The immigration subterfuge continues

By Leith van Onselen

One of the most profound changes affecting the Australian economy and society over the past decade has been the massive lift in Australia’s net immigration, which surged from the mid-2000s and is running at roughly twice the pace of long-run norms (see next chart).

ScreenHunter_13730 Jun. 27 07.42

In 2014, John Howard gave a Radio National interview explaining his Government’s dramatic increase in the immigration program:

“Every country does have the right to decide the composition, the manner, and the timing of the flow of people. And that’s something the Australian people support…

One of the reasons why it is so important to maintain that policy is that the more people think our borders are being controlled, the more supportive they are in the long-term of higher levels of immigration.

Australia needs a high level of immigration. I’m a high immigration man. I practiced that in Government. And one of the ways that you maintain public support for that is to communicate to the Australian people a capacity to control our borders and decide who and what people and when they come to this country”

And yesterday, Howard gave an interview on Sky News whereby elaborated further on the massive ramp-up of Australia’s immigration under his watch:

David Spears [Presenter]: “Is this [Brexit] as some have argued a rejection, therefore, of higher immigration, of even multiculturalism, multilateralism… is it a push-back of all these things?”

John Howard: “You can’t group all of those things together. Let’s deal first of all with immigration. It is not a rejection of immigration. In fact it’s a reaffirmation of the nation’s determination to decide – as I declared and argued and the current government does – we will decide who comes, the numbers, where they come from, and what skills they bring with them”.

David Spears: “So this is the British people saying we will decide who comes here”?

John Howard: “I think it is. It is very much the reality that if you want to maintain public support for a high immigration program, you make it very clear that you are going to monitor that program and that you are going to regulate the flow of people. And if you do that, the local population will accept it. But in Britain, they have felt for years with growing apprehension that they just don’t control their borders”…

“It’s not unreasonable of people. It’s not racist of people. It’s not xenophobic of people to say ‘we want to keep an eye on the flow of immigration’. And that’s all that I ever argued in relation to Australia. If you look at what happened to immigration when I was Prime Minister, it was very high. It was not racially based. It was based on regulating the flow of people. choosing them according to their contribution to Australia. And according to the way in which they would integrate into the Australian community”.

David Spears: “Immigation today is still higher today per capita in Australia than it is in Britain?”

John Howard: “Yeah. And one of the reasons is it’s broadly accepted, not totally, but broadly accepted, is that people feel that governments have got control of the program. And that we are choosing people according to their contribution to the future welfare of the nation…”

A few things to note.

First, it was the sleight of hand of John Howard that originally mislead the Australian people on immigration. Howard effectively performed a ‘bait-and-switch’ on the Australian people whereby he slammed the door shut on the relatively small number of refugees arriving into Australia by boat all the while stealthily shoving open the door to economic migrants arriving here by plane.

Howard never explicitly mentioned that he was a “high immigration man” because he knew the electorate would be against it. Instead, he scapegoated refugees to give the impression that he was stemming the migrant inflow while proceeding in secret with his ‘Big Australia’ plan.

Unfortunately, rather than being honest with the electorate, the Rudd/Gillard Governments and the Abbott/Turnbull Governments continued the subterfuge. There has never been any community consultation, any national discussion, or mandate to proceed with turbo-charged levels of immigration.

This comes despite an Essential Research opinion poll last month revealing that the overwhelming majority of Australians (59%) believed “the level of immigration into Australia over the last ten years has been too high”,  more than double the 28% of Australians that disagreed with that statement.

ScreenHunter_13128 May. 26 08.47

Second, Howard’s claim that the Australian Government has “control of the [immigration] program” is laughable.

As revealed yesterday in the joint Fairfax-ABC investigation, the Department of Immigration has turned a blind-eye to widespread rorting and corruption within Australia’s skilled and student visa programs, ignoring tens of thousands of cases of visa rorting by people arriving into Australia by plane.

