Three-quarters of Australians want lower immigration, stable population

By Leith van Onselen

Dr Bob Birrell and Dr Katharine Betts from the Australian Population Research Institute have released a new research paper examining Australian voters’ attitudes towards immigration, which is based on a random survey of 2,067 voters conducted from Monday 31 July 2017 to 17 August 2017. Below is the Executive Summary along with the key tables:

Australia’s population grew by a massive 384,000 in the year to March 2017, some 217,000, or 60 per cent, of which was due to net overseas migration.

Immigration is the dynamic factor in this population surge, reflecting a record high permanent migration program and generous settings for temporary-entry visas.

The consequences are becoming obvious and are being reflected in increased public concern about quality of life and questions concerning ethnic diversity.

The Australian Population Research Institute (TAPRI) commissioned a national survey of Australian voters in August 2017 to assess the extent of this concern and its causes.

The survey found that 74 per cent of voters thought that Australia does not need more people, with big majorities believing that that population growth was putting ‘a lot of pressure’ on hospitals, roads, affordable housing and jobs.

Most voters were also worried about the consequences of growing ethnic diversity. Forty-eight per cent supported a partial ban on Muslim immigration to Australia, with only 25 per cent in opposition.

Despite these demographic pressures and discontents, Australia’s political and economic elites are disdainful of them and have ignored them. They see high immigration as part of their commitment to the globalisation of Australia’s economy and society and thus it is not to be questioned.

Elites elsewhere in the developed world hold similar values, but have had to retreat because of public opposition. Across Europe 15 to 20 per cent of voters currently support anti-immigration political parties.

Our review of elite opinion in Australia shows that here they think they can ignore public concerns. This is because their main source of information about public opinion on the issue, the Scanlon Foundation, has consistently reported that most Australians support their immigration and cultural diversity policies.

How could Australia be so different from other Western countries? It has long been argued, including by the Scanlon Foundation, that Australians were insulated from the economic shocks of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008-2009. This means that we have a lower share of angry ‘left behinds’ than in Europe and the US, that is, people suffering from economic stress who can be mobilised around an anti-immigration banner.

This is why Labor’s shadow Deputy Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, can assert that Australian attitudes to migrants are warm and ‘becoming warmer over time’ and that ‘there is sold support for the principle of non-discrimination’ (pages 1-2). It is also why, according to prominent writer David Marr, ‘more than almost any people on earth, we are happy for migrants to come in big numbers’ (pages 2-3).

The TAPRI survey refutes these findings. It shows that 74 per cent of voters believe that Australia does not need more people and that, at the time of the survey, 54 per cent wanted a reduction in the migrant intake. This includes 57 per cent of Liberal voters and 46 per cent of Labor voters (Figure 1). This result is far higher than the 34 per cent of respondents wanting a lower migrant intake reported in the last Scanlon survey (in July-August 2016).

Australian voters’ concern about immigration levels and ethnic diversity does not derive from economic adversity. Rather it stems from the increasingly obvious impact of population growth on their quality of life and the rapid change in Australia’s ethnic and religious make-up.

Such is the extent of these concerns that they could readily be mobilised in an electoral context by One Nation or any other party with a similar agenda, should such a party be able to mount a national campaign. If this occurs, the Liberal Party is likely to be the main loser.

Full report here.

Unconventional Economist


  1. reusachtigeMEMBER

    Too bad, they’re not getn it! We need to boost population to help increase profits for us housing investors. It’s just they way it is.

    • Why do you always only think of housing investors? Very selfish.

      Big business needs cheap 457 visa immigrant slaves to keep labour costs down, too!

    • Yes interesting. I guess its the rural perspective, populations have been shrinking in many regions. That may be starting to change though.

