Ever since the Morrison Government announced that it would cut Australia’s permanent migrant intake to 160,000 in order to “relieve congestion in the cities”, MB has declared it a fake cut. This view is based on the fact that while the permanent intake has been reduced moderately, the government has opened the floodgates to a variety of temporary work visas, increased temporary old-age parental visas by 15,000 a year, and has allowed the number of migrants on bridging visas to swell.
Well, last night’s Budget has exposed the Coalition’s purported immigration cut as being a big lie.
While Budget Paper 2 does indeed report a small fall in Australia’s planned permanent migrant intake to 160,000:
Buried deep in Budget Paper 3 is the below projection of increased net overseas migration (NOM):
As you can see, NOM over the entire forward estimates is projected to be much higher than the latest number of 240,000 reported by the ABS.
Not surprisingly, then, populations across the major jurisdictions are projected to swell, with NSW projected to add nearly 600,000 people over the next four years and VIC around 650,000 people:
With its staunch refusal to genuinely lower immigration, the Coalition made its job of winning the upcoming election near impossible.
Public opinion has overwhelmingly shifted towards lowering immigration, as evidenced by a conga-line of recent opinion polls:
- Australian Population Research Institute: 54% want lower immigration;
- Newspoll: 56% want lower immigration;
- Essential: 54% believe Australia’s population is growing too fast and 64% believe immigration is too high;
- Lowy: 54% of people think the total number of migrants coming to Australia each year is too high;
- Newspoll: 74% of voters support the Coalition Government’s cut of more than 10% to the annual permanent migrant intake to 163,000 last financial year;
- CIS: 65% in the highest income decile and 77% in the lowest believe that immigration should be cut or paused until critical infrastructure has caught up;
- ANU: Only three out of 10 Australians believe the nation needs more people;
- Newspoll: 80% of NSW voters do not want the state’s population to increase.
Not only would it have been sound policy to significantly lower immigration, given the severe indigestion being experienced in the major cities (let alone damage to the natural environment), but there would also have been several political advantages for the Coalition, namely:
- It would have wedged Labor on housing affordability making negative gearing cuts more scary for voters now and pushing house prices down further when the reform is introduced.
- It would wedged Labor on wages and helped counter its inequality agenda.
- It would wedged Labor on national security and further exposed the scandal around Labor links to the Chinese Communist Party.
- It would wiped out One Nation, which currently owns the lower immigration debate among conservative voters.
- If Labor does win the upcoming election, it would have forced it to explicitly raise the migrant intake back up (rather than merely maintain it), which would be very unpopular among voters.
Refusing to follow the wishes of the Australian people and genuinely lower immigration is a major strategic blunder that the Coalition will pay for at the ballot box.