Enemy demographers unite to condemn Labor’s elderly parent visas

By Leith van Onselen

The Australian Population Research Institute’s Dr Bob Birrell and Melbourne University’s Professor Peter McDonald, who are typically at opposing ends of the immigration debate, have united to slam Labor’s reckless uncapped visa for parents of existing migrants. From The Australian:

[Labor’s] policy has united in alarm two leading demographers normally at daggers drawn in the immigration debate: Bob Birrell, who wants a radical cut in population growth; and the University of Melbourne’s Peter McDonald, who shares the view common in government and business circles that our large intake of migrants brings many benefits.

The states have reason to worry, too. The lion’s share of new arrivals goes to Sydney, and the NSW Treasury has made clear its concern that migrant parents needing costly hospital treatment may be unable, or unwilling, to pay…

Birrell said there could be 200,000 visas in the first term of government, McDonald said there might be 1.5 million to two million offshore parents eligible to come…

He and McDonald agree Labor’s temporary visa could lead to a de facto permanent intake, with ministers facing heart-rending pleas not to send back aged parents after a 10-year stay, especially if their health has deteriorated. These uncapped visas will grow “inexorably”, according to Brisbane migration agent Peter Kuek-Kong Lee, who lectures in immigration law at Griffith University. He points out that the most pricey variant of the permanent visa has failed in its purpose to curb demand. So the temporary visa would probably generate a rush, he says, citing the “emotionalism” of family reunion, the ever-rising number of overseas-born Australians, and the lack of the restraining “balance of family” rule…

According to the ABS’ latest migrant data, there were 7.3 million people born overseas living in Australia in 2018:

Given Labor’s policy allows migrants to bring two parents each into Australia – albeit provided they meet the minimum family income threshold of $83,454 – it is easy to fathom that millions of elderly migrants could flood Australia, as suggested by Peter McDonald.

Worse, these elderly migrant numbers would grow strongly over time in line with Australia’s annual permanent migrant program:

That is, around 160,000 migrants each year would each be permitted to bring with them two parents – effectively a ‘buy one, get three policy’. While not all migrants would take up this option, there are many who would.

Therefore, Labor’s policy would add massively to Australia’s net overseas migration, as well as massively age Australia’s population.

The costs of Labor’s policy for existing Australian residents would also be astronomical. As we noted on Monday, 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. Even if we conservatively assume that the cost per visa under Labor’s policy is one quarter this level, then existing Australian residents are still facing a bill of around $84,000 to $102,500 per elderly migrant.

If we multiply this figure by the millions of elderly migrants that are likely to arrive under Labor’s policy, then the cost to existing residents could easily top $100 billion. At the outer edge of real possibilities this number could be preposterously higher.

There is no magic pudding with public finances. The gigantic cost Labor’s elderly parent visas would necessarily divert funding away from other social programs, including the Aged Pension, Newstart, disability services, schools and hospitals funding, as well as infrastructure. Labor’s policy could effectively bankrupt Australia’s welfare state.

Not to mention that Labor’s entire tax reform platform targets older Australians and all of this revenue and more will effectively cross-subsidise the older people of other nations. What is the point of having an Australian government?

The fact of the matter is that Labor’s policy will impose a massive burden of direct and indirect costs on the Australian community. Especially in cities on the East Coast where chronic population pressures are already biting. The policy completely disregards the interests and well-being of existing citizens and taxpayers of this country in a shameless attempt to buy the votes of migrants in a few key seats.

Those migrants chose to leave their families when they migrated to Australia. They knew the deal when they made the decision to leave. They should not expect the Australian people to subsidise reuniting them with their families. Australia cannot afford to look after other countries’ older people when there are so many of our own citizens in need.

Labor’s policy breaches every principle of economic, social and environmental sustainability. It trashes the principle of inter-generational equity across the budget, living standards and house prices. It devalues the citizenship of Australians by subordinating their legitimate interests to those of the elderly in foreign nations. It pays no regard to Australia’s strategic outlook. It abdicates every duty of care that any elected government has towards its people.

For these reasons it is done nowhere else in the world, by any other government, and frankly, going solo pushes Labor into the category of an immigration lunatic.

