Another ANU immigration booster emerges

By Leith van Onselen

Here’s Tony Abbott’s speech at the Sydney Institute outlining the case for reducing immigration:

As someone born overseas, I could hardly be against immigration. From our beginning in 1788, modern Australia has been an immigrant society. Immigration is at the heart of who we are. The fact that so many millions have come here to build a better life, originally from the British Isles but then from the four corners of the earth, lends a heroic dimension to our national story.

Late last year, I went to an aged care Christmas party in my electorate. In the traditional costumes of their homelands, for their patients the staff had put on a concert. Their pride in Australia and their gratitude was as palpable as the service that these new Australians were rendering to the old.

So making immigrants feel unwelcome in their own country is the last thing we need. Immigration has been overwhelmingly and unquestionably good for Australia; as well as good for the immigrants who have voted with their feet to live here.

My issue is not immigration; it’s the rate of immigration at a time of stagnant wages, clogged infrastructure, soaring house prices and, in Melbourne at least, ethnic gangs that are testing the resolve of police.

It’s a basic law of economics that increasing the supply of labour depresses wages; and that increasing demand for housing boosts price. Such is the unreality of our political discourse, though, that amidst great concern about unaffordable housing and stagnant wages, no one on the front bench of government or opposition had been prepared to raise the one big contributing factor that is wholly and solely within the federal government’s control – until Peter Dutton finally said last week that immigration could be cut “if it’s in our national interest”.

Instead, federal politicians have demanded that the states boost housing supply; we have urged employers to lift wages and even promised company tax cuts – senate permitting – to make this more affordable. But the one policy lever that is least subject to interference by the states or by the senate remains strangely untouched.

It’s the federal government that sets the annual quota for how many permanent entrants will come in the “skilled”, “family reunion” and “refugee and humanitarian” categories. It’s the federal government that sets at budget time an annual migration target. It’s the federal government that sets the rules governing two and four year visas for the foreign workers that businesses say they need. And it’s the federal government that sets the rules governing the overseas students that universities want with the right to live here and then work towards professional qualifications in this country.

Migration, you see, isn’t just the number of permanent visas granted in any one year. It’s all the newcomers looking for jobs and housing and that includes many on business and student visas too.

Prior to 2003, the number of long-stay business visas never exceeded 40,000 a year. Since 2007, it’s mostly exceeded 100,000.

Prior to 2005, the number of overseas student visas never exceeded 200,000. Since 2007, they’ve always exceeded 250,000 and often 300,000.

What this means is that the figure for Net Overseas Migration (or the extra people looking for housing and jobs) that had averaged 110,000 a year in the decade to mid-2006 has doubled to 220,000 a year in the decade since – peaking at well over 300,000 under the Rudd prime ministership. These are by far the highest figures in our history.

Even at the old rate to the mid-2000s, on a per capita basis, our immigration was still about the highest in the developed world. At the subsequent and current rate, every five years, we’re letting immigration alone increase our population by about the size of the city of Adelaide.

Just 16 years ago, in the first Inter-generational Report, it was expected that our population would not reach 25.3 million till 2042. But due to current immigration levels, we’re going to achieve that figure next year – or 23 years early.

So far, our main strategy to cope has been urban infill: putting more and more people into suburbs whose schools are full, roads are choked and public transport over-crowded.

Now, over time, a bigger population has benefits, with a larger and more dynamic economy. Over time, highly skilled migrants should increase productivity in ways that lead, eventually, to more jobs and higher wages. In the short term, though, more competition in the labour market puts downwards pressure on wages and makes it harder for any individual to find work. In other words, what should be good overall in the long run can be quite hurtful in the short run.

Australia’s relatively subdued economic performance over the past decade is due to post-GFC headwinds, the fading of the China boom, more competition from third-world-countries-with-first-world-technology, disruption to established industries, and our own home-grown policy follies such as the carbon tax.

It can’t be pinned on too many or the wrong type of migrant. Indeed, high immigration has been a factor in Australia’s record-breaking run of aggregate economic growth because each new worker adds to our economy – but behind the reassuring overall figures, growth per person tells a different story.

At just 0.9 per cent over the past decade, annual economic growth per person has been anaemic compared to 2.4 per cent during the Howard years when immigration was much lower.

Over the decade to mid-2007, 2.1 million new jobs were created while net overseas migration totalled 1.2 million. In the next decade, by contrast, just 1.8 million new jobs were created while net overseas migration almost doubled to 2.2 million. So it’s not surprising that for much of this time, jobs have seemed harder to find and that more and more foreigners seemed to be filling them.

If a high-end restaurant needs an executive chef, or if a university needs a world-class quantum physicist, or if a bank needs a new CFO, it might make sense to recruit someone from overseas on a high salary; and it’s good when people making a big contribution opt to stay here. But are we really so short of willing and capable workers that backpackers must pick our crops, overseas students serve our tables, and recent migrants run our IT?

Very possibly Australians are too fussy about the jobs they’ll do, or even whether they’ll work at all given the availability of don’t-ask-questions welfare. But if it’s hard to find café or cleaning staff, maybe higher wages would help and maybe the welfare rules should be better policed. If it’s hard to find programmers, maybe companies need to do more training. And if no decent managers are available, maybe their pay might have to be increased – because that, after all, is how markets should normally work.

Skilled occupations eligible for two and four year visas currently include accommodation managers, accountants, advertising managers, agricultural technicians, air-conditioning mechanics, aircraft engineers, animal attendants, arborists, and art teachers – and that’s before proceeding beyond the first letter of the alphabet! With more than 400 occupations on the list, there are few jobs that can’t be filled by foreigners when locals don’t find the wage attractive.

Of course, people who come to this country to work and pay taxes from day one undoubtedly make great Australians, should they stay. But should it really be so easy to fill jobs from overseas rather than offer the better training or higher wages that locals want?

