for Macedon Ranges for the next 50 years, perpetuating the direction of our previous council (and apparently the State government), not the new direction taken by the new councillors.
It’s NOT protection in any guise. It takes Macedon Ranges in the opposite direction to protection and Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 (our existing Statement of Planning Policy), and will have a catastrophic effect on the Shire and its values. It could only be considered an “improvement” over the January Localised Planning Statement if going from bottom of the class to equal bottom is considered an improvement.
Please email your support and encouragement to Macedon Ranges Councillors to not endorse this Statement, and/or attend the special council meeting at Gisborne Shire Offices next Thursday, 7.00pm.
And let this be a lesson and warning to any other areas in Victoria that want to become ‘declared areas’.
We had an A grade example of the type of parallel universe Australia’s mainstream media has descended into late last week. A completely false story given prominence in the national media by The Australian, which was then picked up by various other Rupert Murdoch papers, but which sadly even made it beyond that – all without a single shred of fact, and all without anybody thinking to check, or even think about, the main line of the story being reported.
(This article was first published at https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2018/05/immigration-compact-nothing-propaganda/ on 7 May 2018. Republished with author permission.)
Better still it shows just how easy it may be to get a view into the public domain and have it picked up, with a mobile number, and a basic website splashing about a few logos, to create a Potemkin public ‘movement’. And from there we can get a sighter into the sort of desperado vested interests who’d go there to try and stoke public opinion.
The story began with the following piece which was plastered front-and-centre of The Australian on Thursday night:
Business and unions in rare alliance for Big Australia
12:00AM May 4, 2018
NATIONAL AFFAIRS EDITOR
Let’s start with the headline and the glossy of Sally McManus underneath. Any half-baked sentient thinker looking at that would assume that there has been some sort of major agreement signed by the Unions and Business on the subject of immigration.
Anybody remotely familiar with Simon Benson and his work can tell you he is a long term lackey for Rupert Murdoch’s Australian operations and has bounced around the Sydney Telegraph as a political codpiece, honing his act, before shifting to mission control last year.
The article is, in fact, highlighted as an ‘exclusive’ by the The Australian. So you would ordinarily think that for something being touted as such they would want to really nail their facts. Presumably Benson had some sort of information basis on which to write the story, and you would have thought that someone somewhere would have checked out something going into the The Australian proclaimed as ‘exclusive’.
Even more, if it is an ‘exclusive’ – did absolutely nobody at the Murdoch press think for a moment, ‘This is a major public announcement, and the idea of public announcements is to ensure the public knows, and if any organisation is making public announcements then it is in their interest to get it out as many media channels as they can. Why are we running this piece as an ‘exclusive’? Why isnt Fairfax, the broadcast channels and the ABC getting this as well? ‘
Alas, it appears we have two strikes from the ‘journalists’, ‘opinion leaders’, and ‘editorial processes’ at The Australian…….. (but it gets a whole heap better):
Big business has joined forces with the ACTU in an unprecedented compact to back a Big Australia, calling on the federal government to maintain current levels of permanent migration amid calls for the rate to be cut.
A stark statement to open the onslaught. A one sentence paragraph which is simply and utterly false – so false it is almost refreshing to see it as stark as it is for the plain and unadorned rubbish it represents.
There is no evidence anywhere to support it apart from an advertisement placed into The Australian on Friday (which we will get to).
There is not the faintest skerrick of evidence anywhere that the ACTU and its President Sally McManus have joined forces with big business on anything to do with immigration. There is no indication anywhere in their public pronouncements that the ACTU and its President Sally McManus have proclaimed, signed agreement to, funded or done anything to promote, a ‘compact’ promoting permanent immigration at its current levels, or any expansion or reduction of permanent migration levels.
The historic coalition of peak unions, employer groups and the ethnic lobby will release a united policy document today warning of the economic and social consequences of dropping the annual migration rate.
Well Friday came and went, and now the weekend too – and not a sign of any policy document uniting the ethnic lobby, big business and the unions came from anywhere.
The ACTU’s involvement comes as it embarks on a high-profile campaign to rein in employers’ access to temporary foreign workers.
Now for sure the ACTU has run a high profile campaign against temporary employees. And for sure the ACTU did on Thursday release, ‘Five-point plan to address unemployment and end exploitation of temporary visa workers’. But absolutely nowhere in that presser does the ACTU mention anything about any ‘compact’ with anyone on immigration numbers, and the need to maintain a high permanent level of immigration.
The first migration document of its kind in the nation’s history calls for the current goal of an annual intake of 190,000 to be retained, with long-term levels set proportionally to the population.
Now the bullshit quotient goes up a notch right here. Think about that paragraph for a second. No caveats on why we need an additional 190k per annum, no relating it to how the economy is going, no historical reference – and certainly no mention that the 190k figure itself is a massive historical ramp up on a long term average of about 75k per annum. And then, before you get past that there is a fine sliver of the choicest grade 24 carat bullshit right at the back half of that sentence – ‘with long-term levels set proportionately to the population’.
Think about that for a moment. Our 190k isnt an ideal, it is a starting point and it keeps going up every year “proportionately to the population”. If 0.76% of 25 million brings us to 190k in the first year, in ten years time that same 0.76% will bring us more than 204k.
And no mention of employment outcomes, wages, land usage and degradation therein, consumption, whether or not that makes any form of economic sense, and no mention of who we bring in, or what skills they bring, or what they are expected to provide. Just 190k plus in – every year as far as the eye can see. And we are expected to believe the ACTU has signed up to this with business and the ethnic lobby – without discussing it with Unions under its aegis, with their members, without a debate in the public domain.
The accord will see the ACTU and United Voice, one of the most influential unions in the country, sign a National Compact on Permanent Migration with the peak employer body, the Australian Industry Group.
But on the day of the announcement neither the ACTU or United Voice have any mention of signing a compact with the Australian Industry Group on the subject of immigration numbers. The AIG has a reference to it on Saturday – on the front of its web site.
If you click on that link we end up at a very strange website headed National Compact on Permanent Migration with a number of logos splashed about to make it look well supported. These include
- Migration Council Australia
- Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)
- Australian Industry Group (AIG)
- Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS)
- Welcome to Australia
- Settlement Council of Australia
- Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA)
- United Voice (better known once as the LHMU or the Liquor Hospitality Miscellaneous Union)
Now at this point aspiring journalists would once have been asking themselves ‘What do these organisations have to say about the compact they have signed?’ and maybe even ‘What are they telling their stakeholders about why signing the compact is a good thing or not?’ I say ‘once’ because it often isn’t the case anymore, and the focus these days is being able to copy and paste a media announcement, or parts therein, into a piece being written, and just assuming that because there are logos and because there are links then it is all legit.
As a hat tip to the old timers I thought I would check out these organisations and what they have to say about the ‘compact’.
The Migration Council Australia – has no mention of any ‘compact’ or any tie in with the AIG or the ACTU or ACOSS on the subject of permanent immigration numbers. Their #the-economic-impact-of-migration-2015" target="_blank" rel="noopener">policy area makes no mention of it either.
The ACTU – has no mention of any ‘compact’ or any tie in with the AIG or ACOSS or migrant organisations on the subject of permanent immigration numbers. Their media section makes no mention of it either, apart from the Thursday press release on the subject of temporary visa employees.
The Australian Industry Group – has a direct link to the ‘compact’ website, but has no mention of, discussion of or consultation with members about any compact, and no press release or media promotion of the compact.
ACOSS – has no mention of any ‘compact’ or any tie in with the AIG or ACTU or migrant organisations on the subject of permanent immigration numbers. Their news section makes no mention of any compact on immigration numbers.
Welcome to Australia – has no mention of any ‘compact’ or any tie in with the AIG, ACOSS or ACTU or migrant organisations on the subject of permanent immigration numbers. They have no news or press release or policy section referring to immigration numbers in any way.
The Settlement Council of Australia – has no mention of any ‘compact’ or any tie in with the AIG, ACOSS or ACTU or migrant organisations on the subject of permanent immigration numbers. They have no news or press release or policy section referring to immigration numbers in any way.
The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia – has issued a statement about the compact on May 4, 2018. That statement refers to ‘maintenance of Australia’s permanent migration intake’ without specifying a number or linking that to any criteria or parameters.
United Voice – has no mention of any compact or tie in with ACOSS, AIG, the ACTU or migrant organisations on the need to maintain a permanent immigration volume. Their news and media section makes no reference to any compact, or any consultation with members on immigration numbers.
So that currently leaves us with a website linked to by the Australian Industry Group, and referred to in a presser by FECCA as the substance of the compact which provided the basis for the ‘exclusive’ story being touted by The Australian on Friday. At the bottom of the page is a mobile phone number – 0499 991 098 – which if you ring gets to a voice message saying in a female voice to leave a message and someone will get back to you.
If you type that number into google however, you soon end up with this result – http://fni.org.au/author/fniadmin/ – for whatever the Friendly Nation Initiative involves. The only thing we need concern ourselves with here is that the contact number – 0499 991 098 – is the same one in play for the ‘Compact’ web page and refers to a media contact by the name of Alexander…..*drumroll*…….Willox. And he happens to be a Policy Officer at the Migration Council of Australia according to the Australian Institute of International Affairs.
So this tells us that our compact domain has been registered by some gent by the name of Scott Mills on behalf of the Migration Council of Australia. Scott could easily be a cleric or IT guy of some low level sort, and all he has done is the registering of the domain name, with the costs incurred not necessarily borne by him. As anybody with a domain name can tell you they aren’t hard or expensive to establish, and even that someone could establish a website on behalf of someone, without being connected to it whatsoever. For example I could go to a domain provider and register the domain www.utterbullshit.com on behalf of the Australian Prime Minister, and nobody at the domain provider will check to see if I actually do have anything to do with him.
But before we go there lets take a look at the Migration Council of Australia. In particular lets go to the Board, where amidst a sea of corporate players the very first name to greet the eye is Innes Willox.
Now at this point the lay reader thinking about contemporary Australia, as opposed to the journalist hurriedly trying to cut and paste an ‘exclusive’ together, may think to themselves our Innes is a man about town, for yea verily he is also the main honcho of the AIG, isnt he:
So from all this we can assume that Innes has his hands all over whatever is unfolding with any ‘compact’ and he likes his immigration numbers up, and he doesn’t mind a lot of bullshit, and he will have contacts in just the right places to be able to create a weird population ponzi website, is the father of the boy with the phone number listed – who just happens to be a Policy officer with the Migration Council of Australia, then link to such a website, and be able to get someone to whip up an article giving it just a whiff of public airing.
That stench you can smell, isn’t something on your shoes.
From there, it is worth going back to take a look at the ‘compact’ because you could reasonably assume that if the ‘journalists’ in Murdoch Press overlooked the above, then the actual compact may not have withstood much examination either.
And so it is. The National Compact on Permanent Migration is an ineptly written a document. From Australia’s immigration taking place as a program in the first half of the first sentence to being a scheme at the end. To a rushed set of exhortations unadorned by any logical or rationale that might easily have been thrown together in a liquid lunch (or thrown up afterward) to a weird collection of principles of which the only remotely measurable one is a need to keep permanent immigration numbers up – presumably where they are at around 190k per annum, though it doesn’t actually say that.
Our permanent migration program has been central to Australia’s economic and social development and will be critical to Australia’s future as a productive and globally integrated economy and society.
Australia is a country based on multicultural values where migrants enjoy the equality of opportunity to participate and benefit from Australia’s social, economic and political life. As our economic opportunities in the Asia Pacific continue to advance and our population ages, Australia will need migrants to bring skills and youth to complement and develop our domestic workforce and to help to grow the national income needed to support our high standard of living.
We support the current planning levels for the permanent migration program and encourage future programs to maintain a level proportional to the population.
Migrants bring relationships, knowledge, skills and social capital that ensure Australia’s economy is well placed to trade and invest with the countries of our region and beyond. Many Australians in turn live and work in other countries during their lives. In this century, our people to people ties will drive our competitive edge and spread the benefits of our multicultural values.
The successful settlement of millions of people ranks among Australia’s greatest achievements as a nation. As a result, approximately one in four of Australia’s population today was born overseas and half of all Australians have at least one parent born overseas.
Migration is a two-way street that has helped Australia forge ties to every continent, country and culture. It has made our society more cosmopolitan and our thinking more open and dynamic.
Migration nourishes our cultural and linguistic diversity and is one of our greatest strengths in the contemporary globalised world. Our humanitarian program is an important reflection of our values and adds strength to the character of our nation.
We must plan for our success as a nation by supporting settlement services and programs that foster a sense of belonging, encourage social cohesion and enable economic participation.
We must ensure that all those who come are provided with the same rights and opportunities so that our values of equality and a fair go are maintained.
We agree that the following principles should form the foundation of Australia’s migration policy:
- We affirm that Australia’s permanent migration program is essential to Australian society and economy and do not support any reduction to the scheme.
- The permanent migration program should be set within a national strategy for well managed population growth that provides the community with the education and training, infrastructure, housing and other services needed to support growth and social cohesion.
- Australia’s permanent migration program must be evidence-based and calibrated to meet Australia’s national interests taking account of the role migration plays across all our economic levers. Migration, along with education, training, retraining and a strong system of social supports is part of our long-term economic strategy.
- Australia’s migration program must be selective but non-discriminatory in terms of ethnicity, national origin, class, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
- All migrants have a right to live and pursue economic opportunities in an Australia free of racism, discrimination and exploitation.
- Migrants must be given every opportunity to contribute and fully participate in all aspects of Australian life, supported by access to services that assist their capacity to build the skills and knowledge needed to chart their own future.
- English language is recognised as critical to participation, both in the workplace and in the broader Australian community, and migrants should have access to free services to develop their English language skills where needed.
- The temporary skilled migration program should be limited to instances of genuine skill shortages which are based on evidence–based assessments of the need for specific occupations in the labour market. Where temporary visa workers are necessary we must ensure a robust regime to monitor and enforce compliance with protections incorporated in the program for preventing exploitation of overseas workers and guarding against the undercutting of local wages and conditions as well as holding those who abuse the labour rights of workers accountable.
- Encouraging and facilitating permanent settlement has been a key part of Australia’s migration framework and migrants should have a pathway available to seek permanent residency and citizenship.
- The confidence of the Australian community in an effective migration program, with appropriate safeguards, is paramount to its success and is contingent on strong and bi-partisan political leadership.
We agree that the following principles should form the foundation of Australia’s migration policy:
- Continuing to promote the importance of permanent migration to Australia’s sustainable economic and social development to the wider community.
- Supporting efforts to make the migration experience positive for migrants and for the Australian community, free of discrimination and exploitation.
- Promoting migration as a stand-alone portfolio function.
Around this utter tripe, Simon Benson crafted his exclusive. Imagine the scene if you will. Innes pops over to Simon’s desk and asks if he could write something on some utter bullshit he is conjuring up and Simon does not miss a beat.
Meanwhile Simon is not a man to question bullshit, Simon is a man to spread it around…….
But the unified stance is designed as a circuit-breaker to the increasingly heated immigration debate, which the signatories believe has become toxic, xenophobic and at risk of ignoring the economic benefits that underpin skilled migration.
The document, spearheaded by the Migration Council, signals the first time unions and employer groups have reached general agreement on temporary skilled migration but based on stricter policing of the program.
We can assume the unified stance has in no way pared the marginal propensity to bullshit, with the document signaling nothing more than the desperate straits the population ponzi lobby is now descending into to get traction in a world where everyone can now see Australian immigration has been run too hard for far too long. Of course, that is before we get to the not insignificant matter of there being no indication at all that any unions have signed up to the compact.
Simon (and Innes?) obviously decided a chart would help things along about here and threw up this one which did at least identify the ramp up in immigration numbers post 2006.
But even there it doesn’t really do justice to the insane level at which Australia has been running immigration numbers over the last last 12 years. Here is an accurate depiction of that:
Simon then works the Union angle some more……
There isn’t anything to doubt about Sally McManus having said anything there. But there’s a lot to ask about how it relates to the ACTU signing up for a ‘compact’ upholding a level of 190k per annum immigration.
Simon is obviously a master craftsman who knows well to weave some factuality into your bullshit narrative so that the reader can feel that something rings true. If we assume that the Prime Minister and Treasurer bullshitted the public about whether Home Minister Peter Dutton took any form of proposal to reduce immigration numbers by even a small volume, then we can assume that there has been some tension on the subject.
Well, we still haven’t seen any trace of the union side of the compact apart from a photo of Sally McManus so we could easily start that sentence with the ‘business-tooth fairy compact…..’ but our craftsman has some more fact in the narrative. Treasury has recently put out a report backing a big Australia which has been comprehensively debunked, dismantled, chewed, laughed at, snorted on and facesat at Macrobusiness.