And the revelation of rorts has continued, with The ABC reporting yet more fraudulent activity in the visa-migration system:

A prominent member of Melbourne’s Indian community said he knew of at least 40 Indians who had paid large cash sums to obtain fake skilled and student visas in an effort to get permanent residency.

Jasvinder Sidhu, a lecturer at RMIT and former multicultural advisor to Premier Daniel Andrews, said some of the fake visa-holders had gone on to be exploited, and in some cases raped, by their bosses.

Mr Sidhu said he was approached by a “visa fixer” to take part in the scam.

This same fixer was caught on a hidden camera telling an undercover operative he knew employers in Sydney and Melbourne willing to create fake jobs for foreigners.

The fixer said he could help organise the false paperwork in exchange for $50,000…

Mr Sidhu said the “visa fixer” approached him on Facebook.

“He said, very confidently, ‘in any industry we can get sponsorship’. And he even offered me money. For every case I think it was $5,000 he was offering,” Mr Sidhu said…

The fixer said he would then arrange for a corrupt employer to provide the paperwork for a fake job and visa sponsorship.

“They were offering multiple sponsorships in mechanics, commercial cookery, IT as well,” Mr Sidhu said.

“They did say his boss had a good range of 457 [visas] in IT, in information technology”…

“These people will create your fake time sheets, fake pay sheets, and fake superannuation. Everything is fake.

“You are paying extra to create a job that doesn’t exist, and a service that was never delivered, and you are getting a permanent residency, which is not fake. That is the real output.”

And here’s another report of visa rorting in Queensland’s north, via The ABC:

Immigration officials have seized a group of illegal workers in the north Queensland town of Bowen, some of whom are suspected of acting as labour-hire contractors in the agriculture industry.

Border Force officials raided a number of addresses in Bowen last week and detained four men and two women from various countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and China.

Authorities believe at least four were acting as labour-hire contractors; the intermediaries between the farmer and worker.

It is further alleged they were sourcing illegal labour and sending “sizeable” sums of money offshore…

When combined with the Turnbull Government’s policy allowing 6 year-olds and their guardians visa entry into Australia’s primary schools (and allowing them to purchase established property), along with the proposal to allow migrants to bring into Australia their elderly parents (thus further straining Australia’s healthcare system and infrastructure), it is clear as day that Australia’s immigration system is a farce and that we have little control of the intake.

Moreover, because of this dysfunctional policy, Australia is on track to double its population by 2050 to more than 40 million people, despite virtually no discussion or mandate for this dramatic change, nor any plan on how to cope with this growth.

Australia desperately needs to openly and maturely debate the whole immigration system and population growth issue, not shut-down debate, as our major parties have done.

The only political party that is willing to discuss this important issue is the Sustainable Australia Party, which is why they have my vote in the Senate in the upcoming Federal Election.

[email protected]

Unconventional Economist


  1. I haven’t once seen this debate on msm or any of the political debates. They have done a good job at keeping this quiet while once again beating on the boat people issue.

      • Where is the teachers union on this? Teachers spending more time in class with non english speaking kids than with our kids. My taxes are supposed to be spent on Australian kids not foreign kids! Teachers Union , where are you?

  2. I’ve been saying it for fifteen years too [further to mining bogan on another page]. what i will never forgive is the media that have never once asked tough and, yet, completely obvious questions on this. they fuelled the focus on refugees in some kind of mass psychosis or outright pact with the ruling devils, i’m just not sure which but suspect the latter.

    • +1 Catherine! All they do is look for aha moments and let them get away with either stupid or irrelevant answers when they ask big questions if they ever do! Pathetic…

  3. LNP are doing their job. Looking after their rich constituents.

    Greens are not doing their job. Directly hurting their constituents. They’re straight out avoiding addressing the issue.

    So who’s to blame, who’s going to address it?

    Want population growth fixed? Destroy the Greens.

    • Your bias isn’t half obvious is it. It’s almost like your trying to suggest that everyone should vote for the LNP out of spite for the Greens.