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that temporary skilled visas have been a factor in allowing Australian business to neglect training and to keep wages down. You can hardly blame them given the compliance burdens and sky-rocketing costs they face, but it’s not a smart long-term way to keep a high-skill, high-wage first world economy.

Since the late 1980s, Australian house prices have been rising at well above the rate of inflation. Much of this is due to lower interest rates enabling buyers to pay more without increasing their repayments. But especially in the past decade, higher immigration has boosted demand and factored into price. Almost half a million new dwellings have been required over the decade just to meet the increase in net overseas migration.

Then there’s the integration question. As the head of the Menzies Research Centre observed last week, “something has gone badly wrong with our resettlement system when 58 per cent of refugees who have settled here in the past ten years are living on welfare”. With no insistence that refugees learn English, it’s hardly surprising that only 30 per cent of the last decade’s intake are proficient; but without the national language how can newcomers ever really find a job and fully integrate into our way of life?

Again, let me stress, I want a stronger Australia; and, over time, that should be a bigger Australia. But no Australian government should put the well-being of potential incoming migrants over that of the existing population. The programme has to be managed primarily in the interests of today’s Australians, not primarily in the interests of those who want to come here despite the contribution that many could undoubtedly make.

My government oversaw a decline of about 30,000 in annual net overseas migration. As well, we toughened up the rules against foreign purchases of existing residential properties – and actually enforced them for the first time – to give locals a fairer go in the housing market.

We began the biggest boost to roads in our history (with public transport included via an asset recycling programme with the states) in order to tackle a 30 year infrastructure deficit as quickly as possible. Taxes and regulations were cut to boost the economy and facilitate higher wages for Australian workers. And stopping the boats meant that the Australian government, not people smugglers, was once more running the humanitarian intake and we could prioritise persecuted minorities like the Christians of the Middle East.

But since then, net overseas migration has again edged up. And wage growth is still low, housing is still out of reach for young Australians, congestion is getting worse, and gang violence in Melbourne shows no sign of abating – so we need a rather bigger reduction now than we were able to deliver then.

There’s no reason why we must maintain the additional humanitarian immigration for the Syrian war that’s now winding down, or maintain that negotiated as part of a senate deal. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t insist on fluency in English as a requirement for citizenship, as the government is doing, or further revise “temporary” skilled immigration to require higher pay, higher skills and more effort to find local workers first.

At least until infrastructure, housing stock, and integration has better caught up, we simply have to move the overall numbers substantially down. A strong migration programme in the long term doesn’t preclude a smaller one in the short term especially when there’s acute pressure on living standards and quality of life.

The Howard government cut migration numbers by 30 per cent in its first two years. Of course, it would be unfair to would-be immigrants and would-be employers of skilled staff to change the rules for people already here or currently in the visa pipeline. Managing the overall numbers down to the old long-term average of 110,000 a year would inconvenience some businesses but that’s hardly unreasonable if it helps wages to grow more strongly and makes homes more affordable.

In order to win the next election, the government needs policy positions which are principled, practical and popular. And if they also outrage the Labor Party, so much the better!

Scaling back immigration acknowledges that government’s first duty is to its own citizens. It would be an act of the executive that doesn’t require tortuous negotiation with the states or the Senate crossbench. And since when is a democratic government required to ignore voters who would overwhelmingly prefer less immigration to more?

This could have been tackled sooner; so I do hope that Minister Dutton’s hints last week might quickly become a welcome change of scale.

Support came from Judith Sloan:

The government needs to get serious about cutting back the immigration intake, even though the universities are likely to kick up a stink. Note that overseas student education is a joint offering: a degree plus a pathway to permanent residence.

What the government has to appreciate is that the largest group of voters are incumbents, not new migrants or even migrants who have arrived in the past decade.

Even on this point, it’s not clear that migrant groups are in favour of large migrant intakes — the pull-up- the-ladder phenomenon.

We need to give our cities a break; we need to insist that new migrants culturally integrate and speak English well; we need to ­acknowledge the legitimate interests and views of incumbents rather than always favour new entrants.

It would be wise for the government to heed Abbott’s advice.

Domainfax ran with a thin riposte:

Australian National University demographer Liz Allen said evidence shows the optimal rate of immigration for the Australian economy was 160,000 to 210,000 people per year, with new arrivals bringing much needed skills and tax dollars.

“Tony Abbott is suggesting a sub-optimal level of immigration, whereby we might actually see more adverse consequences of immigration intake than benefits,” Dr Allen said.

“The contributions migrants make has a positive net effect, that is migrants aren’t costing Australia more than they are contributing in terms of economics and culture.”

Dr Allen is a devotee of ANU’s Dr Peter Mcdonald whose record on immigration research can be read in different ways.

McDonald co-authored a 1999 federal parliamentary research paper, entitled “Population Futures for Australia: the Policy Alternatives”, in which he explicitly noted that it is “demographic nonsense to believe that immigration can help to keep our population young”, while also recommending “a population of 24-25 million within 50 years” as well as “annual net migration… in the order of 80 000“. McDonald also stated “that there were difficulties in the late 1980s when net migration rose for just two years to over 150 000 per annum” and that “a sustained net migration level of 120 000 per annum is at the high end of what Australia seems to be able to manage”.

Yet today, Peter McDonald is quoted everywhere as the leading authority and proponent for much higher rates.

Dick Smith created the below video last year exposing McDonald’s hypocrisy, as well as his alleged funding links to the ‘Growth Lobby’ in favour of mass immigration:

On Monday, ANU Demographer Dr Liz Allen debated Sustainable Australian president William Bourke on ABC’s Radio National (audio below).

In the interview, Dr Allen made several highly erroneous and misleading claims. Below are my ‘fact checks’ on her claims.

The “evidence” does not back current immigration levels:

Dr Allen claims that the so-called “evidence” shows that the current immigration level is “optimal”, but that Australia would get diminishing returns at a level “over 210,000”.  She also bases this “optimal” level “on research that was done by Peter McDonald”

First, Australia’s net overseas migration (NOM) has averaged more than 220,000 over the past 11 years, so we have already exceeded the 210,000 limit.