Simon has at least got the names right (he is obviously a senior Murdoch ‘journalist’) but he missed the small fact that there is no sign of anyone signing anything. There arent any signatures on the compact site, and not a scintilla of evidence anybody on the union side of of the compact is even aware of it.
The compact, as can be seen above, is nothing more than a collection of motherhood statements in abysmal English.
This is the blame apportionment line, but seemingly takes us towards a reduced number of immigrants arriving this year anyway, despite the compact ostensibly calling for no reduction. Did Simon or Innes read what they were writing, or were they a tad under the weather by this stage?
All of a sudden we are back with the BCA and another business gargoyle who is gracing the board luncheons of the Migration Council. He too is talking about signatories despite nobody having seen any sign of anybody signing anything , but he does lay in with two other oft exhorted placebo rationales for higher immigration which have been debunked more times than anyone would care to think about with ageing and small populations.
Innes works himself into the story with a few comments. Innes is probably part of the world which has seen Australia shed economic diversity and sell out Australian employers with Free Trade Agreements. Could he tell us why we need more immigrants if all we do is spread around the wealth from mining operations?
All of a sudden we slip a new character in at the end – another Innes flunky from the Migration Council. She is described as ‘driving’ the agreement, rather than a compact, which leads us to wonder if she was taking dictation at lunch with Simon and Innes.
Surreally the piece concludes with reference to the one thing the ACTU has clearly stated this week – to the effect that temporary employment visas have been abused.
So there it is.
It’s a compact, it’s an agreement, it’s been signed and it involves business, unions, immigration bodies and ethnic councils and social service providers, and it argues for maintaining a high level of permanent immigration – just that it consists of nothing but a web page with some logos, and three quarters of the organisations behind the logos have not even mentioned any agreement or compact.
Maybe The Australian would like to verify whoever paid for the advertisement which appeared in The Australian on Friday and their connection with the Migration Council of Australia? And maybe the Migration Council of Australia may want to clarify with a statement that whoever has paid for that advertisement has been duly authorised to expend monies on its behalf, and that it considers the advertising of the ‘compact’ an efficient use if its resources?
That of course is before we look at Rupert Murdoch’s world and ask ourselves if his minions write ‘exclusive’ pieces based on advertising connected with its own opinion writers, touting websites which are closely connected with that writer.
It has Innes Willox’s fingers all over it. And it stinks.
It is likely to be just as nasty as the one on same sex marriage with all sorts of accusations that target people rather than immigration policies. There will be a rash of claims made against Asians, Muslim, Middle East, and African migrants matched in venom by attacks on the WASP (White, Anglo Saxon Protestant) Rednecks who dared to question their suitability to be citizens. Just like the SSM debate very few people will be persuaded by the opposing claims and instead will only be entrenched further in their own beliefs.
Some of the opening salvos from politicians have already been fired - Scott Morrison has said cutting immigration will cost the economy more than a billion a year which seems like small beer alongside his proposed $64b in tax breaks. Tony Abbott, perhaps sniffing the wind, has called for a cut of 80,000 per year which would bring the rate down to that set by John Howard. Bob Carr wants the present immigration number halved, the Greens want it increased by 50,000, the Sustainable Population Party wants it cut back to the pre-Howard level of 70,000 and the Scientific community say we have already overshot our sustainable numbers - but then nobody listens to the science. However, perhaps the most insidious pro-immigration argument – one that has been aired many times – is the claim that Australia is the best in the world when it comes to accepting different cultures. It’s the sort of feel good statement that appeals to our vanity, a bit like being told we are the best sporting nation, so consequently very few people bothered to challenge Chris Bowen MP the former minister for immigration when he said were indeed the world’s most successful multicultural nation. So while we all sat back and marvelled at how wonderful we are, no one remembered that the other major culture in our society is our indigenous population who, given the level of disadvantage they experience, have good grounds for disagreeing with the statement.
And they would not be alone. Bowen's appeal to our good nature was probably an attempt to detract from the negative comments made earlier by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said Germany's attempt to create a multicultural society had failed completely, while Dutch Interior Minister Piet Hein Donner presented a bill in parliament that read:
“The government shares the social dissatisfaction over the multicultural society model.... A more obligatory integration is justified because the government also demands that from its own citizens. It is necessary because otherwise the society gradually grows apart and eventually no one feels at home anymore.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Britain's former Prime Minister David Cameron, France's former President Nicolas Sarkozy, Spain's former leader, Jose Maria Aznar, and Belgium's former PM Yves Leterme. Indeed most of Europe is of the same mind with many seeing the rise of extreme right wing political parties as a direct result.
In fact MC has had a dismal record almost everywhere around the globe. Czechoslovakia fell apart and it’s not going well in Ireland. Scotland is not happy in GB, and the US, once the poster boy for immigration, seems to be on a race-related downward spiral. China spends an estimated 1.24 trillion yuan ($193 billion) on its domestic security system mainly in areas with major populations of religious and ethnic minorities; an amount that is more than its spending on external security.
However, while there are many MC problems in Europe, they pale in comparison to those countries that have fallen into internal conflict, the result often descending into ethnic cleansing. This is a relatively new term that originated in 1992 when, in the former country of Yugoslavia, the Serbians tried to drive out the Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The process is, however, as old as human history and the number of victims as large as human diversity. Even if you don't believe the biblical account of the Passover the Jews have been persecuted at least since the Roman era, a process that continued intermittently in most nations, culminating in the holocaust, an event in which most of the Nazi-occupied nations participated. More recent atrocities such as those in Myanmar, Rwanda, Tibet and Sri Lanka have received much media attention but the murder of about one million Armenians, Assyrian’s and Greeks during the chaotic collapse of the Ottoman empire was largely ignored by a world lost in its own troubles. Unfortunately other such crimes, like the actions of Indonesia in east Timor and Papua, which are ongoing in the latter, are ignored for political reasons.
One list of the 10 bloodiest civil wars of the twentieth century (Sarkees 2000), half of the cases were ethnic conflicts and these all involved minority groups that were identifiable by religion, color, language or culture. The outbreaks of violence were usually triggered by factors such as unemployment, food prices, exploitation or repression, problems that are increasing in Australia. Over the last decade or so, Australian governments have considered it necessary to respond to a perceived terror threat by increasing ASIO's budget 471 per cent over 9 years. Athol Yates, executive director of think tank the Australian Security Research Centre, has calculated that Canberra has spent about $10.5 billion on homeland security, while state and local governments plus private industry have forked out another $5.5 billion, taking the total domestic security bill to about $16 billion. Oddly enough this expenditure increases our GDP allowing politicians to boast about the economic benefits of Multiculturalism but in reality the real success for governments has been the division it has created in the population, enough apparently to divert attention away from our absurdly high immigration rate.
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During the week commencing 12 March 2018 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired a number of programs on a Big Australia — the phrase used to encapsulate debates about the desirability of Australia’s rapid immigration-fuelled population growth. The specific programs included episodes of 4 Corners and QandA. Subsequently I submitted an official editorial complaint as per the ABC’s complaint-handling process. In the complaint I took care to refer in detail to the ABC’s own documented editorial standards. The ABC has acknowledged receipt of the complaint and will respond in writing in due course. As this response may take some time to provide, in the meantime I am publishing the text of my complaint here (PDF), for the interest of those who follow the population and immigration debate. I will also publish the text of the ABC’s response when received. The summary of the complaint is as follows (extracted from the conclusion of the document). [Article first published at http://www.peakdecisions.org/the-abc-population-growth-and-a-big-australia-official-complaint/]
Based on the arguments and evidence presented in this complaint, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the Programs do not meet Editorial Policy 4. Highly relevant principal perspectives were omitted or given very limited time. The Programs overwhelmingly favoured one perspective: that a Big Australia is inevitable and there is no room for debate about alternative scenarios. The Programs ignored opportunities to present alternative perspectives even when they were offered as low-hanging fruit (for example, the video questions on QandA). There was repeated reliance on the same narrow range of expert opinion, while other expert opinion was omitted, in defiance of the weight of evidence on these matters. Given that these same one-sided viewpoints and imbalances were repeated over several programs, it is very hard to argue that excesses in one particular program were re-balanced by the views expressed in other programs during the week that the Programs were aired or published. And it is hard to avoid the conclusion that in this instance, these outcomes expressed an implied editorial stance of the ABC towards the desirability of a Big Australia.
We have noticed many more letters to the local newspapers raising the issue of high population growth mainly due to immigration. A recent survey conducted by The Australian Population Research Institute (TAPRIS) has reported that “74% of voters thought that Australia does not need more people”. The following points set out some of the reasons why we should be demanding better immigration controls by our governments:
· The reason why many people feel they haven’t benefited from Australia’s long stretch of economic expansion is because they haven’t.
· Our pay packets haven’t increased while many of our essential goods and services have gone through the roof
· High Migration makes it nearly impossible for Australia to fall into recession.
· It’s great for business because it keeps wages low and there are more people to buy their goods and services.
· It looks great for governments because it means that economic growth looks better than it really is.
· But it isn’t that good for our existing ordinary wage and salary workers.
· More people means more demand for scarce goods and services. When there’s tight supply it results in huge price rises (such as Housing).
· As the new Reserve Bank Governor, Phillip Lowe, has stated “the role of good economic policy should be to raise living standards – not make the population and therefore the economy bigger”.
· And why don’t the politicians do that? Political donations influence? Maybe too many have investments in property and development that require more and more customers.
0ur very high rate of population growth is twice the world average and three times that of UK, France, the US and similar western countries. Our governments over the last 20 years or so have claimed that this has driven our economic growth without us suffering from a recession like other countries. The reality is that our citizens have gained no real fiscal benefit from this population growth.
In 2016 our intake was reduced to around 200,000 p.a. from the 250,000 mark and just recently our Minister for Immigration was suggesting we should reduce our intake by a further 20,000. However our Prime Minister was not prepared to do so. Why not?
The reality is that, since the GFC, Australia has seen per capita income go backwards as evidenced by stagnant wages growth. The slight reduction in the long term arrivals to departure ratio presents a misleading picture because migration to Australia is still proceeding at a record pace with a massive lift in long term visa holders which are not included in our immigrant numbers. There are currently around 2 million long term visa holders in Australia right now all needing somewhere to live. Overall our rate of population growth has averaged 1.7% which compares with around 0.7% average for UK, France & the US.
Right now the rate of population growth for Melbourne is up around 2.4 %. That’s four times more than UK, France & the US and other OECD countries.
Time for action. There is an election coming so take advantage and confront your local member and vote for change. If we reduce our migrant intake to around 70,000 p.a. we would still be ahead of the pack and meeting our international obligations. That would give us breathing space to catch up with the infrastructure upgrades we desperately need for our existing population and, maybe in time, we could provide infrastructure to cope with our future migrant intake.
To continue as we are will result in further degradation of our environment, lifestyle and flat financial position and ultimately end up living in overcrowded high rise ghettos and no one wants that do they?
Consultant to the Boroondara Residents’ Action Group. (BRAG)
'Immigration debate is just left wing racism', according to the headline of Joe Hildebrand's latest article at news.com.au http://www.news.com.au/national/politics/immigration-debate-is-just-leftwing-racism/news-story/ee5a958fe3447e9cc247f59fdae8d344. He then goes on to assert that questioning our rate of immigration is an ideology confined only to the far right and the far left. Really? I would like to take this opportunity to re-assure readers that it is in fact a concern for Australians from all political backgrounds and walks of life and we ignore this at our peril.
This is why it was actually the duty of every media outlet from the Herald Sun to the 'quintessential progressive media double act of Fairfax and the ABC' to bring this conversation into the public realm. Bearing in mind that our cities will need to have a further 1.5 trillion dollars of infrastructure investment by 2045 just to keep up, this sudden interest from the ABC was, in fairness, a bit late in coming. Even Tony Jones acknowledged the sheer amount of concern that there is on this issue during a Q&A special on whether or not we are ready for a Big Australia.
So comparing all lefties who question our current rate of immigration with the kind of mindset that sparked the Cronulla riots is very problematic. The truth is that unless you are an advocate of open borders, there comes a point whereby everyone has a limit to what they think our annual rate of migration should be. In other words, according to Hildebrand, there comes a point whereby everyone becomes a racist.
Then there are those who do want to see a policy of open borders but that would do absolutely nothing to resolve the very issues that are pushing people to leave their homeland in the first place. In other words it does nothing to help the vast majority of people who, for one reason or another, would be left behind.
This is why a proactive measure such as foreign aid as opposed to a reactive measure such as unlimited migration can help communities on the ground to better manage their environment while providing increased access to education and family planning. That, in combination with much improved urban and regional planning at home, is the ONLY way that we can collectively reduce habitat loss and stabilise populations across the world.
So although Hildebrand is correct in saying that 'cutting the immigration rate to Australia does little to reduce the global population' it is nevertheless a massive oversimplification of a much more complex issue. When you consider that the world's population is growing by 80 million a year, immigration really is the least effective way of dealing with global population pressures.
Of course this is not to say that we shouldn't have immigration. Australia has a proud history of people moving to our shores from overseas and it really is something that we should be proud of. The good news is that we can continue to have a sizeable rate of migration because as Joe sort of points out, if we had no migration at all, our population would eventually start to decrease.
So at the very least we can have an annual migration intake of around 70,000 a year (which happened to be our long term average before John Howard came to power) and this would allow our population to start to level off over time. This means that we can continue to not only maintain our current rate of refugee intake but also be in a position to increase it if we ever decide to go down that path.
It would also buy us the time to play catch-up in terms of getting decent public transport infrastructure in place and crucially it would buy us the time to achieve the slower rate of development that comes with an increased focus on urban regeneration as opposed to mostly relying upon land releases on the urban fringes of our cities.
We are more than capable of innovating new ways to grow the economy without relying on population growth and it is simply untrue to assume that reducing migration will leave us with a skills shortage. As recently as March 18, Caroline Winter reported on the ABC that 'there are calls from the multicultural community for an internship program to be adopted to help skilled migrants get local experience, and a chance at work in their chosen field'. So it is clear that many migrants are not simply walking straight into jobs.
Make no mistake, the main reason why we have a high rate of immigration is not because we have a massive skills shortage, it is not because we are rescuing people from poverty, and it is not because we have an ageing population (we can easily innovate our way through that). It is because it boosts GDP and in the words of Joe Hockey, it is a lazy way of doing it. So it really is crucial that we keep this conversation going and resist the urge to label those who disagree with us with sweeping statements. Instead we all need to work collectively to find solutions that benefit Australia and the world as a whole.
The author, Mark Allen, is an environmental activist who has worked as a town planner. He is a member of Sustainable Population Australia.
I note that the ABC is planning to air Four Corners and Q&A programs on the issue of population and a ‘Big Australia’. The topic of a ‘Big Australia’ is a contentious issue in public debate. Several opinion polls show more than 50 percent of Australians believe Australia has enough people or should not grow any larger than 30 million people. On the other hand, the major political parties (including the Greens) are in lockstep marching to the tune of a Big Australia. Thus there is a major gap between elite opinion and the general public. In view of this the ABC has a special responsibility to ensure that its Editorial Policy number 4 — Impartiality and Diversity of Perspectives — is fully achieved in this case.
The question of Australia’s population size and a ‘Big Australia’ will be the subject of ABC Television Four Corners and Q&A programs on Monday 12 March 2018. For details see this post at the Q&A Facebook page.
Due to a virtual consensus among the major political parties (including the Greens) that a Big Australia is a Good Thing which must not be questioned, it is all that much harder to get any balance on this topic in the mainstream media, who tend to take their cues from the agendas of established political parties. It then becomes easy to portray concern about population and associated migrant intake issues as only that of a fringe group with racially motivated agendas, epitomized in parties such as Pauline Hanson One Nation. This deflection of serious debate on the topic suits very well the special interests such as real estate and construction which benefit from unending increase in our numbers — despite the fact that on a per capita basis, we are no better off — and in many ways we are worse off.
These upcoming ABC shows will be an important opportunity to ensure that there is some serious reporting and debate on this topic. I sent the following email to the ABC just in case they needed some reminding:
I note that the ABC is planning to air Four Corners and Q&A programs on the issue of population and a ‘Big Australia’. The topic of a ‘Big Australia’ is a contentious issue in public debate. Several opinion polls show more than 50 percent of Australians believe Australia has enough people or should not grow any larger than 30 million people. On the other hand, the major political parties (including the Greens) are in lockstep marching to the tune of a Big Australia. Thus there is a major gap between elite opinion and the general public. In view of this the ABC has a special responsibility to ensure that its Editorial Policy number 4 — Impartiality and Diversity of Perspectives — is fully achieved in this case.
The Q&A discussion ought to include discussion of the desirability of a Big Australia — as well as how (or whether) such growth could be actually be ‘managed’. There must be balance and representativeness in the range of views and expertise invited to be on the panel. Opponents of our current high rate of mass immigration (which fuels population growth) should not be stereotyped as racists and xenophobes — as is commonly done on the ABC.
