Judith Sloan: No link between immigration and prosperity

By Leith van Onselen

The Australian’s Judith Sloan has re-entered the immigration debate today, debating the benefits of mass immigration and calling for a national debate on whether Australian’s want a ‘Big Australia’:

Malcolm Turnbull is fond of asserting that Australia is the most successful multicultural society in the world. He repeated this claim during his recent overseas trip…

The prize citation read: “Prime Minister Turnbull has maintained a strong non-discriminatory immigration program, helping to make Australia a land of opportunity for peoples from all around the world…

Also note that, in 2011, Turnbull made the astonishing claim that “anyone who thinks that it’s smart to cut immigration is sentencing Australia to poverty”…

Here’s a tip, Malcolm: there are plenty of countries without a substantial flow of immigrants and with low rates of population growth that are not sentenced to poverty. Indeed, if you look at the relationship between population growth — in Australia, immigration accounts for more than half of it — and GDP per capita, there is no statistical correlation at all…

From 2003, there has been a surge in immigrant numbers as well as an influx of temporary entrants… The net overseas migration numbers have varied between 150,000 and 300,000 a year. You don’t have to be very good at arithmetic to realise that we are adding another Canberra in the space of a few short years, or another Adelaide in just a few more.

But here’s an important feature of the flow of migrants: they overwhelmingly go to Sydney and Melbourne, which some would argue are bursting at the seams…

One of the arguments put for such a substantial immigration program — and avoiding poverty is not one of them — is that the ageing of the population can be slowed. But the recent Productivity Commission analysis has dismissed this link…

This is one reason why some commentators refer to immigration as a sort of Ponzi scheme: any impact on the age profile of the population is only sustained if the program continues to be ramped up…

Returning to the analysis undertaken by the PC, by 2060 — a very long time away — it is estimated that per capita GDP will be 7 per cent higher based on the continuation of our immigration program compared with zero net migration.

But the PC makes it clear that no account is taken of the costs that immigration imposes on urban congestion, rising house prices, loss of social amenity or environment impacts. And compared with no net migration, real wages and productivity are actually lower with ongoing mass migration. The economic gains are simply the result of the (assumed) higher employment-to-population ratio…

Are people really happy that Australia’s population will exceed 40 million in 2060? Are we really testing for skill when we set the visa categories? Has the migration program simply become a way of allowing universities to charge very high fees to international students on the understanding that the graduates can attain permanent residence?

These are the questions we should not be afraid to pose and politicians should not be afraid to answer.

Beautifully said, Judith. Nailed it.

Nowhere in the whole immigration debate have Australian’s views been sought over how big they want Australia to become. For this reason, Australian’s deserve to have a plebiscite seeking their views about the nation’s future population size, the answers of which would then be used to formulate Australia’s immigration intake to meet the said target.

Here is an example of the type of question that could be taken to the Australian people:

Australia’s population is currently 24.5 million. Under zero net overseas migration (NOM), it is projected to reach 27 million by 2060.

ScreenHunter_15977 Nov. 09 07.44

By 2060, do you believe Australia’s population should be:

  • 27 million;
  • 30 million;
  • 35 million;
  • 40 million;
  • 45 million?

Obviously, there is room to move on the language and the chart should be updated to show the level of NOM corresponding to the choices, but you get the idea. The important thing is that Australian’s views are sought and this consensus is then used to formulate a national population policy.

In it’s recent Migrant Intake Australia report, the Productivity Commission explicitly called for a national population strategy, rather than flying blindly. It’s time our federal politicians adhered this advice and took a population plebiscite to the Australian people. It’s the democratic thing to do.

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Unconventional Economist


  1. Sloan has picked up her game recently – has written great articles on immigration and school funding.

    • She probably is about to be given her marching orders from Papa Rupert’s – so she’s going for broke.

    • Wouldn’t be hard to lift your game from a such a low base. Plus she only steals her words from MB and then pastes them under her own name.

      At least she best than that sellout Irvine.

    • I used to be very deriding of Judith but I have now realised that she’s come around and call the mass migration folly for what it is: A population Ponzi. The 3 main parties (ALP, LPN & Greens; Yes the Greens!) are all supporters of mass immigration and Judith is debunking the myths propagated by govt and business like ageism, GDP growth, etc., etc.. Australians have never been asked whether they want mass immigration because they bloody well know that the majority of people don’t support it.

  2. The link was broken in 2009.

    The unemployment rate steadily came down from 2001 till 2008. And in 2008 newspaper articles were published saying that the unemployment rate will be even lower in 2009!

    I thought “you beauty! I will try to get a better job in 2009”.

    But then the GFC happened and Rudd decided to do pink batts on school halls – with no requirement that foreigners be excluded from the government funded jobs.

    Heck, even the $900 cheques went to foreigners.

    And the fake left wing gave 200,000 jobs per year to foreigners from 2007 till Sep 2013. How awesome.

    • bolstroodMEMBER

      The letters pages in today’s SMH have a slew of letters contradicting Jessica Irvine’s opinon piece, and not one supporting a big Australia.
      Well done MB.