Second, as noted above, Peter McDonald in 1999 recommended “a population of 24-25 million within 50 years”, and warned that “a sustained net migration level of 120 000 per annum is at the high end of what Australia seems to be able to manage”. So why has this figure been raised so aggressively. And why is McDonald not concerned that Australia’s population has already reached his “24-25 million” target some 30-years ahead of schedule?

Third, other “evidence” suggests a far lower immigration intake is in Australia’s best interest.

In 2010, Flinders University released a report to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) examining the “Long-Term Physical Implications of Net Overseas Migration” (NOM). This report concluded that “higher levels of NOM impose greater adverse impacts on the quality of our natural and built environments” and that the “geographical concentration… within Sydney, Melbourne and Perth… substantially increases their environmental impact”. The report also found that “decreased urban water supply is a significant environmental constraint exacerbated by higher levels of NOM”. In particular, “modelling shows the vulnerability of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to deficits in water supply“.

The Flinders University report also noted that Australia’s water resources could only cope with NOM of up to 50,000 people a year (versus 210,000 currently):

Only NOM levels of 50,000 pa or less result in Melbourne and Sydney maintaining a small surplus of net surface supply over demand on average out to 2050, assuming current climate conditions persist. Potential options to alleviate water stress at high NOM levels over the longer term may be hard to find.

Also in 2010, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) called for Australia’s population to be stabilised and nominated human population growth as a “key threatening process” to Australia’s biodiversity.

In 1994, when Australia’s population was just under 18 million, the Australian Academy of Science (AAS) convened a symposium on the future population of Australia. Its analysis was extended to Australia’s resources of water, minerals and arable land, and the interactions between present lifestyle and present environmental damage, and between future expectations and the costs of increasing population.

The AAS cautioned that “if our population reaches the high end of the feasible range (37 million), the quality of life of all Australians will be lowered by the degradation of water, soil, energy and biological resources” and concluded that “the quality of all aspects of our children’s lives will be maximised if the population of Australia by the mid-21st Century is kept to the low, stable end of the achievable range, i.e. to approximately 23 million”.

Immigration does not solve population ageing:

Next, Liz Allen repeats the myth that we need mass immigration to offset an ageing population, and “we are getting to the point where we want to avoid the adverse consequences of having a lower proportion in the workforce”.

For more than a decade, the Productivity Commission (PC) has debunked the notion that immigration can overcome population ageing. 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”.

The reason is simple: it’s a Ponzi scheme.  It requires ever more immigration, with the associated negative impacts on economic and social infrastructure, congestion, housing affordability, and the environment.

Of course, Dr Allen could also read Peter McDonald’s 1999 paper, where he explicitly noted:

“It is demographic nonsense to believe that immigration can help to keep our population young. No reasonable population policy can keep our population young”.

Or Dr Allen could read the recent empirical study by Economists at MIT, which found that there is absolutely no relationship between population ageing and economic decline. To the contrary, population aging seems to have been associated with improvements in GDP per capita, thanks to increased automation:

ScreenHunter_18202 Mar. 26 13.24

If anything, countries experiencing more rapid aging have grown more in recent decades… we show that since the early 1990s or 2000s, the periods commonly viewed as the beginning of the adverse effects of aging in much of the advanced world, there is no negative association between aging and lower GDP per capita… on the contrary, the relationship is significantly positive in many specifications.

Or Dr Allen could read the Reserve Bank of Australia’s recent Bulletin Article, which explicitly noted that while ageing of the workforce has tended to reduce labour supply, this has been mostly offset by increased labour force participation of women and older people.

Everybody, except Liz Allen, knows that mass immigration pushes up house prices:

Next, Dr Allen claims that the “evidence” shows that immigration does not push up house prices:

“Pieces of research have shown that immigration does not – the net effect is that there is little to no effect of immigration intake on the housing market. That is, immigrants are not increasing your neighbourhood house pricing. That’s not the case”.

In fact, if we were to cut immigration in half tomorrow, the population would still continue to grow. There would still be demand…”

You read that right folks. Population growth apparently has absolutely no impact on house prices.

Not so says the Productivity Commission in its Migrant Intake Australia report:

“High rates of immigration put upward pressure on land and housing prices in Australia’s largest cities. Upward pressures are exacerbated by the persistent failure of successive state, territory and local governments to implement sound urban planning and zoning policies…

Not so says economist Saul Eslake:

“The failure to plan for high rate of immigration has contributed to upward pressure on house prices and deteriorating housing affordability”…

Not so says CoreLogic:

“NSW and Vic have overwhelmingly seen a much greater increase in population… with most of the population flowing into Sydney and Melbourne… The substantial increase in the population of the two largest states has fuelled increasing demand for housing…

From a political view the best way to improve housing affordability is to see growth stall for a number of years… The way to achieve this is to undertake a wide range of both demand and supply reforms… [One] way to slow demand in Sydney and Melbourne would be to consider reducing the level of migration to Australia.

…these reforms are vital because it is clear that after such a significant and sustained surge in dwelling values over recent years more needs to be done to temper the growth in the Sydney and Melbourne housing markets”.

Do we even need to debate this point?

Mass immigration is causing dis-economies of scale:

Next, Liz Allen argues that “the pressure is lessened” on infrastructure by mass immigration because they “make things more viable”.

Obviously living in Canberra, Dr Allen hasn’t noticed the gridlock that has developed across Sydney and Melbourne as infrastructure has breached capacity. Nor has she noticed that infrastructure costs are rising as we try to retrofit Sydney and Melbourne – which are already built-out – with hideously complex and costly infrastructure to cope with population influx, thus requiring expensive tunneling, land buy-backs, water desalination, etc. These are classic dis-economies of scale.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s the Productivity Commission’s (PC) view from its Migrant Intake Australia report:

Urban population growth puts pressure on many environment-related resources and services, such as clean water, air and waste disposal. Managing these pressures requires additional investment, which increases the unit cost of relevant services, such as water supply and waste management. These higher costs are shared by all utility users…

Immigration, as a major source of population growth in Australia, contributes to congestion in the major cities, raising the importance of sound planning and infrastructure investment …governments have not demonstrated a high degree of competence in infrastructure planning and investment. Funding will inevitably be borne by the Australian community either through user-pays fees or general taxation.

