Turnbull bald-faced lies in Q&A mass immigration defence

By Leith van Onselen

Last night, the following question was asked on ABC’s Q&A, which garnered the above pathetic response from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull:


BILL EDGE asked:Could you explain why you are allowing approximately 200,000 people to immigrate to this country every year & are there any plans to limit this intake or will it go on ad infinitem? What is the purpose of this massive intake which is well above other countries per capita?


Thank you for the question. Our immigration program is overwhelmingly skills-based. So, it is driven by the demands in our economy. So, you know, as you have more demand for people with the skills that we need in our economy, then you will get more immigration. If you have less economic…slower economic growth, you’ll get less immigration. We’ve taken steps, as you know, to abolish the rorts in the 457 visa class, the temporary migration visa class.

And so we’re very focused on making sure that we don’t bring in skills from overseas unless there really is a skills shortage in Australia. But the answer to the question is that the people that come to Australia, overwhelmingly, are in response to demands from the economy. Obviously, they’re also people who get married overseas and come in. There are family reunion categories as well. And, of course, the humanitarian program. But overwhelmingly the immigration program is focused on…is driven by our economy.

And, I have to say, is admired around the world. I’m not sure how popular Donald Trump is in this audience tonight, but he has been heard to speak very positively about our skills-based migration program, as indeed have many other countries’ leaders.

Let’s go to our next question now. It comes from Yaser Naseri.

As you can see, there was no genuine discussion on the underlying purpose of Australia’s mass immigration program or the deleterious impacts in Australia’s cities (including Turnbull’s home of Sydney). Nor was there any follow-up from host Virginia Trioli. All we got was some fluff that Australia’s immigration program is ‘skills-based’ and driven by the economy’s needs, rather than by deliberate government policy.

The claim by Turnbull that “we don’t bring in skills from overseas unless there really is a skills shortage in Australia” is easily debunked by examining the immigration flows, which are heavily weighted towards professionals like accountants and engineers:

ScreenHunter_16433 Dec. 02 07.28

Which are all way oversupplied, according to the Department of Employment’s 2016-17 Skills Shortages report:

More generally, the 2016-17 Skills Shortages report also showed that Australian skills shortages “continue to be limited in 2016-17”, and that there are a high number of applicants per job:

Which begs the question: why is Australia persisting with the largest skilled migrant intake in the nation’s history if it was based on economic need?

Curiously, the number of skilled permanent migrants, and indeed the overall number of permanent migrants, was higher in 2016 than it was during the height of the mining boom when skills shortages were common. Why?

The Productivity Commission’s (PC) recent Migrant Intake Australia report also explicitly stated that around half of Australia’s so-called ‘skilled’ migrants aren’t actually skilled:

…within the skill stream, about half of the visas granted were for ‘secondary applicants’ — partners (who may or may not be skilled) and dependent children… Therefore, while the skill stream has increased relative to the family stream, family immigrants from the skill and family stream still make up about 70 per cent of the Migration Programme (figure 2.8)…

Primary applicants tend to have a better fiscal outcome than secondary applicants — the current system does not consider the age or skills of secondary applicants as part of the criteria for granting permanent skill visas…

There are strong grounds to give much greater weight to a primary applicant if the associated adult secondary applicant has skills or other desirable characteristics likely to improve their own labour market prospects. At the very least, for the sake of transparency and future policy development, Australian Government publications should report primary and secondary skill stream immigrants separately and provide more detailed information about the skills and other traits of adult secondary applicants.

Turnbull’s claim that Australia’s 130,000 strong ‘skilled’ migrant program is alleviating critical skills shortages has also been shot to pieces by a recent major survey from the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, which found that 53% of skilled migrants in Western Australia said they are working in lower skilled jobs than before they arrived, with underemployment also rife.

