Did the Scanlon Foundation hijack COAG’s immigration meeting?

By Leith van Onselen

Professor Peter McDonald’s immigration propaganda swept yesterday’s COAG meeting on managing Australia’s population growth. From The New Daily:

Officials at the talks in Adelaide claim that population expert Professor Peter McDonald “exploded” Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s calls for a cut to immigration…

“I don’t think the Prime Minister should cut migration,” Professor McDonald told The New Daily.

“[But] chopping it by 30,000 is not a complete disaster. It’s not 70,000, as some people have suggested”…

“Dropping to 160,000 – while not a disaster, it’s not desirable. At the moment, I think we should be keeping migration around 200,000”…

Professor McDonald also predicted cutting migration to Sydney and Melbourne would be pointless. He said other Australians would simply move to our two biggest cities to get jobs…

Professor McDonald said migration was vital because of Australia’s ageing population. Maintaining it at its current level would boost Australia’s per capita gross domestic product by 12 per cent.

“That was by 2050 – through the impact of immigration on the ageing of the population,” he said.

“Immigration tends to concentrate the population more in the working ages, and that flows through to affect GDP per capita.”

Professor McDonald said Australia should maintain its current immigration levels.

“In the next decade, Australia is facing a labour supply crunch. We’ve got about two million workers leaving the workforce, retiring – that’s the baby-boomer generation,” he said.

“Because of the lower number of births, and in the 1990s people stayed in education longer … we have a real labour supply crunch and the only way we are going to deal with that is through migration.”

McDonald’s claim that Australia’s per capita GDP would be 12% lower in the absence of net overseas migration (NOM) is based upon modelling he conducted with Jeremy Temple for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in 2010:

As you can see above, all of the increase in Australia’s GDP per capita is “due only to the impact of migration on age structure” (i.e. more workers relative to non-workers).

Of course, anybody with a sliver of common sense knows that such a demographic dividend can only be temporary, since migrants also grow old. Therefore, they too will add to the pool of elderly Australians further into the future (i.e. after 2053), requiring an ever larger intake of migrants to ameliorate population ageing and an ever larger population – classic ponzi demography.

But don’t take my word for it. The argument was also made by the very same Peter McDonald who co-authored a parliamentary research paper in 1999 (above) 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”:

There is no question that immigration, at least the first 80 000 immigrants, provides a worthwhile reduction in the extent of ageing of the population. However, immigration cannot ‘solve our ageing problem’. Substantial ageing of the Australian population over the coming decades is absolutely inevitable. To illustrate the lack of power that immigration has in relation to our age structure, we investigate the levels of immigration that would be required to maintain the proportion of the population aged 65 and over at its present level of 12.2 per cent. In doing this, we maintain the fertility and mortality assumptions of the standard but allow annual net migration to change.

To achieve our aim, enormous numbers of immigrants would be required, starting in 1998 at 200 000 per annum, rising to 4 million per annum by 2048 and to 30 million per annum by 2098 (Table 6). By the end of next century with these levels of immigration, our population would have reached almost one billion… The problem is that immigrants, like the rest of the population, get older and as they do, to keep the population young, we would need an increasingly higher number of immigrants…

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

Levels of annual net migration above 80 000 become increasingly ineffective and inefficient in the retardation of ageing. Those who wish to argue for a higher level of immigration must base their argument on the benefits of a larger population, not upon the illusory ‘younging power’ of high immigration…

There is an upper limit to annual net migration. We argue that there were difficulties in the late 1980s when net migration rose for just two years to over 150,000 per annum. While it is not possible to be prescriptive, a sustained net migration level of 120 000 per annum is at the high end of what Australia seems to be able to manage.

Fast forward to 2018, and Australia’s population has already breached the “24-25 million” limit 31 years early courtesy of a mass immigration program that is around 2.5 times as large as young Peter McDonald’s recommended level.

It’s worth noting that the Productivity Commission also fully endorses young Peter McDonald’s claim that it is “demographic nonsense to believe that immigration can help to keep our population young”, noting the following over the past 13 years:

  • 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”.

