UK Tories’ immigration reform a good model for Australia

By Leith van Onselen

Over the past 20 years, net overseas migration into the UK has surged from below 100,000 to around 300,000 people annually:

Much like in Australia, this surge in immigration has created all manner of problems for the incumbent UK population, including massively expensive housing (especially in London, where most migrants go), worsening infrastructure bottlenecks, and over-crowding in schools and hospitals.

The push-back against excessive immigration, and the associated erosion of living standards, is also believed to have been a key factor behind voters’ decision to leave the EU.

Overnight, Prime Minister Theresa May launched the Conservative Party’s Manifesto, which included a commitment to reduce UK immigration below 100,000 (i.e. to pre-2000 norms) via a combination of:

  • Doubling the Immigration Skills Charge levied on companies employing migrant workers to £2000 ($3500) a year, using the revenue to train UK workers.
  • Toughening visa requirements for students, requiring them to leave the country at the end of their course unless they meet new, higher requirements.
  • Increasing the Immigration Health Surcharge to £600 ($1050) for migrant workers and £450 ($780) for international students, to cover their use of the National Health Service (the UK’s version of Medicare).
  • Increasing the earnings threshold for people wishing to sponsor migrants for family visas.

The insufferable left-wing press has been quick to lambast the proposals, sighting ‘xenophobia’ and claiming that capping immigration will cripple the UK’s economy.

But these concerns are misplaced: many of the problems being experienced in the UK – including unaffordable housing, congested economic and social infrastructure, and poor wages growth – are made worse through excessive immigration, and it makes good sense to lower it to more sustainable levels (long-run norms).

In any event, the UK economy, when measured in per capita terms, performed much better when immigration was lower:

There’s a good model here for Australian immigration reform. Whichever political party grabs it first will see its fortunes skyrocket, just as it has for the Tories:

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Leith van Onselen

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

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  1. TailorTrashMEMBER

    Wonder if those diggers up to their armpits in jungle slime in 1943 were xenophobic ……..gawd help us if we are ever required to fight another war to defend what might be left of Australian in the next 20 years ……..imagine the howls of racism and xenophobia that will be heard ………..

    • Yep. One idiotic politician – Hanson – has already seen it. But for better or for worse, she is fairly incompetent. Too idiotic.

      If Australia had a talented campaigning politican on this bandwagon (a Trump or equivalent) then they would already be rocketing up the charts.

      (Abbott will try – but he’s damaged goods. In fact I’m not sure we have any talented politicians at all. We’ll know soon enough…)

  2. Labels are getting overused and losing their effect.

    When you scream “LABEL!” every time anything happens, it backfires. The little people, the ordinary people, just figure you’re a nutter and ignore you.

    • Yeah, I support reducing immigration to net zero levels, at least until our infrastructure catches up to the current bloated population levels. Doing this would provide massive economic and social benefits for the country. One of my best mates is Indian, I work with people from 20+ different countries, my kids have mates from many different ethnic backgrounds etc etc. In short, I don’t give a rats arse about the colour of someone’s skin. If anybody wants to call me a racist for my views they’re welcome to do so because I want freedom of speech. I don’t care though, and I will freely tell them to go and get stuffed in return.

    • blacktwin997MEMBER

      Right on, the point of these labels isn’t about correct identification, it’s to stifle debate through self-censorship of contentious views.
      And it’s not like labels are symmetrical in their effect, for example when somebody screams out “RACIST!” at you and you quite reasonably respond with “FUCKWIT!”, yours doesn’t have the same impact since fuckwits are a protected species here in Australia.

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      There’s about 60 people working in the new place. Mostly anglo Aussies with maybe half a dozen Indians and a few each of Asian, ME and Mediterranean new australians. I’ve been experimenting with the racist thing. Every time someone mentions busy roads or stacked school rooms or falling wages or the like, I go on a rant about extreme levels of immigration causing it. Haven’t been called out once. All I get is nodding heads.

      Reckon those labels don’t work anymore. That, or they think I’m nuts and to be avoided.

  3. Are you arguing that the Brits should not have signed up for the free movement of people agreement between the EU 29?

    • Westminster let in heaps of Indians over the last 10-15 years!

      Heck, I think England got more immigrants from outside EU then from the EU!

      There was no need for that. Check out some YouTube videos of Indians on tourist visas working in British restaurants illegally.

      So why have “students” in addition to “tourists”? Or why have Indians in addition to Romanians?

  4. 100,000/year would be way too much for AUS.

    (the religious madness of Greens and ALP means AUS has 200,000/year coming in!)

    Consider how many classrooms and railway stations there are in England compared to AUS. Quite simply, AUS has way less infrastructure than Britain to be able to absorb illiterate chain smokers from 3rd world slums.

