On Friday, I labelled The Greens a fake environmental party because of their support for mass immigration and a ‘Big Australia’.
My growing frustration about The Greens has come about because for nearly 20 years they have failed to utter a word in protest as the federal government, under both the Coalition and Labor, massively ramped-up Australia’s permanent migration intake from 80,000 at the turn of the century to 200,000 currently (see next chart).
It is this increase in the permanent migration intake which has driven the huge acceleration in Australia’s population growth, which is projected to continue for decades into the future (see next chart).
Rather than protest Australia’s world-beating population growth, The Greens stood by silently as Australia’s population surged nearly 30% over the past 19 years, which has placed undue strain on Australia’s environment – supposedly The Greens’ core concern. Indeed, just last month, the latest federal government State of the Environment report revealed that Australia’s natural environment is being placed under acute strain as Australia’s population grows out of control.
These environmental concerns come on top of the deleterious impacts mass immigration is having on living standards in the big cities – such as packed trains, worsening traffic congestion, and deteriorating housing affordability. Under current immigration settings, the population’s of both Sydney and Melbourne are projected to grow at a breakneck pace for decades to come (see below charts).
It wasn’t always like this. As documented in Green Left Weekly in 1998, fears of being associated with Pauline Hanson’s “racist” and “xenophobic” views caused The Greens to abandon their policy of “stabilising” Australia’s population and “a zero net migration policy” to one of opposing cuts to immigration – hence their deafening silence as Australia’s population boomed!
Former Prime Minister John Howard wedged The Greens even further when he performed an immigration ‘bait-and-switch’ in the early-2000s, effectively slamming 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.
John Howard never articulated to the Australian people that the Government was going to dramatically expand the nation’s immigration intake. Why? Because he knew the electorate would be dead against it. Instead, Howard scapegoated refugees to give the impression that he was stemming the migrant inflow while proceeding in secret with his ‘Big Australia’ plan.
And rather than oppose the subterfuge, The Greens abandoned their roots and stood by silently for fear of being labelled “racist” and “xenophobic” if they opposed such high levels of immigration.
Worse, last week we witnessed The Greens attempt to scuttle the Turnbull Government’s modest (and sensible) changes to so-called ‘skilled’ 457 visas, accusing the Government of using “cheap politics of racism and crass anti-migrant sentiment”.
What few people realise is that under The Greens’ immigration policy, Australia would see its population hit a massive 43 million by 2060 – well over double the 19 million population that existed when The Greens abandoned its stable population policy in 1998!
Let me explain.
One year ago, The Greens announced a plan to massively increase Australia’s humanitarian migrant intake without providing any offsets to Australia’s current permanent migrant intake of 200,000 (full policy announcement below):
The Australian Greens have unveiled a bold yet fiscally responsible vision to harness the nation building capacity that people seeking asylum represent, ahead of the 2016 Federal Election.
By closing the detention camps on Manus Island and Nauru while welcoming 50,000 people seeking asylum per year, which includes 40,000 under the humanitarian intake and 10,000 under a new ‘Skilled Refugee’ programme, the plan would create a safe way for people in our region to seek asylum in Australia.
“Australia doesn’t need to respond to people seeking our protection by turning our backs or locking them up – there is a better way ,” said Australian Greens Leader, Dr Richard Di Natale.
“Today the Greens are announcing a vision that would welcome a record number of people to live in safety in our community every year and recognise the contribution refugees have made to this country over generations and will continue to make.
“Our bold plan would not only welcome 50,000 people per year and offer a safe way for people to seek asylum in Australia, it would also save the budget $160 million over the next four years,” Di Natale said.
“For too long, the national political debate has portrayed migrants and people seeking asylum as a problem instead of an opportunity,” Greens’ immigration spokesperson, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.
“By offering 10,000 ‘Skilled Refugee’ places per year through the skilled migration pathway, we will be helping to save lives while letting those very same people contribute to the future prosperity of our economy.
“Modern Australia was built by generations of hardworking, self-started people who came to our country in search of a better life. People want to protect their families and to give their children access to an education and a life free of violence. We should be allowing them to get on and do that in Australia.
“Using the savings from closing the offshore detention camps to build a genuine regional solution, which assesses people’s claims for asylum where they are before flying them to Australia safely, will save thousands of lives.
“We need to get children out of immigration detention, including those who are on Nauru, and allow people to get on with rebuilding their lives in safety.
“The government’s cruelty towards people seeking asylum has gone on for too long. It’s time we treated others the way we would want to be treated and let them contribute to the future of our nation.”
As shown in the first chart above, Australia’s current permanent migrant intake is 200,000, comprising 186,000 under the non-humanitarian intake and 14,000 under the humanitarian intake.
Under The Greens’ plan, Australia’s permanent migrant intake would increase to 236,000 a year.
According to The Productivity Commission’s recent Migrant Intake Australia report, Australia’s population would hit 27 million by 2060 under zero Net Overseas Migration (The Greens’ old policy), 41 million under 200,000 Net Overseas Migration (the current settings), and roughly 43 million under 236,000 Net Overseas Migration (see below chart).
Since The Greens have advocated raising Australia’s already turbo-charged immigration intake, it would appear that The Greens support a very ‘Big Australia’.
This is why I view the The Greens as a fake environmental party that is hellbent on destroying the Australian environment and incumbent residents’ living standards via never-ending mass immigration and rapid population growth.
There is a way for The Greens to once again become a genuine “green” party as well as ensuring social justice concerns are met: argue to increase Australia’s humanitarian intake (currently 14,000 per year) while massively cutting Australia’s economic intake (currently around 190,000 people per year). This way The Greens could achieve both goals: significantly reducing population growth and saving the environment while also being a good and caring global citizen. After all, when it comes to protecting the environment, it is the overall numbers that matter, not how the migrants come.
Of course, The Greens should also highlight the associated benefits from running a moderate immigration program, including less pressure on housing and infrastructure. But the environment should be its main focus.
The key point is that The Greens, and the left more generally, must stop playing the race card on immigration (or ignoring the population issue) and actively enter the debate. Otherwise, they will be left behind – both in a policy sense and at the ballot box.