In short, trying to overcome an ageing population through higher immigration is a Ponzi scheme, since as stated by young Peter McDonald, it requires “an increasingly higher number of immigrants”. So why has old Peter McDonald ignored this truth?

It’s also worth noting that McDonald’s and Temple’s 2010 model only looked at the impact of immigration on per capita GDP, while ignoring all other pertinent issues:

At the same time, increases to migration add constantly to the population and this increases the burdens associated with the provisioning and servicing of a growing population. This gives rise to the question of balance. At what point do the disadvantages of increased population outweigh the advantages to the economy of increases in immigration? This is a very large question and is beyond the scope of this report. Instead, this report examines one component of this question. Is there a point where further increases in immigration lead to substantially lower marginal increases in the growth of GDP per capita? (p. 19,  emphasis added).

Anyone worth their salt knows that per capita GDP is a very poor measure of wellbeing, since it ignores vital issues like the degradation of the environment, the depreciation of natural resources, worsening inequality, and declines in individuals’ quality of life (e.g. traffic congestion and having to live in smaller and more expensive housing).

In this regard, the Productivity Commission is blunt, noting that “GDP per person is a weak measure of the overall wellbeing” in its 2016 Migrant Intake Australia report:

While the economywide modelling suggests that the Australian economy will benefit from immigration in terms of higher output per person, GDP per person is a weak measure of the overall wellbeing of the Australian community and does not capture how gains would be distributed among the community. Whether a particular rate of immigration will deliver an overall benefit to the existing Australian community will crucially depend on the distribution of the gains and the interrelated social and environmental impacts.

Interestingly, the final paragraph of McDonald’s and Temple’s 2010 reported concluded with the following warning that if infrastructure doesn’t keep pace with population growth, then both productivity and living standards will suffer:

While this report argues that immigrants will be important to the construction of productive infrastructure in Australia, if increased immigration proceeds without investment in new infrastructure, especially urban infrastructure, the result could be reductions in productivity through increased congestion and inefficiency. Thus, a plan relating to Australia’s future levels of immigration must be coordinated with policy for urban infrastructure especially housing, transport, water and appropriate energy supply. With constant fertility and net migration at 180,000 per annum, Australia’s population would rise to 35.9 million by 2050. This is a large increase and most of the additional population would be settled in the existing cities all of which are already under strain from infrastructure shortages. (p. 45)

Given that Australia’s infrastructure has unambiguously failed to keep pace with mass immigration – as acknowledged by Infrastructure Australia this week, and that traffic congestion (among other liveability indicators) has unambiguously worsened, surely this renders McDonald’s claims about the benefits of mass immigration null and void?

Moreover, how does Peter McDonald square his purported economic benefits of mass immigration against Infrastructure Australia’s projections of worsening traffic congestion and reduced access to jobs, schools, hospitals and green space as Sydney’s and Melbourne’s economic and social infrastructure fails to keep pace with an expected population of 7.4 million and 7.3 million people by 2046 (see below tables)?

Old Peter McDonald claims that Australia cannot reduce immigration numbers because future generations will have to pay. Yet, Blind Freddy can see that our current generation cannot afford to pay for the infrastructure required to support the current immigration numbers, hence the worsening congestion and crush-loading across our cities, which is projected to continue under the ‘Big Australia’ policy.

Clearly, young Peter McDonald beats old Peter McDonald hands down when it comes to assessing the merits of mass immigration. But then, it’s not clear why COAG should listen to either the young or the old Peter McDonald given he’s so inconsistent on the issue.

Dick Smith has asked the same question, noting that Peter McDonald has received funding from the pro-immigration business lobby, the Scanlon Foundation:

In any event, Australians should be given a say about Australia’s future population size via a plebiscite, the answers of which would then be used to formulate Australia’s immigration intake to meet the said target.

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  1. His only argument seemed to be that if we don’t bring in 200K+ from o/seas that end up in Melb/Syd then Melb/Syd will still get flooded with Australians from Australia. Well maybe thats actually a better plan?
    Unfortunately I heard a semi debate on ABC this morning & listening to SHY just depresses me. Her basic premise is that lots of people love their community so lots more should be allowed to love it as well. All we have to do is get more Infrastructure & then more people will be loving their communities (that is in a very tight knit fashion so to speak….crush loaded!)

