Another ‘expert’ deflects population blame to foreign students

By Leith van Onselen

Abul Rizvi, a former deputy secretary in the Immigration department, is the latest to blame the population crush afflicting Sydney and Melbourne on foreign students. From SBS News:

The real pressure on Australia’s highly populated east-coast cities was driven by a surge in international students, Mr Rizvi said, while the permanent intake had remained static for many years.

“Overseas students are the big factor that has grown as a portion of the net migration intake, and the vast majority of them do indeed settle in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane,” he said.

International students have grown as a percentage of temporary migrants – which also include temporary workers, working backpackers and tourists. There were 32,000 student arrivals in 2011-12, which skyrocketed to more than 100,000 in the year 2016-17.

Those students then become members of the 1 million people Mr Rizvi calls “long-term temporary residents” – those who have been in Australia for some time on various temporary visas, many of whom would seek to become permanent residents.

This is crazy stuff. The 2016 Census revealed that Australia’s population increased by a whopping 1.9 million people (+8.8%) in the five years to 2016, driven by a 1.3 million increase in people born overseas (i.e. new migrants):

Sure, temporary migrants also boomed, and many would be captured in the above Census figures. But they increased by a relatively modest 382,000 over the past five years, with foreign students increasing by only 171,000:

Moreover, temporary residents are by definition temporary. Therefore, unless they can convert to permanent residency, they will have to leave. Thus, it is the permanent migrant intake that is the key driver of Australia’s population growth since this is what grows the population base over time both directly, as well as indirectly as these new Australian permanent residents have children (counted as ‘natural increase’).

To really hammer the point home, let’s conduct a quick thought experiment. If Australia theoretically slashed the permanent migrant intake to zero, there would be three broad impacts on population growth:

  1. It would reduce the flow of temporary migrants, since many migrants enter Australia on temporary visas first hoping to transition to one of the many permanent non-humanitarian visas handed out each year (capped at 190,000). Eliminating permanent visas eliminates the probability of gaining permanent residency and, therefore, the incentive to come to Australia in the first place.
  2. The temporary migrants that cannot transition to permanent residency because the permanent intake has closed would have to leave Australia, thus significantly lowering net overseas migration (NOM) and population growth.
  3. Fewer permanent residencies means less migrants having children, thereby reducing natural increase as well.

In short, if the permanent migrant intake was hypothetically reduced to zero, then temporary migrants would have to leave, inflows would roughly match outflows (over the longer-term), and NOM and by extension Australia’s population would barely increase, according to Productivity Commission (PC) projections:

Don’t just take my word. Demographer and population booster, Professor Peter McDonald, gave a CEPAR presentation in October whereby he also explained why the permanent migrant intake is the key driver of Australia’s population growth:

So there you have it: temporary migrants are by definition temporary and will eventually have to leave. By contrast, permanent migrants stay indefinitely and have children, adding to Australia’s population base over time.

This is why the PC’s 2016 Migrant Intake Australia Report explicitly said that “Australia’s immigration policy is its de facto population policy”.

For Abul Rizvi to suggest otherwise displays grand ignorance or intellectual dishonesty.

One final point: Sydney’s and Melbourne’s population surged by around 950,000 and 1.2 million respectively over the 13 years to 2017, just as the immigration floodgates were thrown open:

They are also projected by the ABS to balloon to around 10 million people over the next 50 years under the medium (Series B) projection:

Do you think this population explosion will be caused by temporary foreign students or migrants staying permanently in Australia and then having children and later grand children? The answer is obvious.

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Unconventional Economist


  1. Aaah – SBS – it’s the place where hìpsters get indoctrinated good and proper by the big-Australia lobby…

  2. temporary migrants are by definition temporary and will eventually have to leave.

    I think the point that both Rizvi and McDonald have made is that they don’t “eventually have to leave” if they manage to convert their temporary visa into a permanent one, which is the primary existential aim of many of them. Here’s another thought experiment for you:

    * imagine all permanent visas were granted only to those waiting offshore
    * temporary visa holders are not eligible to apply for permanency
    * how many fewer people would there be in the country? (many, I would suggest)

    Yes, the permanent intake is the ultimate driver – many wouldn’t come without it – but the point is the temporary intake amounts to a queue that has gotten longer and longer, and this has put many more boots on the ground

    • Yup. Bridging visa use has expanded with the slowdown in permanent residency grants. The issue is that a large percentage of the people who come here “temporarily” do not want to leave, and Australia is generally ineffectual at forcing them out.

  3. 2 things I’ve learned from the big Australia lobby.

    1. Permament immigrants don’t get old, so we can use them to pay for an aging population.

    2. Temporary students don’t use any infrastructure.

  4. converting your temporary residency to permanent residency is just too easy if you have even half a brain and the will to do it. there are way too many avenues for appeal (a process which lasts too long), and the ability to hop from visa to visa is cartoonishly abusable. you guys totally understate the severity of the problems associated with temporary visa holders.

