ABC’s immigration bias mushrooms

By Leith van Onselen

As the immigration debate has erupted this week, the ABC has once again revealed its shocking bias towards mass immigration and a ‘Big Australia’.

On Wednesday, the ABC gave a key lobbyist for the ‘growth lobby’ – Chris Johnson from the Urban Taskforce – a free platform to spread mass immigration propaganda without investigating his claims or engaging any opposing view.

Then yesterday morning, ABC Fact Check spuriously attacked Dick Smith’s comment from 9 September claiming that “At the present rate, we have [a] 1.6 per cent growth rate. That’s the highest in the developed world”. Impeccable timing, wouldn’t you say?

Here’s Fact Check’s analysis:

Mr Smith is incorrect.

The “developed world” is not a settled concept, but Australia’s population growth does not top any of four credible lists of developed countries…

On the narrower definition of 31 countries that appear on all four lists, Australia was outranked by Luxembourg and Israel.

According to the World Bank data, Australia’s population grew by 1.6 per cent in the 12 months to July 2017.

That placed it fourteenth of the 95 countries and fifth of the 31 using the narrower definition, behind Luxembourg, New Zealand, Israel and Iceland — though these were “not really good countries to compare Australia with”, Professor McDonald said.

For one thing, the 2017 data showed, Luxembourg and Iceland both had populations smaller than 600,000.

Professor McDonald said the most relevant comparator for Australia was probably Canada, based on a range of factors including economy size, settlement patterns and migration source countries.

To account for short-term fluctuations, and because Mr Smith did not specify he was talking solely about Australia’s rate in 2017, Fact Check also calculated the rankings using five-year averages.

However, this did not affect Australia’s position for the UN population data.

Using the World Bank data, Australia ranked nineteenth on the list of 95 countries and fourth on the list of 31, behind Luxembourg, New Zealand and Israel.

Professor McDonald said Australia’s future growth was “entirely related” to migration, without which the population would start to decline from the 2040s.

Net migration not only boosts the population in the short term, he said, but it also adds to Australia’s longer-term natural increase because young migrants live a long time and have children in Australia.

“That keeps births in Australia ahead of deaths,” he said.

This is nit-picking by the ABC designed to discredit Dick Smith just as the population debate has ramped-up.

Luxembourg (600,000), Israel (8.5 million), New Zealand (4.7 million) and Iceland (340,000) are very small nations and hardly comparable to Australia. If one looks at medium-to-large developed nations only, Dick Smith’s statement is correct.

Moreover, notice above how Fact Check once again referred to one of the ABC’s go-to ‘experts’ – Professor Peter McDonald – who along with his protégée Dr Liz Allen continuously espouse the myth that immigration helps solve Australia’s population ageing problem?

In fact, Sabra Lane referred to Peter McDonald’s ageing claim on yesterday’s AM Program:

SABRA LANE: But according to respected demographers like Professor Peter MacDonald, a drop in that immigration rate could see the nation’s growth rate cut, create a worker shortage and an aging population, and shrink the number of tax payers to foot the bill for the things we’re going to need in the future, like the aged pension.

As we know, the Productivity Commission, through various reports, has comprehensively debunked Peter McDonald’s claimed ageing benefits from immigration.

Peter McDonald also co-authored a parliamentary research paper in 1999 which concluded that it is “demographic nonsense to believe that immigration can help to keep our population young”, claimed that “levels of annual net migration above 80 000 become increasingly ineffective and inefficient in the retardation of ageing”, while also recommending “a population of 24-25 million within 50 years”. 

So why hasn’t Fact Check examined Peter McDonald’s frequently repeated dodgy claim about immigration solving population ageing? Or the many false claims made by the ‘growth lobby’ in favour of mass immigration? Or Scott Morrison’s lie that population growth is being driven by temporary migration?

The answer, clearly, is the ABC’s extreme bias towards mass immigration and a ‘Big Australia’.

I have requested that Fact Check similarly investigate Peter McDonald’s immigration ageing claims. I suggest you also contact Fact Check (here) and use this article as the link.

[email protected]

Leith van Onselen


  1. What’s in it for the ABC? Is it political pressure from above, or is it simply a progressive infection within the editorial in-group?

    • Infection, and not necessarily just progressive. There’s also a lot of in-group preference at work. There appears to be a lot of immigrant or children of immigrant staffers at the ABC who are talking their own book.

      Here are the A authors/journalists from the ABC website…Abdelmalik, Abdullah, Ahuja, Ali, Alva…

      Dr. Mark Abdelmalek
      Halimah Abdullah
      Mary-Rose Abraham
      Dan Abrams
      Andres Del Aguila
      Gitika Ahuja
      Lee Alexander
      Anthony Ali
      Randa Ali
      Amber Allen
      Karma Allen
      Mitchell Alva
      Alex Alvarez
      Christiane Amanpour
      Joanne Amato
      Alexandra Anastasio
      Cleopatra Andreadis
      Caterina Andreano
      Shonitria Anthony
      Susan Archer
      Dr. Kelly Arps
      Dr. Eric M. Ascher
      Dr. Jennifer Ashton
      Nasser Atta
      Jim Avila
      Loureen Ayyoub

      • @Calvin, the details are at

        There was a furore at the ABC a few months ago when Steve Bannon was interviewed. From the Grauniad…

        Those in the first camp include, of course, the interviewer, Sarah Ferguson, and her executive producer, Sally Neighbour, and established ABC stars Leigh Sales and Virginia Trioli.