    • A cringeworthy embodiment of a left Australian politician. As they say here, “fake left”: interested in race, immigration and gender NOT economics and the environment.

  2. Soooo, according to Peter McDoinald importing people ‘fixes’ the ‘aging’ population…..but…..we’ve been importing increasing numbers for the past thirteen years or so and according to Peter McDonald this hasn’t fixed the ‘aging’ problem.

    Am I missing something here?

    • Yeah, you’re missing something.

      It is NEVER enough. That’s how Ponzi schemes work.

      Also for every working-age unskilled adult we import, we also get a spouse and eventually get 2 sets of elderly parents. So our immigration is approximately 5-parts-out-of-six not in the labour force and 4-parts-out-of-six elderly.

    • Asset pumping for boomers
      Easy growth for corporate donors.
      Equivalent of QE for human capital.
      But doesnt sound so professory…or ethical.

  3. “Clearly, young Peter McDonald beats old Peter McDonald hands down when it comes to assessing the merits of mass immigration. But then, it’s not clear why COAG should listen to either the young or the old Peter McDonald given he’s so inconsistent on the issue.”

    It has been very interesting looking at the company that Peter McDonald has kept and the timelines.

    Peter McDonald and Andrew Markus are old mates who just happened to co-author a book called “Australia’s Immigration Revolution” in 2009 just when the Scanlon coffers got flowing along with the money from the Pratt family:


    And what a revolution it has been for both of them.

    Andrew Markus, as we all know, is the ‘Pratt Foundation Research Chair of Jewish Civilisation’ at Monash University.


    Coincidentally, Dr. Colin Rubenstein was previously a political science lecturer at Monash University with Andrew Markus just before he went off to become the head of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) based in Melbourne. As it says the AIJAC ‘…is active in lobbying the Australian government on issues of concern to Australian Jews and advocating on behalf of Israel’ – or so it says on Wiki.

    Remember the AIJAC? They were the ones lobbying the federal government for the re-location of the Australian Embassy to Israel in the Wentworth by-election that Andrew Markus’ group at Monash chimed in to support most vigorously in the media.

    It was a terrific idea according to them.

    Of course, this was an absolute coincidence because what academic at Monash Universtity would be caught working with a lobby group progressing the aims of foreign state? Because he’d know that this would require him to reveal that little gem to the Australian public – no?

    No academic of high standing would be working for a foreign state attempting to influence the outcome of an Australian election!

    Don’t be stupid.

    So if Andrew Markus’ group came out effusively supporting such a policy we’d all know that that was just a coincidence. As he’d never chat to Dr. Colin Rubenstein or lobby for a policy to be used in the Wentworth by-election would he?

    And the AIJAC are very concerned about due process and ethical standards – make no mistake about that. Why in 2016 the AIJAC accused then senator Nick Xenophon of being “highly and one-sidedly critical of Israel” during his time in the Australian Senate. The organisation also criticised the Australian Greens for trying to make Israel the “sole-aggressor” against Palestine (At which point I found this rather far fetched – The Greens critical of a minority? It can’t be right!).

    But the AIJAC have some pretty strong attitudes about how a foreign diaspora in Australia should be treated and ex-Moanash historian Dr. Colin Rubenstein makes this abundantly clear:

    “We do not and should not aspire to coercive “assimilation” – often requiring forced relinquishing of cherished aspects of identity, which is not only often impossible but in any case unnecessary and unwarranted.  Instead, the goal must be a process of “integration” which embraces people of many different backgrounds so long as they adhere to Australia’s core values”.


    So, one must ask, does the view of “integration” allow the right to lobby our government to use domestic elections using its diaspora as a means to progress changes to foreign policy? Probably yes I would imagine as Dr Rubenstein goes on to say:

    “Integration is the key to allowing them to contribute to the vitality and cohesion of our nation”.