…there will be additional costs for the community where environmental services that are currently ‘free’ have to be replaced with technological solutions…

..where assets are close to capacity, congestion imposes costs on all users. A larger population inevitably requires more investment in infrastructure, and who pays for this will depend on how this investment is funded (by users or by taxpayers). Physical constraints in major cities make the costs of expanding infrastructure more expensive, so even if a user-pays model is adopted, a higher population is very likely to impose a higher cost of living for people already residing in these major cities.

Similarly, in its latest Shifting the Dial: 5 year productivity review, the PC explicitly noted that infrastructure costs will inevitably balloon due to our cities’ rapidly growing populations:

Growing populations will place pressure on already strained transport systems… Yet available choices for new investments are constrained by the increasingly limited availability of unutilised land. Costs of new transport structures have risen accordingly, with new developments (for example WestConnex) requiring land reclamation, costly compensation arrangements, or otherwise more expensive alternatives (such as tunnels).

Blind Freddy can see that there is little hope of achieving the level of investment required to sustain current levels of mass population growth. And even if we did, user costs would soar.

Queen of the strawman argument:

Finally, when challenged by William Bourke on her false ‘economies of scale’ argument, Liz Allen resorted to platitudes and strawman arguments:

“The idea that we cannot build and see a future is nonsense. We are Australians. We are smart. We’re innovative. We look to the future and we will make it work. Migrants are a key part of our future. We should not blame population for policy failures. The infrastructure and all of those things need to be considered, yes, but at the moment we have a two-speed population where we have Sydney and Melbourne growing fast. NT, TAS, SA – they are wanting to attract more people. We need to be smart and consider what we want to be…

If we want to hand the same wellbeing that we’ve enjoyed to our children, and our subsequent generations, we will rely on immigration”.

First, nobody is calling for immigration to be stopped. Only for it to be normalised back towards the historical average from triple the historical average currently:

Second, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We’ve had 15-years of hyper immigration and it has unambiguously crush-loaded living standards in the major cities. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Third, “our children, and our subsequent generations” definitely won’t enjoy the same living standards if we continue with mass immigration. As our major cities balloon in size (see below chart), the best many can hope for is an expensive shoebox apartment, even worse congestion, and a degraded environment.

How does this represent rising living standards?

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Unconventional Economist
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  1. If we want to hand the same wellbeing that we’ve enjoyed to our children, and our subsequent generations, we will rely on immigration

    Complete load of nonsense.

    11% of Norway is foreign-born while 28% of AUS is.

    Best country in the world to live? Still Norway

    Norway has also been named the most prosperous country in the world – for the seventh year running.

    Living in Australia, it seems like a miracle that Theresa May has slashed immigration because Aussies were promised immigration cuts in 2010 by both the ALP and LNP:

    “If Labor wants lower immigration let it specify a number. They can’t say they are in favour of lower immigration without specifying a number,” Mr Abbott said. He said Ms Gillard had been fundamentally dishonest last week when she said she wanted to reduce population growth without nominating a figure

    Nearly 8 years later, the immigration rate is 245,000/year while wages and job opportunites continue to shrink.

    Oh, it looks like Jacinda is a Gillard:

    The Government has also soft-pedalled on the immigration cuts that both Labour and New Zealand First talked up before the election. Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has gone away to consult with businesses about the effects.

    Winston Peters should be the immigration minister! And he should consult with Norway instead.

      • Don’t think so Nathan. I’ll be astounded if Australia gives Labor government without some radical changes and ironclad promises. I’ve never gotten an election, state or federal, wrong and bet on the result every time.

      • Ric, Shorten will be a one term “wonder” just like the idiots Rudd and Gillard. Shorten ruled out jail for wage theft last year, already backflipped on decent minimum wage rises in 2018, and while the LNP is happy to blow $50 – 100 billion on 12 submarines that will only last 30 years each – Shorten will probably not build a single km of high speed rail.

        The federal ALP has backflipped on the EITC – which they took to the 1998 election.

    • Complete load of nonsense.

      11% of Norway is foreign-born while 28% of AUS is.

      Switzerland is number two on the list. ~25% foreign-born.

      New Zealand, number four, ~25% foreign-born.

      • What the heck? Who said that NZ is awesome? In fact, they got a Gillard (lied about not wanting a big AUS) in the form of Jacinda (lied about wanting to cut immigration).

        Switzerland had a referendum on immigration – and the Swiss also voted to cut immigration!

        BTW, the ALP took EITC to the 1998 federal election and Ross Garnaut wanted it:

      • What the heck? Who said that NZ is awesome?

        The same list that says Norway is awesome ?

        Switzerland had a referendum on immigration – and the Swiss also voted to cut immigration!

        Doesn’t change that Switzerland is ~25% foreign-born. You know, that metric you keep banging on about, presumably because you think it’s a key factor ?

        The percentage of the population that is foreign-born has increased since that referendum, by the way.

  2. Not a word. Don’t tell a soul that “lower immigration” is the new Captain’s Pick of Tony and his little mates Jim Molan and Peter Dutton. It will be the Knighthood and Prince Philip saga all over again. Wild mobs of Aussies on the street demanding Mal, Bill and Richard co-legislate to double our migration intake immediately. For the sake of sustainability and amenity in this land, Tony must be made to deny any association with a cut in immigration immediately and sent off to a surfing carnival somewhere.