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Unconventional Economist
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      • 9 hours ago, she tweeted a graph of Google search data that shows mass immigration is the 2nd biggest issue in the election:


        I guess she is silent on the grandparent visa because that would go against her claim that mass immigration makes AUS younger – even though the average age in Holland is just 4 years older than the average age in AUS.

        Remember, AUS actually had less people than Holland in 1960 and today, AUS has 8 million more people than Holland.

    • Strange Economics of IO and NG

      So this one policy thought bubble undoes all the good that removing NG etc policies from Labor could do.
      And bankrupts the pension and aged care in 10 years…

      The only limitation is the family 83K taxable income –
      which is going to make a lot of tradies and IT contractors reverse their Neg Gearing, Family Trusts and declare cash payments to get back up to the limit. The first welfare policy to be means tested to be ABOVE a minimum income ! More tax to be declared by 200k people.

      Getting a backlash today apparently, but not going to backpedal taway now.

      This turns the whole net economy result around and makes staying with the LNP the least worse for the economy.

      $ 100 billion to 1000 billion (e.g. 200k already applied to potential 2 million parents each costing 500K for govt support)

      The only hope left is that the fringe parties might stop it in the Senate.
      (When you think to depend on something from One Nation and Clive Palmer and NEXT you know you have a problem)

    • She’s probably still racking her brains, trying to find a way to spin it positively.

      …we could be waiting a while.

  1. Does anyone know if Dr Demography (Liz Allen) is upset by Peter McDonald’s failure to see how an injection of old age diversity will create a much more vibrant atmosphere at the local hospital casualty ward?

    • Clive, why won’t they let the Productivity Commission look at it? I think that is the reason. Another tax on the young, and how many of those other new policies will make it really better for the young??

    • rob barrattMEMBER

      Well Clive, that’s not to mention the chummy atmosphere in our aged care homes. They’ll have so much to talk about (well, the Chinese-speaking ones) during the 3 day interval between having their incontinence pads changed. The 300 to 1 patient staff ratio ensure that. But Wait! We can bring in thousands more immigrants to look after them. Hang on though, what about THEIR parents?
      Complete insanity. WTF is wrong with this country? I know the national average IQ is nothing to write home about but this is ridiculous. We must be the laughing stock of the Western world. So many inherent advantages over Europe and we’re squandering everything as fast as we can.

  2. It’s been busy days for Big Australia Liz spinning the corporatist visa machines that our universities have become. Give a girl a break, it’s draining work ignoring substantive evidence and being a patsy for high growth neoliberal economics.

  3. Labor had nearly ail the best policies & then they come up with this, talk about sell Aussies out & shoot themselves in the foot.

    And will they now recalculate the benefits of immigration because that equation has fundamentally changed even if they still leave oust all the infrastructure costs etc in their calculations!

    • It’s hard to decide which Big Australia party deserves that bottom spot on the ballot paper, but this policy seems to be a standout.

      We are navigating the aged care system at the moment with our parents, it’s front of mind, as I expect it will be with all retiring boomers.

      • Good point, I hadn’t considered how many boomers may have that in mind as they will shortly be entering aged care as you just know there is NO way the old foreigners will be leaving after 10yrs, even if they wanted to they probably couldn’t get insurance for the flight!

    • Nowhere near best:

      Sydney has more kilometres of toll roads than any other city in the world.

      Probably more road tunnels than any other city too. And the tunnels are not funded by people who use them but by everyone!

      It is so perverse. Shorten needs to stop funding road tunnels.

      And then there is the fact that the British Labour Party will do a UBI trail:

      12 May 2019

      Labour would trial universal basic income if elected, John McDonnell says

      All the means-tested benefits – apart from housing benefit – would be taken away and every adult would get a fixed amount per week, plus an additional amount for each child they have.

    • Zulu. What good policies? Name one. And changes to CGT, Franking credits and NG don’t count in my books.

      • I probably will put them ahead of Lab now despite saying I never would just a month or so ago. But this is due to Lab owing stupidity so I can justify it 😜. The choice is now not so munch which party is best for Australia but which foot shall I shoot myself/Australia in left or right.

    • Yet the ABC don’t look at all at all the new policies we’re getting and what impact they’ll have here.