    And we all know that “vitality” is solid gold. Assimilation would suggest that Australian democratic norms would have to be respected enough to prohibit cynical manipulation. We couldn’t have that now could we?

    And we can all appreciate that such vitality was front and centre in the minds of Richard Pratt and Peter Scanlon when they threw money at Peter McDonald and Andrew Markus. And we know this to be the case as they had some long holidays and cosy times to discuss it all as it mentions right here in this article:

    “For years, Richard Pratt lent his corporate jet to his great friend Kevin Bamford, who co-owns the Melbourne Cup winning horse Americain with Ryan, and former Enders IXL executive Peter Scanlon”.


    Oh, that must be the same Peter Scanlon who’s funded Peter ‘Smiley’ McDonald, Andrew Markus and (I would imagine) Dr. Colin Rubenstein?

    Correct me if I am wrong.

    And that’s the way it should be in Australia, two mates throwing money at Peter McDonald, Andrew Markus and Dr. Colin Rubenstein with the aim of some good old integration and vitality (not assimilation mind you!) so that the diversity can be protected and the aims of the State of Israel progressed.

    Never mind our nearest neighbours being the most populous Islamic nation. To hell with what the Australian people think.

    And given all this, aren’t this mob at Monash the first cab off the rank when it comes to conducting surveys into Australian attitudes to multiculturalism and mass immigration?

    Of course they are!

    Bias, conflict of interest or an axe to grind? Of course not! You’d be a ranting anti-semite if you even thought such a thing!

      • The Elders of Zion have little power compared to the Church of Rome. A certain ex-finance cardinel of the Vatican was found guilty yesterday, but you won’t hear about it in Australia.

      • I’m sorry? Peter Scanlon isn’t Jewish. Peter McDonald isn’t Jewish. This attempt to connect it to Israel via two people who happened to work at Monash University is pathetic, and dare I say it – anti-Semitic – drivel.

      • Oh I get it now. Monash was Jewish wasn’t he? Perhaps he set up his own university to spread pro-Israeli, pro-immigration propaganda?

      • Nothing to do with ‘elders of Zion and everything to do with well established Jewish business interests and their stakes in the migration ponzi. Trigaboff, Lowy, Pratt, Gandel and the rest. All 4 of those aforementioned are in the Top 5 richest Australians.

      • Had I meant that (which I do not as the EOZ is a load of crap) I would have said it.

        Let me spell it out for you Dan:

        1. Two wealthy business interests have funded a research group at Monash University that is now claiming to have the academic credentials and independence to assess Australian attitudes to immigration and multiculturalism. It is clear that the two business interests were not independent. I am questioning the merit and transparency of this arrangement given that objective ‘research’ requires disclosure and a lack of bias in the definition of the research question – the very basis of what multiculturalism should serve;

        2. This group at Monash has a stated approach to its definition of multiculturalism (integration) rather than assimilation that is controversial. I am also questioning whether this provides a sufficiently independent approach and basis to be objective about the assessment of attitudes in the general population. I think not. In fact I think this is obvious. Had it been a Palestinian research group doing the same thing they would have been clobbered as biased in the first 2 microseconds. But there is a double standard.

        3. Members of the same department at Monash moved to an Israel lobby organisation that was promoting the movement of the Australian Embassy in Israel to be consistent with USA policy and Israeli state wishes. Both the lobby group and the Monash group under Markus publically promoted this policy during the Wentworth by-election. This policy related to another state (Israel) became part of a domestic election. This I also reject and see as dangerous to multiculturalism. I am not reserving my criticism to Israel but to any diaspora that is being manipulated by a foreign state. Is this bigoted Dan? Let us know.

        4. I reject that the diaspora of any nation should be mobilised using publically funded universities (Greek, Chinese, Italian, whatever I don’t care) or promote issues in the interest of a foreign state using domestic politics or elections. This is a central issue requiring one standard. Yes or no Dan? Let us know your thoughts.

        Clearly I have said nothing about the Elders of Zion, Monash being Jewish not that the other researchers such as McDonald being Jewish (totally irrelevant). You’ve made that up as the typical and well-worn shaming tactic because you don’t like what I’m saying Dan.