  3. Yes, curious about Prof McDonald. The first red flag is that he’s an “emeritus professor” – in other words a retired professor who is allowed to use his past ANU association. This is an arrangement that can be abused – and in this case it almost certainly is being. One can imagine the gritted teeth and red faces in the Crawford School as old Peter rakes in the loot for another holiday house.

    Digging into his publications a few things jump out. There is an awful lot of “grey literature” (stuff that is not peer reviewed) and a conspicuous absence of anything that suggest he has looked at the environmental or social sustainability of his hobby horse – economic growth. Much of it is in my opinion the kind of work that is produced to support industry lobbying due to their thick cheque book. This is pretty common in dodgy unis, but surprising at ANU. Industry loves to say “Prof X,Y, Z produced a study that agrees with us”. That goes to Appendix 1 of the lobbying document.

    What on earth is a retired Prof of commerce doing driving mass population growth without a balance of academic opinion at the Crawford School at ANU being known? The growth lobby have clearly closed a loop that launders their own ‘facts’ through people like PMc. His views should be having the crap kicked out of them by real and active researchers at the Crawford School of Public Policy i.e. ones who are not retired.

    • Thank you Clive. Great points. I did not know he is no longer a professor. ANU is probably the least dependent on foreign “students” compared to “unis” like CQU.

      • ANU’s Business/Economics faculty is now dominated by Asian students. They are building large blocks all around the ANU to house overseas students. The character of the ANU has changed radically over the last 10 years. There is now a China focused institute funded by the Chinese govt, and an Islamic centre. European students are a minority in many classes. Because of its prestige the ANU can command high fees from overseas students, and its going for it in a big way under its new high profile Vice Chancellor.

        I live in Canberra and studied Economics at the ANU, and go there frequently so I am well are of what has happened.

        It should not be surprising to anyone that there are now a how heap of academics that are signing the pro-migration tune – their incomes are dependent on this continuing. You can forget about academics providing unbiased advice and information – its been a fiction probably since education began in the dim past.

  4. What this means is that the figure for Net Overseas Migration (or the extra people looking for housing and jobs) that had averaged 110,000 a year in the decade to mid-2006 has doubled to 220,000 a year in the decade since – peaking at well over 300,000 under the Rudd prime ministership. These are by far the highest figures in our history.

    At long last our politicians are strarting to get to the same numbers MB has identified. Even TestosterTone doesnt quite go all the way. That 110k figure becomes 72k if you average 1980 to 2006.

    But more importantly we can see this

    Australia had NOM of more than 150k in any given year only 4 times in the 100+ years to 2006.

    1919 – returning soldiers from WW1
    1950 – the height of the initial post war migration/refugee boom

    Since then it has run at more than that every year, and double that once.

    And the measure of that is not the number of any given year in relation to the number of people in Australia, but the number of people in any given year in terms of Australia’s economic prosperity, diversity, and infrastructure. By any of those we were far more capable of handling large NOM numbers back in the 1980s…

    • 16 years ago, in the first Inter-generational Report, it was expected that our population would not reach 25.3 million till 2042, we’re going to achieve that figure next year – or 23 years early.( a full generation)
      Australia’s relatively subdued economic performance over the past decade is due to post-GFC headwinds, the fading of the China boom, more competition from third-world-countries-with-first-world-technology, disruption to established industries, and our own home-grown policy follies such as the carbon tax. (wrong its due to the lack of productivity >producing income)
      But are we really so short of willing and capable workers that backpackers must pick our crops, overseas students serve our tables, and recent migrants run our IT?
      Very possibly Australians are too fussy about the jobs they’ll do, or even whether they’ll work at all given the availability of don’t-ask-questions welfare.
      “Something has gone badly wrong with our resettlement system when 58% of refugees who have settled here in the past 10 years are living on welfare”. (much more than half)
      With no insistence that refugees learn English, it’s hardly surprising that only 30% of the last decade’s intake are proficient; but without the national language how can newcomers ever really find a job and fully integrate into our way of life?

  5. So many hired guns to shoot down. The rent seekers’ institutions can always find willing new mercenaries looking to advance their careers.
    Wages are going backwards, hidden unemployment and underemployment makes a mockery of the official figures, infrastructure and services are being bottlenecked and the cost of maintaining and expanding them is rising exponentially, tolls popping up everywhere like mushrooms.

    Yeah everything is going brilliantly.

  6. You may not like Tony Abbott (I don’t like him either), but what he is saying is most common sense and what people are feeling. The debate is moving closer and closer to mainstream. The fact that a few people in the LNP are muttering the rate is too high and that Abbott is suggesting 110k per year means that it is increasingly a topic that can’t be ignored.

    The big business lobbies and fake left will dig in their heels, but the lived experience counts for a lot. Many of us feel the true cost of this through higher house prices, higher energy costs (stop start in traffic), crowded or pay for schools, the list goes on.

    Too many times, I have argued against the fake left about the immigration rate and the usual excuses are:
    * Just build more infrastructure – sure like we do a good job at it
    * Immigrants bring a lot to Australia like business and demand – so do locals
    * There are plenty of resources – 2008 water shortages would disprove that
    * Australia is not full – see point above
    * We don’t want to go back to the 1950s – my favourite and most laughable one as it too was an era of high immigration

    • The 1950s in Australia began with a tiny population and the expansion was driven by national security (remember they just come out of a world war). The government was committed to providing cheap housing, infrastructure and services to all. The banks were tightly regulated. Unionisation was around 50 % and wages were set centrally, Both productivity and wages rose strongly and together. Driving all this was a massive expansion of agriculture and industry. So very different to today’s ponzii economy in every respect..

    • It is not a case of liking or disliking Abbott. I wouldn’t trust him. He is a rank opportunist. He made many claims about what he would and wouldn’t do before he won the election which made him PM.
      He then proceeded brazenly to break most of his election commitments (no new taxes, just a wealth “levy” etc.). All while telling us it was imperative a government must never say one thing in opposition and do another in government.
      Abbott clearly sees immigration as an issue which may be a means to create some publicity for himself and perhaps position himself for another run at the top job.
      The chances of him doing anything if given another at that job are zero.

