Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s weekend address to the media revealed plans to amend the Migration Act to stop asylum seekers who arrive by boat from ever being granted residency in Australia:
“…a harmonious multicultural society depends on the Australian Government being in control of its borders. And it depends on us sending a united and concerted answer to the people smugglers that if they seek to bring people to Australia, those passengers will never settle in this country. That absolutely, unflinching, unequivocal message has to be loud and clear”.
Sound familiar? It is the exact same approach adopted by former Prime Minister John Howard when he 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.
The ultimate result was a massive lift in Australia’s net migration intake, which surged from the mid-2000s and pushed population growth to roughly twice long-run norms. Moreover, the official projections are for this high intake to persist at least until mid-century (see next chart).
Much of this immigration has flowed into the two major cities – Sydney and Melbourne – whose populations have ballooned (see next chart).
Again, the official projections are for both major cities to grow at a breakneck pace for decades to come (see below charts).
It is the above massive increase in population that is the key reason why many of us living in the major cities are stuck in traffic, cannot get a seat on the train, are experiencing crowded hospitals and schools, and/or cannot afford a home.
The net result of this “Big Australia” policy is that living standards are being eroded as the capacity of the economy and infrastructure to absorb all of the extra people is overwhelmed, and the country’s natural resources base is diluted among more people.
John Howard never explicitly mentioned that he was in favour of high immigration 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.
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, nor any mandate to proceed with turbo-charged levels of immigration.
And now we have Turnbull once again resorting to Howard’s play book, scapegoating refugees while he opens the door even wider to economic migrants arriving here by plane.
Under rules announced during Turnbull’s visit to China in April, from 1 July 2016, students aged 6 and up as well as their guardians are able to apply for student visas. These rule changes will add even greater pressures on Australia’s primary schools, as well as place more strain on the housing market and infrastructure. Indeed, Chinese international-property portal, Juwai.com, stated that there has been a nearly 20% jump in inquiries for properties in Australia since Turnbull’s April announcement.
The Turnbull Government has also announced that from 1 July 2017, a new parental visa will be introduced that will allow migrants to bring into Australia their elderly parents, thus further ageing the population and placing even more strain on Australia’s healthcare system and infrastructure.
Australia desperately needs a frank and honest national conversation about population policy, which focuses on whether or not large-scale immigration is benefiting the living standards of the existing population. Not the dishonest ‘smoke and mirrors’ approach employed by Malcolm Turnbull, which deliberately conflates the immigration intake with refugees.