Research conducted in 2013 by Bob Birrell and Ernest Healy similarly found that while 69.3% of Australian graduates aged 25-34 had managerial or professional work in 2011 and only 9.5% were not employed, only 30.9% of non-English-speaking-background [NESB] migrants who were graduates of the same age, who had arrived between 2006 and 2011, had managerial or professional work. And a full 31.1% were not employed. Most of this group of graduate arrivals (79%) were of NESB background:

Moreover, the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ latest Characteristics of Recent Migrants report, released in June, revealed that migrants have generally worse labour market outcomes than the Australian born population, with recent migrants and temporary residents having an unemployment rate of 7.4% versus 5.4% for the Australian born population, and lower labour force participation (69.8%) than the Australian born population (70.2%):

In short, the claim that Australia’s 200,000 strong migration program is about alleviating skills shortages is a bald faced lie. It is all about providing an endless stream of consumers for the ‘growth lobby’ of bankers, the property industry, and the retail sector, while ordinary residents’ living standards are crush-loaded and their slice of the growing economic pie is reduced:

For readers new to this topic, make sure that you check out MB’s primer on Australia’s population ponzi:

[email protected]

Unconventional Economist
Latest posts by Unconventional Economist (see all)


  1. And after the next election, Bill Shorten will be in power and will pursue exactly the same policy.

    Cameron Murray’s crash-and-burn in South Brisbane shows how near-impossible it is to translate public discontent into political power.

    The same was true of Brexit. In 2016 commentators fell over themselves to point out the narrowness of the majority in the Brexit plebiscite. What they failed to note was the 87% majority that had voted against UKIP at the preceding general election. While apparently agreeing with UKIP’s policy, the vast majority of voters were not prepared to elect it to government.

    Policy preferences do not translate into seats in parliament.

    The subsequent elections in Europe have merely confirmed that provided the establishment parties don’t panic and break ranks (as David Cameron did), they have nothing to fear from their Subjects. It is actually quite easy to stare down a Peasants’ Revolt.

    • Absolutely no chance shorten or labour will get in
      the joint will collapse, the punters will wring their hands, ooh ah a bit, change their wills to exclude the kids
      and settle in to enjoy being a battler.
      After all, they have wished for this LNP promised turn on easy street for a generation
      It will take a few years to alter that mindset
      By the time the punters wake up robots will be running the show and all will be asking please for a handout.

      • Minority LNP government I would say with Senate crossbench even bigger. Thats only if they call the election after June.

      • I think so too
        Shorten has way too many enemies, way too much baggage, incompetent, unable to make hay whilst the sun is shining.
        Penny Wong for labor, and a ON biased cross bench. Maybe a JL back

      • So let’s assume that the Coalition does scrape back in. It will then continue to pursue the same policy.

        Either way, the Peasants can’t win.

        Elites tend to get their own way. That is, after all, what being “elite” means.

      • SM, that is how it works.
        you have the elite, some middle men, and the peasants.
        Has nothing to do with modern economics, more to do with Adam Smith and human behaviour.

    • Crash and burn? Cameron’s realistic estimate was around 2% which was nearly achieved, and this was merely a learning experience for his QLD Senate campaign for Sustainable Australia.

      Realistically, to be the leading Independent candidate out of 4, and beat the seat’s serial Indi (who also got the #1 ballot paper place), was a very solid START for Cameron in politics. Come back here after the federal election when the first chapter is complete on Cameron’s entrance into politics.

      Did you expect him to win South Brisbane or something?

      • Kudos to Murray for having a crack and hopefully he keeps pushing. Unfortunately, unless you’re a shock jock, outlandish, Yiannopoulos type it’s going to be difficult to capture the public’s attention. Winning this battle with integrity, ethics, professionalism and old fashioned intelligence on the major party battlegrounds is going to be tough.

    • Actually, PM Cameron promised to cut immigration to 100,000/year in order to win the 2015 election. He would have lost otherwise.

      But of course, Brexit is the only way to stop having an open border with low-wage Eastern Europe.

      Some politicians would rather go into opposition than cut immigration – PM Bill English, PM Stephen Harper, PM Gillard, PM Rudd.

