Anthony Albanese fails in mass immigration defence

By Leith van Onselen

Labor infrastructure and transport spokesman, Anthony Albanese, appeared on The Bolt Report on Wednesday night whereby he gave a pathetic defence of maintaining a mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ program (audio starts from around the 18.30 mark):

Andrew Bolt: “You said today that Victoria needed $3 billion more in funding just to keep up the infrastructure with population growth over the next four years. We’re growing so fast that we’ve got to spend more. Now, I guess you would make that same claim in Sydney and in Brisbane… My question here is: why have we got such huge population increases through immigration – 200,000 people a year – when it’s costing us this insane amount of money just to keep up?”

Anthony Albanese: “Well of course migration has been good for our economy. Migration helps to add to economic growth. We have an ageing population”..

Andrew Bolt: “Not per person. We did a segment yesterday showing in total that you are quite right. But when you break it down to per person, felt in your own pocket, our growth rate is only a little bit ahead of Japan, which has got virtually no immigration, and way behind other countries that have got no immigration and very little population growth”.

Anthony Albanese: “Well it’s certainly true that this government, growth has stalled and is below trend. One of the reasons for that is a failure to invest in infrastructure. Infrastructure creates jobs and economic activity in the short-term. But in the long-term, helps boost productivity and produces revenue for government and a return to the national economy.

“What we have seen in Victoria in particular is that infrastructure and investment…  is only 12%. But Victoria is 25% of the population. Victorians are being punished for having a Labor Government. And indeed over the next decade, the PBO have released this paper that shows that infrastructure investment will fall from 0.4% as a percentage of GDP to 0.2%, so in half. Now that will have a devastating impact on growth in the economy…”

Andrew Bolt: “I accept that but the point is that it wouldn’t be so devastating if we didn’t have such a massive population intake via immigration that we need to cater to. You wouldn’t need to build more roads, more rail, more this, more that, more schools, more everything, if we didn’t have such a wild intake of immigrants”.

Anthony Albanese: “Migrants aren’t just a cost, they produce economic activity as well as growth”.

Andrew Bolt: “And crowded cities. I don’t understand why we are doing it”.

Anthony Albanese: “Here in Victoria, we had under the former government, when I was the minister, we had $200 per head spending on infrastructure. By the year 2020-21, that figure drops to $40 per head per Victorian. The Commonwealth is withdrawing funding from infrastructure…”

What a pathetic response by Albanese. Regarding his claim that “migration has been good for our economy” because it “helps to add to economic growth”, here’s a chart showing that long-run trend per capita GDP growth has cratered to levels below the early-1980s and 1990s recessions:

And here’s another showing that real per capita wages & salaries fell by 1.8% over the decade to March 2017:

Hence, mass immigration may be juicing the aggregate economy, but individual workers are not being made better-off. The picture is obviously even worse when broader impacts like traffic congestion and housing affordability are taken into account.

With regards to Albanese’s claim that “we have an ageing population”, has he been living under a rock? The Productivity Commission has debunked the myth that immigration can solve population ageing many times over the past decade or so. For example:

  • PC (2005): Despite popular thinking to the contrary, immigration policy is also not a feasible countermeasure [to an ageing population]. It affects population numbers more than the age structure”.
  • PC (2010): “Realistic changes in migration levels also make little difference to the age structure of the population in the future, with any effect being temporary“…
  • PC (2011): “…substantial increases in the level of net overseas migration would have only modest effects on population ageing and the impacts would be temporary, since immigrants themselves age… It follows that, rather than seeking to mitigate the ageing of the population, policy should seek to influence the potential economic and other impacts”…
  • PC (2016): “[Immigration] delays rather than eliminates population ageing. In the long term, underlying trends in life expectancy mean that permanent immigrants (as they age) will themselves add to the proportion of the population aged 65 and over”.

In short, trying to overcome an ageing population through higher immigration is a Ponzi scheme.  It requires ever more immigration, with the associated negative impacts on economic and social infrastructure, congestion, housing affordability, and the environment.

From his comments above, Anthony Albanese honestly seems to believe that never-ending immigration and infrastructure spending is some kind perpetual motion machine. That is, Australia can just keep importing migrants and building infrastructure and housing for them, and the economy will remain strong. This argument completely ignores the corresponding blow-out in the trade deficit and the current account deficit, as well as the escalation of debt, that would accompany such an economic model. It also only considers the economy in aggregate, not on a per person basis.

Like so many of his federal parliamentary counterparts, Anthony Albanese is clueless and appears to have zero interest in maintaining individual living standards. So much for “Labor” representing ordinary workers.

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Unconventional Economist


  1. “This argument completely ignores the corresponding blow-out in the trade deficit and the current account deficit, as well as the escalation of debt, that would accompany such an economic model. It also only considers the economy in aggregate, not on a per person basis.”

    Indeed. I like Anthony Albanese, but what a p!ss poor effort. As one of the working poor i’m accustom to not having any genuine representation in parliament, but it will be interesting to see how the middle class responses to the realisation that their living standards are being eroded by bipartisan stupidity. Sadly most of our politicians, and those in the media, don’t seem to have the ability to think beyond a very narrow set of flawed economic and ideological ideas.