      • JonathanMEMBER

        The wife and I watched the ABC iView election issues catchup program last night. They go through all the key issues. Immigration was by far the shortest with lots of references to how the country needs it for economic growth. Then when it came to policies, only the Libs got a mention. Not one mention of Lab policy. Probably to avoid having to bring this up?

    • JaduongMEMBER

      There is a big difference between Merkel refugeees and Labor’s old folk. Merkel was an act of compassion and the Germans, better than most, know what it is like to create a refugee problem and/or be a refugee.
      As UE points out migrants ( not refugees) make a choice when they come here and part of that choice is to leave the old folks behind.

      • As I said it takes the cake but Labor’s is effectively an Open Boarders policy like Merkel’s.

  4. It will aslo be a burden on the migrants and their children. Imagine a generation of middle income migrants taking care financially for their parents.

    • Yes, the irony is that there are all these migrants who came here 10 / 20 / 30yrs ago looking forward to state pension and a comfortable retirement when suddenly a mass influx of new migrants threatens this happy future.

      The welfare system will disintegrate under this burden and the poor properly shafted.

  5. JunkyardMEMBER

    This Peter MacDonald needs to be called out for the racist ageist white neo Nazi bigot that he obviously is.

    Seriously though, this is the inevitable trajectory of the big Australia experiment. Watch all the greedy big Australia parasites panic as they realise their self created immigration monster is now out of control and probably unstoppable.

    • You have to look at the big picture….

      The world is increasingly looking like pre-WWI. Trump withdrew USA from the sole global superpower to one of regional powers – or at least that is his plan. Meanwhile, Straya has an impoverished neighbour with 300 million inhabitants. A conservative estimate is that Indonesia can easily raise an army of 10 million strong.

      Since Straya has long stopped aspiring to be a global tech power, the only way to counter a 10 million strong army is to raise a large army of our own. Then Straya would need a large pool of poor inhabitants who would volunteer to fight in an army, if only to secure their meals…..

      Another option is to run for the Chinese cover if the Americans keep following Trump and retreat to isolationism. Come to think of it, populating Straya with rich Chinese families may act as a deterrent against a potential Indonesian invasion, assuming that the CCP would not condone such an act. Straya is a lucky country after all!!!

      • Yep. 10 million Indonesians, even if armed only with clubs and agricultural implements will easily conquer Australia.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        10 million Indonesians, even if armed only with clubs and agricultural implements will easily conquer Australia.

        They should be pretty easy pickings when they arrive, since they’ll be exhausted from the swim.

    • I don’t see anyone panicking. I don’t foresee anyone panicking until it’s much too late.

      You know what will happen then (when it’s too late and we ha 2 million new old people in the country)? The same thing that happened when the housingnbubble got too big for comfort – Australia will double down on the migrant intake.

      • Not necessarily, this could lead to an ethnic cleansing situation somewhere down the line. Not sure which ethnicity or multiples as such, but eventually, people will lash out.

      • McPaddyMEMBER

        Precisely, Peachy. How else are we going to deal with bedpan-changer skills shortages?

      • Ethnic cleansing…. followed by martial law….. followed by ruling by a military junta…

        It now looks more like an Argentina or a Venezuela of the Pacific!!!

    • Torchwood1979

      After 15+ years of turbo charged immigration this can be a massive election issue within certain seats. Has the LNP even said anything about this hack job of a policy? Probably not, because they don’t want to risk the fury of migrant communities who will punish them at the ballot box.

      Along with Labor’s “uncapped” university places and “uncapped” funding for private VET providers this “uncapped” policy fills me with a sense of dread.

    • McPaddyMEMBER

      And right there you see how the cancer of unchecked and unconstrained immigration builds on itself.

      • @mcpaddy, exactly, liberal democracy is a multi-cultural society is nothing more than a racial head count

    • On News Radio they had a special report on election policies for migrants, even on their “special report” this didn’t rate a mention. Staggering cover up or gross incompetence? These days there would be backing for both possibilities

      • Cover up mate. Your average big Australia proponent is nowhere to be seen. I tweeted and made submissions to Ross ‘Big Oz’ Greenwood on this – he’s been steadfast on immigration being critical to bring in young people to add to the tax base. Gone to ground. His mates Gerry Harvey and HRH would be telling him to shut up.

