Property rent seeker defends immigration ponzi with lies

By Leith van Onselen

In response to the growing angst over Australia’s turbo-charged immigration levels, Chris Johnson from the Urban Taskforce – “a non-profit organisation representing Australia’s most prominent property developers and equity financiers” – has penned the following spurious response in The ABC. Let’s evaluate Johnson’s flimsy arguments:

The migrants we are talking about are the skilled migrants that are needed to balance the increasing number of retirees leaving the work force.

You mean to cover the historically low skills shortages across the Australian economy, which comes at a time when labour underutilisation is running near 14% and wages growth is stuck in the gutter:

Back to Johnson:

The NSW Intergenerational Report issued a year ago indicated that 40 years ago there were seven income-earning workers for each retiree; this has now dropped to four and projected to fall to 2.4 in 40 years’ time.

It is the big bulge of baby boomers who are moving out of work that signal the need for skilled migration.

The people we need are IT experts, finance experts, creative industry workers and these people are urban dwellers.

Just like their equivalents in New York, London and Singapore, they want the excitement of a big city. Look at Atlassian as an example. This computer software company is now a world leader and its office is in Martin Place right in the middle of the city…

Ah yes, the old population ageing canard. Pity the Productivity Commission (PC) has repeatedly debunked the myth that immigration can ‘solve’ the ageing problem because, you guessed it, migrants also age:

  • 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”.

As for Atlassian, this company doesn’t even pay tax in Australia and employs very few Australian workers.

Back to Johnson:

Sydney has a choice; we can keep growing and be a world leader with the best jobs underpinned by a metro rail network or we can pull up the draw bridge and say we do not want global connections…

Righto. So the only choice is current turbo-charged immigration or zero migration. Nice false binary there, Chris. What about lower sustainable migration?

Back to Johnson:

Part of the current growing pain is caused by the appearance of a new urban form of living in apartments.

This is a different way of living than that of the low density suburban model but at the 2016 census, 30 per cent of Sydney’s homes are in apartments. A growing number of people are preferring this lifestyle.

Yet politicians often say that apartment living is not the Australian way, it not what the community wants, but a third of the community already live this lifestyle…

The Urban Taskforce’s own data projects that Sydney will transform into a high-rise ‘battery chook’ city mid-century, whereby only one quarter of all homes will be detached houses:

So Sydney is facing a future whereby only the wealthy elite like Chris Johnson will be able to afford to live in a detached house with a backyard, while the ordinary folk are crammed into apartments. The majority of residents clearly do not prefer this lifestyle, hence the backlash against extreme population growth.

Besides, why should existing residents be displaced and/or have their living standards crushed because people like Chris Johnson are paid to endorse the group think of open borders extremists?

Back to Johnson:

It is the NSW Government and the Greater Sydney Commission who are targeting Sydney’s growth up to 8 million and they have a plan to achieve this, including a long-term transport plan.

The plan is to crush-load Sydney’s West with migrants over the next 20-years while the wealthy growth lobbyists living in the Inner-East maintain their amenity:

This is economic apartheid writ large.

Johnson also conveniently failed to mention Infrastructure Australia’s recent report, which clearly showed that liveability in Sydney will decline further as the city’s population grows to 7.4 million people by 2046, irrespective of whether the city builds up like New York, sprawls-out like Los Angeles, or does a London-style combination. That is, traffic congestion will unambiguously worsen and access to jobs, schools, hospitals and green space will all decline:

Again, the Urban Taskforce represents “Australia’s most prominent property developers and equity financiers”. It doesn’t care about Sydney residents’ amenity and living standards. It only cares about feeding its members through never ending immigration-fuelled development.

Sydney has already experienced 15 years of hyper population growth and the result is that Sydney housing has become hideously expensive and infrastructure has unambiguously been degraded and crush-loaded.

What is most abhorrent about this article is that our biased national broadcaster gave a key lobbyist for the ‘growth lobby’ a free platform to write such drivel without engaging any opposing view.

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Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

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