    • When I was cast out by my initial 457 employer for not being accommodating enough (that is, not giving $3 value for every $1 I was paid per week), I found myself at risk of violating visa conditions because it happened just before the start of the silly season during which no professional specialist hiring happens (and my visa didn’t allow shop assistant as a position for my visa). So, I went to visit a migration agent. He informed me that the migration appeal tribunal queues were over a year long, so if immigration informed me I had to leave, all I had to do was pull $1500 out of my purse to file an appeal, to get a bridging visa. And then after I have THAT, file a request for a bridging visa with work rights based on hardship since I had no other source of support than my own ability to work in Australia, and then bobs-your-uncle, unrestricted work rights until my case is heard, by which point I’d presumably have found another sponsor in my professional area.

      I ultimately didn’t need to go that route, as I found a sponsor before immigration took much of an interest in me (note: and that was closer to 90-120 days after I lost my first sponsor, NOT the 30 that the legislation claims is the theoretical time limit).

      And yes, I’ve now got PR. And citizenship.

  5. Do they actually go home?

    The number of foreigners on bridging visas has exploded as they try appeal after appeal. There is a need to cut “student” numbers as they work for $10/hour for a decade while their appeals are heard.

    Some refuse to comply with deportation orders and stay here anyway – destroying wages and ratcheting up the unemployment rate.

    How many immigrants are like this:

    For all intents and purposes, he never existed

    No official medical records for a Gary Low or a Ah Shun could be found. Even Medicare records returned no results. Gary Low, for all intents and purposes, did not exist. In fact, he has never existed, not according to citizenship or immigration records.

    Even after a coronial inquest, few facts can be confidently asserted about who he was. Police have reached their own conclusions: he was likely an illegal immigrant from Malaysia.

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      Dude, if they are working for $10/hr you need to compete with them and better them at $9.50/hr!

  6. You don’t understand what your’re talking about
    Many of the temporary resident (skilled) stay either by seeking extensions to 457’s and then applying for PR.
    Many of the students gain residence after completing studies for qualifications on the skilled occupation list or whatever it is called these days.
    Migration fraud investigations since 2007 have been mainly involved with students attempting to gain PR various scams for example the work experience letter scam/bodgy colleges rort from 2007-201) which probably say 200,000 mainly South Asians fraudulently gain PR.
    2. Contrived marriages
    3. RSMS scams

  7. Firstly the figures quoted here don’t show the real story. It’s not 513,000 students which is just one visa group of the primary TR only. It doesn’t include their partners (63,000 with full work rights no entry criteria or English needed, or the foreign students (59,000) on other visa categories.

    And it’s as at 2017, so to reconcile to that to show the real story.
    In Dec 2017 there were 641,000 foreign students AND partners on a TR Student & other visa alibi. Over 140,000 as partners or post grad with full work rights.
    (And that is as at Dec 2017, 8% more now, so now an estimated 692,000)

    We have in Nov 2018 well over 2.2 million Temporary Residents, highly concentrated or 90% in Sydney and Melbourne.

    ➡️ Let’s debunk the myth & misguided thinking by macrobusiness that they aren’t permanent stay or long stay & they ‘go back.

    Or by ‘reducing the PR intake that will reduce the TR intake’.

    It’s the opposite. The stats show the TR intake increases when the PR intake is constricted – exactly the opposite of what MacroBusiness think.

    Stats. 2018.
    TR increases & duration of stay.

    🔹690,000 NZ SCV, permanent stay.
    Of which 240,000 or 35% are unskilled Asians & Indians coming in via the NZ back door. Not ‘going back’. 90% one way permanent flow into Australia. Another 270,000 third world (last 5 years of intake) unskilled are now queued in NZ waiting for the NZ passport stamp to enter Australia on a NZ SCV. Given the rapid growth of non NZ born SCV from 8% to 35%, soon over half the NZ SCV in Australia – 350,000 will be third world unskilled & non English speaking let in via NZ, then dumped into Australia as the NZ outlet.

    🔹641,000 foreign students. (2018 +8% so over 690,000). Very long stay and long stay. 4-9 years is not uncommon.
    Growing in number despite a ‘reduction of students as PR intake’.
    Proving that macrobusiness’s 1 & 2 points of ‘reducing the PR reduces the TR’ is completely wrong.
    It increases the TR and macrobusiness fail to under that and they only come here to work illegally, to repay agent procurer debt, to send back remittances and stay for as long as it takes or via visa churn until they get a PR.

    🔹170,000 Bridging Visas. Every kind of racket in this subset – protection, family, spousal, appeals – rorting the Appeals Tribunal. Often after a long stay as a TR or Tourist / Visitor caught working illegally.
    Then they appeal and stay for another 5 years with full work rights as they go thru Appeals stages category A to E.
    Again the number has exploded as an alternative to getting a PR to stay in Australia on a visa pretext.

