Australian immigration policy

Australian immigration policy. By Peta Credlin.

One of the things that bothered me most in government was the insistence by Treasury officials that there was virtually no downside to ongoing high immigration.

Immigration, they maintained, was absolutely necessary to keep up economic growth and to give Australia the skills we needed.

Well, a side effect of our pandemic-closed borders has been that immigration has virtually stopped for the past 18 months, so the Treasury doctrine has now been put to a practical test.

The result? At least in the absence of lockdowns, the economy has bounced back strongly despite zero immigration; there are indeed serious labour shortages but they’re for fruit pickers, restaurant staff and cleaners, not for people with university degrees; and, for the first time in a decade, wages are starting to grow strongly.

In other words, the official orthodoxy, that high immigration boosts growth without depressing wages, looks like being exposed as bunkum. …

Importing the wrong people:

We’re not short of accountants, lawyers, middle managers, and marketers. Yet it’s professional skills rather than practical ones that dominate the “strategic skill” list that largely determines the composition of the 80,000 or so (including their dependents) who enter annually as points-tested skilled migrants.

As demographer Bob Birrell has shown, based on the most recent census data, 84 per cent of degree-level migrants during the previous five years had come from non-English-speaking backgrounds and only 29 per cent of them were employed as professionals or managers, even though that was the rationale for granting them permanent residency. …

[Treasury’s] recent Intergenerational Report also showed only skilled migrants were a net fiscal benefit and, overall, given the composition of the program, immigra­tion was still a net fiscal drag. …

Semi-official admission by anti-democratic elite — we never voted for high immigration:

Back in 1994, launching a book of essays, former prime minister Bob Hawke made the remarkably frank admission that immigration policy had effectively been a conspiracy by the political establishment against the Australian public.

Hawke agreed with one author’s observation that most voters wanted immigration reduced and that the parties had deliberately kept it out of public debate, saying there had indeed been “an implicit pact between the major parties to implement broad policies on immigration that they know are not generally endorsed by the electorate” and that “they have done this by keeping the subject off the political agenda”. …

For the usual reasons:

At least since the 1970s, the left has supported higher immigration, assuming more migrants would vote Labor and make Australia more multicultural and less culturally conservative (although that’s often not how it has turned out).

Big business, too, has supported higher immigration because it meant more consumers and a bigger supply of labour.

And lower immigration always risks what Labor finance minister Peter Walsh called a political backlash from the ethnic lobby.

How to win the next federal election, anyone?

With the borders closed, we have a rare moment in history to have a proper debate about the future size of this country and the migrant skills mix before we just resume business as usual. It’s no coincidence that there’s a government report or plan on almost every aspect of life, yet Australia is without a nationally agreed population plan. That should tell you everything about what they don’t want you to know. And why no debate is encouraged.

Just run on a platform of reducing immigration, perhaps winding it back from the current quarter of a million a year (the highest per-capita immigration in the world) to maybe 50 – 100,000 a year.

hat-tip Stephen Neil