      Cory Bernardi demanded that immigration be cut and the “Liberal” party refused – thus Cory created his own party which has been given a lot of donations (and not $1 from Gina).

      It is strange how Abbott is asking for immigration to be cut. Perhaps the fake right wing knows that the LNP will not win an election again unless they offer a cut to immigration. But for now, they would rather go into opposition.

      • In the long run Brexit probably was the “only way to stop having an open border with low-wage Eastern Europe.”

        If one studies sovereignty pooling historically, the consistent pattern is for the central entity to accrete ever more power to itself. Power is Centripetal. Look at the US. Look at Australia.

        Concessions may be made to individual states in the short run to get their agreement on the transfer of more power to the centre, but it’s always a one-way street. (The Roach Motel as Paul Krugman calls it: easy to get in; impossible to get out again.) Any concession made today can be rendered “inoperative” tomorrow, or next year, or 10 years hence, or however long it takes. The more powerful the centre becomes, the more difficult it is to resist its demands.

        In fact, it may already be too late for Britain. It seems that Brexit will be Brexit in name only.

        Elites tend to get their own way in the end. That is, after all, what being “elite” means.

        Ultimately the EU Elite want to create a superpower with themselves in charge.

        Ultimately they will demand “free movement” from all states on threat of punishment.

        Ultimately they will get what they want.

      • Ultimately it will turn into a race war and the elites better hope they have their escape routes planned. Anyone that can’t see this over the longer term is living in a bubble. The recolonisation of Aus by Chinese will result in the same.

  2. Both sides don’t want to be pinned for the housing/economic tanking that will occur once an immigration cut is announced. That’s why they are both doing nothing.

    What they don’t seem to get is that housing is already starting to tank and recession is inevitable. Cynical, but Malcolm why not just pull the migration reform trigger and save face from being one of the worst ever PM’ s.

    It’s the only thing that can save him IMO.

    • @Stephen
      I reckon if Mal cut immigration decisively he would become a NATIONAL HERO overnight.
      Anyone currently opposing or questioning immigration is derided as a racist Pauline Hanson style.
      No one wants to be tarred with the same illiterate bogan brush so they keep quiet. Add decades of PC education in private and public schools about how racist and ‘yellow peril’ Australians are and you have a nation of apologists welcoming people from all nations. They smile graciously as homes and jobs are taken from beneath their feet.
      This is not a secret. People know.
      Quite frankly I believe Pauline Hanson is a clever puppet charged with silencing opposition by being so repulsive that people go to great lengths not to be associated with her views. Very Clever. Boosted price of housing, cut wages and flooded country with people to do jobs already been done by locals.
      Locals who have sold homes for millions and pocketed the difference smile and Jetset overseas to Europe & US #multicultural.
      Those left behind suck up bowl of PHO (spiced water and stringy beef) for $11.90 in ‘cheap’ trendy Asian cafes enjoying their own special brand of #multicultrual. $11.90 is cheap relative to their weekly rent outlay on crusty, overcrowded, poorly maintained accomodationYAY Aussie Aussie Aussie OI OI OI

      • I have heard a similar conspiracy theory and it is entirely plausible. And your observations are spot on. That they have got away with it is the shitty part for me. Those carrying the can with mega debt will hopefully be focussed in their anger.

  3. He didn’t even try, he just glossed over the question with the standard talking points. 200K skill shortage EVERY year, you reckon? Train up Aussies FFS.

    • Ozzies are expensive! We replace our IT workers with a 457 holder for just over half the cost.

      We work the immigrants harder too – complain and they get sent home and replaced.

  4. yep, saw it. the comment section is full of the same lies this site debunks every damned day. i’m playing wack-a-mole in there right now.

  5. It will be interesting to note how many migrants return to their country of origin when our economy turns south.

    • Spot on. A ton of them will. Why wouldn’t you go back home to India or China with a generic surname in a massively high population, when the bank is chasing you after you lost your job and can’t afford the supposedly cheap real estate?

      In Melbourne the outer suburbs will resemble Florida post GFC.