      • Spite? Maybe. I don’t think so though. I just want them to change.

        Stop stealing the young vote while shafting them.

        On second thought. It’s spite. I hate them. I can’t stand tricksters and scammers.

        Vote Sustainable Australia.

      • What you said is don’t hold LNP to account because it’s in their nature. We should vote minor parties like one nation or SAP but remember to put LNP above ALP and the Greens in preferences. We heard that loud and clear.

      • Kevin

        “but remember to put LNP above ALP and the Greens in preferences. We heard that loud and clear.”

        I did not say that. You’re dreaming.

        Just hear the message. Greens stink. They’re traitors to existing Australians, so yeah, put them last. Oh yes, I remember now. Put LNP above Labor and Greens at least we can make a few buck trickle down effect.

        Don’t make me regret a frivolous almost jovial comment. Don’t be a fool mate.

        It’s not just in LNP’s nature, the are literally doing what their constituents want them to. That’s their job. Get over it. Greens on the other hand are betraying their constituents. It’s simple logic so many like you struggle with. I can give you a thousand examples to back my logic. You can’t give any to back yours.

        This is all Greens fault.

  4. reusachtigeMEMBER

    Make sure you don’t vote for any of those loony parties. Only the coalition has your best interests at heart. They will be tough on borders!

  5. I noticed ads from the dept of immigration on my unis notice board about 2003-04 saying that students could stay here and apply for residency onshore instead of offshore

    additionally, a family member used to work for a major uni in enrolments, where she had to attend overseas student ‘trade’ expos…inevitably the first question was asked…does this get me PR??

  6. Labor could win this election just by declaring today they will reduce student and skilled migration.

    WTF is wrong with these clowns?

    • Immigration is all we have left. Otherwise our economy starts to shrink, housing crashes, brain drain goes into overdrive and Australia enters a doom loop from which it will not recover. Certainly not in a timeframe that will help the boomers, and probably not Gen X either.

      People act in their self interest, and as bad as the problems with immigration are, the alternative may well be worse.

      • Best to take the medicine before it’s terminal.

        We need to get productive with a low population or we’re doomed.

      • Yeah, agreed UE, continuing the immigration ponzi is just a can kick, but as far as dumb self denial goes, it’s understandable.

        Hair of the dog, mate. Hair of the dog…

      • Jumping jack flash

        +1 Matthew,
        They’ll pull out all stops to keep it going, not board them up by cutting immigration.

        Those students coming over here have wealthy parents more often than not, how else do they afford upfront fees? If it worked for universities, it’ll work for public schools as well!
        And then there’s the housing angle to sell it to the electorate. Nobody who owns a house wants it to reduce in value, and those retiring want to be able to find buyers.

        Turnbull couldn’t be more obvious if he tried. I think they’re getting a bit brazen. Needs more wool!

  7. Mining BoganMEMBER

    So, TPTB have noticed the public getting antsy about immigration and who do they wheel out to defend it? The very man who made it his life’s work to destroy Australia both socially and economically.

    Brexit has shaken these people up. They must be worried about losing their fortunes. In a fair world they would be worried about losing their freedom. Maybe even their heads.

    • I’m no Howard fan, but he was fairly elected multiple times by this same public who are getting antsy. They’re not getting antsy about immigration by the way, they’re worried that the ponzi will end before they get their cut.

      No incarceration or beheading is needed. That’s the great thing about democracy. The people choose. If they choose poorly, they pay.

      If you see yourself as part of an enlightened minority, and let’s face it Mining Bogan, you are, then you do exactly what you have done. You plan ahead, look after your family, and remember that as long as nobody comes for your essential freedoms you will have options.

      I think it’s great that the masses are getting roused, but we have no idea what direction they will stampede in…

      • The kind of democracy we have in Australia is the most limited kind. Voting for a representative every three years is the fullest expression of our democratic rights. Very rarely do the Australian public get to vote on a specific issue (this only happens when our elite politicians decide for us that we can have a referendum on some issue they have cherry picked).