It is also imperative that ABC journalists and interviewers have a clear understanding of the differences between the following four issues/questions:
1. the question of Australia’s desired population size (eg the desirability of a Big Australia)
2. the question of how or whether rapid population growth can be managed
3. the question of the success or failure of multiculturalism
4. the question of the treatment of ‘arrivals by boat’ (refugee claimants) — which incidentally have negligible impact on questions 1 and 2 above
The ABC can make a useful contribution to public understanding and debate by ensuring these issues are not conflated together and that each issue is clearly distinguished and considered on its merits.
There are any number of centrist, highly respected experts and commentators who oppose a Big Australia — for example Prof. Ian Lowe, William Bourke, Dr Jane O’Sullivan, Leith van Onselen, Mark O’Connor, Crispin Hull — just to name a few. It is to be hoped — given this view is held by a large section of the Australian community – that at least one representative of this general position will be included in both the Four Corners reportage and Q&A panel.
The question for the producers of Four Corners and Q&A is: given that this is such an important and contentious debate, will you select the panel in an impartial, balanced and fair way?
Peter G Cook, PhD
Australia has no coherent population plan other than to inundate the major cities with people. Instead of a well though-out population policy, the strategy has been to stoke overall economic growth to support big business. This suits the property industry and retailers but GDP per capita growth is stagnating while ordinary Australians are worse off.
Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott have both recently called out for a reduction of immigration to Australia. To quote Mr Abbott: "At the moment we’ve got stagnant wages, unaffordable housing, clogged infrastructure and there is no doubt the rate of immigration impacts on all of these things.”
We support Mr Abbott's comments but it's unfortunate he didn't consider this while he was Prime Minister. Australia is suffering cumulative economic and environmental damage from unconstrained growth.
It is incorrect of Peter Dutton to suggest that “in the Labor years the number peaked at about 305,900 in one year which was an enormous number, we’ve got that number down now below 190,000 ”
While it is true that net overseas migration (NOM) – which includes both permanent and temporary long-term residents – peaked under Labor (at 315,700), it was still running at 245,500 as at the year to June 2017.
Most importantly, Peter Dutton failed to mention that Australia’s permanent migrant intake has never been higher than under this Coalition Government, set at nearly 210,000 a year currently.
Currently 60% of Australia’s growth is skilled migration whereas the humanitarian intake is less than 10%.
Foreign aid has also been significantly cut whilst the coalition has been in power. This is particularly true for overseas family planning services and the access to education that is required to empower women to choose the size of their families.
Paul Hawken, who was the keynote speaker at Melbourne’s Sustainable Living Festival, stated that family planning and access to education are together the most significant global responses to addressing climate change.
SPA calls for a fundamental change to population policy that addresses population issues both nationally and globally. This should involve reducing total migration to around 70 000 per annum (without any cuts to our refugee program) while also implementing a generous proactive humanitarian aid program that will address global overpopulation and displacement issues without coercion.
This will help to lead us towards stabilising populations both at home and abroad in the most sustainable and equitable way possible.
Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) is an Australian, member-driven environmental charity which works on many fronts to encourage informed public debate about how Australia and the world can achieve an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable population.
Tonight, [Feb 18, 2018] I appeared on the ABC’s National Wrap to debate the Migration Council’s CEO, Carla Wilshire, on Australia’s mass immigration program. Below are notes from the debate explaining my position and refuting Ms Wilshire’s key lines of argument.
By Unconventional Economist in Australian Economy at 11:01 pm on February 18, 2018. First published at https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2018/02/leith-van-onselen-tackles-growth-lobby-monster/.
Economic modelling on immigration is unflattering and does not reflect real life:
During the debate, we got into an exchange over the purported economic benefits of immigration, as noted by the various Productivity Commission (PC) modelling.
Ms Wilshire argued the modelling shows unambiguous benefits to Australians because GDP per capita is increased, whereas I argued that incumbent Australian workers are made worse-off from falling wages (let alone broader impacts like congestion, higher infrastructure costs, smaller and less affordable housing, etc).
At the outset, it is important to note that economic modelling around immigration is inherently limited and often does not reflect real life.
First, it is generally assumed in these models that population ageing will result in fewer people working, which will subtract from per capita GDP. However, it is equally likely that age-specific workforce participation will respond to labour demand, resulting in fewer people being unemployed, as we have witnessed in Japan, where the unemployment rate is below 3%.
Even if this assumption holds true, the benefit to GDP per capita would only be transitory. Once the migrant workers grow old, they too will add to the pool of aged Australians, thus requiring an ever increasing immigration intake to keep the population age profile from rising.
Second, it is generally assumed that migrant workers are more productive than the Australian born population and, therefore, labour productivity is increased through strong immigration. However, the evidence here is highly contestable, with migrants generally being employed below the level of their qualifications, as well as having lower labour force attachment than the Australian born population (more information here).
Third, these economic models typically assume that immigration allows for either steady or increasing economies of scale in infrastructure (i.e. either assumes that population growth does not diminish the infrastructure stock; that bigger is always cheaper; or there is under-utilised capacity). At the same time, they completely ignore the dead weight of having to build more infrastructure each year, as well as the dis-economies of scale from having a bigger population, which necessarily makes new infrastructure investment very expensive (e.g. tunneling, land buy-backs, water desalination, etc).
Finally, and related to the above, these models ignore obvious ‘costs’ of mass immigration on productivity. Growing Australia’s population without commensurately increasing the stock of household, business and public capital to support the bigger population necessarily ‘dilutes’ Australia’s capital base, leaving less capital per person and lowering productivity. We have witnessed this first hand with the costs of congestion soaring across Australia’s big cities.
With these caveats in mind, what does the PC’s modelling on immigration actually say?
Well, the PC’s Migrant Intake Australia report, released in September 2016, compared the impact on real GDP per capita from:
- Historical rates of immigration, whereby population hits 40 million by 2060; and
- Zero net overseas migration (NOM), whereby the population stabilises at 27 million by 2060.
The PC’s modelling did find that GDP per capita would be 7% ($7,000) higher by 2060 under current mass immigration settings. However, all the gains are transitory and come from a temporary lift in the employment-to-population ratio, which will eventually reverse once the migrants age (i.e. after the forecast period):
The continuation of an immigration system oriented towards younger working-age people can boost the proportion of the population in the workforce and, thereby, provide a ‘demographic dividend’ to the Australian economy. However, this demographic dividend comes with a larger population and over time permanent immigrants will themselves age and add to the proportion of the population aged over 65 years.
The PC also explicitly acknowledges that per capita GDP is a “weak” measure of economic welfare:
While the economywide modelling suggests that the Australian economy will benefit from immigration in terms of higher output per person, GDP per person is a weak measure of the overall wellbeing of the Australian community and does not capture how gains would be distributed among the community. Whether a particular rate of immigration will deliver an overall benefit to the existing Australian community will crucially depend on the distribution of the gains and the interrelated social and environmental impacts.
It is worth pointing out that the PC’s modelling unrealistically assumed that Australia’s infrastructure stock would keep pace with the extra population, which is vital if economy-wide productivity is not to dimish:
Specifically, the expansion in labour supply through migration is projected to lead roughly to the same proportional growth in capital and output in most industries including infrastructure industries. That is, the modelling broadly assumes that there are constant returns to scale in production…
As the modelling broadly assumes that there are constant returns to scale in production, the economy-wide modelling results are broadly linear. Hence, while the modelling provides insight into the economic impact of NOM, in practice limits on Australia’s absorptive capacity (including environmental factors) mean that constant returns to scale are unlikely to hold for very high rates of immigration.
Clearly, this assumption is at at odds with the Australian economy’s ‘lived experience’, whereby massive infrastructure deficits have accumulated over the last 15-years of hyper immigration, particularly in the major cities.
Most importantly for incumbent Australian workers, the PC’s modelling finds that labour productivity and real wages are projected to decrease under current mass immigration settings versus zero net overseas migration (NOM):
Compared to the business-as-usual case, labour productivity is projected to be higher under the hypothetical zero NOM case — by around 2 per cent by 2060 (figure 10.5, panel b). The higher labour productivity is reflected in higher real wage receipts by the workforce in the zero NOM case…
With zero NOM, real wages are projected to increase over time, and at a rate greater than in the business-as-usual scenario. That is, in the zero NOM scenario labour is relatively scarce which puts upwards pressure on real wages and causes a substitution towards capital, contributing to the marginally higher labour productivity relative to the business-as-usual scenario (figure 10.5, panel b). Higher rates of labour force participation through immigration in the business-as-usual case is projected to moderate such wage pressures.
Therefore, according to the PC’s most recent modelling, high immigration improves per capita GDP by 2060 by boosting the proportion of workers in the economy, but this comes at the expense of lower labour productivity and lower real wages.
Moreover, beyond the forecast period (2060), the migrants will age and retire, thus dragging down future growth – classic ‘ponzi demography’.
As noted by the PC above, its latest modelling also did not take account of the distribution of gains to per capita GDP, which is vitally important. Thankfully, it’s 2006 major study on the Economic Impacts of Migration and Population Growth did, and the results were unflattering.
Here, the PC modeled the impact of a 50% increase in the level of skilled migration over the 20 years to 2024-25 and found that “the incomes of existing resident workers grow more slowly than would otherwise be the case”. Below is the money quote:
The increase in labour supply causes the labour / capita ratio to rise and the terms of trade to fall. This generates a negative deviation in the average real wage. By 2025 the deviation in the real wage is –1.7 per cent…
Broadly, incumbent workers lose from the policy, while incumbent capital owners gain. At a 5 per cent discount rate, the net present value of per capita incumbent wage income losses over the period 2005 – 2025 is $1,775. The net present value of per capita incumbent capital income gains is $1,953 per capita…
Owners of capital in the sectors experiencing the largest output gains will, in general, experience the largest gains in capital income. Also, the distribution of capital income is quite concentrated: the capital owned by the wealthiest 10 per cent of the Australian population represents approximately 45 per cent of all household net wealth…
To it’s credit, the PC’s Migrant Intake Australia report does go to great lengths to stress that there are many costs associated with running a high immigration program that are not captured in the modelling but are borne by incumbent residents and unambiguously lowers their welfare:
High rates of immigration put upward pressure on land and housing prices in Australia’s largest cities. Upward pressures are exacerbated by the persistent failure of successive state, territory and local governments to implement sound urban planning and zoning policies…
Urban population growth puts pressure on many environment-related resources and services, such as clean water, air and waste disposal. Managing these pressures requires additional investment, which increases the unit cost of relevant services, such as water supply and waste management. These higher costs are shared by all utility users…
Immigration, as a major source of population growth in Australia, contributes to congestion in the major cities, raising the importance of sound planning and infrastructure investment …governments have not demonstrated a high degree of competence in infrastructure planning and investment. Funding will inevitably be borne by the Australian community either through user-pays fees or general taxation.
…there will be additional costs for the community where environmental services that are currently ‘free’ have to be replaced with technological solutions…
Accordingly, the PC explicitly asks that these costs be considered as part of any cost-benefit analysis on the immigration intake, rather than blindly following the results of its modelling.
A prime example of these costs is infrastructure. In its Migrant Intake Australia report, the PC pulls no punches about the higher cost of living imposed on incumbent residents from mass immigration, particularly in the big cities:
…where assets are close to capacity, congestion imposes costs on all users. A larger population inevitably requires more investment in infrastructure, and who pays for this will depend on how this investment is funded (by users or by taxpayers). Physical constraints in major cities make the costs of expanding infrastructure more expensive, so even if a user-pays model is adopted, a higher population is very likely to impose a higher cost of living for people already residing in these major cities.
This follows the PC’s warnings in 2013 that total private and public investment requirements over the next 50 years are estimated to be more than 5 times the cumulative investment made over the last half century:
The likely population growth will place pressure on Australian cities. All of Australia’s major cities are projected to grow substantially… In response to the significant increase in the size of Australian cities, significant investment in transport and other infrastructure is likely to be required… Total private and public investment requirements over this 50 year period are estimated to be more than 5 times the cumulative investment made over the last half century…
Similarly, in its latest Shifting the Dial: 5 year productivity review, the PC explicitly noted that infrastructure costs will inevitably balloon due to our cities’ rapidly growing populations:
Growing populations will place pressure on already strained transport systems… Yet available choices for new investments are constrained by the increasingly limited availability of unutilised land. Costs of new transport structures have risen accordingly, with new developments (for example WestConnex) requiring land reclamation, costly compensation arrangements, or otherwise more expensive alternatives (such as tunnels).
In short, there is little hope of achieving the level of investment required to sustain current levels of mass population growth, let alone an increase in the immigration intake to 250,000 (from 210,000 currently), as demanded by the Migration Council.
Overall, the PC’s economic modelling on immigration shows little (if any) material economic benefit to incumbent Australian residents. And once you add the various external costs not captured in the modelling (e.g. more expensive housing, more expensive infrastructure, congestion, and environmental degradation), the overall costs of mass immigration to ordinary Australians almost certainly outweighs the benefits.
Further information on why mass immigration is not in Australia’s interest is explained in MB’s submission to the federal government’s Migration Program review, which is reproduced below. (You can also download a PDF copy here – please share it around).
The Migration Council must believe in exponential population growth:
In responding to my claim that Australia’s NOM is running at triple the historical average, Carla Wilshire argued that when measured in percentage terms (i.e. the rate of growth), it isn’t actually that high and could be increased further. (Again, the Migration Council has lobbied for the immigration intake to be increased to 250,000 from 210,000 currently.)
In taking this line of argument, Ms Wilshire is being very loose with the facts.
First, as noted by the PC’s Migrant Intake Australia report, Australia’s immigration intake as a percentage of population (currently 1%) is very high by historical standards:
Second, and more importantly, it is not the immigration rate that matters for infrastructure, traffic congestion, or the environment, but rather the sheer numbers. Does Ms Wilshire honestly believe in exponential population growth? Because that’s what a stable immigration growth rate implies, which is clearly unsustainable [note: Australia’s current population growth rate in 1.6%]:
Seriously, how big does Ms Wilshire want Australia to become? As noted by The Australia Institute:
Figure 10 shows that under the ABS central forecast, in 2061 Victoria would have the same population as all of Australia had in 1960. In 2061 Queensland would have a larger population than all of Australia had in 1950. It is important to note that these are not the projections of the high growth scenario (Series A), but of the one that most closely matches current trends (Series B).
How much population is enough?
Migration Council is just another mass immigration lobby group:
During the interview, I claimed that the Migration Council’s economic modelling on immigration could not be trusted as it is a vested interest lobby group backed by big business.
Ms Wilshire responded angrily claiming that it was non-partisan and not-for-profit.
Since its inception, the organisation has lobbied strongly for a ‘Big Australia’ and for the immigration intake to be increased to 250,000 (from 210,000 currently).
It has also been chaired by pro-Big Australia business people and has stacked its board accordingly.
Andrew Jakubowicz, Professor of Sociology, described the formation of the Council in 2010 as follows:
The announcement of the formation of a Migration Council of Australia and its launch by the Governor General on August 1, confirmed by Department of Immigration and Citizenship official Gary Fleming at the Settlement Council of Australia conference in Adelaide in late June, marks a critical juncture in population and immigration policy…
The MCA wants to find a new space to assert the importance of migration and effective settlement, and has brought together some heavy hitters to make this happen. Headed by Peter Scanlon (ex Patricks Chair) – and bringing together Business Council of Australia chair Tony Shepherd, Australia Post head Ahmed Fahour, Ethnic Communities Federation chair Pino Migliorino, Adult Migrant Education Victoria head Catherine Scarth and a number of others – the organisation seeks to build a bridge between those with an economic interest in a big Australia, and those with a social interest in a fair Australia.
Scanlon has been a key figure in building an information base about immigration and settlement through his Foundation… He is also a major real estate developer and will come under scrutiny for how this new lobby group might create benefits for his commercial interests…
Peter Scanlon is a key leader of Australia’s ‘growth lobby’, and has a clear vested interest in mass immigration, as explained by John Masanauskas:
MAJOR investor and former Elders executive Peter Scanlon hardly blinks when asked if his conspicuous support for a bigger population is also good for business.
Mr Scanlon, whose family wealth is estimated to be more than $600 million, has set up a foundation with the aim to create a larger and socially cohesive Australia.
It also happens that Mr Scanlon has extensive property development interests, which clearly benefit from immigration-fuelled high population growth.
“My primary driver in (setting up the foundation) is if we don’t have growth we are going to lose all our youth because the world is looking to train people around the world,” he explains. “Instead of having stagnant growth, we’re going to have a serious decline.”