    • cuturhairMEMBER

      A Chinese Australian called onto ABC drive Melbourne yesterday evening about it. She said the policy was very popular with the Chinese community, and said she said there were about 200,000 people in the queue for this visa type. The host cut her off and said ‘Yes, there’s alot of people.. time for the 6.15 traffic report!’. (In the hosts defence, it was time for that).

  6. Now a smart country like Israel would never do this. Bibi signed into law the Jewish nation state law, ensuring an eternal homeland for the Jewish people. Israel fiercely defends its borders, doesn’t apologise about not taking in foreigners and has even expanded its territory (Greater Israel Project). Say what you want about its human rights record, Israel looks after its own first.

    • So do Russia and China. A lot of African leaders also unashamedly pursue the indigenous peoples rights first. It’s only some western nations who get confused with political correctness.

  7. plebngineerMEMBER

    Tried to post this on /r/Australia and the mods have apparently banned this whole website. Crazy town.

  8. As I’ve said before: It’s Australia that doesn’t really have a choice.
    To be completely honest the immigration deal that we currently offer top notch candidates just isn’t sweet enough to get top notch candidates….so instead of attracting the best of the best to our fair shores…we settle for hundreds of thousands of . unqualified (lesser qualified) immigrants because we’re addicted to immigration itself.
    Immigration should ideally be the secret sauce that enables us to achieve that which would be impossible without the immigrant, instead it has morphed into a program that directly supports consumption, Real Estate and Infrastructure industries. while impoverishing the rest of the economy (especially externally facing sections)
    So exactly the section of the economy which could benefit enormously from the right immigrant is punished by our economic/social addiction to the wrong immigrant.
    It’s bizarre, no one could write this sort of stuff, yet here we are. We absolutely need to sweeten the immigration deal to have any hope of attracting the best of the best …and yet we all know that’s not what we’ll get.
    Maybe it’s time to completely rethink immigration, which is a great idea, except we’re addicted to immigration.

    • It is doubly worse than that because the immigration deal that we currently offer top notch candidates not only falls short of attracting top notch candidates but also falls short of (indirectly) keeping existing top notch locals.

      And this cannot be fixed or reversed according to the game theory.

      Suppose we tighten the immigration tap. Since we cannot be seen to discriminate or favour immigrants from one particular region, we have to adopt a “one size fits all” approach. Then the result will be an across the board cut with meticulous scrutiny. Those who are highly successful would be invariably busy and would not be bothered to fulfill all the newly imposed stringent requirements. The lesser, more desperate ones, in contrast, would still comply. The end result will be….

      • Like I said: It’s Bizarre
        Immigration has become a policy that can’t possibly be tweaked to work towards our collective benefit and the reason (imho) is that Australia has completely lost sight of the economic need for Productivity.
        Sure we talk ad-nauseam about Productivity but in the end we Produce practically nothing of enduring value for all the effort that we expend. That which has undeniable value (like freeways) has morphed into an infrastructure that is built for the privileged few who can afford to use it.
        I’ve banged on about this issue before and heard back that it’s me who is too stingy to pay enough to attract top talent, but in the end a project (or company) can only be profitable over the longer term if it is globally competitive, which is precisely where Australia looses out every time.
        Personally I’d be much better off just joining the rest of my rich buds and “investing” in RE development, but unfortunately that just doesn’t interest me
        There are no logical solutions to this problem, it’s a bit like a simulated annealing problem of trying to find a multi-dimensional global minima and getting stuck every time at a local minima. In the end the only solution, that I know of for this problem, is to throw away the current solution and start again. As far as I know there is no incremental way to escape a local minima

  9. As much as Labors economic policies on curbing upper and middle class welfare make appeal, its a package deal which includes the social engineering ioony left policies such as this. I am stunned by this policy, the ALP are capable of any mad policy if they are capable of this

    • Strange Economics

      Yes – with this in the package deal, ($ 100 billion to $1000 billion at 200k parents already to 2 million of $ 500k each cost) and bankrupt pensions, medicare, etc.