      • EXACTO !!!1
        The Wrecker is a supreme example of opportunism. He plays on emotions too. But he has shown himself to be completely untrustworthy. Lord Abbott doesn’t give a stuff about screwing ordinary Australians. Why give The Wrecker a second go? You’d have to be stupid.

  7. They can argue the benefits for them outweigh the pain for us for years.

    They win. They’re benefiting big.

    Put it to a plebiscite.

  8. Scotty MORRISSON

    Bravo Macrobusiness for this exceptional debunking.

    I’ve found her argument often tends to sway towards slurring opposition as having “racial undertones” (whatever that means) or that its a binary equation.. i.e. you are either pro mass migration or against. There is no middle ground.

    It’s no wonder she’s the darling of the real estate lobby. Might be worth looking into that relationship a bit more.

    Tell these Cornucopians they’re dreamin!

  9. ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

    “Even TestosterTone doesnt quite go all the way. That 110k figure becomes 72k if you average 1980 to 2006.”

    I was listening to Bolt and the other interchangable, generic, angry sounding, conservative tool on Partisan radio 2GB last night and they were talking immigration and taking callers.
    They quoted that 110k figure as the “much lower rate of immigration average, under Howard.”
    Still playing to the myth that Howard lowered immigration, along with also going all Gestapo on Reffos.
    Am I wrong In requoting, that, in the first 3 years of Howard’s term, the average annual intake was 86k, but during his term was Trippled!!! to an average of 220k/annum during his LAST 3 years in office.
    The degree of Obviscation in this debate from both sides is concerning.

    One caller in, said All Australians are racist! and the conservation degenerated down into a discussion over what ethnic groups close ranks more and don’t want to intergrate/assimilate.
    African people were brought up, along with the Islamic,…much consternation was expressed.
    Of course the vast majority, of the darker side of the immigration debate (ethnic composition) would be avoided, by Simply having, a much lower and thus more manageable, yearly intake.

    • Problem is whenever most Australians hear “Labor and migrants” in the same sentence, they associate it with refugee boats, or electorate voter stacking with unproductive migrants. I’m not sure how or even if that can change.

      Labor has zero understanding of what their voter base wants because their ministers in no way whatsoever reflect the average EX Labor voter.

      Labor is Australia’s problem, and until the rusted on abandon them, we can’t fix anything. By hanging around not really being an affective opposition OR VIABLE government, they’re a hindrance to Australia.

      • Were you rolled in a pre selection fight by the Labor Party , Ric. You have a massive chip on your shoulder. Perhaps passed over for pre-selection by a woman? I enjoy reading your posts but your vitriol towards the ALP paints you as a bit unhinged.

      • C ric is correct about the ALP party, maybe not explicit enough
        they are a bunch of commo incompentent devious no good scoundrels
        should shorten ever stick his head above the parapet, there will be a tirade of expositions that make BJ look like a saint.

      • No Cristian. I’m an ex Labor voter who’s angry Labor have become as stupid as LNP economically and as stupid as Greens socially.

        I’ve already spelled out what’s wrong with them. It’s not bitterness for any reason other than them being unelectable and therefore it’s their fault we are in the position we’re in.

        Maybe you should give it some thought. Who do you blame and why?

      • Cristian

        BTW, I resent the reference to women. I am all for equality and nothing more or less. I defy you to point to anything I’ve said that conflicts with that. I love and respect women in every way.

        I equally resent favours for women dressed as equality. Most people do. I’m not that out there.

    • That is my suspicion EP

      That the Torynuffs are trying to carve a narrative of circa 110k as sonehow sacrosanct and reasonable (and paint 70k as extremist)

      • no number should be sacrosant. immigration could and should be as low as we want it to be. if we want no more, we should be able to have no more.

        double narrative breaker: immigration was prob never beneficial and produced many of the same problems it does now during the post war-2004 phase.

      • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

        Yes, it’s the Number I think we should have for several years before deciding to go up or down.
        But I think the equating of that 110k number to the overall Average during Howard’s, how many years?
        Is primarily designed to Keep in mind the Myth that the LNP are somehow just traditionally more supportive of a lower number,…So even if Abbott’s and Duttons utterances amount to no change what so ever,…the meme has been planted in the public mind.
        LNP = less immigrants.
        They (LNP) will only follow through with a dramatic reduction,…if their political survival depends on it, otherwise it’s going to be business as usual, that what their Plutocratic overlords want.
        The only true way, for a long term, sensible immigration policy, must come from a rank and file run party of the “real left’s a party run by common people,…not by Careerist, planning their next cushy gig post politics.

      • @EP

        “not by Careerist, planning their next cushy gig post politics”

        So where’s the plan to get rid of Labor’s front bench and half the others that have infiltrated the party?

  10. I loathe Tony Abbott as he usually talks shit and is a proven liar. But god forbid a lot of what he said here makes sense.

    The obvious dodge here is the comment that “in the first two years the Howard government cut immigration”, conveniently leaving out what happened after that.

    Politically what’s the effect of Abbott and Molan? Given that it’s not core Lab or Lib policy- and the people who slap them down signal that- surely all that it will do is drive voters to PHON

  11. Next, Liz Allen repeats the myth that we need mass immigration to offset an ageing population

    Lol. She said that? An ANU academic said that? For real? She can’t see that that is almost the definition of a Ponzi scheme?

    Phuq me, I feel like posting my degree back to them with a note saying that there too stupid to be associated with any more.

    What an imbecile.

    And I may be going crazy, but it seems like Tony’s spray was lifted straight from the pages of MB. He really should take out a subscription and provide proper attribution.

  12. There was some strange dude from something called the Migration Institute of Australia on the ABC about 5pm yesterday. The presenter did not mention the fact that this body represents Australian Migration Agents, so that was a bit of a miss. He repeated this “economically optimal level of migration is 180k” nonsense.