    • Despite the stereotyping from city “superior’s” branding them as being redneck racists (Pauline probably hasn’t helped)….. all my life I’ve found Rural types generally more open to foreigners & others than their city counterparts! Sure there’s sometimes sneering & leering directed to outsiders, but I’ve witnessed Far worse in the cities from all quarters involved – & I’d say they get on well too considering the kaleidoscope of humanity clustered in them! Rural’s haven’t experienced the sardine lifestyle, the transport drudge, the pushy attitudes, they haven’t had any threatening stereotypes screaming in their face. They haven’t had to cope with fast & massive social changes, although the last 5 years might be starting to show in some area’s as their sense of community is watered down by city escapees & some of their less socially acceptable (for there) habits, also house prices being pushed out of reach of their children isn’t going down well as cashed up blow ins push them out of reach for locals. Those who’ve stayed rural have accepted the trade off in income for their quieter lifestyle, & don’t like to go to the packed cities unless they’re dying – Unless they’re young & eager, they don’t actually cope well with the pace of it. So they just can’t grasp the cities growing pains of many fronts. Things haven’t changed enough for them to make up their minds – they’re reticent & less outspoken, & would prefer to be left alone without change, but accepting so far by what I see. – I’m no expert, but I do get around.

  2. Watching Cash getting grilled on the tele, she’s now blaming penny Wong and labor. This is delightful!

  3. Andrew Leigh, can assert that Australian attitudes to migrants are warm and ‘becoming warmer over time’ and that ‘there is sold support for the principle of non-discrimination’
    Most people have a ‘warm’ attitude towards food, and believe in eating a balanced diet. But, this does not mean that we have to live like pigs and stuff our faces with as much food as we can possibly swallow.

  4. Reported in the Herald Sun too. Judging by the comments the support for lower immigration is more like 98%.

    • Sunrize had a go at it… couldn’t get anything more than “vibrancy, tolerance, multiculturalism” and “oh, you know, people are averse to change”. Oh – I think they also got a “It’s normal to think that when you’re stuck in traffic, taking you an hour to move 4 km…” But that was probably the wrong thing to say – as I imagined the sirens started going in their ear pieces “terrain, pull up!” and they never went down that track again…

      • Once the sirens went off they started tripping over themselves to trot out the racist lines more often…. making fools of themselves.

      • I found tom Elliot’s response very good – politically correct so the hosts couldn’t shut him down, but enough for the normal punter to nod in agreement that “yeah we’re getting screwed.”

    • No mention of this survey by the ABC or Fairfax. Piece on SBS website starts with a video about “Islamophobia”.

  5. Relevant Stakeholder

    Peter Scanlon, formerly Patrick Stevedores and a billion dollar property development on the way….

  6. I got a phone robocall survey about my political leanings last night. I delighted in nominating One Nation as my number one choice.

    One Nation are a bunch of idiotic bloody muppets, but if Hanson is the only grenade I can throw that will disrupt the comfy Laberal status quo then so be it.

    Sustainable Australia will also be high on my preferences, and he Laberal candidates will definitely be last and second last.

    • Shh, just say what they want to hear. They lie to us all the time – Mug ’em at the polling booth 😉

      • i agree with colin, break the polling. tell them lies then vote ON or SAP on voting day. that way they’ll be complacent pushing their usual platforms thinking they’re doing great and can’t appropriate immigration restriction rhetoric (and then not do anything about it when they’re in power) that might bleed away a few voters back to them from the minor parties.

  7. Problem is that 99% do not understand or appreciate where our natural growth is heading, towards zero. Ignoring the dramatic fall in our natural growth to come is making any population debate difficult. Even Leith does not want to research or acknowledge this projected dramatic fall.
    I support 70k NOM and with our fall in our natural growth as 80 years after a baby boom comes a death bust ( buy IVC ) our pop growth % will be 1% or even less.

  8. Part of the problem is permanent migrants. Permanent migration into a booming economy with limited welfare is one thing. In this situation, migrants take up jobs and contribute to the economy. They also enhance the cultural diversity of Australia. But permanent migration into a welfare state is a disaster as you risk attracting people who are attracted to the welfare system. And that is what many people feel is happening at the moment.

    There are additional undesirable flow on effects.