  3. ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

    Where is the “Slave Labor” Post that was put up at 6.25am?

    It described some audit that showed 4 out of every 5 Chinese, Korean and Spanish language job adverts, were for jobs paying less than the minimum Award rates of pay.
    I was halfway through typing an anecdote reply between 7.30-8am when it got pulled down.


      • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

        Oh,…sorry,… I was thinking pressure was being applied.
        I didn’t get to spend a lot of time on MB yesterday.
        Busy day.

        That story really resonated with me and my Construction site days,…I’ve been witnessing the phenomenon described on a large scale from the late 90s. It was good to see it quantified in that post.

    • kiwikarynMEMBER

      I noticed something interesting this year – NZ is currently running a new series of The Block on TV. Apart from the Builder, ALL the other tradies turning up to plaster, waterproof, tile, are Asian. On all four teams. Also interesting, is that the job being done is not being done to a high standard either – the judges are constantly going on about the poor finishing. Is this enhancing our standard of living? Cheap but poor construction work?

    • You’re getting more laconic mate… pick your game up, or else them overseas investors are going to out-beauty you ..

  4. Everyday I commute into Sydney for work all I can think is that the horse has already bolted and too far down the track to be contained again. Unless there is some cataclysm I can’t see things ever changing again to bring normalcy back, it’s just the Wild West now.

    • There are 64,000 illegals in AUS.

      We could certainly charge foreigners $100/day for parking and $40/day for a train ticket. That would make it less viable for a low-wage foreigner to work here.

    • yeah I think Sydney has progressed so far down the toilet its not coming back to anything we can remember, full credit to the terdballs they have done a great job insulating themselves from what they have created

    • Agree with this.
      It has been getting worse every year since 2000 – the golden year for Sydney and Australia.
      I’m looking forward to leaving for good. I intend to renounce my citizenship too when the time comes. Nothing like burning bridges!

  5. If you want things to really shake up, go hard on student visas. The education racket needs to be taken on. The 457 changes are window dressing. Students is where all the action, and all the real dirt, is.

  6. Trofim Lysenko

    ‘“Prime Minister Turnbull has maintained a strong non-discriminatory immigration program, helping to make Australia a land of opportunity for peoples from all around the world…’
    MT is such a spiv. People discriminate all the time. Is discrimination inherently a bad thing? Do people just let anyone into their home? I bet MT doesn’t. That statement impoverishes the language and poisons the semantics to imply that anyone that argues against the policy is discriminatory, a bad person. I’m sure it resonates with hind brain thinkers. Does the immigration policy in Australia not already discriminate? I mean there have been people denied entry visas to this country for various reasons.
    On whose behalf does the government of Australia govern? Does the government govern on behalf of Australians? Or does it govern on behalf of some wider constituency, such as the world at large?

    • Yep the Aussie immigration stream may not discriminate on race but it sure does on age (& sex it appears) my sister has a PHD & years of experience but stands no chance of getting a visa as she is over 40 but if she was a 21yr old hairdresser she’d be in in a flash. Now who is most likely to be a drain on the government funds the fat hairdresser who smokes & wants 3 kids, but will divorce or my unmarried sister who won’t have kids, is a health & fitness fanatic and has the education & knowledge that may actually lead to a world leading development that makes Australia the leader in it’s field? I know which one I’d choose even if she wasn’t my sister. Life is complicated just focusing on young people that only juice gdp and not per capita is not really the smartest way.

  7. codeazureMEMBER

    First Terry McCrann & now Judith Sloan. We’re seeing some of the more “serious” (in some people’s eyes at least) journalists in the Murdoch press saying the previously unmentionable. Is there a push coming from behind the scenes to make this more acceptable for parties other than One Notion to talk about? Could this be the start of a wider public discussion?

    As has been mentioned in this blog many times, the first major party to run with a policy of reduced immigration is on a winner in electoral terms because so many people have got the shits with the current situation.

    • Maybe word has come down from the top, for all his failings Rupert can normally see the writing on the wall, if he can ensure his boys get reelected then they will be able to fudge the policy so that it’s all but meaningless, as has been done countless times before.

    • I listened to Jon Faine get confronted by his guests views on students, immigration and housing…
      JON FAINE!!! He didn’t agree of course, but that’s not the point. UE you are now mainstream.

      • The ABC blindspot on reckless population growth must be challenged at every opportunity
        Many ABC journos will not discuss it.
        Many will not even acknowlege that it would ever be prudent to reduce the migration intake.

    • I’m under the impression that there’s been hints in this direction from Sloan for some time and finally she’s cut loose. Could be that the Murdoch press realise that it is not good for your newspaper’s credibility to ignore such an important issue when your reading public is getting angsty about it and will not put up with bs.

  8. I have some scientist buddies who were lured here by high wages. They didn’t realise the cost of living here was so high and have found out the hard way that they actually earned more overseas when they got paid less. They’ll leave only to be replaced by the next batch of suckers.