Mr Scanlon believes that governments aren’t doing enough to sell the benefits of a bigger population so he has put his money where his mouth is…
Peter Scanlon vacated the chair of the Migration Council in 2015 and was replaced by long-time mass immigration booster and Australian Industry Group CEO, Innes Willox, who was affectionately described last year by The AFR “as one of Australia’s top business lobbyists”.
Let’s not pretend that the Migration Council of Australia is impartial in the immigration debate. It is a stealth ‘Big Australia” lobbyist for the business sector.
On a side note, a quick look at the Migration Council’s modelling of immigration’s economic impacts reveals the following howler of an assumption: it “allows for economies of scale in infrastructure”.
You read that right. Their model ridiculously assumes that bigger is always cheaper and/or there is always under-utilised capacity. This flies in the face of the ‘lived experience’ of growing infrastructure bottlenecks and rising congestion costs, as well as increasingly complex and expensive infrastructure projects (i.e. classic dis-economies of scale).
I’ve already discussed these infrastructure issues above with respect to the PC’s modelling, so I won’t do it again. But clearly the Migration Council has chosen favourable assumptions to get a positive modelling result in support of its Big Australia agenda. Garbage in, garbage out.
Carla Wilshire admits a ‘Big Australia’ will lower residents’ living standards:
Finally, after spending the whole segment arguing that mass immigration will raise Australia’s living standards, Ms Wilshire tacitly admitted that, actually, living standards will fall for those of us living in Sydney and Melbourne:
“…congestion in Sydney and Melbourne is undoubtedly getting to a point where a significant investment in infrastructure is going to have to happen. In fact, one could argue that point was some years back…
One of the ways that we are going to have to solve that problem is decreasing the per capita cost of investment in infrastructure. And migration is part of that solution…
And in some senses it is also about an acceptance that the way in which these two cities function, and the way in which we live in these two cities, is going to change over time. It’s going to be much more about apartment living. It’s going to be much more about public transport. And it’s going to be much more about sustainable cities”…
Only in the Bizarro World of the Migration Council do you solve an infrastructure deficit by adding millions more people. And only in the Migration Council’s world does having to live in shoebox apartments, suffering from greater congestion, as well as making everyone consume less of everything, just so we can make room for mass immigration, equate to higher living standards.
THE BLIND MARCH TOWARDS A ‘BIG AUSTRALIA’
Submission to the Department of Home Affairs’ Managing Australia’s Migrant Intake Review
At MacroBusiness we support immigration, but at sustainable levels.
Australia’s immigration levels are too high – higher than our cities can absorb. The infrastructure costs of high immigration are excessive and Australia’s infrastructure supply is not keeping up with demand, despite our best efforts.
The economic arguments frequently used to justify high immigration fail the evidence test. Empirical data does not support mass immigration. Excessive immigration also damages Australia’s employment market and the environment.
It is time for an honest debate.
Currently, Australia’s immigration program is overloading the major cities with tens of thousands of extra people each year to stoke overall economic growth (but not growth per person) and to support business (e.g. the property industry and retailers), despite growth per person stagnating.
Meanwhile, individual living standards are being eroded through rising congestion costs, declining housing affordability, paying more for infrastructure (e.g. toll roads and water), environmental degradation, and overall reduced amenity.
The economic evidence for the above is contained in this submission.
The Australian Government needs to stop ignoring these issues. Australia’s living standards are at stake.
MacroBusiness urges the Australian Government to reduce Australia’s immigration intake back towards the historical average of around 70,000 people per annum.
1. Australia’s immigration program is unprecedented:
One of the most profound changes affecting the Australian economy and society this century has been the massive lift in Australia’s net immigration, which surged from the early-2000s and is running at roughly triple the pace of historical norms (Chart 1).
In the 116 years following Australia’s Federation in 1901, Australia’s net overseas migration (NOM) averaged around 73,000 people a year and Australia’s population grew on average by around 180,000 people.
Over the past 12 years, however, Australia’s annual NOM has averaged nearly 220,000 people a year and Australia’s population has grown on average by 370,000 people.
The principal driver of Australia’s population increase has been the Australian Government’s permanent migrant intake, which has increased from 79,000 in 1999 to nearly 210,000 currently, including the humanitarian intake (Chart 2).
Due to this mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ policy, Australia’s population has expanded at a rate that is more than 2.5 times the OECD average, easily the fastest of advanced English-speaking nations (Chart 3).
This rapid population growth is expected to continue for decades to come, with the Australian Government’s Intergenerational Report projecting population growth of nearly 400,000 people a year – equivalent to one Canberra – until Australia’s population reaches 40 million mid-century (see Chart 1 above).
However, the problem with Australia’s mass immigration policy is not just the extreme volume, but also the concentration of migrants flowing to Australia’s largest and already most overcrowded cities.
As shown in Chart 4, around three quarters of Australia’s NOM has flowed to New South Wales and Victoria, principally Sydney and Melbourne:
In the 12 years to 2016, Melbourne’s population expanded by nearly 1.1 million (30%), while Sydney’s population expanded by 845,000 (20%). There was also strong growth in Brisbane (537,000) and Perth (502,000) (Charts 5 and 6).
The migrant influx helps to explain why dwelling price growth has been strongest in Sydney and Melbourne, and why housing is most unaffordable in these two cities (Charts 7 and 8). While the Australian Government and property lobby likes to blame a ‘lack of supply’, the problem rests primarily with excessive demand from mass immigration.
The chronic problems around housing and infrastructure will only get worse under the current mass immigration policy.
State Government projections have Melbourne’s population expanding by 97,000 people each year (1,870 people a week) and Sydney’s by 87,000 people each year (1,670 people each week) for the next several decades until both cities’ populations hit around 8 million people mid-century.
To put this population growth into perspective, consider the following facts:
- It took Sydney around 210 years to reach a population of 3.9 million in 2001. And yet the official projections have Sydney adding roughly the same number of people again in just 50 years.
- It took Melbourne nearly 170 years to reach a population of 3.3 million in 2001. In just 15 years, Melbourne expanded by 34% to 4.5 million people. And the official projections have Melbourne’s population ballooning by another 3.4 million people in just 35 years.
No matter which way you cut it, residents of our two largest cities will continue to feel the impact of this rapid population growth via: traffic gridlock; overloaded public transport, schools, and hospitals; pressures on energy and water supplies; as well as more expensive (and smaller) housing.
It is a clear recipe for lower living standards.
2. No economic bonanza:
Politicians and economists frequently claim that maintaining a ‘strong’ immigration program is essential as it keeps the population young and productive, and without constant immigration, the population would grow old and the economy would stagnate.
For example, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has stated previously that “anyone who thinks it’s smart to cut immigration is sentencing Australia to poverty”. In a similar vein, former KPMG partner and “unabashed supporter of a bigger Australia”, Bernard Salt, has produced reams of articles warning that Australia faces economic and fiscal catastrophe without ongoing strong immigration.
Economic models are often cited as proof that a strong immigration program is ‘good’ for the economy because they show that real GDP per capita is moderately increased via immigration, based on several dubious assumptions.
First, it is generally assumed in these models that population ageing will result in fewer people working, which will subtract from per capita GDP. However, it is just as likely that age-specific workforce participation will respond to labour demand, resulting in fewer people being unemployed, as we have witnessed in Japan, where the unemployment rate is below 3%.
Even if this assumption was true, the benefit to GDP per capita would only be transitory. Once the migrant workers grow old, they too will add to the pool of aged Australians, thus requiring an ever increasing immigration intake to keep the population age profile from rising.
Indeed, the Productivity Commission (PC) has for more than a decade debunked the myth that immigration can overcome population ageing. For example, in its 2010 submission to the Minister for Population, the PC explicitly noted that “substantial increases in the level of net overseas migration would have only modest effects on population ageing and the impacts would be temporary, since immigrants themselves age”.
Academic demographer, Peter McDonald, has also previously stated that it is “demographic nonsense to believe that immigration can help to keep our population young” .
Second, it is generally assumed that migrant workers are more productive than the Australian born population and, therefore, labour productivity is increased through strong immigration. However, the evidence here is highly contestable, with migrants generally being employed below the level of their qualifications, as well as having lower labour force attachment than the Australian born population (more information here).
Third, economists and their models generally ignore obvious ‘costs’ of mass immigration on productivity. Growing Australia’s population without commensurately increasing the stock of household, business and public capital to support the bigger population necessarily ‘dilutes’ Australia’s capital base, leaving less capital per person and lowering productivity. We have witnessed this first hand with the costs of congestion soaring across Australia’s big cities.
Moreover, the cost of retro-fitting our big cities with infrastructure to cope with larger populations is necessarily very expensive – think tunnelling and land acquisitions – with costs borne largely by the incumbent population. This fact was explicitly acknowledged by the PC’s recent Shifting the Dial: 5 year productivity review:
“Growing populations will place pressure on already strained transport systems… Yet available choices for new investments are constrained by the increasingly limited availability of unutilised land. Costs of new transport structures have risen accordingly, with new developments (for example WestConnex) requiring land reclamation, costly compensation arrangements, or otherwise more expensive alternatives (such as tunnels)” .
Finally, while economic models tend to show a modest improvement in real GDP per capita, the gains are more likely to flow to the wealthy, whereas ordinary workers are made worse-off.
In 2006, the PC completed a major study on the Economic Impacts of Migration and Population Growth, which modelled the impact of a 50% increase in the level of skilled migration over the 20 years to 2024-25. The modelling found that even skilled migration does not increase the incomes of existing residents. According to the Commission: “the distribution of these benefits [from skilled migration] varies across the population, with gains mostly accrued to the skilled migrants and capital owners. The incomes of existing resident workers grow more slowly than would otherwise be the case” .
Of course, there are other costs borne by incumbent residents from immigration that are not captured in the economic modelling, such as worsening congestion, increased infrastructure costs, reduced housing affordability, and environmental degradation – none of which are given appropriate consideration by politicians nor economists.
Adding a Canberra-worth of population to Australia each and every year – with 80,000 to 100,000-plus people going to Sydney and Melbourne – requires an incredible amount of investment just to keep up. Accordingly, Australia’s infrastructure deficit has fallen badly behind over the past decade, and will continue to do so under Australia’s mass immigration program, thus eroding residents’ living standards.
3. Empirical data does not support mass immigration:
While the economic models might show small per capita gains from immigration-fuelled population growth, based on faulty assumptions, the actual empirical evidence shows no link between population growth and prosperity.
Since Australia’s immigration intake was expanded in the early-2000s, trend GDP per capita growth has plummeted to recessionary levels, suggesting falling living standards (Chart 9).
Chart 10 plots the growth in GDP per capita versus population change between 2000 and 2016 across OECD nations and shows no correlation (Australia denoted in red):
Meanwhile, there is a slight negative relationship between labour productivity and population growth (Chart 11):
Whereas there is zero correlation between population growth and multifactor productivity across OECD nations:
A recent study by economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) also found “that even when we control for initial GDP per capita, initial demographic composition and diﬀerential trends by region, there is no evidence of a negative relationship between aging and GDP per capita; on the contrary, the relationship is signiﬁcantly positive in many speciﬁcations” (Chart 13).
There is also evidence to suggest that mass immigration is partly behind Australia’s trade and current account deficits, as well as the nation’s ballooning foreign debt.
The lion’s share of Australia’s export revenue comes from commodities and from Western Australia and Queensland in particular (Chart 14):
However, the majority of Australia’s imports and indeed private debt flows to our biggest states (and cities), New South Wales (Sydney) and Victoria (Melbourne). Sydney and Melbourne also happen to be the key magnets for migrants (see Charts 4,5 and 6 above).
Increasing the number of people via mass immigration does not materially boost Australia’s exports but does significantly increase imports (think flat screen TVs, imported cars, etc.). Accordingly, both New South Wales and Victoria have driven huge trade deficits as the extra imports have far outweighed exports (Chart 15):
All of these extra imports must be paid for – either by accumulating foreign debt, or by selling-off the nation’s assets. Australia has been doing both.
Australia would improve its trade balance and current account deficit, as well as reduce the need to sell-off assets and binge on debt, if it simply cut immigration.
Australia will ship the same amount of hard commodities and agriculture regardless of how many people are coming in as all the productive capacity has been set up and it doesn’t require more labour.
4. Lowering immigration would raise wages:
Hand wringing over Australia’s anaemic wages growth (Chart 16) hit fever pitch recently, with politicians, economists and media all searching for answers.
One cause that has received scant attention is the role caused by mass immigration in driving-up labour supply and reducing the bargaining power of workers.
Employer groups often argue that a strong ‘skilled’ migration program is required to overcome perceived labour shortages – a view that is supported by the Australian Government. However, the available data shows this argument to be weak.
The Department of Employment’s 2016-17 Skills Shortages report revealed that Australian skills shortages “continue to be limited in 2016-17”, and that there are a high number of applicants per job (Chart 17):
The Department of Employment also revealed a record number of Australians studying at university (Chart 18):
Of whom many graduates cannot gain meaningful employment (Chart 19):
The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ labour force data also shows that Australia’s underutilisation rate remains high, especially for Australia’s youth, despite the recent improvement in the labour market (Chart 20).
Curiously, Australia’s permanent skilled migrant intake is significantly higher today (128,550) than it was at the peak of the mining boom in 2011 (113,850). Why? Unlike then, labour shortages are “limited”, wages growth is running near the lowest level on record, and labour underutilisation is high. What is the economic rationale for running the highest permanent migrant intake on record when economic conditions do not warrant it?
Standard economic theory claims that net inward migration has minimal long-term impact on wages. That is, when the quantity of labour increases, its price (wages) falls. This will supposedly increase profits, eventually leading to more investment, increased demand for labour, and a reversal of the initial fall in wages. Immigration, so the theory goes, will enable the larger domestic population to enjoy the same incomes as the smaller population did before.
However, a recent study by Cambridge University economist, Robert Rowthorn, debunked this argument. The so-called ‘temporary’ effects of displacing incumbent workers and lower wages can last for up to ten years. And if there is a continuing influx of migrants – as is the case in Australia – rather than a one-off increase in the size of the labour force, demand for labour will constantly lag behind growth in supply .
In other words, if the Australian Government was to stem the inflow of foreign workers, then workers’ bargaining power would increase, as will wages growth. It is basic economics.
As noted in April last year by The Australia Institute’s chief economist, Richard Denniss, the very purpose of foreign worker visas is to “suppress wage growth by allowing employers to recruit from a global pool of labour to compete with Australian workers”. In a normal functioning labour market, “when demand for workers rises, employers would need to bid against each other for the available scarce talent”. But this mechanism has been bypassed by enabling employers to recruit labour globally. “It is only in recent years that the wage rises that accompany the normal functioning of the labour market have been rebranded as a ‘skills shortage'” .
Australia’s youth is effectively caught in a pincer by the Australian Government’s mass immigration program. Not only does it hold down their wages, but it also inflates their cost-of-living via more expensive housing (both prices and rents).
5. It’s time for a national debate and population policy:
The Australian Government under both the Coalition and Labor has long supported mass immigration and a ‘Big Australia’ on flawed economic grounds.
Behind the scenes, the ‘growth lobby’ of retailers, the banking sector, the property industry and erroneously named ‘think tanks’ all push the growth-ist agenda, while completely ignoring the cost burden on ordinary residents.
At the same time, many on the left pursue the globalist agenda of ‘open borders’ citing spurious social justice concerns.
Currently, there is no coherent plan other than to inundate the major cities with extra people each and every year to stoke overall economic growth (but not growth per person), to support big business (e.g. the property industry and retailers), and to prevent Australia from going into recession (despite growth per person stagnating).
Meanwhile, individual living standards are being eroded through rising congestion costs, declining housing affordability, paying more for infrastructure (e.g. toll roads, water and energy), environmental degradation, and overall reduced amenity.
Never have Australians been asked whether they want a population of 40 million-plus mid-century. Nor whether they want Sydney’s and Melbourne’s populations to swell to eight million mid-century.
Yet immigration and population growth affects every facet of Australian life, including: how long one spends stuck in traffic; whether one can get a seat on a train or a spot in hospital or school; and/or whether one can afford a good sized home within a decent commute to where one works. It is a key determinant of living standards above all else, yet is rarely questioned by the media nor politicians.
Without mainstream political representation on this issue, divisive elements like Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party have emerged to wrongly use the ills of overpopulation to attack the small number of refugees arriving in Australia, as well as Muslim and Asian immigration.
As this submission has shown, there is strong justification to reduce Australia’s permanent migrant intake back to historical levels primarily by slashing skilled migration, which has been the driver of the influx. This would take the strain off the major cities, put a floor under wages growth, and safeguard Australia’s environment.
