The Australian Labor Party has a unique opportunity to seize government.
The Morrison Government has locked itself into a high immigration future by declaring open war on Australian workers via:
- Abolishing labour market testing requirements.
- Lowering costs and speeding up approval times for importing foreign workers.
- Expanding the skilled occupation list to include almost any role.
- Providing all ‘skilled’ visa holders with a clear pathway for transition to permanent residency.
- Granting ‘skilled’ visa holders priority access to flights and hotel quarantine ahead of stranded Australians.
- Allowing international students to work 40 hours per week.
The plan to reboot immigration back to pre-COVID levels is highly unpopular across the electorate. Every time the mainstream media publishes an article bemoaning the lack of immigration and purported labour shortages, the article is inevitably followed with hundreds of angry reader comments rejecting the call.
Earlier this week, Newspoll also reported that nearly three-quarters of Australians want Australia’s international border to remain closed until mid-2022. While this is related to COVID risk, it also shows how comfortable Australians have become with stronger borders:
After spending years denying that mass immigration lowers wages, economists across the divide have also fallen into line with the public viewpoint. These include eminent Labor economists Ross Garnaut and Saul Eslake.
An even larger U-turn has transpired at the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), which for years pumped mass immigration propaganda. The RBA desperately wants stronger wage growth and it has finally admitted that to get it, the labour market necessarily needs to tighten. This means not having an extra 180,000 to 200,000 foreign workers flooding the labour market every year, as was the case pre-COVID.
In its latest Statement on Monetary Policy (SoMP), released earlier this month, the RBA noted that per capital GDP growth and wages are now on a higher trajectory thanks to the fall in immigration:
The level of GDP is still expected to remain a little below that forecast before the pandemic, mostly due to lower population growth; in per capita terms, GDP is expected to be on a higher trajectory, supported by higher per capita household income…
The longer border restrictions remain in place… the more likely that localised labour shortages could translate into some wage pressures as the economy continues to strengthen.
Most notably, the left-leaning Ardern Labour Government of New Zealand this week vowed to end low-skilled, wage crushing migration via a “once-in-a generation” reset for New Zealand’s immigration system. It flagged a significantly smaller migration intake post-Covid that focuses on highly skilled, highly paid and productive migrants that fill genuine skills shortages. This means abolishing the current low-skilled system, which has allowed businesses “to rely on lower-skilled labour and suppress wages rather than investing capital in productivity-enhancing plant and machinery, or employing and upskilling New Zealanders into work”.
The Ardern Government is now providing a clear policy process, as well as a national interest and moral leadership path to lower immigration.
In short, the political, intellectual, economic and moral ballast is now in place for Australia to pivot away from the mass immigration model that failed the nation so badly in the last business cycle. Yet, remarkably, the Morrison Government wants to return to it without hesitation.
This is a gold-plated opportunity for Labor to win the next election in a landslide. All it needs to do is reset the permanent migration target to its historical average of between 80,000 and 100,000 a year with temporary and permanent skilled visas required to be paid above full-time ordinary earnings (currently $89,000).
Immigration reforms along these lines will resonate completely with community sentiment exhausted from years of crush-loading. The reforms would play well with working families by supporting local jobs and wages, not to mention limiting traffic. They will be received particularly well in Queensland, the power base of the federal Coalition, where Labor must make gains to win. Youth can be persuaded that they will benefit via less competition for jobs, higher wages and lower house prices. The green vote can be retained via the basic truth that lower population growth delivers better environmental outcomes across the board.
The only groups that it would offend are the business and property lobbies that favour the Coalition anyway and are generally viewed cynically by the public.
Does Labor want to govern or not?
- Does Labor want to govern or not? - May 19, 2021
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