      This makes the LNP package the least worst. LNP giving less money though only to a small pool of high wealth individuals. (a mere 20 billion a year of tax concessions)

  10. SweeperMEMBER

    So they’ve got 1 bad policy. Why the focus on it?
    Do you guys want Morrison re-elected or something?

    • Even StevenMEMBER

      I was 100% preferencing Labor over Libs before this policy came out. Now I am 100% the other way. This single policy is more damaging than the status quo/anything Libs can or will do.

      • SweeperMEMBER

        That means you are punishing a party for presenting their policies and rewarding a party for hiding their policies except 1 fraudulent policy (tax cuts will create jobs).
        And do you really believe the LNP won’t do the same.
        Plus this policy has totally been beaten out of all proportion in the Murdoch media.

      • fitzroyMEMBER

        No. It means that the Australian welfare state would be trashed to enrich anyone who happens to turn up to the detriment of the people who actually paid for it.

    • Because the cost of this policy will swamp any savings made by curtailing negative gearing, CGT and franking credits. The cost will not just be for health, but more people means more water consumption, energy consumption and that’s if they stay at home.

      As Leith rightly points out that at the end of 10 years, the migrants will probably stay to avoid any negative press. Over $100B cost, just to win Chisholm and a couple of other seats. It was only yesterday, the papers were talking about the amount of pork being showered on Corangamite.

      • Strange Economics

        Or if 2 million parents instead of 200,000 current applicants –
        at 500k – 1 trillion bill….

        Half the people you meet would take it up for their parents – why not. Better than retiring in England, Poland or anywhere in Asia.

    • I’ve not listened to what the other coalition (ALP/Greens) have said during the election campaign because it’s the same old crap that gets rolled out every election. I’m more concerned with what will happen if they get elected. If you think that they are harmless big hearted politicians doing good for everyday Australians, go back and look at their record (Bills time in the unions for example), they have been damaging whilst in opposition, so no telling what they would come up with, no doubt, social engineering the likes of which we have never seen.
      Also, do you really want people like Sally “change the rules” McManus or John “you’re a dog” Sekta to have a say in the way a country is run, not to mention the even more pathological comrades behind them?

      • SweeperMEMBER

        She didn’t say to change the rules my recall is she said if business isn’t following the rules neither should unions or something along those lines. Totally fair enough.

    • Trout à la Crème

      Yes they want Morrison re elected or something hence the articles that feature Morrison with a picture of him with poop on his head. One bad policy with many more multiples of one outcomes.

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      “Basically, the idea is to uncap the number of visas and to make it significantly cheaper, which from a humanitarian standpoint is very appealing.”

      Nope nope nope nope. These aren’t refugees. Nothing humanitarian about it at all. This is just Australia being cucks again.

      • You don’t understand…. humanitarian is a code word for maximising profits, just like education, skill and a few other words.

    • haroldusMEMBER

      So the net present value of every migrant is negative after about 41?

      Fark me

  11. So with ALP likely in, this likely to at least commence. The only way out of this will be a civil war type situation. I can’t see Sydney or Melbourne dealing with a Cape Town water situation well. We are far more accustomed to our lives of luxury than the majority of citizens of that city. Imagine everyday citizens who already are opposed to immigration (and growing more vocal against it) being told they need to bathe in a big plastic tub, then reuse it for all other household chores will lash out. Then add on a large and ever growing number of Aussies with parents lying in pain in hospital corridors, declining medicare benefits, declining pension benefits, more overloading of transport, roads, schools. Right wing groups will use social media to spark a fire and it’ll be on.

    • I think they need to change that message on the radio to say that Sydney is running low on water because of lower rainfall AND an additional 1M consumers. They seem to leave that last bit out.

  12. Yesterday 2 million were going to invade us, now 200,000 over 3 years? So you have no idea? I am one of those 7 million not born here, but I came here with my parents who are now deceased, Many other migrants were children so their parents already here. Young migrants will have many parents who are still working and cannot go for an extended holiday. My partner’s mother has no desire to travel as when people age they like the familiar. Older people hate migrating, it is a young person’s thing, never mind for only a couple of years making it insecure.

