Australia: The Coalition’s Immigration Challenge

Australia: The Coalition’s Immigration Challenge, by E.R. Drabik.

Australia’s population swelled by a staggering 384,000 in the year to March, 2017, with around 60% of this growth due to immigration. Propelled by the highest per capita immigration intake in the Western world — a migrant arrives on Australian soil every 2 minutes and 21 seconds — the population will surge past 25 million this year.

Malcolm Turnbull is routinely lambasted as a do-nothing Prime Minister who has thus far failed to leave a lasting mark, but that is not entirely true: his supercharged immigrant intake is irrevocably transforming Australia in myriad of ways.

Despite a concerted effort by the major parties and the large parts of the media to smother public debate on the topic, Australians are noticing their urban and cultural environments changing rapidly around them.

There appears to be a growing worry about the effects of high immigration, as suggested by an Australian Population Research Institute (TAPRI) survey of voters last August. The findings: around three-quarters of voters think Australia does not need more people, with significant majorities seeing such hand-over-fist population growth placing ‘a lot of pressure’ on hospitals, roads, public transport, affordable housing and jobs. …

The immigration-fuelled population explosion is squeezing the life out of our major cities, with liveability crashing as the new infrastructure projects necessary to accommodate such rapid growth fall further behind. … Economic commentator Leith van Onselen has repeatedly warned that our cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, face an “infrastructastophe” due to population crush-loading.

Some supporters of high immigration invariably scoff at the suggestion of national identity being under threat, arguing the country successfully absorbed previous waves of migrants without losing its essential character and coherence and will be able to do so again. However, with the proportion of the population born overseas the highest it’s been since the colonial era and far more diverse than ever before, Australia is in uncharted waters. The last time the overseas born share of the population was this large, back in the 1800s, new arrivals were almost exclusively Britons moving from one part of the empire to another. …

Australians, it appears, want their government to be more selective when it comes to prospective migrants. Nearly half of voters surveyed by TAPRI supported or strongly supported a full or partial ban on Islamic immigration, including a majority of Liberal voters (54%) and a large minority of Labor voters (38%). In all, 48% supported or strongly supported such a ban, with a further 27% undecided. …

Liberal strategists would be wise to take note of the stark divide among Labor voters on the issue of immigration, as revealed in the TAPRI survey. A mere 34% of Labor voters with tertiary educations believe immigration should be reduced, compared with 53% of non-graduate Labor voters. It is conceivable that a significant number of non-graduate Labor voters could switch their vote to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, the Australian Conservatives or even the Liberals if these parties were successful in making immigration an election issue. … The Liberals could simultaneously wedge Labor, neutralise the One Nation threat, and abate pressure on living standards and social cohesion by slashing permanent and temporary migrant numbers.

Seems to me that if one were starting a new party, this would be issue number one.

hat-tip Stephen Neil