        Those in the other camp tend to be the younger, more ethnically diverse journalists including ABC Life’s Osman Faruqi and digital news producer Jennine Khalik

        So, a bunch of “ethnically diverse” journalists wanted to no-platform Bannon because they don’t like what he has to say. These are supposedly journalists, but they took it upon themselves to insert themselves into the story, and lobbied to decide what Australians could see and hear, based on their ideas and prejudices. Rather than reporters, they wanted to be self-appointed censors FFS. This is deeply corrupt. These clowns should’ve all been sacked without a further word.

        Their are plenty of “ethnically diverse” people at the ABC who are vigorously pushing their diverse agendas, and the result is pretty clear when you look at how the immigration issue is being covered.

      • No platforming in the name of tolerance… That’s their ABC.

        According to Stewie’s post from the Atlantic on the Australia is dead post today SJWs are usually white…

        Religious groups may as part of their religion favour believers over non-believers.

      • LOL. Could be an Australian with family going back generations, but got the wrong last name ? OUT !

      • Apparently a newly arrived migrant is more Australian then someone who was born here along with a number of generations of ancestors born in Australia too (and that’s not just the English, but Continental Europeans, Chinese, Afghan and the rest that have settled here over the past couple of centuries). Just loved the ABC’s ad with the cocky Lebanese Female Headscarf Wearing Soccer Player smirking as she said that she ‘was the Face of Modern Australia”. F%&k off!

    • No keep the ABC. One needs all voices in the debate, even if they are biased. Kill off the ABC and you’re going to be left with Channel 9/Fairfax and Rupert Murdoch.

      • To be fair, if you killed the ABC it would simply make space for a left-leaning media organisation to fill the gap — and it would happen. Zero doubt. Any astute businessman would jump at the opportunity.

      • In this day and age JeffTo, people can get a diverse range of opinions and information from the internet. People jump from varying news and opinion providers via YouTube, podcast providers, bloggers and the like. We don’t need the leftist ABC to balance out the conservatives – to do so would suggest a consumer would listen to Murdoch and then flip over to the ABC to get a counter argument – that just doesn’t happen. Most generations are already more efficiently and effectively processing info given the internet / smartphone age.

      • Good point Dominic. All it would take is Vice to fill their space. Rather than being paid by the taxpayer / advertising, Vice would be a venture relying on advertising (and then they can be as lefty as they want if the market is paying for it, and not the taxpayer).

        We didn’t need the ABC to cover VFL at the end of the day, in the end this was picked up by the commercial stations (and so what if it has to be watched with adverts).

    • Strip it to a very basic emergency and rural broadcasting service (as it originally was meant to be). In this modern age of the internet, and a plethora of differing views from the world obtained int he comfort of people’s homes and in their palms, the ABC does not have a remit anymore. The tax payer should not be paying for biased opinion flogged off as ‘news’ and light entertainment and or brainwashing. Philip Adams on Radio National was talking about how important the ABC was and decried the funding costs by ‘Mr Abbott’. Talk about navel-gazing circle jerking.

      Take a billion out of its budget each year and give it to something like Headspace or other mental health services.

  2. Anyone read about this guy taking Monash to court about failing his course? Chinmay Naik. I wondered if he was an international student (curiously, only the Herald Sun reports that he is, I don’t subscribe so hunted for a link that mentioned it. The SMH was silent on this crucial point).

    Turns out he needed a pass to keep his visa valid. And then when kicked out of court and awarded costs against him, he says he is on financial hardship!!! I thought education was an export LOL.

    “Naik, 23, was handed a video assignment about the negative stereotypes surrounding certain dog breeds last year. He submitted his work 19 days late and got 12 out of 100 points. He failed the assignment again after it was re-marked with a higher score. He needs to pass the assignment to finish his degree and be allowed to keep his visa.
    Refusing to accept that he failed, he took his case to the Human Rights Commission and the Ombudsman, 7 News reports. Those bids were unsuccessful. He also wrote to former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull but did not get a response. The Victorian government responded, though, but it said it wouldn’t be able to help him.”

    “I am on financial hardship and will not be able to pay costs,” Mr Naik said in court.

    • Reminds me of when I was doing my Masters. I was in the pub with a bunch of foreign students on my course and the possibility of failing the course was brought up in conversation. The general response among the foreign cohort was: “Do you know how much I have paid for this course! There is no way I am failing — none. If Professor xxxxxx failed me the guy wouldn’t live to see his retirement!” Etc etc.

      It’s funny now, but back then I was pretty blown away by the idea that just because you paid a lot of money didn’t entitle you to your degree.

      • My sister wasn’t allowed to fail her students when she was working as an academic at a top Australian university a couple of years ago.