    • sydboy007MEMBER

      Sadly I think political tribalism will protect the 200K+ earners for awhile yet. I think once the next recession hits there will be a mass awakening.

      • I don’t feel particularly protected by them. They still take 42% of my gross pay and 30% of my super earnings to pay for the “unprotected” poor people.

      • Andrew, if you are going to make dick wad comments, at least you could become a member

  2. Here is the full audio of Leith appearing on Bolt Report:

    Strange how the right wing (3AW and Bolt) talks sense on mass low-wage immigration but Bolt and Murdoch talk nonsense on coal.

    Maybe a compromise is about to be offered by LNP soon: slash immigration but also cheer on coal?

    Which again shows what a miracle the Daily Mail newspaper is – it hates mass immigration but does not cheer on coal.

  3. adelaide_economistMEMBER

    Ah yes, Albanese performs the typical dance of not answering or responding to the actual questions or issues being raised but simply reciting talking points. So over it! I don’t get why he’s seen as preferable in any way to Shorten. They’re both going to tow the line at the end of the day but Shorten has actually shown more willingness to (temporarily) buck the neoliberal platitudes on issues like migration – even if he retracts them very shortly afterwards!

    Funny thing is how the Productivity Commission has been quite sidelined since Abbott came to power (and continuing under Turnbull). There was (from memory) a very strong idea put about that the PC would be tasked with looking into a whole range of things post 2013 election but I guess they aren’t ‘reliable’ enough in bending completely to the will of the government in their findings.

    As for population ageing, I wish any journalist who gets that angle on crazy immigration levels would ask about the geriatric visas and how that fits with the ‘countering population ageing’ narrative (or indeed any of the other narratives – like ‘skills’ or ‘paying tax’ or ‘less burden on public services’ because it also fails on all of those counts too).

  4. There is a lot of defence in our msm of our reckless levels of migration all phrased as a false binary.
    702 drive yesterday too.
    Immigration good MMMMKAY.

      • ceteris paribus

        Nothing wrong with “virtue signalling” unless it betrays hypocrisy or gratuitous boasting. The phrase was created by the right as an “ad hominem” to divert from their inability to defend the indefensible on many substantive positions.
        John Howard was excoriated a couple of times by religious leaders for mean and unjust policies. With his practised art of evading substantive rebuttal, he would retreat into his common-man routine and humbly suggest that “no person could argue that they held a monopoly on morality”.
        In this fashion, Howard cleverly excised morality from political discussion when the values involved were not to his advantage. At most other times in political discourse, of course, he could simply not wait to wrap himself up in a cloying bourgeois morality to win the “honest John” accolade.

  5. Clearly shows how Labor too cannot be trusted. Dont vote Labor, Coalition, or the Greens! Incompetent the lot of them ….

  6. Just append “like Spain and Ireland pre GFC” to all their comments and you will clearly demarcate their imbecility.

  7. A healthy economy doesn’t result in stagnant or falling incomes. That is only supposed to happen in recessions..

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      Hidden recessions are different.

      It’s like this old tracksuit I have from a team I made. It fits perfectly and is so very comfortable but in reality I look like an 80s Russian boxer in it.

      That’s Straya. Thinking it’s rolling on fine but to the outside looks ridiculous.

  8. roylefamilyMEMBER

    They aren’t stupid. They know all that MB says is true. They are terrified of the adjustment to low population growth.

  9. HadronCollision

    If Albanese had half a brain he would have you in to his office for a briefing to understand WTF is really going on

  10. Albo is stuck in an electorate (mine) where there are traditional old Labor voters, lots of pressure from the young greens, and now a flood of conservative refugees from the Eastern Suburbs and North Shore who can’t afford houses over there. It’s fascinating from a social point of view (and will make the place unbearable within 5 years as all people want to do is talk about property prices) but means that Albo is stuck from saying anything against the status quo. His policy platform seems to be:
    -local brewing
    -South Sydney Rabbitohs
    -avoiding talk about any important issue that will get the greens elected

  11. TailorTrashMEMBER

    People like Albo are a good reason for limited terms for parliamentarians ….career politicians doing whatever will protect them in their electorate or keep them in their nice plush conditions in Canberra ………..we should have limited terms of say 2 parliaments for any politician ……and make what you will of it ….then you go back into the community and struggle with the rest of your fellow Australians ……no lifetime pensions either …….your reward is the privelege of making laws for your fellow citazens

    I’d rather see more Ricky Muirs Jacque Lambies in there speaking their minds than the mindless hacks we get who are more concerned with keeping their paypackets and benifits than representing the people and their real concerns .

  12. The Labor party policy setters must be confident that working class voters in cities have nowhere else to go and so their interests can be ignored. No change in Labor policy can reasonably be expected to happen until those people stop voting for Labor. Anyone but Labor. Maybe we’ll see something like what has happened in the USA.

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      What,…you would hope for the election of a trump like figure?,…How’s that been going for the improvement of the working classes, lot in the US?