        For your information I am not a ‘self-hating’ and you have jumped to very big conclusion and in the process ‘made my morning’. My surname is a dead giveaway. What I have provided are statements and links that you can check.

        As you know plenty in the Jewish community do not support Israel, Zionism and resent the claim that all Jews do. They also resent the manipulation of the diaspora for political purposes and if this is antisemitism then feel free to shame this guy as well:


        I won’t mention similar people in Caulfield who have such views as I suspect we both know them.

        I am first concerned for the integrity of our democratic system that I believe is under attack from corporate and state interests. Without that multiculturalism will come apart.

        Catch me on some facts perhaps? Call me an antisemite if you like – it amuses my family – so go ahead. But it might make a nice change to stick to some of the evidence and give the standard shaming tactic a rest for a change.


      • Lets start with some facts I accept:

        -some wealthy business people are Jewish
        -most Jews support Israel if for no other reason than they have family there (though many not without criticism of its government)
        -many Jews have an empathy with refugees, having been or had close relatives fleeing war and persecution.

        Draw a Venn diagram and you will find there are a few at the intersection of all three – e.g. Richard Pratt. That does not make for a Jewish conspiracy around mass immigration to Australia that has anything to do with Israel or Judaism.

      • “That does not make for a Jewish conspiracy around mass immigration to Australia that has anything to do with Israel or Judaism.”

        Can you please point to where I have suggested anything even close to a Jewish plot? I’ve stated the facts of the Pratt/Scanlon/Monash relationship as found in various publications that I have cited. You are free to dispute their accuracy if you like.

        The reason I have done this is that I have concerns about the lack of independence and the very strange arrangement for academic assessment of Australian perceptions of immigration and multiculturalism in general given the corporate focus and commercial self-interest. Most people can appreciate that what stands is rather irregular and in itself conjoins issues (culture, politics, corporate interest and foreign states) that wiser heads would have kept separate. Don’t shoot the messenger please.

        I have also stated my concerns about politicising any diaspora to serve a foreign state’s wishes. There must be one standard or none at all.

        The only person I see mentioning conspiracy, Elders of Zion etc is you Dan. My concerns are outlined in point form and I encourage you to be critical of them and to find error if you can.

        Personally I’m not going to take issue with your ‘facts’ – although plenty do not agree with them. Have a walk in Ripponlea this Saturday. Try Hotham Road for a different perspective. Very many Jews follow a faith, not a state.

  4. The community owes you a debt of thanks in putting in the obvious hard work that goes into writing a post such as this UE.

    • Agreed. This is another argument you will end up winning. Sadly, the damage done in the meantime is hard to undo.

  5. The quality of your research and your demolition of Dr McDonald is a thing of beauty. I have know idea if this university professor is suffering some form of cognitive disorder or is a genius but you have at the very least embarrassed the good professor and he should be shown the door of the ANU as he leaves for the last time

  6. Anyone else catch ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s comments at COAG?

    Paraphrasing but “we need more population for economic growth and more diversity in the social fabric.”


      • …and, with your extremely comfortable salary and associated benefits, can afford to live in a nice house in a nice leafy suburb where none of these impoverished migrants are ever going to be able to spoil your landscape with their crowded dwellings and some less than desirable cultural values.

    • The Guardian reports that Scott wanted to cut, but the states didn’t. When the current generation of pollies are gone and the diversity decides they want a different Australia, what then? None of them think about the future or the current generations that can’t afford a place to live, or the brought forward debt, and social decay as we run out of water/food. The UniNSW were part of this research recently…like before none of the pollies will listen as the build their property portfolio.

    • The lord mayor of Canberra is a lightweight even in the company of other mayors (and yes he does belong to the national mayoral association). If he insists on attending these COAG meetings he should be made to sit in a highchair and given a colouring in book to keep him entertained.