  3. The timing is suspect, as are the credentials of the author of the piece, who seems to be a PR hack, not an analysis:

    David Campbell – A freelance writer and research assistant, David holds a Master of Global Media Communication from the University of Melbourne and degrees in international relations and political science from the University of Tasmania. His work has been published in the Saturday Paper

  4. I don’t know many people now who see the ABC as unbiased. Most people are on to their self serving news. It’ll eventually be killed off which is a shame, but it’s an expensive echo chamber right now.

  5. – When ABC is struggling then it’s no wonder that they are seeking (financial ?) help from anyone. And give the immigration lobby a platform to spew their property and immigration nonsense.

  6. Dear Fact Check,

    David Campbell’s recent article discrediting Dick Smith conveniently side-steps the core issue at hand.

    whether Australia has the world’s highest, or the world’s sixth highest rate of population growth is absolutely trivial, yet you make that the focus of your article.

    Why not examine the claims that Australia’s high rates of population growth are having a real effect on lowering Australians’ standard of living? have a look at the GDP per capita chart over the last ten years and note the down-trend, ,right at the same time our levels of population growth have been our highest on record.

    Why not nurture a sensible, balanced debate about Australia’s population growth rate, and the fact that it is driven by very large migration volumes. These NOM volumes are triple the long term average since federation. Why not allow a sensible discussion about this without discrediting an Australian icon?

    ABC’s journalistic credibility is being pi$sed up against the wall with garbage like this article – whoever sanctioned it should be ashamed of themselves.

    regards, bendy

    • Even StevenMEMBER

      Agree with your sentiments, but it is FACT check… not intended to be a platform for discussing complex viewpoints.

      Of course, they appear to have been highly selective (and narrow in their interpretation) in the fact they have checked here.

  7. What these idiots fail to get is that it is only now peoples lived experience that is making them say we have too much immigration. It’s the endless road congestion, the crowded trains, the expensive houses, the emergency room crowding, the schools with demountables etc. They can write as much bullsh!t as they want but you cant change what people are seeing every day now. They have lost the fight, they just don’t realise it yet.

  8. Fact check has analysed the claims of population growth rates by Mr Dick Smith in a way that has trivialised this issue and in my assessment abused the purpose of FactCheck.

    Firstly, to argue over the definition of ‘developed’ is nit picking. There is no agreed definition – end of story. But if you are given a 30 second sound bite, will you spend all that time defining ‘development’? You’d be a fool if you did and Mr Smith is no fool.

    The media constrains debate by time limitations and this should be obvious.

    But to conclude that Mr Smith’s claims are incorrect because Australia’s population growth rate is exceeded by Luxembourg and Israel is not common sense; firstly given the small area of both nations and secondly the unique aspects peculiar to each nation.

    In Israel its immigration rate is highly skewed by the ‘right’ given to all jewish persons in other nations to be nationals of Israel (dual nationals), hence this population growth rate is doubtful anyway unless carefully contextualised. This is an absolutely unique condition that means that greater care should have been taken by FactCheck. Moreover, does immigration also include occupied territories and/or non jewish residents living in Israel – that may not be citizens? I don’t know, but unless you account for this there is no possible way to compare its with Australian immigration rates.

    The landlocked Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (a 2500 sq km country) is one of the three official capitals of the EU that promotes open borders and its population increase has been driven by EU policy. In effect Luxembourg cannot have a national population policy and a population increase in a tiny population (circa 500,000) driven by an influx of administrators and services bares no comparison to countries that have national immigration policies and far larger populations. My guess is that this high rate of immigration includes many absentee citizens of other nations who are not permanent immigrants/residents.

    But if FactCheck likes pedantry, it missed that rates of immigration to Antarctica during the summer would be higher than even Luxembourg and Israel!

    And when will the ABC get around to fact checking some of Dr McDonald’s claims about the ageing population crisis? Or ask Dr Allen about some of her discredited claims or lack of peer-reviewed studies? Will we ever look at the role of the big business funding of lobby groups that connect university academics and the growth lobby that seems able to push out propaganda at the drop of a hat?

    How is it that a business lobby group can grab a page anytime in our media, when an ecologist or independent demographer (not funded by developers) cannot even get a word in?

    Will we ever be told that the ABC’s favourite pro-immgagration talking head Innes Willox was once a Fairfax journalist? How about explaining how Dr Liz Allen became one of the ABCs top academics (expounded in many ABC articles) and claims to be an expert demographer without a PhD in demography or any peer reviewed papers to prove that claim?

    In fact, there are very many claims that need back checking that the ABC seems hesitant to broach. Just why is this?

    Overall, Dick Smith’s claims are correct. Given that population rates fluctuate daily it is the period and context of the growth rate that is important. In this case that the ABC seems to have tried very hard to subsume that reality and this seems to imply that an ideological component is at work. That is as disturbing as it is increasingly brazen.

  9. What do you expect from the ABC. On The Drum, every night, there is at least one Muslim on the panel, so that’s 25% of their panel. I didn’t realise the Muslim population was hitting 25%. The ABC has a very distorted view of the real world.

    • There is not a Muslim on the drum every night. I watch it a lot, that’s rubbish. There are a lot of painful people on but there are more IPA weirdos than muslims.