Liar Dutton pretends to cut immigration

By Leith van Onselen

Back in September, Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, launched another attack on ‘boat people’ while conveniently ignoring the hundreds of thousands of immigrants let into Australia each year by plane.

Then in October, following the Australian Population Research Institute’s latest survey showing three-quarters of Australians do not believe that the country needs more people, Dutton tried to argue that the Turnbull Government had cut the migrant intake:

“In the Labor years the number peaked at about 305,900 in one year which was an enormous number, we’ve got that number down now below 190,000 and as I say, we’re happy to reassess.”

He said new migrants were drawn to the big population centres where pressure on housing and infrastructure was most often felt, however, “In some regional towns they’re crying out for people because they can’t get workers in the meatworks or areas of primary production, tourism, restaurants and so on. So we need to get that balance right.”

Yesterday, Dutton made similar claims when quizzed about NSW Liberal Senator Jim Molan’s call for legal immigration to be cut to save infrastructure. From The Guardian:

Peter Dutton has said Australia must reduce its intake of migrants “where we believe it’s in our national interest”.

The home affairs minister told 2GB Radio on Thursday the Coalition had already “considerably” reduced the number of people entering Australia – by 100,000 on the levels when Labor was in government – and was not tied to the current level of migration…

Dutton said it was a “perfectly legitimate argument” that Australia’s cities were “overcrowded” including “gridlocked traffic in the mornings” and use of services like hospitals.

“We have to try and encourage people out into regions, we have to reduce the numbers where we believe it’s in our national interest,” he said. “It’s come back considerably and if we have to bring it back further, if that’s what required and that’s what’s in our country’s best interests … that is what we will do”…

“But we do have problems where people are concentrating in and around Sydney, in and around other capital cities, including Melbourne. We need to try and disperse people out.”

While it is good to see Dutton acknowledge the crush-loading caused in Sydney and Melbourne by the federal government’s mass immigration program, he is lying when he claims that the Coalition had already “considerably” reduced the number of people entering Australia by 100,000.

While it is true that net overseas migration (NOM) – which includes both permanent and temporary long-term residents – peaked under Labor (at 315,700), it was still running 245,500 as at the year to June 2017:

Most importantly, Dutton has deliberately failed to mention that Australia’s permanent migrant intake has never been higher than under this Coalition Government, set at nearly 210,000 a year currently:

It is this permanent migrant intake that sets Australia’s future population trajectory (as well as population pressures in the major cities), since long-term temporary migrants (included in NOM) are by definition temporary and must ultimately leave Australia. The permanent migrant intake is also unaffected by Dutton’s proposed citizenship laws.

As noted in MB’s submission to the Migration Program review:

Australia’s permanent skilled migrant intake is significantly higher today (128,550) than it was at the peak of the mining boom in 2011 (113,850). Why? Unlike then, labour shortages are “limited”, wages growth is running near the lowest level on record, and labour underutilisation is high. What is the economic rationale for running the highest permanent migrant intake on record when economic conditions do not warrant it?…

Currently, there is no coherent plan other than to inundate the major cities with extra people each and every year to stoke overall economic growth (but not growth per person), to support big business (e.g. the property industry and retailers), and to prevent Australia from going into recession (despite growth per person stagnating).

Meanwhile, individual living standards are being eroded through rising congestion costs, declining housing affordability, paying more for infrastructure (e.g. toll roads, water and energy), environmental degradation, and overall reduced amenity…

The reality is that the Turnbull Government’s own turbo-charged immigration settings have Australia on a trajectory towards at least 40 million people mid-century, with Melbourne and Sydney headed to at least 8 million people.

Australia needs a frank and honest national conversation about population policy, which focuses on whether or not large-scale immigration is benefiting the living standards of the incumbent population. Not the dishonest ‘smoke and mirrors’ approach employed by Dutton, which deliberately conflates the immigration intake with refugees, obfuscates the immigration data, privatises the gains from mass immigration for the Coalition’s big business backers, and socialises the costs on everyone else (including the state governments).

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Unconventional Economist


  1. I will give him credit because he has been good on getting rid of crooks and taking on the corrupt AAT.

    Everything else in the mainstream immigration program he’s been completely out to sea on.

    • It would boost the national morale if we did set him adrift, in a boat, no provisions except water, no sunscreen, middle of the Arafura Sea would do nicely.

      Edit: Put Barnaby in the boat with him….imagine the beetroot after a week on the open sea with no sunscreen.

    • Need to do a Stephen King style version with that evil picture of Dutton, done up with some clown highlights hiding down a street drain……

  2. The stupid thing is, they arguably could take the pressure off Syd/Melb with policy.

    We have 50 minor cities with far fewer people.

    There’s no reason they can’t tap the ASX50 on the shoulder and say “Hey. Move your HQs to any of the 50 minors and we’ll give you a tax break.