    Immigrants create temporary visitors i.e. their extended family (often parents). Medicare fraud among this cohort is substantial. It is ridiculously easy for an overseas visitor to access our health services using the Medicare care of a permanent migrant. So long as someone is in possession of a Medicare card and they are the correct gender and they appear to be approximately the right age, then that person can access Medicare. It is a frequent occurrence to encounter an elderly person who is apparently a permanent resident, who speaks no English, who has a Medicare card, who has chronic health problems (and who therefore must already be getting healthcare somewhere), but who can’t provide details or confirm their usual physician. These people invariably require an extensive workup as they are high risk (elderly), and you have no previous knowledge.

    It would be a fascinating exercise to go through a hospitals medical record system and see just how many different patients share the same Medicare number.

    Suitcases of pharmaceutical items depart Aust every day. Outgoing bags are only screened for security purposes – not for exporting pharmaceuticals. The incoming country turns a blind eye as they are not being screwed if the Aust taxpayer is paying.
    It is ridiculously easy for a relative to stockpile a medication that is not available (or too expensive) in another country, and hand over 12 month’s worth when a family member visits. If the medication is purchased with a Pensioners concession, then the Aust taxpayer has paid nearly all the cost.

    So come to Aust for several months to see family, get free healthcare, and take home your free medications.

    But nothing is free. Someone is paying. And that someone is the Aust taxpayer. Thats OK – so long as we (and our children) are prepared to pay for it, either by increased taxes or reduced services somewhere else.

  9. according to prominent writer David Marr, ‘more than almost any people on earth, we are happy for migrants to come in big numbers’

    david marr, always in touch with the common man, don’t know how he does it with his head stuffed that hard up his own ar$e

  10. A caution on the use of online nonprobabilty survey methodologies (which the authors of this survey go to some effort to support). A comprehensive Pew Research paper found some were very good, utilising sophisticated screening mechanisms to ensure greater representative content, others, not so careful.

    “Most of the samples have disproportionately high shares of adults who do not have children, live alone, collect unemployment benefits and are low-income. In some respects, this squares with a stereotype one might imagine for people who find time to participate in online survey panels, perhaps akin to a part-time job”

    We increasingly rely on polls and surveys, understanding underlying methodologies and possible inherent biases, important.

    • VERY!!! Thanks Daniel. As per Colin above they dodn’t interview too many rural people. Anyway who cares what they think I suppose!

  11. SchillersMEMBER

    Melbourne ABC Radio’s Jon Faine interviewed Dr. Bob Birrell this morning about today’s report from The Australian Population Research Institute.
    It was embarrassing. Faine was aggressive, arrogant, impatient, argumentative and ultimately dismissive. His personal bias in favour of mass migration and a big Australia was clearly evident.

    It was a truly cringeworthy interview and well worth a listen to see where the ABC’s heads are at with regards to immigration.

  12. During 2006-2016 we took in approx 2 million mostly third world unskilled migrants in PR and citizenship grants. A huge mistake in intake quality.
    We are stuck with that negative economic & social burden for generations.

    The bigger issue is the TR / Visitor visa racket.
    That is 2.6 million people – 130% worse.

    We have currently have 2.1 million third world migrants on various forms of pretext* temporary visas.
    *if we applied other country rules such as China Indian USA, Canada, UK – then our ‘temporary visa’ numbers would drop to around 250,000 – eg genuine international students post grad fully funded, genuine work uniquely skilled, genuine NZ / Aust SCV birthright & genuine enforcement of visa conditions & work rights.

    These 2.6 million are almost all unskilled, many are working illegally, most pay little or no tax, fake ID, blackmarket & illicit activities, non assimilating & the majority are debt to an agent procurer & money lender.

    The 2.6 million TR / illegal tourist visitors are 1 in 10 of the people in Australia. A million each or more in Sydney or Melbourne – 1 in five people.

    => The temporary & tourist visa racket.
    Isn’t that the issue to crack down on ?