      • All this political correctness palava is being tolerated only when re is going up
        once that stops, there will be sheeps clothing discarded everywhere,
        Try the family law court for a start as an example.

      • I remember someone visiting an aunt in Florida at that time-she was living in the only occupied house in the entire block, in Miami. Everyone else had left, and the other houses were all for sale-the rest of the street was empty. Quite eeerie.

    • I am tempted. When I arrived here, AUD/USD were about at parity, housing was about at parity, and my salary was a lateral equivalent.

      Move 7 years ahead and my salary is not just flat but devalued against the USD (peers in the US are far head of me now), but housing is ridiculously expensive (people in the US think our weekly rents are monthly when I quote my rent figure).

      I’m having difficulty seeing the win in staying here.

      I am one of the upper-end technical IT people that Australia should want, but it doesn’t look like Australian employers can afford me, and despite being a senior IT person, because I didn’t come in with savings ready to buy 7 years ago, I can’t afford Australia.

      • If you are in IT, Hobbit you are competing against 100 Indians for every position. No way you can compete here.

      • Mining BoganMEMBER

        I genuinely don’t understand why people with a way out are still here. Those without family ties anyway. The place is shot and the only way forward for Straya is backwards.

        I’m too old so am just going to take out a few a r s e hats with my shotgun to buy time for those with a future.

      • I genuinely don’t understand why people with a way out are still here. Those without family ties anyway. The place is shot and the only way forward for Straya is backwards.


        Our number came up in the Green Card Lottery last year, and we ended up having to make the very difficult decision to let it go, because we would have had to relocate to the states within three years (at the absolute most – more likely, two). We have a couple of 18-month-old kids, but an aunty/uncle and two sets of grandparents within a 15-minute drive. Hard to put a $$$ value on that.

        In the end I figured there’s still the E3 visa and I have plenty of mates in the US who can probably get me a job long enough to qualify for a GC through traditional channels.

        There’s also the UK (though Brexit has made that a bit less useful) and NZ (if we need an apocalypse bolthole) citizenships as well.

    • the current problems result from human behaviour
      once we have Flawse as Dictator, maybe we can go forward.

  6. There was no skills shortage during the mining boom. What does accounting have to do with mining?

    Gillard gave 457 visas to KFC!

    Aussies are incapable of working in KFC?

    Charge $1000/week for every work visa to stop the rort.

  7. The only evidence you need to refute the “we don’t bring in skills from overseas unless there really is a skills shortage in Australia” line is to point out the average wage for skilled immigrants is something like $60k (isn’t it ? I know the number’s been quoted here before and I’m sure it was only just about the national median).

    If we’re bringing people in to meet genuine skill shortages that average should be much closer to, if not in excess of, $100k.

    (Also, pet peeve, it’s “raises the question” not “begs the question”.)

    • $53900 is the TSMIT floor. Its amazing how many so called ‘skilled’ industries and their employees are on this rate.

      What they tell immigration they are being paid and what they are actually being paid is a different story.

  8. FiftiesFibroShack

    We should be selecting immigrants based on how attractive they are. Anyone under a 6 gets sent to Manus; 7s and 8s get put on a temporary visa to see how they ‘shape up’; 9s and 10s = no questions asked.

    • ive always felt this way. if we’re going to have an immigration program at all, it might as well be based on attractiveness rather than worse than useless stuff like “skills”. i am pro-babe immigration and support express priority visas for hotties, maybe with financial incentives the hotter they become.

  9. Oh God I wish there were alternatives to the Labor, Liberal and Greens.
    It is just plain wrong that we invent a system whereby so much power is vested in such incompetent fools. Gutless and without conscience.
    Flush, flush, flush them away.

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      The same thing that would motivate a man to strangle an ex-lover’s cat. A pathalogical desire for complete control over everything…and a hatred of cats.

  10. The whole skilled visa program is being comprehensively rorted so we’re not getting skilled immigrants, just immigrants and the shortages go on.