    🔹160,000 so called skilled. It’s only dropped a tiny fraction despite all the government propaganda.
    Looking more closely – 90,000 of these are partners or dependents / non primary. Of the 70,000 skilled primary – only 10% or 7,000 are higher than average income genuine uniquely skilled.
    Long stay, very long stay often 3-5 years with many progressing to PR.
    Don’t go back.

    🔹320,000 Visitor – long stay repeat stay and visa churn onto one of the above.
    Most working illegally, 2-3 year stays.
    They don’t go back, except rarely and when caught – then they appeal and join the bridging visa group.

    🔹140,000 Working Holiday visa, (2018) but only 40,000 worked in a regional or rural area for 88 days to get the 1 year extension !! And that small number is rife with fraud corruption, farmers & labour rings taking bribes to get the visa extension.
    So only 9,000 as a FTE/year officially did any farm or regional rural work / 131,000 or 93% FTE a year did not..
    Because 93% are in the cities and many working illegally. Again long stay, 2-3 years. And the answer is to let more in…

    By city.
    🔹Melbourne – 5.0 million people.
    0.7 million Migrant PR/citizenship grants.
    That’s 1 in 7 people.
    Plus 0.9 million of the 2.2 million Temporary Residents.
    Plus 180k, (40%) of the 440k ‘Tourist/Visitors’ working illegally.
    Plus at least 20,000 Overstayers.
    That’s 1.1 million non residents, mostly third world, adults, poor, unskilled, and on a pretext visa.
    🔻The non residents / migrant guestworkers are 22% or nearly 1 in 5 people in Melbourne.

    These non residents steal or displace some 600,000 or so Australian jobs in Melbourne, the majority working illegally, fake ID, cash in hand in visa breach.

    The non residents occupy some 220,000 ex Australian dwellings, usually renting in a now foreign owned sublet cash in hand bunk & mattress slum share. Long stay.

    They heavily congest public transport, and driving some 200,000 cars.

    There’s your Melbourne crush load issue.
    Melbourne is the overflow of poor migrant guestworkers that can’t get afford to Sydney. The foreign student industry is even more corrupted in Melbourne, and there is more blue collar & unskilled work to steal – so the Melbourne migrant guestworker intake is increasing more rapidly than Sydney with the same issues & congestion and a sea of migrant only third world slums.

    🔹Sydney 5.3 million people.
    0.86 million Migrant PR/citizenship grants.
    1 in 6 people.
    Plus 1.1 million of the 2.2 million Temporary Residents.
    Plus 220k, (50%) of the 440k ‘Tourist/Visitors’ working illegally.
    Plus at least 25,000 Overstayers.
    1.34 million non residents, mostly third world, adults, poor, unskilled, and on a pretext visa.
    🔻The non residents / migrant guestworkers are 26% or 1 in 4 people in Sydney.
    The non residents steal or displace some 700,000 or so Australian jobs in Sydney alone , the majority working illegally, fake ID, cash in hand in visa breach.
    The non residents occupy some 300,000 ex Australian dwellings in Sydney, usually renting in a now foreign owned sublet cash in hand bunk & mattress slum share. Long stay.
    They heavily congest public transport, and drive some 250,000 cars.

    There’s your Sydney crush load issue.
    It feels like, and has in reality become a patchwork of congested third world slums.

    Elsewhere in Australia.
    The migrant intake is mostly Brisbane, & other state capitals each as mini me replicas of Sydney & Melbourne. No jobs to steal in the regional and remote areas.

    350k Migrant PR/citizenship grants.
    200k Temporary Residents.
    Plus 40k, (9%) ‘Tourist/Visitors’ working illegally, illegal industrial / farm workers.
    Plus the other 25,000 Overstayers.
    That’s 510k non residents elsewhere, again mostly third world, unskilled on a pretext visa. Also in their little highly congested set of third world slums.


    The TR issue needs to be addressed head on.
    Over 2.2 million of which 1.5 million are here on a pretext, working & living illegally need to be exited / from our cities.

    Capping or reducing the PR will only make the TR numbers grow even more unless the TR are addressed first.

    The PR intake is 1.9 million over the last decade or an average of 190k a year.
    The 2.2 million TR & 440k illegally working TV and 65k Overstayers now are 2.7 million – 140% more.
    They are equivalent to over 14 years of TR intake. Rapidly increasing.

    Reducing the PR numbers – even to zero for 10 years does nothing – while we have 2.7 million third world unskilled permanent & long stay migrant guestworkers onshore.

    • Well said as usual, mike mb.

      I’m a professional woman aged 50+. And even I know a few women my age who are in the process of “getting legal” because they overstayed their temporary visas years ago, and have been able to get away with it because they were living with others and didn’t have to work any official jobs that were more than working for free in their husband’s shop, or cash-in-hand.

      It’s been going on for years, and is a fairly common issue.

      Addressing permanent residency numbers without cracking down on temporary visas and overstayers won’t have as much effect as people think it will, because the would-be permanents will just hang on temporary visas for years, or overstay and live sufficiently beneath the radar that they’re not caught.