        Only Switzerland and some states in America have true democracy. Arguably the lack of media coverage about Australia’s high immigration could be said to weaken our democracy such as it is. It’s an absolute disgrace.

      • Mining BoganMEMBER

        It’s Howard’s lies that has set the road for the stampede. His dog-whistling ignited the hate.

        He’s created problems that will take generations to fix. That’s if they can be.

      • Jumping jack flash

        I’d vote for the guy who was throwing around buckets of cash too!
        Howard was all smoke, mirrors and pork in the latter years.

  8. sydboy007MEMBER

    In part I blame the regressive left for this. The minute someone wants to have a mature discussion of immigration you will be howled down as a racist xenophobe.

    I’m sick of it. We desperately need to look at the economics of rampant immigration, of the fact the Feds benefit the most from it and are increasingly leaving the states to deal with the problem while starving them of funds.

    Then again, the states are on the ponzi heroin train too, since they like the education “exports” the degree factories and fake trade courses generate, and it also helps keep the cleaning staff and coffee shops cheap from the near slave labour provided.

    Frack this issue makes me lose it. Where’s a viable third force in politics going to come from that has affordbale housing, reliable infrastructure, and a small australia at it’s core on policy choices.

    • The economic social justice implications (unskilled Aussies being done out of work opportunities) of rampant immigration scare me, but really scares me is the whole social cohesion aspect of such levels of immigration continuing. Australia already has the highest level of citizens born in a foreign country compared with other developed countries. We have 28% of our citizens born in a foreign country, the US only 12% (this was posted on MB a while ago).

      If we head towards 40 million people in the next couple of decades, at what point do you inevitably get sectarian violence? Because that is what will happen. I actually think Australia has a lot to be proud of with regards to the way in which we have managed to integrate so many people over the decades from such disparate backgrounds, cultures, religions etc. (ok it hasn’t always been smoothly done and there have been issues) but we are putting at real risk our social cohesion if we continue. I don’t want to live in a society where people resent each other, truly hate each other based on their appearance, but we will get to that if we continue. And that is a truly depressing prospect.

  9. adelaide_economist

    Howard’s sudden prominence in the last week before the election is quite peculiar. What does it say about all of our major parties that both (and the Greens) are wheeling out their ‘respected’ elders – more so the Liberals, but Labor is giving Keating and Hawke plenty of prominence and Bob Brown is turning up in Green party adverts?

    Could it be that public dissatisfaction – carefully managed and concealed by the mass media but no doubt showing up very clearly in private polling – has reached some sort of crisis level? The response to Xenophon (who is sort of establishment himself) here in SA has been amazing – there’s as many adverts attacking NXT (from Lib and Lab) as Lib/Lab attacking each other.

  10. Australians have only themselves to blame for any feelings of discontent about the surging yellowing and browning of our suburbs, workplaces, bank lending departments, weekend auctions, schools, university open days, Starbucks and Audi dealerships.

    Australia needs a high level of immigration. That much is clear. John Howard among many others in both the conservative community and in real world environments have re-iterated this. It is an objective statement of fact, no more subject to a burden of proof than the observation that A Man Needs A Woman, or Never Pair Red Wine with Fish.

    And while Mr Howard diplomatically asserts that one maintains support for these facts via communication, that is ultimately as redundant as saying you maintain support for the concept of Heat and Cold by communicating your government’s energy policy.

    Be that as it may – the Australian government has been unrelenting and consistent in its communication with the Australian people on our bedrock national issue of controlling our borders against boat arrivals.

    The government has by any objective measure, communicated to the Australian media its capacity to control our borders, thereby maintaining public ‘support’ for the empirical concept of Australia needing high levels of immigration.

    We should be no more concerned by the confusion of those who lack the intellectual wherewithal to grasp this reality, than we would by people who deny the existence of the colour Blue.

