Lowy Institute’s Sam Roggeveen does a shockingly arrogant job on an Aussie Brexit today:
There are strong parallels between Australian politics and the chaos witnessed in recent years in Europe and the United Kingdom.
My contention is that in Australia, immigration – a long-running point of domestic controversy with profound consequences for foreign policy – is a compelling analogue to the issue that divided Britain in 2016.
Just as Britain’s party political elite were aligned on the need for the UK to gradually develop closer relations with the European Union, immigration policy is a point of elite consensus in Australia. The major parties basically agree, with minor points of difference, that the current high rate of immigration is beneficial.
And just as is the case with Brexit and the damage it is doing to Britain’s place in Europe, a reversal of Australia’s high immigration policy would illustrate the harm that the ‘hollowing out’ of Australian politics can do to its place in the world.
What is ‘hollowing out’? Big political parties play a crucial role in parliamentary democracy, yet traditional centre-right and centre-left parties here, in Western Europe and in Britain are in long-term decline. Why? Because the public has largely abandoned the major parties, and because big social and economic players such as unions, businesses and churches have retreated from their traditional role, which is to work through the major parties to effect change.
The presumption, of course, is that mass immigration as it is constituted today is a good idea when nothing could be further form the truth. Roggeveen then states it openly:
So far, legal immigration has been exempted from the Liberal Party’s redefinition, although Tony Abbott argued in 2018 that the party should support substantial cuts to immigration in order to distinguish itself from a Labor Party that was “in the grip of ethnic activists”.
…So it may be Labor that grasps for a radical policy solution rather than the Liberals. Like the Liberals, the Labor Party has been buffeted by culture war debates: it was spooked into supporting the Coalition’s harsh asylum seeker policies and even exceeded the Coalition in some respects.
…Many Labor voters worry about the impact of immigration on the environment, and some unions suspect high immigration is a tactic to suppress wages. There are also foreign precedents of centre-left parties in Western democracies adopting strong anti-immigration positions. Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party won the New Zealand election in 2017 promising a cut of 20,000 to 30,000 in annual immigration numbers, or up to 41 per cent. Denmark’s Social Democrats, too, have recently adopted a much tougher line on immigration and the social integration of new immigrants.
Still, given that Australia remains a largely contented nation with a proud record of racial and cultural acceptance, why would Australians support an indefinite stop to immigration?
Jeez. Talk about lost inside an ideology. What has “Australia remains a largely contented nation with a proud record of racial and cultural acceptance” got to do with today’s discussion about immigration? That’s already politicised. Mass immigration is an economic discussion. It is either lifting living standards and advancing the nation or it isn’t. In the past it has contributed positively. Today it is not:
- it is smashing wages as the private sector adjusts to an endless supply of foreign slaves amid macro oversupply;
- it is crush-loading cities as the public sector fails to plan effectively;
- it is raising house prices as it is designed very much to do;
- it is destroying the environment as cities mushroom outwards.
These are FACTS. Described every day in the data, by Infrastructure Australia and environmental bodies. The political elite don’t persist with immigration despite them, they do it because of them, with a growth lobby covering banks, realty and retail driving policy.
It is certainly true that Australia is undergoing a larger post-mining boom adjustment that has many years to run and some of the above would be happening anyway. But immigration has been misused as convenient fig leaf for pollies’ hapless reform commitment and poor growth, so they can claim good economic management while real living standards fall. The select corporate elite love it because they need not compete with more warm bodies arriving every day to grow the size of the market.
Only a genuine authoritarian would see this as good growth or good politics. The immigration addiction has locked elites into a paradigm of increasing disaffection from voters. Mass immigration being run too hard (which isn’t an argument for zero) isn’t the victim of political “hollowing out”. It is the driver.
With haughty and disconnected articles like this stroking elite policy fallacies, we can expect some kind of rupture on the subject sooner rather than later.