    Any reason Newcastle can’t be the banking centre?
    Any reason Geelong can’t be the mining centre?
    Any reason Ballarat can’t be the Telco centre?
    Any reason Bendigo can’t be the grocery duopoly centre?
    Obviously these aren’t hard and fast directions. It would be up to the companies to decide WHERE.

    Step 1: Secure water.
    Step 2: Build out airports, rail and roads to international spec.
    Step 3: Incentivise the ASX50(and more) to move.

    Is payroll tax a city thing or a state thing? Up it for capitals. Cancel it elsewhere.

    • Because all you are doing is kicking the can down the road and the same problems that are befalling Melbourne and Sydney will befall the others. Been to Bendigo? People are moving out there in droves because Melbourne is unaffordable and in turn infrastructure is way behind.

      This mythical motion that “infrastructure will save Australia” needs to die when we have consistently shown we can’t plan or build for shite.

      • We literally can’t keep up. You need 2% for maintenance (50 year asset life) and 2% for population growth. Say $400b every year JUST TO KEEP UP.

        Then add a few trillion in infrastructure deficit.

        Australia cannot provide the infrastructure needed to populate at this rate. The only outcome is reduction in lifestyle. That’s what we vote for, that’s what we’re getting. Shouldn’t surprise anyone.

    • Okay in theory, except Step 1. 10 years ago, Bendigo and Ballart practically ran out of water and it had to be pumped from elsewhere in the state. We don’t need to have more people in either city. All other capitals have had or currently have water issues.

      • Australia tops the chart for living high on the hog.
        for the world to live at our “standard of living requires 5 planet Earths.
        What sense in bringing more people into what is already a highly unsustainable society?

      • Bolstrood

        Tell those idiot Greens and Labor that. They have tipped to socialist over environment and most on here deny it.

  3. The highly talented senator for WA obviously doesn’t agree:

    Asked about his comments on migration, Cash distanced herself by noting that Liberals are “able to express an opinion”.

    “It doesn’t actually mean the government is going to agree with your opinion,” she said.

  4. Difficult to criticise someone too strongly for doing the precise thing they were appointed to do: viz make it appear that immigration has been cut strongly whilst ensuring that change is very limited. This is a decision that was taken about two hundred pay grades above Dutton, both in terms of it being vital to maintain migration levels, and the overall strategy of deflection.

  5. “since long-term temporary migrants (included in NOM) are by definition temporary and must ultimately leave Australia.”
    I don’t think this is correct. My understanding is that they have pathways to permanent residency and citizenship and that is why most of them come – to follow the pathway to permanent citizenship.

    • There are pathways, but once people are on those pathways they are no longer on temporary migrant visas. 😉

      “If the facts are against you, argue the law.”

  6. Perhaps Jim Molan wants illegal immigration instead of the legal type – ala USA.

    There are 64,000 known illegals in AUS now – perhaps Jim wants that to grow to 640,000. So that petrol stations keep getting 3rd world males to work here for $10/hour while those males put no pressure on schools and hospitals.

  7. The LP represents business interests and businesses love Big Australia (which grows markets), so no one should be surprised that the LP advocates high immigration policies.

    I think what will come next from the LP government is something along these lines……

    Sir Mark: Are you sure Abbott is the man for this?

    Sir Arnold: Yes.

    Sir Mark: Is he really the best possible choice to lead the taskforce to halve our net overseas migration?

    Sir Arnold: Yes.

    Sir Mark: But he doesn’t know anything about immigration policy.

    Sir Arnold: No.

    Sir Mark: Have you sounded out the immigration minister for the job?

    Sir Arnold: He won’t touch it with a bargepole.

    Sir Mark: Yes…… well, this could turn out to be a bed of nails.

    Sir Arnold: Still we have to be looked as though something is going to be done. You see, it calls for a particular combination of talents: lots of activity but no actual achievement.

    Sir Mark: I see. Then Abbott is the man.

    • Does it grow markets as stated above? Debt growth grows markets CAD grows markets, both are unsustainable and ultimately crush profits as we are seeing now.

  8. The figures probably need to also reflect who ultimately becomes a permanent resident. That may mean that numbers are adjusted retrospectively as those arriving as temporary residents transition to permanent residents. So for instance, if there were say 110,000 temporary migrants in one year, what proportion of those migrants are now permanent residents? If it were say 50%, then add 55,000 to the permanent figure for that year. As per the point raised by Mark O’Connor and others, temporary entry has long been seen as the path to permanent as residency is implied, including very much arriving under the guise of a student.

    In addition, suppose we have a rolling temporary migration program that increases every year, you effectively have a permanent net increase in migrant population in the country.

    The real key at the end of the day is how much we’re increasing by each year which is the sum of the numbers arriving less those leaving plus those being born less those dying.

    So, we need to ensure we are being balanced in how we assess this. Remember that the net increase under Rudd in 2009 was around 2.1%. Since the 2.5% increase in 1974, that’s the only time the rate has exceeded 1.7%. 1.7% is of course very bad, 2.1% is also very bad and then some.

    In this way, the temporary vs permanent targets can be misleading and manipulative.