    • There’s one factor our stupid politicians ignore and that is regional future climate change refugees, which I think we will see far sooner and in far greater numbers than many expect. I’m not including the Pacific Islanders in this but mainland and island Asia. I expect rich Australia will come under INTENSE pressure from governments in the region to accept large numbers of Asian climate refugees and those governments will be able to say that existing communities already exist in Australia, we have recent experience at growing our population through immigration by 25-30% so we can do the same again, just in aamore compressed time frame.

      Every day I go about my nobody life in Australia and I enjoy what I’ve got, I don’t expect the Australia of today to resemble the Australia of 15 years in the future. I’m trying to plan how to achieve some security for the future but there’s a lot to think about.

    • They were all pretty much on the same page.
      Anastacia Palazczuk: “We do need to get skills not just from Australia but from elsewhere so it (immigration) needs to be maintained, if not increased.”

      Daniel Andrews: “We don’t want to be looking at a smaller Victoria or a smaller Australia.”

      Steven Marshall: “We do want to grow our population and we do want to switch off the tap of young people leaving our state.”

      Gladys Berijiklian: “There is enormous potential for us to grow our regional communities through encouraging students.”

  7. This is pretty important reporting that you cannot get in the mainstream Australian media (more’s the pity). Well done, Leith. 👍

  8. Thanks Mike for such a comprehensive look at this stuff. Just a couple of notes
    1. “Here it makes the bizarre claim that infrastructure costs “are not linked explicitly to demographic factors” (page 57).”

    Yup!!! Infrastructure costs are an exponential function in relation to population growth. The infrastructure systems have to be more and more complex for less and less result as they have to go vertical rather than just horizontal.

    2. All this tripe is based on GDP or GDP per capita. GDP is a rubbish measure of even economic performance without considering the lifestyle impacts. The whole immigration benefit is based on increased debt. Are we bringing in migrants to work in export industries? Are we bringing in cattlemen, shearers or skilled tractor operators? Are we bringing in people who will up and go to work in hot conditions in far-away places? No, we aren’t or at least few. They are pretty much all settling in Sydney and Melbourne where there is virtually NIL externally facing industry. So they then want a car – import; a TV – import; lounge furniture – import; fridge – import; clothes – import, etc etc etc.
    The end result is that we have to sell off more and more of our resources and key industries to finance these levels of immigration. What the hell for? How does this make sense? Can this narrow minded myopic moron Prof McDonald explain how this is good?

    Now!!!! An even bigger problem is that not a single economist, not ONE, even thinks to challenge this clown on this problem of immigration perpetuating ever increasing foreign debt which, one day, will totally destroy the Australian economy.

  9. Patricia Karvelas had McDonald on RnDrive last night for some soft questioning and plenty of air time to promote his views as the impartial “expert view”.


    She is relentless in pushing the Big Australia story.

    Would have thought she might ease up after Dr Smith demolished the soft waffle of ABC intern of the year ANU’s Dr Allen a few month back on National Wrap.

    Hmmm that episode appears to be no longer available


  10. I’ve asked before but cannot find the answer.
    Is there somewhere to access immigration diversity statistics for Australia?
    Interested in the proportions of age, sex, country of origin etc. that is most up to date.

    • blacktwin997MEMBER

      Imagine if you came across Peter McDonald, Peter Scanlon, Innes Willox and Dr Liz Allen sitting at a table in a cafe. Which one would you hit first?

  11. Leith,
    An even more fundamental point to make is that Mr McDonald’s modelling uses the old 15-64 ‘working age’ population assumption. This claims that everyone between 15-64 works and everyone 65+ doesn’t!!! That’s ridiculous on several levels, including record workforce participation rates in the 65+ cohort, and means that the GDP gains Mr McDonald claims are NOT there.
    See my SMH article for details:

    • A very good mainstream article William.

      Something that desperately needs debunking in the MSM is the repeated statement from polies that immigration is needed to sustain the working age of the populace. That only creates a never ending bubble, and poor economics means that the locals can’t afford to start families and educate kids for future industry etc.

    • Also immigration killing per-capita income, taking jobs, crushing transport, unaffordable housing, etc.

    • Crushing schools and hospitals, rising health costs because immigrants bring all the oldies etc.

      The list is a bottomless pit.