It’s time to halve immigration. The present super fast rate is too high for the economy, too high for our politics, too high for Australian social fabric and too high for our strategic outlook:
This is not a turn away from a commitment to multi-culturalism, it’s not a race or ethnic based argument at all. On the contrary. It’s the pragmatic acknowledgment that the current high speed pace of immigration has moved beyond Australia’s ability to cope and thus itself threatens those values.
MB has long described the pressures immigration is bringing to bear on the economy. It is deflating wages as it helps turn “skills shortages” into mass under-employment, is raising asset prices, killing productivity via infrastructure choking and keeping the currency higher than it would otherwise be. The post-boom Australian adjustment needs the first but not the last four. That mix is a problem. Using high immigration as a macro lever to repair competitiveness is loading up the least fortunate with the burden of adjustment while the well-off make little or no sacrifice at all. It is a form of class and inter-generational warfare.
The resulting social pressures have so far only arrived mostly in theory. We have not suffered from the European-style terror attacks that appear to be accelerating. Local Islamic communities remain well-integrated and law-abiding (pardon me for being so patronising). But it’s impossible to miss the groundswell of Islamophobia in some communities, captured most obviously by the propaganda of One Nation:
This cannot be ignored lest it become a self-fulfilling prophecy of conflict. Yet neither can it be dealt with on its own terms. Our politicians have hitherto tended to only play around the edges of race politics but the intensity of division in politics today is such that it could be institutionalised by segregationist immigration policies. That would be disastrous to Australian social fabric.
Finally, Australian social change is no longer running in tandem with its strategic outlook. We are are still wedded to an Anglospheric security apparatus but immigration is taking the nation elsewhere, via Domainfax over the weekend:
University student Tony Chang had suspected for months that he was being secretly monitored, but it was a panicked phone call from a family member in China that confirmed his fears.
It was June 2015 and Chang’s parents had just been approached by state security agents in Shenyang in north-eastern China and invited to a meeting at a tea house. It would not be a cordial catch-up.
As Chang later detailed in a sworn statement to Australian immigration authorities, three agents warned his parents about their son’s involvement in the Chinese democracy movement in Australia. The agents “pressed the point that my parents must ask me to stop what I am taking part in and keep a low profile,” the statement said.
From a Brisbane share house littered with books and unwashed plates, the Queensland University of Technology student told a Fairfax Media-Four Corners investigation that the agents had intelligence about his plans to participate in a protest in Brisbane on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and also during the Dalai Lama’s visit to Australia.
Chang’s activities in Brisbane meant that his terrified father in China feared that he too was being “watched and tracked”.
His father, a cautious, apolitical man, had already spent years worrying about his unruly son. In 2008, when Chang was 14, he was arrested for hanging Taiwan independence banners on street poles in Shenyang. His family was forced to call on Communist Party contacts to ensure Chang was released after several hours of questioning.
After Chang was questioned again in 2014 for dissident activities, he decided it was no longer safe to remain in China. He applied for an Australian student visa.
The June 2015 approach to his parents back in China was the second time in two months that security agents had warned Chang’s family to rein in his anti-communist activism in Australia. These threats helped convince the Australian government to grant Chang a protection visa.
Chang’s treatment as a teen is typical of the way the party-state deals with dissidents inside China. But the monitoring of the student in Brisbane and his decision to speak out about the threats to his parents in Shenyang, despite the risk it poses to them, provides a rare insight into something much less well known: the opaque campaign of control and influence being waged by the Chinese Communist Party inside Australia.
Part of this campaign involves attempts to influence Australian politicians via political donors closely aligned with the Communist Party – something that causes serious concern to Australia’s security agency, ASIO.
But the one million ethnic Chinese living in Australia are also targets of the Communist Party’s influence operations.
On university campuses, in the Chinese-language media and in some community groups, the party is mounting an influence-and-control operation among its diaspora that is far greater in scale and, at its worst, much nastier, than any other nation deploys.
Mass immigration is a strange amalgam of a Left ideology that condemns any cut back as racist and a Right ideology that knows of no other way to grow the economy. Both notions are obviously wrong and share another larger failure. Neither is a part of any discernible long term plan that manages the key variables in Australia’s national interest. Where does mass immigration fit with the long term plan for Australia beyond vague notions of the “more the merrier”? It is aging Australia faster than otherwise. It is lowering living standards, especially for working classes. It has helped turn “skill shortages” into mass under-employment. It is threatening social rupture. And it is undermining the strategic outlook.
It’s time to halve the intake to give the nation time to absorb and adapt to change, as well as figure out where the intake best fits long term national goals.
He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.
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