Australia could achieve such immigration cuts without affecting its global obligations via the humanitarian migrant intake. Indeed, much of Australia’s 130,000 strong permanent skilled migrant intake comes from countries where skills are more desperately needed than in Australia. Australia’s immigration program is depriving these countries of skills, and we have a moral obligation to limit the brain drain.
More broadly, Australia desperately needs a national debate and a population strategy, led by the Australian Government. The Government needs to conduct a population plebiscite asking Australians how big they want the nation to become, and then set immigration policy accordingly. The Australian Government also needs to provide a comprehensive plan detailing how and where it will accommodate all the extra people, while safeguarding incumbent residents’ living standards.
[Candobetter.net Editor: This submission was made available as a pdf attachment to an earlier article. It is such a useful document that we have converted the pdf version to a web document for easier reading.]
Submission in response to the issues paper on Managing Australia’s Migrant Intake
Peter G Cook, MA PhD
2 February 2018
It is commendable that the Australian government, through the Department of Home Affairs, is seeking to broaden its consultation with the Australian public about the future shape of Australia’s migrant intake. This is consistent with Recommendation 3.1 of the recent Productivity Commission report  , Migrant Intake into Australia, that:
The Australian Government should:
• develop and articulate a population policy to be published with the intergenerational report
• specify that the primary objective of immigration and the Government’s population policy is to maximise the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the Australian community (existing Australian citizens and permanent residents) and their future offspring.
Australia’s immigration and population policy should be better informed through:
• genuine community engagement
• a broad range of evidence on the economic, social and environmental impacts of immigration and population growth on the wellbeing of the Australian community
• a published five yearly review of Australia’s population policy.
The Australian Government should calibrate the size of the annual immigration intake to be consistent with its population policy objectives.
It is to be hoped that this current Departmental consultation is just the first step towards implementation of the remaining parts of the Productivity Commission’s Recommendation 3.1. In particular, towards the ongoing development of an explicit population policy which would draw upon a wide range of input and evidence from government, the community, other stakeholders and experts. As the Commission points out in Finding 3.1, Australia has low and stable rates of natural population growth, therefore “decisions about the size of the permanent and temporary immigration intake amount to a de facto population policy.”
If migrant intake planning is not integrated with a broader, systematic and explicit focus on population policy, then planning for migrant intake is not doing justice to the great importance which this matter holds for the national interest.
The following brief comments may be of interest in the Department’s consideration of the questions which it has raised in the issues paper. I have organized the comments under some of the relevant questions posed in the issues paper. I draw considerably upon the Productivity Commission’s report because this is a major work of synthesis which draws upon a large range of expert evidence and community input. While I do not necessarily agree with all of the Commission’s conclusions, it is vital that this report be closely studied within government and that its major findings and recommendations (eg Recommendation 3.1) be acted upon.
Underlying my comments throughout is the following policy prescription which represents my viewpoint, and which I commend to the Department:
Australia must stabilize its population at less than 30 million people. This can be done through a gradual tapering of our net overseas migration towards zero. This could be initiated by an immediate reduction, by some twenty thousand, of the annual migrant intake from its current level of 190,000. Further reductions could be implemented over time to a point where intake is approximately equal to annual emigration – previous estimates have suggested this could be approx. 70,000 places, which is also considered to be around the historical 20th century average annual intake.
1. What factors are important to consider in planning the Migration Program over the next five years? Would those factors change over the next 10 or 15 years? If so, how?
If by ‘factors’ it is meant something like ‘goals’ or ‘criteria’ for assessing what size the migrant intake should be, then the key factors are:
- The quality of life (well-being) of the Australian people, in particular a quality of life that is not continually being degraded as it is presently by increasing congestion and deteriorating infrastructure in our main cities, due to high levels of immigration-fuelled population growth.
- The price of housing is surely a key factor for both the quality of life and standard of living of Australians. In its Finding 7.1 the Productivity Commission reached the unambiguous conclusion that: “High rates of immigration put upward pressure on land and housing prices in Australia’s largest cities. Upward pressures are exacerbated by the persistent failure of successive state, territory and local governments to implement sound urban planning and zoning policies.”
- The continuing destruction of ecosystems (habitat for human and non-human creatures) and agricultural land in Australia’s urban fringes, caused by urban sprawl. This may not necessarily be caused directly by immigrants but it is caused by immigration-fuelled population growth. This destruction needs to be much more closely controlled, if not called to a complete halt.
- The alternative to continual expansion of housing outwards into peri-urban areas – namely inappropriate infill projects that destroy traditional urban and suburban neighbourhoods – is equally unacceptable. For a perfect example of such ugly and inappropriate inner city development, look no further than the inner suburbs of Brisbane such as Newstead, Fortitude Valley and West End, where 20 or 30 story (and higher) high rise apartments are being packed together like so many upended and oversized shipping containers. Urban infill must also be reduced and much more tightly controlled for aesthetic, amenity and sustainability reasons.
- The Productivity Commission report also noted that: “Population growth also increases the pressure on environmental services where these are major inputs into the provision of a range of water, sewerage and sanitation services. These too can be resolved by investing in more technical solutions, adding to the cost of living.”
For each of the above criteria, the indicators are going backwards: more congestion, more crowded amenities, higher housing prices in the biggest cities, unsightly and shabbily built high rises, higher costs for environmental services and, finally, destruction of biodiversity and vital agricultural land.
The Productivity Commission report clearly recognized the population pressures that Australia’s current high levels of immigration places upon our cities and our environment, and concluded that “Without substantial change in policy settings and the effectiveness of government action, high levels of population growth will impose adverse impacts on the quality of Australia’s environment.” (p. 333)
2. How can we plan migration to ensure it is balanced to manage the impact on the economy, society, infrastructure and the environment in a sustainable way?
At the risk of being repetitive, the only hope of ‘planning migration’ to manage the impacts mentioned, is to make the planning part of the development of a population policy which is well-integrated into the machinery of government at all levels in Australia. The purpose of a population policy is to enable the setting of objectives for Australia’s future, and in particular:
(a) What is the ‘absorptive capacity’ (to use the Productivity Commission’s phrase) of our natural environment and social infrastructure to accommodate further population growth?
(b) what should be the size of our population in order to keep at or (preferably) well below this absorptive capacity, and still enable a reasonable level of well-being for all of us human inhabitants along with all the other creatures with whom we share this planet?
It is probably obvious, but perhaps still should be stated, that population policy assumes that the size of a country’s population is, in fact, under the control of the inhabitants of that country, at least to some degree. This would seem to be a reasonable assumption, particularly in the case of Australia, where the level of population growth can be altered by a simple administrative decision made annually – namely what is going to be the prescribed migrant intake for the coming year. This decision need not cause the sort of angst about interfering in personal reproductive decisions that might be the case if the decision was about trying to influence the rate of natural population increase in Australia.
And yet, despite this seeming to be a no-brainer, governments have, in the main, shied away from developing population policy. In doing so they have committed Australia to a default policy of unending population increase, driven overwhelmingly by those special interests who can clamour the loudest to seek the spoils from, for example, the unending subdivisions of land and construction of new ‘development’ required to meet new population-driven demand.
By refusing to entertain discussion about possible constraints to unending population increase, there is an absurd scenario where Australia could continue growing at the same rate of increase until it reaches 100 million people, or 200 million people, and beyond. Although there are some players (eg wealthy property developer Harry Triguboff) who actually hope for this scenario of not merely a ‘big Australia’ but a ‘gigantic Australia’, is this scenario actually what the government, or indeed most of the Australian people, wants? If not, then wouldn’t it be wise to develop a population policy which explores what the Australian community does want?
This is where the Productivity Commission’s report makes a critical intervention in calling for an injection of democracy into the whole area of migration planning and population policy:
…decisions on the migrant intake should be part of a transparent population policy based on well-informed engagement with the Australian community so that the policy reflects the preferences of the broader community as well as businesses. (Migrant Intake into Australia, p. 244)
Not only do I totally concur with the Commission’s assessment on this point, but also with its scepticism that the current operation of our parliamentary democracy is serving us well when it comes to migration and population issues:
Consistent with a large body of political economy literature, the opinion of many participants … is that Australia’s system of parliamentary democracy has an in-built predisposition towards ‘hearing’ from certain stakeholders (who typically have a vested interest and are well organised). In contrast, members of parliament are less likely to ‘hear’ from affected constituents for whom the effect of a policy change is individually small, but is large when added up over many constituents. The debate surrounding tariff reductions is one historical example of this type of imbalance. Debates surrounding immigration and population policy may be subject to a similar imbalance. (p. 106)
The Commission goes further, to politely highlight the fact that the ‘incentives’ for the various stakeholders are not ‘aligned’. There is a key difference between the incentives of:
businesses who benefit from the increased supply of labour and, with this, demand for their goods and services, and [the incentives of] members of the community, as reflected in the large number of submissions raising concerns about house prices, congestion, and other environmental impacts. Even if all of the concerns raised are not proven, these views do need to be taken into account in setting the migrant intake. (p. 243)
Had it been published at the time, I wonder whether the Commission could also have made good use of the cogent arguments and evidence presented by Cameron Murray and Paul Frijters in their book Game of Mates (2017)  , which lifts the lid on the way the decisions of various levels of government are used to distribute the spoils of property development and other industries to those ‘in the know’. This is not necessarily by means of overt, legally definable corruption (although it can be) but more a revolving door system of mutual back-rubbing in which everyone in the know wins a prize.
So in summary to answer question 2: For all of the above reasons, particularly dominance by large special interests and the existence of decision making processes at all levels of government that are lubricated by the circulation of rewards to a limited number of insider ‘players’, the Commission’s recommendation 3.1 must be implemented in full. That is the only hope we have to ‘plan migration’ to ensure it is balanced to manage the impact on the economy, society, infrastructure and the environment in a sustainable way.
3. How can governments, industries and communities help ensure infrastructure and services best support migration as well as the broader population?
i. Do you think migration is currently being planned with a sufficient view of Australia’s long-term needs?
ii. If not, how could these considerations be better incorporated?
In short, the answer to (i) is a definite no. But to go back a little, the phrasing of the main part of question 3 is a little strange in the way it seems to put support for migration ahead of the general population, when you would think it should be the other way round.
Be that as it may, we can draw again on the Commission’s report to highlight that Australia’s infrastructure and services are patently not keeping up with increasing demand generated in large part from immigration-fuelled population growth.
The Commission issues a number of devastating judgements on this matter, including its Finding 7.1 (above) which refers to “the persistent failure of successive state, territory and local governments to implement sound urban planning and zoning policies.” The Commission also notes that, “[a]s past Commission reports have identified, state, territory and local governments have not always distinguished themselves in managing the environmental implications of population growth.” (p. 239)
This is a matter of obvious frustration for the Commission, which patiently (re)explains that:
..it is important that there are appropriate coordination and governance
arrangements in place to help deliver better planning outcomes. Although as has been noted previously) coordination is strong in some planning areas, it is weak in others (PC 2011f). The Commission enunciated principles of good governance — transparency, accountability and responsibility, and capability — as part of its inquiry into public infrastructure (PC 2014c). The recommendations made by that inquiry remain valid, and in view of the population pressures created by immigration even more important. High immigration rates only reinforces the need to get planning right, and attention to the ability of cities to absorb immigrants should be part of the consideration in determining the migrant intake. (p.241)
The Commission tends to have a predilection for market-based solutions for many of these planning issues – something of which the present author is not so readily persuaded – but it is interesting that the Commission also seems sympathetic to a proposal that:
clear and enforced outcome-based codes and standards that apply suburb wide and can be assessed by a builder, surveyor or consultant should replace the more lengthy and often discretionary local government processes or approval. For this to work, buildings that do not comply need to be forced to do so or be demolished at the expense of those who assessed the building as compliant. Codes would also need to cover all the issues that existing residents care about, such as maintenance of privacy, limiting overshadowing, and traffic management. (p. 230, emphasis added)
Such is the level of frustration that the Commission seems prepared to entertain some rather drastic measures.
To summarise, it is clear that there are multiple failures in Australia’s ability to cope with the immigration-fuelled population growth that is thrust upon this country annually by administrative fiat. The Commission has unambiguously called out this failure of governance and planning in its Migrant Intake report.
The question then is, what to do about it? One idea which comes to mind is to say, ‘well, if immigration-fuelled population growth is adding to the stresses and strains on Australia’s environment, services and infrastructure, and if this is being exacerbated due to failed planning and governance processes – then perhaps it would be a good idea to slow down the rate of population increase by reducing the annual migrant intake. Perhaps this could be done just for a few years to give us some breathing space while we embark on institutional and planning reform, including population policy development, which will greatly increase our adaptive capacity, improve the quality of life for the vast majority of us, and give the Australian community some sense of ownership over the direction in which the country is heading.’
Such a course of action could be undertaken irrespective of whether one thinks that, in the longer run, Australia could or should end up with a population of 50 million or even 100 or 200 million (and so this temporary reduction could be seen as ‘preparation for the deluge’) – or whether one sees this action as the beginning a more prolonged reduction in migrant intake to eventually reach a stabilised level of population.
It could also be done, dare it be said, with an eye to various political side-benefits which have to do with the apparently growing concern within the Australian community about the impact of immigration upon social cohesion. Although this topic is not a focus of the current submission, there is no doubt a significant segment, if not a majority, of the Australian community with such concerns, including a great number on the conservative side of politics. Depending upon how they are framed (ie in non-racist terms), these concerns should not be automatically dismissed outright and without careful consideration – social cohesion is indeed an important societal goal.
And yet, for all the apparent merits of this simple idea to significantly reduce the migrant intake just for a few years, one has the feeling that this idea would not be able to ‘get up’, as they say. Why is that? It has a lot to do with the problems or our democracy highlighted in the previous section: The special interests are indeed very ‘special’, and the mates are indeed very good mates with the other players in the rewards game.
4. Does the current size and balance of the Migration Program reflect the economic and social needs of Australia?
i. What information do you need about migration? Would information about future migration planning levels numbers assist you?
Probably enough has been said already in order for the reader to accurately predict that my answer to question 4 is a categorical no – and some of the reasons for this should be clear from the above.
In terms of question 4 (i), there is very definitely some extra information that would assist me and the Australian community to have more informed discussion about Australia’s (nascent) population policy.
One of these, highlighted in the Commission’s report, is the need for ongoing systematic research into Australia’s ‘absorptive capacity’, which the Commission defines as:
the capacity of the market and non-market sectors to respond to the increased demand for goods and services induced by immigration and population growth. A sustainable rate of immigration (and population growth) is one that gives all residents the opportunity to engage productively in the economy and the community. It is also a rate that does not put undue burden on the environment to the extent that it undermines the wellbeing of existing and future generations. However, a rate of immigration that is defined as ‘sustainable’ may not necessarily be one that maximises community-wide wellbeing. (p. 3, emphasis added)
In one of Commission’s concluding chapters, on long-term impacts of migrant intake, it makes the following interesting observations:
A positive rate of immigration that is within Australia’s absorptive capacity and oriented towards young and skilled immigrants is likely to deliver net benefits to the Australian community over the long term.
However, there are various weaknesses inherent in current processes surrounding immigration policy decision making, particularly in terms of their ability to take into account broader and longer-term considerations (chapter 3 and finding3.1).
Taken together, these issues raise questions as to whether, without changes to increase Australia’s absorptive capacity, the annual intake (which is currently at historically high levels) is consistent with achieving a population that at least sustains (and over time maximises) the wellbeing of the Australian community. (p. 367, emphasis added)
In that context, I support the Commission’s very important Recommendation 10.1 of the Migrant Intake report:
The Australian Government should fund the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to publish projections of the likely impact of varying rates of population growth on the built and natural environment. This analysis could form part of the CSIRO’s National Outlook publication.
The release of this analysis should be synchronised with the release of the Australian Government’s Intergenerational Report
It is only proper that this important task be undertaken by a respected and independent body such as the CSIRO. This is despite there being some questions raised about the plausibility of certain scenarios described in its recent National Outlook project. However, such issues can be further reviewed during CSIRO’s continuing work on this matter.
There is also clearly a need for ongoing studies of public attitudes and values relating to population growth, immigration, and the desired future for Australia. It would be preferable if there were funding for ongoing (eg annual or two-yearly) tracking studies on these topics.
5. How could the permanent Migration Program be more responsive to global migration trends, including the rise of temporary migration?
First of all, let it be said that there will never be a shortage of people wanting to migrate to Australia. National pride aside, there can be no doubt we have a quality of life that is second to none. The challenge is that such quality of life is deteriorating due in part to immigration-fuelled population growth.
The interest in migrating to Australia can be only expected to increase during the remainder of this century. This will include more pressure for temporary migration.
Many experts point to a series of inter-related ecological and energy problems (including of course climate change) which are intensifying on a global basis and multiplied by global population increase to 9 or 10 billion (or more) before the end of this century. This is very likely to make the 21st century an era characterised by slow or no growth and looming threats to the adequacy of global food supply due to increasing population, climate change and peak oil. It will definitely be an epoch of large and increasing movement of populations responding to war, social and environmental disruption, and the search for a better quality of life.