    Completely meaningless analysis. Its like saying there’s an optimal level of GDP growth. Well if you like 3% growth, wouldn’t 5% be better? What about 15%? Why not go for 40%?

    Most of the texts and calls were arguing with the guy though. Seems like the tide of public opinion is slowly turning on this one.

    The presenter was actually doing a good job of presenting the other side of the argument, but erred when he said that immigrants are younger and will help support our ageing population. That old chestnut again…

  13. ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

    For those Lefties who think the ALP and Greens are beyond redemption on this subject, check out the Australian Workers Party.

    If ya want policies that are supportive of “The People”,…ya need a people’s Party!
    My hope is still reform of the ALP by the Rank and File, but maybe they need a push from another direction, other than the “Right”.

    Skills and Training
    Australia should be training its own. Master Tradesmen and skilled personnel should be provided with realistic incentives and assistance to ensure future skill deficiencies can be met by training the youth of today, how many decades has Australia complained there are insufficient tradesmen to meet our needs? We should not be permitting 457, 471 or any other worker from overseas while our unemployment climbs and our youth are denied these opportunities. To say Australia needs to import unskilled workers at times when unemployment is rising is simply ridiculous. No employer should be permitted to claim they cannot find unskilled workers in such a climate, nor should the option exist. ”

    “Overseas Workers
    We as people who have actually worked for a living find it ridiculous that anyone in Parliament can claim surprise over illegal workers or those on expired visas, or employers paying what is now being referred to as slave wages. Anybody who has ever picked fruit or worked day labouring jobs will tell you they have had offers of lower cash wages.
    This little scam is primarily designed to save the employer wage costs, dodge superannuation payments, ignore insurance and abuse then discard the workers. The solution is simple, reinstate the inspectors that were sacked many years ago, immigration and workplace investigators once randomly attended businesses to detect these issues. But again successive Governments have cut back these positions until they have all but ceased to exist. We want these positions returned to our Government agencies in every City, and every regional centre across Australia.”

    “Regional Australia”
    “We need to provide substantial tax incentives to businesses willing to relocate to regional & rural areas and who employ a minimum quota of locals.

    Government offices and call centres – where staff don’t deal in face to face contact, should be relocated to regional areas, and all contracts for staffing and offices overseas need to be rescinded and employment for Australian departments and services returned to Australians.

    The rate of immigration needs to be reduced for the next 3-5 years and all 457 visas need to be immediately reassessed, with all visas not subject to reasonable market labour testing, immediately revoked. The intake of 457’s needs to be reduced by a minimum of 90%, and all but the most specialised of positions permanently removed from the visa application lists.
    Companies breaching worker’s rights and visa conditions must face hefty penalties.”

      • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

        I’ll be strongly calling for a coalition with them, if they ever get themselves into parliment in decent numbers.
        Their policy platforms are basically the same as Labor’s were,…before the Neoliberals took over the ALP.

      • “Certainly Ermo, you have made us see the error of our ways. Now we have government in decent numbers the first thing on our agenda is a coalition with a microparty”

      • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

        If the AWP gets numbers in Parliment, the ALP will desend into much navel gazing and infighting, they’ll eaisly make the logical conclusion, with or without Dudes like me.

  14. TailorTrashMEMBER

    Tones calling to cut immigration and Potatoe Pete muttering about the same “if it’s in the National interest ( it is you dill !) Looks like the anger of the punters and the solid data backed arguments of Leith are getting through to the LNP ….(and of course they smell votes in it ) ……..the problem is leaving it to Malcolm ,as he will ,without doubt come out with some dribble that sounds good on the 6 o’clock news for a night …….then go on to totally fcuk up any programme that might make sense .
    But at least the discussion is now getting up there and is moving to numbers not race …good job MB ……

    And good one Tones for speaking out ….you stopped the boats as you said you would (and brought order back to our very important refugee program ) …….now stop the visas and citizenship’s that are given out like candy to the detrement of the existing population ………there’s huge votes in it too .

  15. Metropolitan populations major cities:

    Guangzhou 44m
    Tokyo 37m
    Shanghai 34m
    Delhi 34m
    Mumbai 21m


    I think we’re letting the population/immigration hype get out of control and become the fall guy for all our problems. It is not.

    • Classic strawman. Please explain how a substantially bigger population for Sydney and Melbourne (i.e. 8 million mid-century) would raise incumbent living standards and why it this desirable?

      Just because those cities have gigantic populations (many of them slums), why should Australia go down the same road?

      • I’m simply saying the discussion is getting out of hand. We are a large country with a small population. A population concentrated in our cities, two in particular (both of which have significant planning and rezoning restrictions, one of which has some geographical limitations). Our major problem is not having planned infrastructure to accommodate growth and not proactively redesigning existing and new developments to house people in European style higher density with an Australian twist (large balconies, communal gardens, playgrounds etc).

        • Getting out of hand? How? There is no doubt that living standards are being crushed in Sydney and Melbourne, which is where the overwhelming majority of migrants go to. How is this desirable?

          “We are a large country with a small population”. We are also mostly desert.

          “Our major problem is not having planned infrastructure to accommodate growth”. Tripling the migrant intake is the poor planning. How do you propose we change this? And why should we persist with mass immigration?

          “…not proactively redesigning existing and new developments to house people in European style higher density“. Why should we have to do this and why is it desirable? What was wrong with the Australia that existed in 2000 before this mass immigration madness began?

      • A pointless contribution. Daniel, are you a plant?

        There’s a better than average chance that “Daniel” was formerly known as 3 d1 k.

      • From what I’ve read Macrobusiness would like immigration to roughly halve to a figure closer to 100k. This would be insufficient to address the multitude of problems attributed to immigration. To really have effect changes to immigration requires the elimination of a raft of visa categories and an end to the 700k one way traffic from New Zealand. Something of this magnitude would definitely have impact, good and bad!

        The “fix” is neither clear nor easy.