    • Is this satire? Forgive me if it is, but otherwise…. complete BS! Both sides of govt have ‘communicated’ 2/10’s of squat to the average voter. The entire process has been to convince voters that controlling a few boats = controlling boarders. That has been the only communication and focus from all govts and willing media dimwits. The truth of course is that boarders were ‘under control’ and under that control they were flung wide open, allowing every elected sycophant to claim growth and jobs as their organic achievement rather than a simple product of importing growth and paying for it on the public’s credit card. that is a truth neither side dare wishes to speak. Suggesting it shouldn’t have to be spoken because it was somehow as clear as ‘night follows day’ is boarding on phycosis.

  11. I’m voting in the next day or two in Beijing. My senate vote is the only that really counts given the electorate I’m in. I’d like Australia to have a sensible immigration policy. Personally I don’t care what colour someone’s skin is, or which god they pray to, but what I don’t like is corruption of the current system. As far as I can tell, the current immigration system is failing existing and future Australians, and also the migrants themselves in many cases which is not good. I’d like our new citizens to commit to this country and through that commitment assist in making Australia a better place (the post WW2 migration immeasurably enriched our society, that is what I would like to see again).

    Apart from the Sustainable Australia Party, does anyone else know of minor parties who have a policy of having a sensible immigration policy? I’d like some help in figuring out my senate vote for places 2-3rd last. I’ve done some research but haven’t found much. (I’d like to avoid the racist and religious nut-jobs parties).

  12. You will find similar discussions across the whole western world. The article made the following assertion:

    “Yet if immigration barely increases the overall size of the national economic pie, it does affect how that pie gets sliced up. The owners of capital, business entrepreneurs, and well-educated professionals benefit overwhelmingly. In effect, low-skilled immigrants help increase the productivity and national-income share of those who employ them. It should be no surprise that millions of ordinary Americans perceive immigrants as competitors for jobs, neighborhood turf or public resources, while the more affluent and wealthy tend to regard them as employees—the nannies, gardeners, waiters, maids and laborers who address their needs.”

    It is probably more applicable to the owners of capital and business entrepreneurs than well-educated professionals. In our political system, as well as most other western political systems, where lobbyists and special interest have better access to politicians than their electorates it is not hard to imagine why both political parties keep quiet on the subject and instead talk about border protection which is supposed to address the concerns of the populace or rather to fool them. Transnational corporations are especially supportive of mass immigration. Some time ago I read an article in which a senior marketing executive was complaining about the cost of preparing their marketing campaigns in different languages. At the end the guy said that it would be great if everyone could speak the same language and have a similar cultural sensitivity.

    • There is a much simpler explanation: the lumpenproles are always at the pointy end of capital failures. It’s as true now as it was in the first part of the last century. At the point where they feel like they have nothing to lose, they are easily distracted into pouring their anger out against a local target rather than the people who caused their misery in the first place (i.e. capital). Everybody seemed to think that the losers of each failure of capitalism will inevitably look to the left but it simply isn’t true – they abandon politics in favour of populism and are then easily exploited by whichever political side has the least qualms about doing so. Leon Trotsky wrote about it in the 1930s and it was as true then as it is now:

      “The fascists find their human material mainly in the petty bourgeoisie. The latter has been entirely ruined by big capital. There is no way out for it in the present social order, but it knows of no other. Its dissatisfaction, indignation, and despair are diverted by the fascists away from big capital and against the workers. It may be said that fascism is the act of placing the petty bourgeoisie at the disposal of its most bitter enemies. In this way, big capital ruins the middle classes and then, with the help of hired fascist demagogues, incites the despairing petty bourgeoisie against the worker. The bourgeois regime can be preserved only by such murderous means as these.”

      It’s the very reason that since WWII there has been an unspoken agreement between the major political movements to dampen down any talk or discussion about immigration because a certain section of society is both incapable of dealing with it rationally and easily provoked into physical violence, largely because they are far more used to it than the soft handed middle classes for whom domestic and street violence is fairly rare.