This future scenario may be unpalatable and does not square easily with the orderly world assumed by economic modelling or the short-term growth fix sought by politicians. No one can know the future exactly, but the above scenario is a very plausible one supported by an abundance of expert analysis. 
If such a scenario eventuates it can be fully expected that there will be immense pressure on Australia to further ‘open its borders’ to some degree or other. By all means we should offer a generous refugee quota and an even more generous, well-targeted foreign aid budget which aims to improve quality of life at source and thus obviating the need for people to migrate to new lands for the sake of survival or improvement.
However, I submit that no matter how much such global population pressures grow, we need to adhere to a goal of a stable population at no more than 30 million. That is the way to guarantee a rich, biodiverse, thriving Australian continent and an ongoing high quality of life.
 Productivity Commission, Migrant Intake Into Australia, Inquiry Report No. 77, (2016) Canberra, Australia.
 Cameron Murray and Paul Frijters, Game of Mates, 2017. Published by the authors. www.gameofmates.com
 Betts, Katharine, and Bob Birrell. "Australian voters’ views on immigration policy." Australian Institute of Population Research (October 2017). http://tapri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/TAPRI-survey-19-Oct-2017-final-3.pdf
 Alexander, Samuel, Jonathan Rutherford, and Joshua Floyd. "A Critique of the Australian National Outlook Decoupling Strategy: A ‘Limits to Growth’ Perspective." Ecological Economics 145 (2018): 10-17.
 See, for example: Moriarty, Patrick, and Damon Honnery. "Three futures: Nightmare, diversion, vision." World Futures (2017): 1-17; McBain, Bonnie, Manfred Lenzen, Mathis Wackernagel, and Glenn Albrecht. "How long can global ecological overshoot last?." Global and Planetary Change 155 (2017): 13-19; Ripple, William J., Christopher Wolf, Thomas M. Newsome, Mauro Galetti, Mohammed Alamgir, Eileen Crist, Mahmoud I. Mahmoud, William F. Laurance, and 15,364 scientist signatories from 184 countries. "World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice." BioScience 67, no. 12 (2017): 1026-1028.
It is a peculiarity of Australian policy making that a decision with major import for our society, economy and environment — namely the size of our annual intake of permanent migrants — is made in virtual secrecy and announced in an obscure line of the annual budget papers and an equally obscure line of a Departmental press release. The decision is important because our prescribed annual migrant intake (last year it was set at 190,000) makes a large contribution to Australia’s annual population growth.
According the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in the year to 30 June 2017, our population grew by 388,100 to 24,598,900 people. We are adding people in numbers equivalent to a city the size of Canberra, every year. Net overseas migration (NOM) contributed 245,400 or 63.3% to this increase, while ‘natural’ increase was only 36.8% or 142,700 people. NOM is overwhelmingly the biggest contributor to our annual population increase, which at an annual growth rate of 1.6% is one of the highest in the OECD, in third place after Luxemborg and Switzerland. These facts are worth re-stating here because many people may not be aware just how much immigration is contributing to our very high rate of population growth (including a red-hot 2.3% in Victoria).
In turn, this population growth is putting pressure on housing prices, infrastructure, services and the environment.
However, a small change has occurred this year. For what is probably the first time, the Department of Home Affairs (formerly Immigration) has sought public submissions on the question of what are the ‘right’ settings for migrant intake. I have contributed a submission here (PDF). It is possible that this new step has been taken as a result of the recommendations of the Productivity Commissions report on Migrant Intake into Australia. This report, to which yours truly contributed two submissions, is a major work of synthesis which draws on a wide range of community and expert evidence.
It is important that the findings of this report be fully studied and the major recommendations implemented. One of the most important is Recommendation 3.1, for the Australian government to develop an explicit population policy to serve as a context for making decisions about migrant intake. A significant part of the Commission’s findings and recommendations are for more public consultation and input into the development of the proposed population policy, and into decisions about migrant intake in particular. In short, the Commission is calling for an injection of democracy into this whole policy area.
In the past I have been critical of the Productivity Commission for its narrow economic focus and lack of attention to broader sustainability issues. However in this case it is important to give credit where it is due. The Commission has made some important findings relating to the impact of immigration-fuelled population growth upon the environment, society and economy — albeit still discussed within an orthodox and unadventurous framework of economic analysis.
My submission [or submission second location] to the latest invitation by the Department of Home Affairs, goes into some detail to highlight the important findings and recommendations of the Commission report.
This article was first published at http://www.peakdecisions.org/2018/02/managing-australias-migrant-intake-submission-dept-home-affairs/, Peter Cook's blog, "Peak Decisions."
See the full submission as a web page here: "Peter Cook's very useful submission on immigration to Dept Home Affairs".
Australian Dick Smith, techie, environmentalist who founded National Geographic, and millionaire, has recently attempted to educate Australians about the wealthy population growth lobby in their country, which benefits from Australia's rapid immigration-fueled population growth whilst the rest of us pay the cost. To do this, he has run his own expensive campaing, including taking out expensive ads in newspapers. Among other things, Smith has decribed Australia's public media, the ABC, as biased in its failure to fairly report the costs of population growth. We on candobetter.net cannot help but be impressed at his community spirit. Are Dick Smith’s ads having an effect on population reporting further afield? Maybe. Here's an example of what we hope may be a new trend in truthful reporting on the matter by the ABC.
Usual ABC ideology
As everyone knows, migrants don’t take jobs they make jobs. Migrants provide employers with welcome additional labour, but somehow the usual laws of supply and demand do not apply here.
This increased supply of labour never reduces the value of labour. It never harms the negotiating position of workers seeking better wages and conditions, or their chance of getting a job. Only a nasty rather “racist” person could doubt these self-evident truths, which seem to be well known to all ABC journalists—or maybe it is simply a well known fact that you won’t survive in the ABC news area if you question these assumptions. Yet perhaps some of the ABC’s business reporters are getting tired of keeping up this pretence.
Is a chink of light creeping by the ABC censors after all?
On 22 December 2017 the ABC’s business reporter Carrington Clarke nonchalantly filed a piece titled, Australian wages stall, as immigration soars.
How can such heresy be allowed?
According to Clarke, the 1,000 extra people being added to our population every day doesn't necessarily make life any better for the people who live in the country and arguably, makes it a lot worse.
This are more people competing for jobs and housing, pushing down wages and pushing up property prices. Australia's population growth is extraordinarily high when compared to our global peers, at 1.6 per cent per year. This is more than double the rate of the US, nearly three times the rate of the UK, and four times the rate of France.
On current projections, Australia will hit 38 million people by 2050.
This high rate of population growth is driven mostly by high immigration. Net migration was 245,400 people over the past 12 months — which was a 27.1 per cent increase over the year before.
That's more than the total population of Hobart in new migrants coming to the country in a single year.
Huge supply of imported workers add to Australia's high unemployment rate
This is also a huge additional supply of workers (although a proportion would be children or the elderly). The simple economic rule of supply and demand means these new workers effectively lower the price of labour, which means lower wages.
(On that last statement, see Clarke’s article 2 days earlier http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-19/high-immigration-masks-australian-economic-decline/8193628 with its subsections “Population growth distorting housing, labour markets”, and “Bigger pie, but more mouths eating from it”. Clarke quotes “Gareth Aird, Senior Economist at the Commonwealth Bank” saying “if you had a lower immigration rate at a time where there is spare capacity in the labour market that's not a bad thing.” Clarke concludes:
"The reason why many people feel that they haven't benefitted from the Australia's long stretch of economic expansion, is quite simply because they haven't. Their pay packets haven't gotten bigger while the costs of essential goods like shelter have risen. High migration makes it nearly impossible for Australia to fall into recession. The economy keeps getting bigger just because there are more people operating in it. It's great for business, because it keeps wages low and there's more people to buy stuff from them. It's great for governments because it means economic growth looks better than it otherwise would. But it isn't necessarily good for ordinary workers."
Now back to Clarke’s 22/12/2017 article. He continues:
"Australia is not currently anywhere near full employment. At 5.4 per cent unemployment, Australia is well above the US which is sitting at 4.1 per cent and the UK at 4.2 per cent.
There are currently 707,000 unemployed Australians. These are people currently looking for work. But that's only part of the story as there are currently about 1.1 million Australians who are 'underemployed'. These are people who are currently working (perhaps as little as one hour a week) but want to work more hours. So the number of Australians currently looking for more work is 1.8 million.
There is still a huge amount of 'slack' in the labour market which is keeping people from getting a decent pay rise. Companies are much less likely to offer big pay rises to workers if they know there's a big supply of other workers who are desperate for a job or more hours. . . . [The resulting ] economic 'growth' hasn't made a sizeable difference to the amount of Australians unemployed and has left us with the worst wages growth since the 1960s.
Companies are benefiting from this huge increase in workers and consumers. New migrants buy more things, which helps keep the tills ringing. And new migrants also mean more potential workers, which keeps wages down. This can be seen in the most recent profit figures, with companies experiencing a 27 per cent increase in profits in a year while workers received less than 2 per cent in wage increases. With 1.8 million people out of work or looking for more hours and 250,000 new migrants moving to the country each year, there's very little incentive for bosses to give workers a big rise.
Which is why, despite '1,000 new jobs a day', workers are getting a raw deal."
An example of the effect of the liberalisation of labor laws combined with massive increase in economic immigration in Australia. See more about how this came about in Australia. The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured almost $400,000 in penalties against a company and three individuals – including an HR manager – for systematically exploiting overseas workers at a Chinese restaurant in NSW and fabricating records to try to cover it up. The penalties have been imposed in the Federal Court after 85 employees at the New Shanghai Charlestown restaurant at Charlestown were underpaid a total of $583,688 over a 16-month period in 2013-2014. Justice Robert Bromwich has imposed a $54,672 penalty against the mastermind of the exploitation, restaurant owner Zhong Yuan “John” Chen, and penalised his company NSH North Pty Ltd a further $301,920. Justice Bromwich imposed a $18,496 penalty against restaurant manager Jin Xu for her involvement in the exploitation – and in addition, imposed a $21,760 penalty against the restaurant’s HR manager Ting “Sarah” Zhu, dismissing her argument that her culpability was greatly reduced because she had been following her boss’s orders.
The penalties are the result of an investigation and legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman. Fair Work inspectors found that many workers at the restaurant – mostly visa holders from Asia – were paid as little as $10 an hour.
Under the Restaurant Industry Award at the time, most were entitled to be paid more than $20 an hour for ordinary hours and between $24 and $45 an hour for weekend, public holiday and overtime work. One employee was underpaid more than $33,000.
When the Fair Work Ombudsman began its investigation, NSH North provided fabricated records to inspectors that purported to show staff had been paid correctly.
The company later provided the true employment records, only after the issue was raised with them by the Fair Work Inspector and a further Notice to Produce issued, showing the unlawfully low, flat rates the employees were actually paid.
Justice Bromwich found that the contraventions involved “serious and premeditated conduct” and “encompassed a widespread, systematic and prolonged failure to accord employees their basic entitlements”.
NSH North has rectified more than $450,000 of the underpayments and is attempting to locate the employees who have not yet been back-paid. For any employees who cannot be located, the company will pay the amounts owing to the Commonwealth to be held in trust for the employees.
NSH North, Chen, Xu and Zhu all admitted in Court that they were involved in deliberately underpaying the workers and making use of fabricated records.
However, Zhu, whose duties included processing payroll and arranging staff wage payments, submitted that her culpability was reduced due to the fact she was at all times acting under the direction of Chen.
At the time of the underpayments, Zhu was being sponsored by a related company, NSH Restaurants Pty Ltd, on a 457 skilled worker visa and was being paid an annual salary of $100,000.
Justice Bromwich rejected Zhu’s submission, finding she had “acted in her own interests” in choosing to be a knowing participant in the underpayments and in taking an active role in the creation of false records.
“There is nothing wrong with sending the message that an employee should indeed resign if that is the only alternative to continuing to participate knowingly in illegal activity, ideally coupled with reporting the conduct, in a case such as this, to the FWO,” Justice Bromwich said.
Zhu argued in Court that her position as a 457 visa holder with familial and cultural pressures of loyalty to Chen made her vulnerable and should be a mitigating factor.
“In no sense was Ms Sarah Zhu a victim of the conduct. If this aspect of Ms Sarah Zhu’s circumstances is really mitigation at all, it cannot be given much weight. That is so both as a matter of public policy in requiring individuals to put compliance with the law ahead of their personal interests, and having regard to Ms Sarah Zhu’s knowledge that the law was being disobeyed for the entire period of over 16 months. Moreover, she took an active role in the attempt to thwart the FWO investigation,” Justice Bromwich said.
Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah says the outcome of the matter sends a clear message that the Fair Work Ombudsman is committed to using accessorial liability laws to hold individuals involved in exploiting vulnerable workers to account.
“Rogue business owners and managers who think they can run operations based on exploitation of vulnerable workers and then try to hide behind corporate structures or flimsy excuses are playing with fire,” Ms Hannah said.
“We are committed to actively seeking them out, dismantling their unlawful business models, making sure the public are aware of the actions and ensuring they are penalised for their conduct. Business models based on exploitation of employees to gain an unfair commercial advantage are unacceptable.
“Where we find blatant exploitative conduct, we will do everything within our power to ensure that all accessories to that conduct are held to account.
“This includes taking action against not only business owners and directors – but also any HR practitioners, accountants, industrial relations specialists and any other professionals involved in knowingly facilitating exploitation of employees.
“HR managers and other specialists must explain the requirements to their clients, make it clear when they are in danger of breaking them and not become involved in breaches of the law themselves,” Ms Hannah said.
The Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 has now come into effect, increasing the maximum penalties for conduct including deliberate exploitation of workers and false records.
“The maximum penalties available for serious exploitative conduct that occurs today or in the future are now significantly higher than were available to be imposed in matters such as this one - and we will not hesitate to seek maximum penalties from the courts when it is in the public interest,” she said.
Employers and employees can visit https://www.fairwork.gov.au/ or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance about their rights and obligations in the workplace.
Source of article: Fairwork Ombudsman, distributed by AAP.
“The big issues we feel are job security, housing affordability, planning in our suburbs and our environment. And all of those major indicators are going backwards with this onslaught of rapid population growth. So, it’s changing our daily lives. It’s gone beyond some big number into the future. It’s actually hitting us in the face when we drive out of our driveway in the morning and we try and get to work. Or when we try to look up a job when we try to get our next opportunity. Or when we look at our green space in our suburb that’s disappearing. Or looking at our urban heritage… that’s just being bulldozed for this highrise development”. (William Bourke, Sustainable Australia Party, speaking on 3AW to Neil Mitchell)
William Bourke writes:
The release of the Census data this week shows that Australia’s population expanded by 372,805 people over the year to December 2016 to 24,385,625 people. There is no political mandate for this extreme and unsustainable growth. In the fight for an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable Australia, our party publicly questions this growth. It's a tough job...
Day after day the unholy alliance of big business and the globalist new left send out their propaganda merchants to try to stigmatise anyone questioning Australia's extreme level of immigration-fuelled population growth. But we won't be bullied. We won't cower.
We need a sensible level of immigration. We also know that the silent majority, that lacks the media voice of the abovementioned minority groups, rejects the ideological and greed-driven 'big Australia' agenda.
By the way, what ever happened to the old, real left - that cared about workers' rights and the environment?
Jobs, Housing, Planning, Environment
As a centrist party, Sustainable Australia will continue to fight this extreme growth agenda. We know that unless we do, we can't achieve a sustainable Australia with secure jobs, affordable housing, better planning and a sustainable environment. As part of a broader policy mix, we must return annual permanent immigration - from a record of over 200,000 - back to the long term average of 70,000.
This week I took this message to the media including 3AW's Neil Mitchell.
Macrobusiness published the text of the interview on 3AW and candobetter.net is republishing it here:
Mitchell: “When you look at these [Census] figures, how do you argue it’s changing Australia?”
Bourke: “It’s changing Australian in every way possible. We need to talk about the numbers rather than having racial rants. This is about an Australia being better rather than being ever-bigger. There’s no mandate for this rapid population growth. No party has taken this to an election, so that’s the starting point”.
Mitchell: “How is it changing the country…”?
Bourke: “The big issues we feel are job security, housing affordability, planning in our suburbs and our environment. And all of those major indicators are going backwards with this onslaught of rapid population growth. So, it’s changing our daily lives. It’s gone beyond some big number into the future. It’s actually hitting us in the face when we drive out of our driveway in the morning and we try and get to work. Or when we try to look up a job when we try to get our next opportunity. Or when we look at our green space in our suburb that’s disappearing. Or looking at our urban heritage… that’s just being bulldozed for this highrise development”.