    • – Those cities you mention are predominately high population cities; with a very different lifestyle. Many people don’t necessarily want that lifecycle nor are willing to pay to retrofit our cities to that lifestyle.
      – You mention not having the infrastructure; that’s laughable. Who pays for it? Is the gain I’m going to get as a taxpayer of rebuilding our cities for migrants worth it for me? Hint: Most of the benefit accures to new migrants and most of the cost is bourne by the existing population in the form of reduced services AND/OR higher government debt just to keep pace. Note: Australia’s competitive advantage as all the migrants in my field say is its clean air, nature and relatively OK pay for the good lifestyle on the weekends and for family. If I wanted a “City” in the form you mentioned I would move there instead. In all honesty I don’t want to become those cities yet alone compete with them; high wage – high lifestyle works for me a lot better.

      How about we fix our infrastructure first before allowing more people in – I don’t have any faith in governments to do it however. I don’t invite people to my house unless I can feed/hydrate them and have a place for them to sit/stand; why should the country be any different?

    • From other jargonist comments “planning and rezoning restrictions”, “growth” “European style higher density” blah blah blah Daniel may be an urban planning student or lecturer (UNSW Built Environment or something like that). Urban planners have an innate conflict of interest – no population growth, no need for urban planners.

  16. I don’t believe that Australia has not been an immigrant dominated society since its inception. Here are the census figures for the percentages of foreign born Australians:

    1901 – 22.6%
    1911 – 17%
    1921 – 15.4%
    1933 – 13.6%
    1948 – 9.8%
    1954 – 14.3%
    1961 – 16.3%
    1971 – 20.2%
    1981 – 16.8%
    1991 – 22%
    2001 – 21.9%
    2006 – 22.2%
    2011 – 24.6%
    2016 – 28%

    The percentages for those with at least one foriegn born parent are considerably higher.

    Australia has not been the “immigration nation” it is today probably since the mid-nineteenth century. Independence came as the percentage of foreign born was declining. As the direction goes the other way, will the people of this land actually care about Australian independence? We have already given up the pretence of trying to be independent economically and militarily. With many MPs foreign born, is it any wonder that we have the policies we do? (E.g. crappy free trade agreements).

    The modern view is that we should all be “colourblind” but recent studies suggest that even babies prefer the faces of those of most similar to them. Diversity does have benefits, but it is also a stressor and makes social interaction more fraught. Good quality studies have shown that social cohesion declines as diversity increases. We have become more isolated from one another as a result. We need to stop pretending race doesn’t matter. Knowing who your people are and that you can trust them really matters. This does not give a carte blanche to racism, limited diversity is beneficial, but in most of the world it is common sense that you need to keep your country for your people. Australia will never be and has never been exclusively European, nor should it be. But we should work to ensure that it remains a country dominated by European people, just as the Singaporeans ensure that Singapore is dominated by ethnic Chinese. If European Australians can regain a sense of solidarity quickly, a Singapore type situation is still possible. The longer we leave it, a Malaysia type scenario becomes more likely. If we leave it still longer we will end up like Brazil, full of lovely words but with great inequality and corruption.

    • The modern view is that we should all be “colourblind” but recent studies suggest that even babies prefer the faces of those of most similar to them.

      I think you mean most similar to their parents. Babies don’t understand mirrors (or culture).

      Do non-whites who are several generations resident get to count themselves as “Europeans” ?

  17. The AAS cautioned that “if our population reaches the high end of the feasible range (37 million), the quality of life of all Australians will be lowered by the degradation of water, soil, energy and biological resources” and concluded that “the quality of all aspects of our children’s lives will be maximised if the population of Australia by the mid-21st Century is kept to the low, stable end of the achievable range, i.e. to approximately 23 million”.
    Well, we have surged past that number already, so a return to NOM of around 110,000 as it was 17 years ago is simply not enough.
    The immigration policy must be to halve the current permanent intake to 103,000 at the 2018 -2019 budget, then halved again in the next budget. We need to aim for a zero NOM.
    Some policy that EmertonPlumbing high lighted from the Australian Workers Party is excellent … repeat a bit,
    ” The intake of 457’s needs to be reduced by a minimum of 90%, and all but the most specialised of positions permanently removed from the visa application lists.
    Companies breaching worker’s rights and visa conditions must face hefty penalties”

    I would like to see work rights removed from oversea students too, they are supposed to be here to study not to work.
    Then there’s the 700,000 New Zealanders working here … sigh

    • Kiwis do not come here to work for $10/hour – 3rd world passport holders do. I think Subway restaurants are the new 7-11 scam. ie, whenever I walk by one, I see foreigners/immigrants working in them.

      Kiwis do not cheat on exams to come here – 3rd world passport holders do.

      It might even be good if AUS has an open border with Britain given that the unemployment rate in Britain is lower. I might have moved to NZ if Jacinda cut immigration like she promised to – but it looks like she is another lying prick like Gillard.

  18. Footnote is the ponzi lobby’s secret weapon. As soon as he opens his mouth about anything, sensible and rational people across our great nation turn away from his witterings.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the population boosters secretly hatched a plan to dupe this guy into speaking out against poipulation growth because they know that people will respond by saying, “if Abbott is saying X then the sensible thing is to do Y”.

    Chalk this speech up as a victory to the boosters.

  19. I am beginning to be a little uncomfortable with the PhD “doctor” tag. That title is supposed to be a gold plated guarantee of a superior mind, however we are seeing people from that academic group spouting weak minded drivel. What the hell good is a PhD if their arguments can be dismissed as twaddle by anyone uneducated past the 3rd grade?

    Someone who presented a dissertation should not be coming out with “part of the answer to overloaded infrastructure is more immigration”. That is the work of a nincompoop. The University that minted these numbnuts should be issuing recall notices like Toyota has to do. PhD #3954, come on in. We need to do some serious rework on your brainbox. Please refrain from all intellectual activity whilst we effect urgent repairs.