    On top of that the children need loads of money and be able to pay healthcare costs. We demand migrants come here only to make us rich, they have no right to seek higher office, no right to be in any position of authority and have no right to a family reunion to round out a flourishing life. How damn mercenary can you get, Indentured only more to your liking? Also that 7 million have ancestral homelands and many return to their place of origin for extended stays, making it reciprocal to a degree.

    And state government do get the bill, that goes for all migrants, At the moment though that is the only spending that is keeping th economy afloat with a steep decline in the private sector.

    If the cost of old people is such a burden perhaps the best way is to allow foreign-born pensioners to live overseas without a loss of pension. That would increase movement the other way.

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      No right to higher office? Someone better tell that Cormann bloke…and Doogie. Someone tell Doogie. And Highrise Harry. He doesn’t have a position of authority. That’ll make Gotti wonder what he sold his soul for.

    • Foreign born pensioners can live overseas without a loss of pension, provided they’ve been here long enough (basically long enough to have had to work and contribute taxes).

      But yeah, the entitlement is strong with you, sir. Destination countries should benefit from immigration. It is the right of sovereign nations to determine who is allowed in and to set the terms under which people can enter. it’s part of the deal and if you don’t like being reminded of that then that is your problem.

      This proposed policy from the ALP is poor though. There is no benefit to Australia in allowing retirees from the third world to ‘visit’ on long term visas.

      • Part of the deal? All I ever heard was how great the Australian immigration policy was when we only had a family reunion, skilled migration and humanitarian. Old people did not flock here at all. Other nations “used” migrants, they employed illegals to do their housework and raise their children. They brought in guest workers, migrant farm workers and other seasonal workers. Then got cheesed off when they would not go home again when they were done with them. This has caused social cohesion issues in Europe and the USA, children stateless in essence and incited hate and populism. So what did we do? Copied that type of failure because “money” and now the never-ending whining about what worked for us. Populist tosh.

      • Wrong. You are very very wrong. In the 50s, 60s and early 70s, migrants knew they were coming here to work. In construction, the mines and manufacturing, mostly. There was no skills testing, you just needed to be able to work. This is how my old man found himself driving trucks in the Pilbara at 20 and how my grandfather worked on the Snowy River Hydro Scheme. It was definitely not skilled migration. They came here knowing they had to work.

  13. Arthur Schopenhauer

    Good morning to the sleuth of Bears,

    I have just returned from a morning reconnaissance of development sites in Melbourne’s leafy suburbs. It’s on like Donkey Kong.

    12km and closer to the CBD is alive with trucks, excavators, mobile trains and surveyors. Whatever deal Labor has done, it’s donors know it, and it’s full steam ahead. The credit is flowing and immigration gates are going through be flung open.

    If Andrews is returned, the suburban ring is definitely going in. The land banking has begun.

    As much as I agree with the sentiment of David Collyer’s ‘Dont buy now!’ Tm, this bubble has a little more puff before it pops.

    From what I’m seeing, Peachy is on the money. It’s not a bubble if the immigration spigot is wide open.

    Both sides have sold us out. A a dirty, filthy pox on both their houses!

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Arthur.

      I am absolutely appalled by the ALP’s elderly migration brainfart. How could they possibly be so irresponsible? Instead, generously give every (young) migrant an annual $100 voucher to spend visiting mum and dad overseas and save ourselves a motza.

      We could have 200,000 net immigrants a year and still see falling land prices. ‘Values’ are more a function of credit than population – and we know the direction that is going in. Australia has BY FAR the most arable land per person in the world, therefore the least supply constraint. However, leafy inner-middle suburbs with large blocks and established, amortised infrastructure are in short supply. Work out how to increase that resource!

  14. I cannot think of a bigger media and across the board political cover up than this.

    Never seen anything like it.

    I propose an all out war against MSM via social media.

  15. There’s only one potential positive I can think of right now wrt the new Chinese community in Australia. If they get both sets of parents out of China then the CCP’s leverage over immediate family members of new Chinese Australians will be reduced. Probably not enough to be effective if siblings (or other relatives people really care about) are still in China but a major vulnerability for many Chinese would be removed.

    This still doesn’t justify the policy imho though.

  16. Trout à la Crème

    It’s not just Sydney and Melbourne there has already been a noticeable increase in the last few years or so in Brisbane.