Mitchell: “Do you believe that immigration should be based on race?”
Bourke: “Absolutely not. It’s an issue of numbers. The real issue is that the permanent immigration program to Australia – which is the key driver of our population growth… The key driver of our rapid population growth is our record immigration program of around 200,000 per year. That is triple the long-term average of 70,000 per year. And that’s why places like Victoria are growing by 150,000 people a year rather than its traditional 50,000 per year”
“All we need to do is wind that [immigration] back to what it was 20-years ago to that long-term average – no discrimination based on race or religion or any of those things – just dial it back to the long-term average”…
We won't give up. Join the fight today.
Monthly coffee meet up
We're starting monthly coffee meet ups across Australia, on the first Sunday of the month. Initially this will be in Brisbane and Canberra.
You'll be able to meet like-minded people, join the party (via your mobile phone!) and pick up stickers and flyers. Stay tuned for more locations in coming weeks and months.
Speaking of stickers, we can post you one (or two) for free, with 20 letterbox flyers for your street and/or family and friends. Please simply ask us via the contact us link below. Include your postal address if you're not a member.
New website address
This week we changed our main website address from VoteSustainable.org.au to SustainableAustralia.org.au. There may be a few short-term disruptions, including to website links in recent eNewsletters. [Candobetter.net Editor: Just use a search engine like https://duckduckgo.com to go to these addresses. Candobetter.net has not linked directly to these sites because they do not have SSL certificates - which is really no big deal - except that it makes Chrome and Firefox browsers remove the 'green triangle' from our site if we link directly and some readers then think there is something wrong. Sorry for the boring technicality.]
: Newsletter from William Bourke of Sustainable Australia
Long term Aussie Residents, including many who have constructed their own park cabins, and are exemplary for living a sustainable lifestyle on limited means, now face the full onslaught of Chinese demographic and economic imperialism acquiesced to by Liberal, Labor and Green politicians. (This article comes from a member of Australia First and Candobetter.net is publishing it because Australia First is attempting to represent these Wantirna Caravan Park residents in its program to support relocalisation and a small population in Australia.)
Chinese purchasers, apparently lacking feeling for the caravan park, or its natural outlook which enhances the local area, want to exploit the land for building and $$$$ speculating on 294 dogbox houses. On current trends they are likely to be sold to prospective Chinese immigrants in the continuation of the large stream we are already experiencing. In this way incoming immigrants will displace the caravan park residents.
Stiff luck to Aussie Residents who are to be booted out to make way!
This abysmal treatment of dispossession results from the politicians opening the floodgates for foreign “investments.”
It is even rumoured that a Liberal Party Chinese Branch for local Deakin Electorate is likely to be formed to enhance support from Chinese money.
Australia First says Stand up for Aussies - No Exceptions! And, no dispossession of Caravan Park residents.
Support the Australia First Petition directing political representatives to
[I] refrain from any redevelopment permits, and
[ii] for Legislation to compulsory acquire the Wantirna Caravan Park for Public Housing Land, under co-operative management including by existing Residents, and
[iii] close down foreign money buying out our Australia.
Dick Smith queries Lucy Turnbull’s Perpetual Population Growth Plan. In a half page advertisement featuring in major newspapers tomorrow morning, including the Daily Telegraph in Sydney,
The Sydney Morning Herald, the Financial Review and The Australian, Dick Smith is asking Lucy Turnbull, the chief planner for Sydney, just what her eventual plans are for the population of Sydney – querying whether it could be 16 or even 100 million.
Dick Smith says, “All of the major political parties, including The Greens, spruik perpetual growth. It is easy to see why Pauline Hanson’s policy to reduce immigration from 200,000 per year to a more sustainable 70,000 is gaining more support.”
Dick Smith also asks Lucy Turnbull, “How are we going to find jobs for these extra people?” Pointing out that with modern robotics and automation there are going to be less jobs.
Dick Smith asks Lucy if we are going to come up with a final plan for population, or are we going to “leave it for our children or grandchildren to solve.”
During the 2015-2016 financial year, more than 2600 health workers were brought into Australia via government-sponsored 457 visas on the basis they were needed for jobs that could not be filled by Australians. Of these 1692 were general practitioners and resident medical officers, 228 registered nurses, 35 specialists, 38 psychiatrists, 28 surgeons, 19 anesthetists and 20 midwives.
The high intake of health specialists occurred despite a senate inquiry in June 2015 where the Australian Nurses and Midwife Foundation (AN&MF) stated that there were 3000 unemployed graduate nurses, often with high HECS debts, while about 1 in 4 nursing positions were being filled by 457 skilled migrant intake. They also claimed that many of the overseas nurses were victims of underpayment and exploitation because they live and work under threat of deportation. The inquiry was also told that importing health workers was not solving the shortages of health professionals in rural areas because most imported workers went to the cities.
As of March 2016 there were 177,390 subclass 457 visa holders in Australia. To be eligible for a subclass 457 visa via standard business sponsorship, a worker must have an occupation on the Consolidated Sponsored Occupations List (CSOL) which is uncapped, meaning that there is no limit on how many can enter. Instead the numbers are determined from the applications made by employers. However there is a loophole that will allow employers to hire an unlimited number of foreign workers under a temporary working visa, in a move that unions say will bring widespread rorting of the system and insufficient support for local employment.
This reliance on skilled migration has been a long term policy of, not only our governments, but those of many developed nations, particularly the US, UK and Canada. As a consequence, about a quarter of doctors in Australia are from overseas and in 2010 the U.S. had 265,851 licensed physicians trained in other countries, constituting 32% of the physician workforce. Among these, 128,729 came from countries categorized by the World Bank as being from low- or lower-middle income. The World Health Organization (WHO) published a detailed 40-country study on the magnitude and flow of the health professionals. According to this report, close to 90% of all migrating physicians were moving to just five countries: Australia, Canada, Germany, UK and the USA. Even as far back as 1972, 6% of the worlds physicians were located outside their country of origin.
This poaching of skills or brain drain has been embraced by developed nations because it reduces the expense of training in the host nation. According to the African Capacity Building Foundation, African countries lose 20,000 skilled personnel to the developed world every year. All the developed world's efforts to increase aid to these countries may not matter if the local personnel required to implement development programs are absent. Every year there are 20,000 fewer people in Africa to deliver key public services, drive economic growth, and articulate calls for greater democracy and development. South Africa loses almost half of its doctors to Canada, Britain and Australia and is forced to recruit medical staff from countries like Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Ghana has lost half of its nurses and has more doctors working outside Ghana than in the country itself. This has cost it an estimated $63million of its training investment while the UK has saved $117m by the recruitment of Ghanaian doctors since 1988 alone. To address some of the concerns of “brain drain” from developing nations, the Commonwealth Code of Practice for the International Recruitment of Health Workers was adopted by Commonwealth Health Ministers in 2003. This serves as a framework within which international recruitment should take place and is intended to discourage the targeted recruitment of health workers from countries which are themselves experiencing shortages. The code also suggests that high-income countries consider how to recompense the donor nations for the recruitment of their health workers.
However there has been been considerable opposition to this approach, with some economists arguing that the transfer of skills is actually beneficial to both nations because many 3rd world nations are highly dependent on the remittances that their nationals return . According to the World Bank, workers from developing countries remitted a total of $325 billion in 2010, and in some countries these remittances are more than 20% of the nations GDP. Which of course is great unless you happen to urgently need the doctor that is now somewhere else. It has also been found that researchers and scientists who migrate are far more effective in their new locality because of better facilities that are available but then again this hardly flows on to benefit the donor nation. Shortages of skilled people in the education sector of developing nations is reducing training capacity and according to a report in the Wall Street Journal the US is to blame for Africa's doctor shortage that made the Ebola epidemic much worse than it should have been.
Today there are more doctors from Benin working in France than there are in Benin; more Ethiopian doctors in Washington DC than in the whole of Ethiopia. When you add in the effect of other professions that are poached from these countries under skilled immigration policies, teachers, engineers and others, it becomes plain that the developing nations will stay that way, a supplier of resources and skills to the developed world while ever this policy remains in place.
1 in 3 nursing graduates can’t find work says ANMF report, yet 1 in 4 new nursing jobs going to 457 workers. http://t.co/FHHHQ2TCNH
 How the U.S. Made the Ebola Crisis Worse: http://on.wsj.com/2cMKN5B
Referring to the HILDA Report, the author suggests that, if immigration were reduced, a precipitate decline in house-prices could probably be adequately buffered by local buyers who currently cannot afford to enter the grossly inflated housing market.
Yet another report about homelessness in Australia
Melbourne University Faculty of Business and Economics this week released a report entitled,"The Household, Income and Labour dynamics in Australia survey," (HILDA for short).
The main disturbing and most publicized finding on the day it was released was that home ownership in Australia is in steady decline and the steepest decline is in the state of Victoria. In Victoria I see the extreme manifestation of this trend, homelessness in the streets of Melbourne, every time I venture to the city or inner Melbourne areas such as Carlton. I actually know personally two people, one older and one young, who have experienced homelessness in Melbourne.
It seems obvious that for home ownership levels to recover, growth in house prices urgently needs to slow and stop. For the good of our society, prices even need to fall. Author of the HILDA Report, Professor Roger Wilkins, offered as a solution to the catastrophic decline in home ownership, the very meagre suggestion of an abolition of the capital gain tax discount, presumably as a disincentive to investment in housing. I would however maintain that people will still want to invest if a certain capital gain is to be had, even if they do pay tax! They would still be ahead!
Would a decline in Australian house prices be a concern?
For home owners with only one property and who are mortgage-free, a drop in the $ value of their houses really wouldn’t matter as long as it were part of a general, overall decline in property values. For those who are servicing a mortgage, a significant drop in property prices could be a problem, as their equity becomes less as a proportion of the amount owing.
So, can we escape a populating growth fueled housing Ponzi nightmare without collateral damage?
Initially, stabilising the $value of houses would not be as painful as a sudden decline.
I will take it as read that house price increases are due to a greater demand than there is supply. Demand has increased as net overseas migration has increased. A dramatic increase in Net Overseas Migration (NOM) dates back to John Howard’s time in power and has hardly let up. This number needs to come down.
One can also base the potential housing demand on the number of young adults in the population. In the 'best of all possible worlds, local young adults will want to establish their own households, whether singly or as couples, or with friends or siblings, as a first step. Immigrants, young or old, all need accommodation immediately on arrival.
If, for young Australians, buying a house is manageable and they enter the housing market (for many it is not affordable now) then that will actually increase demand from that age group. So reducing immigration dramatically would not be the only factor affecting prices. Lower immigration would have a downward effect and local young adults entering the market would tend to keep prices buoyant. The two effects would not necessarily at all be equal to one another and this balance would depend largely on the amount by which net overseas migration decreased.
In 2015 there were 1,054,565 people in Australia in the age group 24-26 (inclusive). At this age let’s assume young people have finished their post school education and are ready for the work force. They really need to leave home and either buy a house or rent. In 2011 (https://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=60129552283) 29% of young people 18-34 were still living at home. All the young adults still living at home with their parents are potential home-grown consumers of housing.
Are vacancies as a result of deaths an adequate source of housing supply?
In Australia there are about 150,000 deaths per year. Not all these deaths release accommodation, as not all deaths are of people living alone. Some may leave a family behind! But even if 50% of them did result in a house coming for sale or rental, i.e. 70,000 houses or apartments, then there is still that potential demand from 1,054,565 people in the 24-26 age group alone (2015 ABS) and, if the cost of housing stabilized, maybe all young people would be seeking accommodation away from the family home. Even without immigration, there is still, from these figures, a much higher potential demand for housing than there is existing housing which may become vacant. This is because the present age group needing to establish themselves in their adult lives is much larger than the older group. For example, in the Baby Boomer age group in 2015, arbitrarily aged 60-63, there were 775,971 people (2015 ABS) . This is a much smaller number than the potential house hunters in the 24-26 age bracket. Even then, people in their early 60s can expect another 20 years of life and will need their homes in the interim. Even if they left their houses there would still not be enough houses for the more numerous early 20s group. If one were to expect an imminent bonanza from the group 20 years older than the Baby Boomers, one would be disappointed because there are only 223,430 in a three year age bracket in their early 80s!
Where does demand for housing come from?
1. Emerging young adults needing housing away from the family home either as newly formed couples or other arrangements. The actual number depends on which age group is selected but it is a larger number than in the age brackets where downsizing or death are likely
2. Net overseas immigration – about 200,000 every year 3. Investment – local or overseas. 4. Holiday houses or units.
Of the investment properties, many of them will be available for rental. Although this does not help home ownership, at least it means, if rents are affordable, that people may be housed.
If foreign investment in Australian real estate were prohibited and net overseas migration reduced to levels say of the 1990s - 70,000 to 90,000 or lower, it would take extreme pressure off house prices. Then local young people might have a fighting chance of getting into the housing market. Young Australians who are now living at home with a parent or parents would get an opportunity to enter the market which would keep prices buoyant but not in the extreme.
Further demand for housing in Australia is surely waiting in the wings from people now sharing dwellings who would prefer less crowded arrangements. They would, in fact, become a new market for house sellers. The housing market would become more stable and gradually Australians could get used to a climate where a house was somewhere to live and not a speculative investment. The housing sector does not need to worry. If houses are on the cusp of affordable, I maintain there are local customers who will want to buy them or rent them. People would start to be able to exercise choices with respect to housing.
We are now in a dangerous cycle of price rises and of buyers, possibly in a defensive move, taking on enormous debt (relative to income) because they expect prices to go ever higher. A crash in prices would be wonderful for some and catastrophic for others, but I believe this situation can be avoided in Australia even with a significant cut to demand from overseas because of the age distribution of the population and the 'pent up' demand from young adults in the population.
A new front has opened in the student-migration scam, whereby the Turnbull Government has opened the door to international primary school students and their guardians to access Australian schools and purchase Australian property ahead of achieving permanent residency. From SBS News:
[Republished here with permission. Originally published at http://www.macrobusiness.com.au/category/featured-article/. Published by the Unconventional Economist at #comment-2636816">http://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2016/06/turnbull-opens-new-student-migration-scam-floodgate/#comment-2636816]
From July 1, students aged six and above would be able to apply for student visas regardless of their country of citizenship – and their guardians can also apply for Guardian visas (subclass 580)…
These visa-rule changes, which were announced during Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s visit to China in April, also mean non-residents can buy several new properties or one existing property…
Dave Platter, from the leading Chinese international-property portal Juwai.com said there has been a nearly 20 per cent jump in inquiries for properties in Australia since Mr Turnbull’s announcement…
Estate agents Vera and Geoffrey Wong have hosted an open home in Sydney’s Eastwood.
Most of their clients are either Chinese or South Korean investors, and Mr Wong says when they were choosing a property, there is no doubt their children’s education is considered most important.
He said buyers are planning purchases that cater for their children’s entire education.
“Schooling … that is – I can’t emphasise it enough – is one of the main factors,” he said.
“Our clients, I would say over 70 per cent, (are looking,) at schooling and the university afterwards.”
Unbelievable. Primary schools in “good” catchment areas are already bursting at the seams. Meanwhile, Australia’s biggest cities, which is where most migrants arrive, are already struggling to digest a decade of rampant population growth (immigration), which has clogged their roads, trains, and reduced residents’ overall amenity.
And yet the government wants to add more immigrant fuel to the fire, just so that it keeps a floor under Australia’s already ridiculously expensive house values.
Where is the additional federal investment in schools and infrastructure to keep up with the migrant influx? And where is the consideration of impacts on Australia’s existing residents – especially young families struggling to buy a home and put their children through schooling?
