2 million grey migrants to give Australia economic sclerosis


By Leith van Onselen

Melbourne University demography professor, Peter McDonald, delivered another stark warning yesterday that Labor’s crazy policy to allow migrant Australians to bring their parents to Australia will lead to 2 million elderly migrants drowning the nation in blue rinse, straining public services and infrastructure, and rapidly age the population. From The Australian:

…population expert Peter McDonald estimates up to two million overseas parents could ­potentially be able to come.

“A rush on this visa would dramatically increase net overseas migration, greatly increase the ­average age of migrants to Australia and add very large numbers of older people to the population who did not speak English well,” said Professor McDonald, from Melbourne University.

“This will put pressure on ser­vices related to older people.”

As I noted yesterday, there were 7.3 million people born overseas living in Australia in 2018, according to the ABS:


Given each migrant with either permanent residency or citizenship will be permitted under Labor to bring in two parents, Peter McDonald’s 2 million estimate is probably conservative.

Worse, the stock of elderly migrants would grow rapidly over time. This is because Australia’s permanent migrant planning level is currently set at 160,000 per year, plus another 16,500 under the humanitarian program:


Subtracting children and elderly migrants under the family stream still leaves around 160,000 migrants that would each be permitted to bring in two parents every year – effectively a ‘buy one, get three policy’. While not all migrants would obviously take up this option, many would, thus adding massively to Australia’s net overseas migration.

Think about this policy from a migrant’s perspective. For a fee of only $500 a year, they can buy themselves access to Australia’s lifestyle, infrastructure and services. Who wouldn’t take up this generous offer?

Labor’s policy will be especially enticing to the Chinese. In addition to being reunited with their children, their parents can escape the tyrannical Chinese Government, while also gaining easy access to Australia’s housing market.


If this policy was allowed to run for a decade, it could easily add 3 million-plus elderly residents to Australia’s population.

The costs for existing residents would also be astronomical. As noted yesterday, the Productivity Commission estimates that the cost of the 7,000 to 9,000 parental visas issued each year are between $335 000 and $410 000 per adult in net present value terms. If we conservatively assume that the cost per visa under Labor’s policy is one quarter this level, then incumbent Australians are still facing a bill of around $84,000 to $102,500 per elderly migrant.

Multiply that figure by the millions of elderly migrants that are likely to arrive under Labor’s policy, and the cost to existing residents could easily top $100 billion.


There is no magic pudding when it comes to public finances, and the humungous cost of Labor’s policy would necessarily divert funding away from other social programs, such as the Aged Pension, Newstart, disability services, schools and hospitals funding, and infrastructure. Labor’s policy could effectively bankrupt Australia’s welfare state.

The irony in all of this is that Peter McDonald has for years falsely argued for mass immigration to mitigate an ageing population. Now he is reaping what he sowed as Labor seeks to buy votes from the very bulge of migrant voters McDonald demanded, via a policy that will unambiguously age Australia and destroy the federal budget.

With nearly 30% of Australia’s population now born overseas, courtesy of Peter McDonald’s beloved mass immigration agenda, migrants are beginning the dominate Australia’s political system for their own financial benefit.


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About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.