  11. Also check out the response (and body language) when MT was questioned if he thought it was ok for Julie Bishop (or related entities) to accept large foreign donations…

  12. I watched the last episode of Lateline the other night and listened to 4 of its hosts trying to explain why journalism in this country has died. Nothing about how bloody greedy and selfish they’ve become. Nothing about how they have all collectively turned 2 blind eyes and instead become cheerleaders to the biggest travesty this country has ever seen….the massive widening of the gap between the haves and have nots. They have stood by and watched, but not recorded, this disgusting disparity grow in the space of 25 years. They should all be ashamed of themselves.

    • the only reason i’d have to hold my noise if i was voting one nation was because there would be greens/labor/liberal supporters around

    • Good idea, would answer many questions.
      How much time can we afford to waste being indecisive, the future is not going to be a reflection of the past, fair dinkum leadership from fair dinkum people is going to be required.
      No one in the current mob has the attributes, many the opposite.
      There is much to be learned from walking through the peasant side of town to see what not to do.
      ON could provide an example, on the other hand??

    • That’s what I plan to do. I think PH is a moron, but it’s the biggest FU I can legally serve up to the rest of them. I hope it doesn’t turn into a habit!

  13. I wrote to my local MP, asking for a detailed outline of population policy.
    Admitted they didn’t have one.
    Feeble reply-Gotta replace the oldies when they retire.

  14. If we were shipping in boatloads of slaves in chains, Malcolm would still be saying “our immigration program is overwhelmingly, ah, skills-based, ah, so it is driven by the demands in our economy”

  15. “Forbid them to possess weapons of war, and command them to wear tunics under their cloaks and buskins on their feet, and to teach their sons lyre-playing and song and dance and huckstering. Then, O King, you will soon see them turned to women instead of men; and thus you need not fear lest they revolt.” (Croesus 539 BC)

  16. I’ve posted this before but it’s gold.

    “While Australia’s grown its population from 20 million to 24 million in the last decade, a huge increase of 20%, Australia has grown its unemployment and underemployment from 1.2 million to 2.5 million, a staggeringly massive increase of 108%.

    The net effect is Australia is importing unemployment and underemployment. This is not because of immigration, it is because of mass immigration. This is not because of people, this is because of policy. The people are pretty good, we like our friends and colleagues. The policy, however, is not thought out at all. Not. At. All.”

  17. Australia has a PM that does not know what day it is. He does not know that this immigration policy is killing our children’s aspirations. He will request an explanation for the previous sentence as evidence of his ignorance. Australia has no skills shortage crises. What it has is an over-inflated and unnecessary immigration scam that is populating our cities beyond our infrastructures’ capability. This ponzi is bring peddled by BOTH major parties in a deceiving and stealthy effort to appease the masses by reasoning it is out of Australia’s generosity to humanity and out of a need to fiill skills which is a furphy. All in the name of accepting kickbacks from vested interest groups such as the FIRE sector and Chinese influence groups.
    Our political crop are poison to our children’s future prosperity. It is long overdue for the masses to wake up to the real intent underlining our inept and hedonist narcissistic and pathetic politicians.
    Dastyari is only one of many that have sold out our country. Think Andrew Robb et al.
    We need an overhaul.
    If you want generations that follow to have even higher rates of mental health issues due to an ever-increasing list of opportunities that are being deprived to them that our predecessors took as a given, namely by example propert, employment, living standards, education etc. then continue on with this insanity of numbers of immigrants all to our youths detriment. Give us a break about bullshit diversity, and give youth hope in their future prospects by cutting or freezing immigration at least until our country has had time to absorb this madness and provide better for our locals.

  18. Clearly a question without warning, he was like a dear in the headlights. Sighting a number of times it’s related to the economy. “The immigration program is driven by our economy” or is that the economy is driven by our immigration program? Well that’s great for Big Business Mal but what about for the crush-loaded rest of us???

    It’s very interesting to see the ABC last week and this week question both the Treasure of Real Estate and the PM on the issue. The ABC are starting to allow this topic finally be debated? Dick Smith must have broken through to someone there.