Is this what Australia has been reduced to: flogging land, houses and visas to wealthy Chinese? Is this what Turnbull really means by his “innovation agenda”? Surely we can do better.
unconventionaleconomist AT hotmail.com
The left–right [political spectrum] is a system of classifying political positions, ideologies, and parties. Left-wing politics and right-wing politics are often presented as opposed, although a particular individual or group may take a left-wing stance on one matter and a right-wing stance on another. In France, where the terms originated, the Left has been called "the party of movement" and the Right "the party of order." The intermediate stance is called centrism and a person with such a position is a moderate. Amongst published researchers, there is agreement that the Left includes anarchists, communists, socialists, progressives, anti-capitalists, anti-imperialists, anti-racists, democratic socialists, greens, left-libertarians, social democrats, and social liberals. Researchers have also said that the Right includes capitalists, conservatives, monarchists, nationalists, neoconservatives, neoliberals, reactionaries, imperialists, right-libertarians, social authoritarians, religious fundamentalists, and traditionalists. Progressive Progressivism is a philosophy based on the idea of progress, which asserts that advancement in science, technology, economic development, and social organization are vital to improve the human condition. Progressivism became highly significant during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe, out of the belief that Europe was demonstrating that societies could progress in civility from barbaric conditions to civilization through strengthening the basis of empirical knowledge as the foundation of society. Figures of the Enlightenment believed that progress had universal application to all societies and that these ideas would spread across the world from Europe. Sociologist Robert Nisbet defines five "crucial premises" of the Idea of Progress as being: value of the past; nobility of Western civilization; worth of economic/technological growth; faith in reason and scientific/scholarly knowledge obtained through reason; the intrinsic importance and worth of life on Earth. The term is often used as shorthand for a more or less left-wing way of looking at the world. Beyond this, the meanings of progressivism have varied over time and from different perspectives. The contemporary common political conception of progressivism in the culture of the Western world emerged from the vast social changes brought about by industrialization in the Western world in the late 19th century, particularly out of the view that progress was being stifled by vast economic inequality between the rich and the poor; minimally regulated laissez-faire capitalism with monopolistic corporations; and intense and often violent conflict between workers and industrialists, thus claiming that measures were needed to address these problems.The definitions above generally describe a left winger as a progressive anti-capitalist. The fundamental flaw in all of this hypothetical mumbo jumbo is the driving force behind economic development, economic inequality and environmental devastation. That driving force is population growth. Since population and economic growth (a direct consequence of capitalism) are inextricably linked; anyone who supports the former is by definition right wing. GetUp and the Greens are right wing as are all Australia’s political parties with the exception of the Lower Migration party. Australia’s annual GDP growth has averaged 3.2% since Federation. Population growth has averaged 1.6%. Over the last 2 decades GDP growth has declined and population growth has increased to around 1.8%. The numbers may seem irrelevant to a relatively innumerate left wing activist who jumps on scientific evidence to support a climate change argument but chooses to ignore it when confronted with the facts about population growth. But these scientific facts are essential for developing coherent political objectives and humane ideology. Since left wing is described as anti-capitalist you are clearly not left wing. The fuel for capitalism consists of two things. These are currently hydrocarbons and population growth. Each and both are directly responsible for climate change. It is not just hydrocarbons which are causing climate change. Had Australia’s population growth been zero since Federation only a compound rate of GDP growth of 1.6% would have been required to create the same per capital financial wealth. But because of population growth, environmental damage and infrastructure expansion has occurred. The primary beneficiaries are big business (capitalism), government and government bureaucracy. Hence all political parties support it. But the trend has changed. The cost of infrastructure and its expansion is no longer covered by GDP. The reason in Australia is primarily driven by population growth which costs more to support than the economy can generate. It is over. The era of left wing and right wing is over. It is legendary and farcical in the 21st century. There is only right wing or population stabilization; because the latter is the only way to deliver the benefits the left wing cannot deliver with this element missing from its agenda. GetUp is neither progressive nor anti-capitalist. It targets only specific consequences of its own political agenda. There are only two “developed” city states on the planet with comparable rates of population growth to Australia. These are Singapore and Qatar. Both are authoritarian regimes with far lower costs of infrastructure, and infrastructure expansion, than Australia. Their population grows due to expatriates, who have no claim on social welfare and no rights to citizenship in these city states. The only other countries with similar rates of population growth are under developed. Most are in Africa where GDP per capita is roughly 4% that of Australia’s and the birth rate per woman is roughly 6. Australia stands out as a country retaining a reactionary, non-progressive, mass migration policy which makes no ethical, environmental or economic sense. Another example of GetUp’s right wing extremism is support for refugees while actively promoting a political agenda of mass migration of the relatively fortunate; who all cost the economy more than it can afford to support them. So GetUp’s delusionary and allegedly “left wing” dogma drives the displacement of Australians from jobs using a skilled migration program which is a reactionary policy dating back to Federation. This same policy displaces genuine refugees from the opportunity to enter Australia. All political parties, including the Greens, are right wing according to universally accepted definitions of right wing. They display common agendas with their support for migration-based pro population growth extremism: • Pro capitalist extremism • Reactionary defence of the status quo • Conservative defence of the status quo • Anti progressive • Anti Green Please explain to me how GetUp’s support for migration based pro population growth extremism meets any of the traditional definitions of “Left Wing”. I respectfully refer you to my blog which might provide information of value in your educational development: /blog/310 Thanks and yours sincerely, Michael S.
People often ask me why I campaign on population and the reason that I give is that it is an issue that is often overlooked by the environment movement and by the wider world at large. I feel that by ignoring this topic, so much of the other great work done by environmentalists and campaigners is in danger of being severely compromised. Rapid population growth is a worldwide issue and it is also an issue here in Australia. One reason for this is because Australia has one of the highest migration rates in the ‘developed’ world. Due to the way our infrastructure is distributed this is a major reason why an average of 1760 people are added to the population of Melbourne every week and 1600 are added to Sydney. (More by Mark Allen at http://candobetter.net/taxonomy/term/7484)
As a town planner I cannot ignore the impact that this growth is having in terms of how we can create long-term sustainable communities. This is why I run workshops on suburban sprawl and inappropriate high density and the impact that it has on our changing climate.
With my work I am asked a lot of questions, many on a reoccurring basis, so I thought that I would give my best shot at providing written responses to a number of written questions and comments that I have received over the past twelve months.
Where better to start than the issue of reducing population growth and xenophobia?
Population is not the right factor to focus on. It's a slippery slope to xenophobia and not directly linked to sustainability. It is also very dubious on ethical grounds, no real policy levers, and divisive all around. My suggestion would be to focus on sustainability if that's your objective.
I do understand why people are put off by the topic of population because there are so many people who have hijacked the issue with xenophobic intentions. This is all the more reason why we should embrace the topic with a critical, thinking mindset so that those with narrow minded views can be quickly called out. It is reasoned and rational discussion that will prevent a descent into xenophobia, not ignoring the topic and leaving it in the hands of those who feed off irrational soundbites.
In the meantime, if we continue to ignore the issue here in Australia, we will have to accept that suburban sprawl and unsustainable rates of high density development will continue until the current system breaks. By then we will have greatly reduced our ability to adapt to a low carbon society and we will be left with an environmental and social legacy that may take generations to reverse.
Eventually migrants will want to stop coming here due to the increased commutes and expense as well as services becoming increasingly inaccessible. This is already starting to happen (see The root of Sydney and Melbourne’s housing crisis: we’re building the wrong thing – Bob Birrell The Conversation).
If we wait until migrants stop wanting to come, we will make it so much harder for those migrants who need to come. In short we have to get our planning back into the hands of people who want to build communities.
Population growth has not been sustainable since the Howard era when it was massively increased to increase GDP with deliberately little fanfare. This kind of growth fuels the worst types of development; the type that forces generations of people to live lesser lives, all to justify short term profits. We need to shift our population policy away from growth for the sake of growth model towards one that does what is the most sustainable and the most equitable from a global perspective.
This means using some of the money that would otherwise be spent in trying to reduce the massive infrastructure debt that accompanies rapid population growth to help other countries stabilise their population in a non-coercive way. This money could also be channelled into partnering with them to create permaculture based communities as a way of adapting to and helping to combat climate change.
Secondly, by slowing population growth we can better utilise land that would otherwise be developed to house a rapidly growing population to sequester carbon through regenerative farming practices.
Thirdly, most of our population growth is directed towards the fringes of our cities or in ribbon developments along the coast. As well as being some of our greatest areas of biodiversity, these areas are also have some of our most fertile soils. Therefore slowing population growth in Australia may help us to increase global food security or at the very least reduce our reliance upon importing food from areas of the world who will likely have food security issues of their own.
Lastly, slowing our current rate of population growth will allow us to engage in the slower more considered method of planning that is required to create resilient and meaningful communities that will benefit everyone including incoming refugees and other migrants.
High immigration to Australia doesn't add to net world population so it seems right that Australia should take some of the load.
When you consider that the population of the world is increasing by 80 million a year, the effectiveness of Australia in helping to more evenly distribute global population growth is negligible and it does nothing to stabilise the rate of growth in those regions that are struggling to adapt. It is a reactive approach rather than a proactive one. The fact that Australia’s population centres are situated in some of the most ecologically rich and fertile areas of the continent coupled with the fact that we have a planning system that puts profit before resilience, means that this is having a massive environmental and social impact.
Most of us agree that we need to be reducing our emissions rapidly. Therefore the last thing we need to be doing is compromising our capacity to reduce our food miles by pouring huge amounts of carbon intensive concrete over our inner suburbs and urban fringes. It makes much more sense to reallocate the money that would otherwise be required for all the additional infrastructure into helping people in their own countries adapt to the climate crisis and importantly to partner with them to reduce that crisis. Otherwise we only help a small number of people at a massive environmental and long-term social cost.
We want to be in the best position to provide sustainable resilient communities for those people who cannot stay in their own country for one reason or another. Otherwise incoming refugees will be blown like feathers in the wind into the social isolation of an ever increasing suburban sprawl.
Why not just change the planning system?
We need to work hard to change the planning system and work towards reducing GDP driven population growth. If we do one without the other we will fail because deliberate high population growth is the driver of fast paced suburban sprawl style development as well as prefab concrete apartment developments that are quick to build and quick to age. It is a never ending vicious circle. I saw this with my own eyes when I worked as a planner. Sustainable planning takes time as it is about regenerating wasteland, increasing medium density in the post-war middle suburbs and building new village communities complete with recreation, services and capacity for permaculture. This requires a slower rate of population growth for a slower more considered rate of development.
You seem to be advocating for more development in the middle suburbs. This is where much of our food security could lie and we could end up losing this if we are not careful.
Many of the houses in the middle suburbs are being demolished because they do not meet the perceived needs of 21st century living. Also, because most of them lack heritage appeal, very few people feel the inclination to retrofit them. The middle suburbs (unlike the outer suburbs) are much more connected to public transport and much of the housing stock is within walking distance of public open space. Many of these houses have large backyards. Some of these are well utilised while many are not. So the question is, should we see this 'outdated stock' as an opportunity to encourage increasing the density of these areas (as much of it is likely to be demolished over time) in order to reduce the pressure on the urban fringe? Or should we instead regard these backyards as an underutilised resource which will become all the more relevant as we move towards a low carbon, steady state economy?
Could it be that the larger backyards of the middle suburbs will one day provide the food security that other medium density settlements cannot provide? If so, how much of a willingness is there for the occupants of these areas to become urban farmers? In reality most people see their garden as something that simply needs mowing but resilience is all about the ability of communities to adapt to new social and economic circumstances. In which case those backyards could be seen with a new perspective. I really don't have any firm answers. I believe that we can potentially increase housing diversity in the middle suburbs without threatening their potential as permaculture communities but I know that with the current planning system in place, this will not happen. In reality it will be ad-hoc and many good gardens will be lost and much more besides. Increasing housing diversity in the middle suburbs does make a lot of sense but the potential of these areas to grow food and contribute to local self sustaining economies could be critical in the future. We need to tread very carefully (for more on this issue check out the co-founder of Permaculture, David Holmgren's youtube videos and forthcoming book on retrofitting the suburbs)
Are you not just some privileged white guy trying to protect his way of life?
Anyone who thinks that we should be protecting our way of life is in for a rude awakening sooner rather than later as we are currently living well beyond the planet's capacity to absorb our lifestyle. The only thing that we should be trying to protect is our potential to create sustainable resilient communities that are adaptable to energy descent and that can absorb population growth sustainably. The demographic of the inner suburbs of Melbourne has changed a lot in the past few decades as more and more Greek and Italian migrants are displaced by a white middle class demographic. The irony is that it is this very same demographic that is rejecting a suburban model of living that originated and is still championed by white culture. This will continue under the current paradigm as multicultural areas such as Footscray and Richmond become increasingly gentrified through modern apartment living, all of course under the greenwash banner of urban consolidation*. This forces more communities to be dispersed into the social isolation of the urban fringe. We need to prevent the further gentrification of our existing suburbs while ensuring that new communities are built around a village model, as this is the most socially, ecologically and economically sustainable method of creating communities.
*Urban consolidation (the act of increasing densities within the existing built form as a means of reducing urban sprawl) does not have to be greenwash if:
a) It is not perpetual and ongoing. In other words if the high density is not being constructed to house the endlessly growing population that is needed in order to prop up an over inflated housing market.
b)If a substantial proportion is affordable and within financial reach of those people who would otherwise live on the urban fringe where land is cheaper.
c) A substantial proportion of the units are large enough to be viable for families. This includes being within close proximity to services that are within walking distance, including childcare (most inner suburb areas currently have waiting lists of over a year for childcare services).
d)The apartments are resilient and will last for generations.This includes high quality finishes that will not require constant maintenance and trips to landfill.
e)Apartment developments are incorporated into the fabric of existing neighbourhoods in a way that they do not become the dominant built form and that that their presence is subtle and not detrimental to the overall streetscape. Maintaining the village like feel of our suburbs, including the green spaces within them is essential for long term social and environmental resilience.
Much of the urban consolidation currently taking place in Melbourne fails on all of these points and as result does nothing to reduce urban sprawl whist also compromising much of the existing urban landscape.
You support the Greens policy of increasing our refugee intake but in the future there could be many more refugees as climate change worsens. Where do you draw the line?
Assuming that we do not end up becoming refugees ourselves due to climate change (especially as most Australian cities lie on the coast while the interior is becoming increasingly dry) we could theoretically house an increased number of refugees without increasing sprawl or over developing our existing neighbourhoods. We won't have the economic or environmental justification to build many new towns so the focus will be on retrofitting what we already have and part of this would be retrofitting existing housing stock. In Maroondah alone, at the time of writing there are 3000 empty homes. These are artificial “housing shortages” created by speculators and developers to inflate the value of their investments. Therefore we can provide asylum for people without compromising the ability of our cities to adapt to a low carbon world but of course we have to change the paradigm.
Preserving our capacity to provide food close to and within our cities will however be critical. This is why we need to be focussed on retrofitting what we already have as opposed to creating new development on our precious soils.
New research shows that Melbourne's "food-bowl" supplies 41 per cent of all fresh fruit and vegetables to the city but that is set to plummet to just 18 per cent by 2050 thanks to urban sprawl. It is a similar situation in Sydney.
A major component of reducing our environmental footprint lies in sustainable town planning and that just cannot happen at the current rate of population growth because it is quicker and cheaper to build new estates on the fringe or the unsustainable prefab concrete apartment blocks that we are increasingly seeing in the existing suburbs.
Surely population growth is good because it stimulates change and innovation?
There are some areas of Melbourne that in combination with sound planning and urban design principles could be enriched by a modest increase in population. This however is an issue of poorly distributed growth as opposed to it being an issue of there not being enough growth. Many areas within the wider Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane conurbations are growing much too fast while there are some areas that could benefit from the modest amount of growth that is needed to generate commercial activity (helping to decentralise jobs) while making public transport more economically viable. Therefore we need a slower rate of growth coupled with an improvement on the way that growth is distributed.
We have an ageing population so we must increase our population to compensate.
The drain that older people have on services is over emphasised. Many older people contribute to society well past retirement and if we need to create more jobs to support them, then no problem. It might mean fewer jobs running and maintaining poker machines, a few less real estate agents perhaps, a few less loggers and a few less property developers. And how would we pay for it? The last time I looked there was 452 billion dollars from big corporations and millionaires in Australia that are not being taxed (source: Getup). It is also worth considering that:
1)The average age of a person migrating to Australia is 30. That means they are 30 years older than a newborn baby, which has the affect that in 30 years time the ageing population problem will be even worse than it is now.
2)It is worker-to-dependency ratio that matters, not youth-to-elderly. Australia's un/underemployment is probably over three million people.
3)Demographer Dr Jane O'Sullivan has estimated that it may be costing thirty times more in growing our population to offset ageing than our ageing population is costing.
Migration policy is not the only way of achieving a sustainable population.
Very true. For the answer to this question I will quote Michael Bayliss who is the president of the Victorian/Tasmanian branch of Sustainable Population Australia.
“I envision a future where families with no children are respected as being the societal norm just as much as families with children, and where adoption is seen as a viable and accessible alternative to couples of all sexual and gender identities. The key as always, is through education, empowerment, and allowing people to make their own choices. High schools for example should educate young people into the pros and cons of having children, and with due consideration given to the environmental impacts of having children. I do not advocate fiscal policies that reward large family size, instead this money should be spent on children’s services, such as schools and medical subsidies.”
The questions and answers written above form part of a booklet that is available in electronic format by emailing [email protected] It is also available as a hard copy from the New International Bookshop in Carlton, Melbourne.
Feel free to contact me at that same email address with your feedback.
Mark Allen is an ex-town planner and environmental activist with a particular interest in population. He runs workshops on Population, Permaculture and Planning across Australia and runs a Facebook group of the same name.