How One Nation should leverage Coalition income tax cuts

By Leith van Onselen

The Coalition’s personal income tax package looks to be stuck in the Senate after One Nation leader Pauline Hanson on Monday pulled the party’s support unless the Morrison Government agrees to build new coal-fired power stations to lower energy prices.

The loss of One Nation’s two Senate votes has left the Coalition four votes short, meaning they would need all four remaining cross-benchers – Cory Bernardi, the Centre Alliance (two votes), and Jacqui Lambie –  to vote in favour of the tax package. And with Centre Alliance wavering, this prospect is looking unlikely.

Therefore, One Nation finds itself in a unique situation to leverage the Government. Unfortunately, it has taken the daft route of insisting on more coal fired power stations – a position that is unlikely to resonate well with Australian voters and doesn’t make sense economically or environmentally.

One Nation would be far wiser if it instead demanded the Government hold a plebiscite on Australia’s future population size, the answers of which would then be used to formulate Australia’s immigration intake to meet the said target.

A population plebiscite makes sense on a number of levels.

First, One Nation overwhelming supports lower immigration. This is a foundation stone of the party. Therefore, a population plebiscite would play straight into the party’s base.

Second, letting Australians vote for lower population growth would be beneficial economically, environmentally and socially. If enacted, lower population growth would decongest Australia’s cities, thereby boosting productivity and liveability. It would reduce Australia’s carbon emissions and damage to the natural environment. It would lift wages. It would reduce pressure on the Australian, lifting competitiveness of the tradeable sector. And it would spread Australia’s fixed endowment of natural resource wealth among fewer people than under the existing ‘Big Australia’ mass immigration program.

Finally, lowering population growth through immigration is overwhelmingly popular among voters, as evidenced by the majority of recent opinion polls:

  • 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.
  • Australian Population Research Institute: 72% of voters say Australia does not need more people; 50% want immigration to be reduced.

To avoid accusations of racism, the plebiscite should be about Australia’s future population not the rate of immigration.

Here is an example of the type of question that could be taken to the Australian people:

Australia’s population is currently 25 million. Under zero net overseas migration (NOM), it is projected to reach 27 million by 2060.

ScreenHunter_15977 Nov. 09 07.44

By 2060, do you believe Australia’s population should be:

  • 27 million;
  • 30 million;
  • 35 million;
  • 40 million;
  • 45 million?

Obviously, there is room to move on the language and the chart should be updated by the ABS to show the level of NOM corresponding to the choices, but you get the idea. The important thing is that Australian’s views are sought and this consensus is then used to formulate a national population policy.

In it’s 2016 Migrant Intake Australia report, the Productivity Commission explicitly called for a national population strategy, rather than flying blindly. A population plebiscite is also the democratic thing to do.

By demanding a population plebiscite in return for its support of the Coalition’s tax cut package, One Nation could wedge the three major parties on immigration and win favour among the millions of silent Australian voters that are being crush-loaded by the ‘Big Australia’ policy, and whose views have been completely ignored.

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Leith van Onselen

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

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  1. I agree with the notion that the people need to be consulted on such an important topic. Getting the question right will be critical to having the desired outcome that I think most want (slow the growth). Personally, I don’t think presenting graphs and asking them to analyse numbers will be the right way to go. The masses will scratch their heads and say it is too hard. There needs to be a better way to phrase it.

  2. Population plebiscite + enforcement of gas price legislation, the second would better achieve her aim re power prices. Scummo is over a barrel so go hard Pauline. Pauline would be a national hero. Move over Ned Kelly, we have a new redneck hero!

  3. Have you reached out to ON with this suggestion, or a offer to assist with the associated economic research backing? Perhaps even reaching out to Mark Latham as well? Perhaps wishful thinking that parties would listen but hey have to get their policy ideas and positions from somewhere!

  4. “Do you believe a population strategy should be set by the Productivity Commission, a government agency responsible for providing independent research and advice to Government on economic, social and environmental issues affecting the welfare of Australians?”

    Yes or No

  5. Maybe ditch the graph.

    For each response, include what migration numbers are required each year to each nominated population target.


    27 million by 2060, requires zero net overseas migration (NOM) each year, where departures equals new arrivals
    40 million by 2060, requires 150,000 net overseas migration (NOM) each year, where arrivals excedes depatures by 150,000

  6. Paulines comments made over the past week clearly indicate One Nation are a FAKE lower migration party.

    I have not heard BOO from the Mouth from South Western Sydney on the issue via his twitter account since being elected into the NSW Upper House.


  7. ON doesn’t actually want to solve the population/ immigration issue because then there would be no need for it.

  8. I love tax cuts, cheap power for my ducted air con, and coal. Let the Chinese go green. Hop over there and tell them how many jobs the green economy will “create” 😂

  9. turncoatMEMBER

    Yes coal fired power is the wrong lever. Even if it was a sound economic move (and it isn’t) it would take 8 years before it was up and running. One Nation has been the low immigration party but they need to continually lock that imagery down in the public’s mind. After their USA NRA travails they need to get on safe footing again and this provides a high minded, difficult to challenge, wedge deep into the heart of the political establishment.

  10. MB readerMEMBER

    Each target would need to be accompanied by an estimate of the annual intake, because 45 million in 2060 doesn’t sound unreasonable.