    • And there was me thinking it was the liberals who just set the skilled immigration levels

  5. The problem with this argument is that it get lumped with the classically xenophobic the migrants took our jeeerbs. It’s all the fault of the OTHERS!! I agree the infrastructure bottlenecks are a major problem but there needs to be some quantitative data why the extra production and thus taxes from skilled migrants can’t be used to pay for extra infrastructure.

    The real causes go back to the high structural costs in Australia. Specifically the high cost of land due to government policy including most of all low interest rates for too long. Also regulations reducing savings and investment resulting in lower productivity growth. The welfare state allowing migrants to prosper without producing is a major problem. I would rather see these changed rather than skilled migration. No issues with unskilled immigration especially refugee intakes cut which is the opposite of what writers here have advocated for.

    • So you are unaware of the fact that chain smokers from the 3rd world come here to work for $10/hour cash and thus pay no income tax at all but use taxpayer funded services such as railways and roads.

      Or you are deliberately ignoring that fact.

      Oh, then they get free access to Aussie hospitals to treat their diseased lungs.

      Also, why should AUS have a higher immigration rate than Canada?

      No idea what passport you have, but if you have an Aussie/Kiwi/British passport, you should want to pull the ladder up.

      • I said skilled migration.

        Skilled migration increases production. They use the income they earn to also consume and pay taxes.

    • drsmithyMEMBER

      The problem with this argument is that it get lumped with the classically xenophobic the migrants took our jeeerbs. It’s all the fault of the OTHERS!! I agree the infrastructure bottlenecks are a major problem but there needs to be some quantitative data why the extra production and thus taxes from skilled migrants can’t be used to pay for extra infrastructure.

      Because there’s over a million Australians who want more work but can’t get it.

      • This is the age old the migrants are taking our jeerbs. If there was no minimum wage or other government labour regulation there would be no involentary unemployment. Blame the state not skilled migration. Wages are just another price. If allowed to adjust the market will always clear. As long as human wants and needs are unlimited there will always be demand for labor. Where skilled migrants improve productivity, more is produced, greater supply pushes down costs and real wages can rise even if nominal wages fall. Everyone is richer

      • Relevant StakeholderMEMBER

        They are taking our jobs, it’s not wrong just because the phrase was used as a pisstake during a south park episode. ‘Skilled migrants’ know why they are wanted…to work for lower wages than Australians would, they should be treated accordingly.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        This is the age old the migrants are taking our jeerbs.

        When under- and unemployment is so high, how else would you describe it ?

        If there was no minimum wage or other government labour regulation there would be no involentary unemployment.

        Yes there would. As evidenced by places that don’t have minimum wages or other regulations, and still have people looking for [more] work.

        This might be a revelation to you, but supply-side economics is bunk. Nobody employs people hoping they’ll pay for themselves in additional productivity.

        Further, are you suggesting immigrants are, or should not be, subject to minimum wage and similar regulations ?

        Where skilled migrants improve productivity, more is produced, greater supply pushes down costs and real wages can rise even if nominal wages fall. Everyone is richer

        Skilled migration as practiced in neoliberalism for the last thirty years isn’t about improving productivity, it’s about driving down wages to increase profits.

        On top of which, there is no evidence these “skilled immigrants” are improving productivity.

        You are peddling non-sequiturs.

        Skilled immigration is supposed to be there to address labour shortages and skills gaps. We obviously do not have the former, and the latter is demonstrably inadequately assessed. So the current “skilled migration” regime is clearly not fit for purpose.

        Mo’ migrants == mo’ money is only true in certain circumstances, which we do not have.

      • In this instance I actually agree with DrSmithy. That summarises it very well.

    • There is actually no empirical research to show that ‘immigrants’ take ‘workers’ jobs, and can actually add to employment; PM May learnt that after commissioning research some years ago. Britain, like Europe, Australia etc. have ageing populations with baby boomers departing the workforce turning worker to pensioner ratios upside down, hence the use of temporary immigrants to support the expanding pensions and health care systems.

      Further, like Sustainable Australia, UK ‘charities’ Population Matters and Migration Watch lobby govt. and media on the need to reduce immigration, but don’t offer a solution let explain the dynamic of NOM.

      However, they are influenced by the US based Center for Immigration Studies, creation of John Tanton the ‘nativist architect of the modern anti-immigration movement’, in turn seeded by plutocrats etc. obsessed about eugenics and supporting malign neo-liberalism for the top 0.1% at the expense of both workers and immigrants.