      I do believe Maquarie radio and the Murdoch Press are trying to orchestrate, a kind of trumpian “come back” for the Abbott/Bernadi conservative faction of the NLP and assist them to gain electoral success,…like Trump’s victory,…in spite of poll numbers.

      What really needs to happen, is for working people to become politically enguaged,…that means more than turning up at the local public school every so many years,…it means joining a political party and demanding your right to participate in the policy formation process.

      I still recommend joining Labor and attempting to reform them from the grass roots level,…but I would not be critical of a fellow member, voting SAP (keepING it to yourself would be my recommendation) as a protest against the Upper leadership’s recalcitrant attitude to the rank and files, clear concerns, over the population Ponzi that is so negatively affecting our Country.

      I actually enjoy, making the “Professional class” of Apparachicks squirm at my repeated demands to debate the subject.

      I truly believe that no real, meaningful, long lasting progress, against the Neoliberalism that drives all this shit, can be achieved, in any of the democracies infected by the Murdoch press, without a proper “party of the people”,… Labor’s got the tradition of being that, but it requires an angry rank and file membership to retake it and put it backon track.

      You’ll get no arguments from me that a lot of reform is required and the battles may well continue to be lost,…if so, ..what’s the SAPs attitude towards Nationalisation of certain monolopy industries?

  13. SchillersMEMBER

    The cratering of “growth” in real per capita GDP and real per capita wages and salaries has occurred precisely during the recent period of rapid mass immigration. It’s cause and effect. The reverse was the case in prior decades. Real per capita economic growth actually happened during the many decades after WW2. Decades that featured modest, moderate levels of migration. It’s a similar sad story with infrastructure and transport. Our cities were able to cope with much lower levels of population growth. Rapidly force feeding mass levels of immigration onto and into urban infrastructure that is woefully underfunded, under resourced and constantly playing catch up.
    The last 10-12 years have been an unmitigated disaster. A failure of planning and a failure of policy, at all levels and across all parties.
    In his heart Albanese knows this. He just hasn’t got the ticker to say it.

    • In his heart Albanese knows this. He just hasn’t got the ticker to say it.
      He may or may not know, but he’s just another sleazy politician doing his best to hold his seat. Trotting out the ageing population garbage shows he’s either got no brains or he’s trying to con us.

  14. HadronCollision

    I have never heard Bolt so cogent and coherent.

    Has someone checked he is ok

    P!ss poor by Albo.

    • bolstroodMEMBER

      It all started with the MB’s interview with him the other day, I made comment on it at the time.
      MB really is a powerfl antidote to ignorance and hypocracy.
      I t should be bottled, and , yes a very poor and disapointing showing by Albo,I had great hopes that he could lead Labor out of the darkness , but alas it looks like I was wrong.

  15. EP, you misunderstood my comment. I do not hope for a Trump-like figure in Australia. I am afraid that will happen. Not sure the Labor Party can be reformed given the way it runs. I think it’s an oligarchy that wants to govern a democracy. Much the the LNP.

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      Yes, well political success, will mean attention from those Oligarchs, what ever your Parties positions are,…the only way to keep any of them in check,…is through rank and file control. As soon as you give the “Leadership” of any party control to set the agenda or policy,…that’s when the Oligarchs Buy them and you end up with what we have today.

      If you can’t join Labor then join SAP or the Greens or even the Libs,…but once you join, turn up and speak up,…it’s the only way.

  16. The Patrician

    The ALP carry on about cool Albo and hot Albo.
    He is just another ALP machine man feeding the working poor and the environment to the coprorate growf beast
    What is a sustainable populaion level for Australia Albo?

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      Well, maybe if there was a few more Rank and File supporters around him, repeatedly asking him this very question, he might then realise it’s something he needs to get his head around.

      Low party memberships, in all the parties, means most of our elected representatives are insulated within their own little echo chambers.
      That’s OUR fault.
      To all I say,…Join a party,…any party,… even the Libs,…the fact you come here, makes it likely, your not as much of a tool, as most of them I meet are.

      Turning up on election Day, is not enough.

  17. Because if you are a white male and oppose immigration then you are the worst kind of racist.

    • Because if you are a white male and oppose immigration then you are the worst kind of racist.

      In Australia, this generalises to:

      Because if you are a white male and oppose immigration then you are the worst kind of racist person.

  18. Trofim Lysenko

    While both parties lean on each other and are beholden to similar interests that outweigh voters on this issue I can imagine the red team being worse than the blue team. Not an endorsement or a vote for the blue team.

  19. I don’t know why there’s so much talk about left wing and right wing. Mass immigration has been embraced by both sides for years, and no discussion has been allowed on this topic.

    It’s great that LVO and Bolt are making waves. Albanese wasn’t prepared for such a dressing down – he was simply toeing the party line, and these types of excuses (ageing, economic growth etc) have worked pretty well in the past, silencing any opposition. I applaud Bolt for hammering Albanese. We can’t let this propaganda go unchallenged any more. I only wish that ALL politicians are challenged and presented with the actual facts when they try to present their deplorably weak explanations for a policy none of us want.

    And I applaud you, UE for appearing on the Bolt programme, and hope we see you more often in the media. Keep up the good fight!