      Both Brexit and Trump are nativist type experiments beyond the expectations of proponents, now looking at lines in the sand re. ‘weaponised’ NOM targets (inflated by temp residents e.g. students), visa and immigration restrictions; there does not seem to be any care about impact upon services and govt. budgets.

      The socio-economic model seems to resonate with the ‘steady-state economy’ theory or autarky as proposed by MB, issue is where has such a model been used? 1930s Germany and Italy, Peron’s Argentina, Apartheid South Africa, anymore?

      Fact is that it does not matter if economy weakens significantly, provided the regime has cemented itself in, and institutions with, power e.g. gerrymandering, voting rights restrictions, weakened unions etc.; because the top people’s status, privilege and power will not be impacted.

      Hence one should be a bit sceptical of accepting the PR pseudo science of David Attenborough and Paul Ehrlich at Population Matters, and the hectoring and ordering of Lord Green at Migration Watch; then again the UK is the original home of Galton and the ‘science of eugenics and racial hygiene’, or as John Tanton creepily describes it ‘passive eugenics’… but unlike the UK, Tanton had no issue with ‘Europeans’.

      • re ” have ageing populations with baby boomers departing the workforce turning worker to pensioner ratios upside down”
        The UK as in Australia also suffers from extreme ageism in the workplace, particularly London and the south east. Getting a job after the age of 50 is almost impossible for most. Given the opportunity most employers will chose a 30 year old from abroad rather than have old folk in the office (even if they are more experienced and can still run marathons etc) it is not just about wages but ego and image are seen as more important in most industries. So we have around 15 years wasted per person who is pushed out and for that we import an immigrant? I think the official data is corrupt. ditto younger people, graduates not getting taken on but immigrants with experience are, another crock of shit.

  6. If Australia’s per capita NOM was the same as the UK’s based on this 273k NOM, we’d be looking at an NOM of about 100k, which would be pretty close to about right.

    • TailorTrashMEMBER

      Well Sydney university seems to be going nicely selling their product ….$220 million campus at Parramatta just opened …..that’s another 20,000 ? high quality,
      hard earned, highly valuable degrees a year they can churn out ……….Australian degrees will soon have the status of the ones you can buy on the internet ….but who cares they get get the dosh …the “students” get the passport to citazenship and the right to bring their aged parents in for free healthcare under Medicare ……….meanwhile the government sends the debt collectors to heavy citazens if they are two weeks overdue on a tax bill ……..Go Straya !

      • That’s exactly the reputation Australian Universities have gotten after speaking with some European backpackers while in Vietnam. They said our Uni’s are treated as a bit of a joke to Europeans as the degrees and studies are easy and watered down to make them appealing.

  7. sydboy007MEMBER

    Have been traveling in the UK the mat 2 weeks and it’s been interesting to probe the locals views. UK Labor is toast. There is little love for May, but immigration and not being told what to do by the EU are THE issues most will vote on and Labor here are not listening to what the people want. UK Labor makes the greens in Australia look right wing.

  8. Mass immigration designed to undermine wages, conditions and security of normal workers has totally destroyed my immediate families lives, financially speaking that is. Add in offshoring then that completes the circle. My job went to India, my wifes was replaced by some sort of immigration racket, ie Indians working in India but actually doing their work IN Australia on some sort of rotating scheme/scam. My brother who had had a hard time all his life due to a minor disability was a cleaning supervisor on little more than the minimum wage, all under casual conditions but enough to get by, lost his job when his employers lost their contract under tender to another company that could not pay even the minimum wage to get the jobs done (and I’m talking about maybe 50 workers here) turns out that the new contractor was paying $14ph to foreign ‘students’ who by the way were getting lots of complaints as to not doing the job properly, ‘a dirty toilet will never be cleaned’ is their motto. My sister who was supposed to be a teacher but mostly out of work due to nepotism and cronyism in the workplace lost all her part time fill in jobs for the same reasons. All of us had 15 – 25 years to go before official retirement, none of us will have much super, some of us will end up as being one of Joe Hockey’s ‘leaners’ but will have zero conscience about being so and will squeeze the system for everything we can get. As for retraining? what for, over 50 means ageism in the work place has kicked in and proper graduates are not getting jobs….
    LNP, Labor and Greens will label me a racist for even suggesting these things but as stated by other commenters here, that is just a catch-all put down for those not profiting from the immigration gravy train.

    • Recent conversation overheard… yeah if the contractor falls in between a few hundred dollar bracket then the job is theirs….. punchline…. meh anyway he pays them a bowl of rice a day anywho….

    • Just a friendly, well-meant suggestion. Get a cert 3/4 in disability. Easily done. Easy, practical work. Can’t be offshored. Pays well. Penalty rates. Endless demand for workers and they absolutely love people over 50.