Weak Albanese dips baby toe in immigration debate

Anybody hoping that Labor leader Anthony Albanese would take a lower immigration platform to the upcoming federal election will be disappointed by his upcoming speech today to the National Press Club:

Anthony Albanese will launch a Bob Hawke-style jobs summit if he becomes prime minister…

[Albanese will] voice his concerns about the Intergenerational Report’s prediction that the ­temporary migration population will almost double over the next 40 years.

“Migration policy done right can lift wages and job opportunities and contribute to economic growth,” he will say. “But as ­Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe has pointed out, the reliance on temporary workers by business has ‘not made wages responsive to the economic conditions’.”

Mr Albanese will also use his speech to say he wants to “seize this once-in-a-century moment” and lead Australia through the post-Covid opportunities.

So basically, Albanese will feign concern at the projected rise in temporary migration, while endorsing the IGR’s projected increase in the annual permanent migrant intake to 190,000 plus 13,750 via the humanitarian intake.

By extension, Labor also endorses the IGR’s projected swelling of Australia’s population by 13.1 million people (+50%) over the next 40 years to 38.8 million, which would mean that Australia’s population would grow by the equivalent of adding another Sydney, Melbourne plus Brisbane to Australia’s current population.

Of course, what Labor should do (but won’t) is follow New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s vow to end low-skilled, wage crushing migration via a “once-in-a generation” reset for the immigration system.

The New Zealand Labour Party has vowed a significantly smaller immigration 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 has also tasked the New Zealand Productivity Commission (PC) with undertaking a system-wide review of the nation’s immigration program, with particular focus on the “impact of immigration on the labour market, housing and associated infrastructure, and the natural environment”.  The goal of the inquiry is to “enable New Zealand to strategically optimise its immigration settings” so that it maximises community wellbeing and living standards.

The Ardern Government has provided a clear policy process, as well as a national interest and moral leadership path to lower immigration.

This is, therefore, a unique opportunity for Albanese’s Labor to win the upcoming election in a landslide. All it needs to do is reset the permanent migration target (currently 160,000) to its historical average of between 80,000 and 100,000 a year and requiring both temporary and permanent work visas required to be paid above average full-time ordinary earnings (currently $92,000), with the only exception being the well regulated Pacific Islands Seasonal Work Program.

Immigration reforms along these lines would resonate strongly 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 a lower immigration platform would offend are the business and property lobbies that favour the Coalition anyway and are generally viewed cynically by the public.

Again we ask the question: do Albanese and Labor want to govern or not?

Unconventional Economist


  1. Fishing72MEMBER

    Albo hasn’t got time to govern. He already has a job as neoliberal chorus line for the LNP band. “Populate, Privatise and profiteer” is their hit single which has dominated the charts for the last couple of decades.

    • Display NameMEMBER

      mmm, Latham always shoots himself in the foot. He over reaches, doesn’t know when to stop. Breaking the arms of taxi drivers is just one example….

    • drsmithyMEMBER

      Well he’d certainly cleanse the Labor voting base of any fence-sitters who hadn’t already decamped to the Greens.

      But where would he attract new voters from to replace them and increase overall share ?

  2. Albanese DOES want to govern, just as soon as 17m ignorant voters accept the “educated” party line, that China is peace and love, and endless mass migration is the highway to full employment and low emissions. Go, you good thing.

  3. Charles MartinMEMBER

    Did the ALP buy the CCP a gift to celebrate their glorious 100 year history?

  4. Michael Simpson

    The Treasury assumes that the permanent non-humanitarian intake will increase from 160 000 to 190 000 (the level reached under Rudd-Gillard) from 1 July 2023 and the humanitarian intake will remain at 13 750, which gives an annual permanent intake of 203 750.

    The ALP policy platform commits to increasing the annual permanent humanitarian intake to 32 000. So assuming Labor keeps the non-humanitarian (skilled and family) intake at 190 000, the total intake under an Albanese government will be 222 000 (or 18 250 more than under the Coalition).

    The only thing the ALP seems to object to is the massive projected increase in the stock of temporary visa holders in Australia that the Intergenerational Report predicts – an annual increase of around 66 000 (excluding deaths) until 2061. The current stock is around 1.7 million (including New Zealand citizens on special category visas). However, that is only a forecast based on recent trends, and I’m not convinced that temporary visa holders will keep coming in the same numbers if they struggle to transition to a permanent visa.

  5. I have never seen so many people I know (people on PR) getting citizenship than I have at the moment, friends that have been on PR for years are now getting citizenship by the dozen. The government must be desperate to keep the numbers up.

    • oh they are desparate! This wonderful thing called mandatory quarantine is restricting NOM to sensible levels…. its fvking BEAUTIFUL! Thanks again COVID-19 for restoring some balance to Australia’s pathetic NOM ponzi scheme

    • And there we have it. Open the gates wider so that Dyllip, or people like Dyllip, can flood in. It’s not so much the lockdown that agitates Dyllip but the closed borders. You want to build a community of people just like you and you need numbers. “Crush loading? You know nothing! You should seen what it’s like where I came from”

      I’ll bet it’s not just that either. I’ll bet you have skin in the game Dyilip. What is it?

  6. Can anyone quote the 2021 CY to date NOM intake figure of non-Aus citizens who have arrived into Australia already? got many Aussie mates stuck overseas who cannot get home – if we are importing foreign human capital currently there ought to be pitch forks on the streets!

  7. Anecdotally I’ve spoken to a few people around and the market is tight for all the professions typically on the “skills shortage” at the moment (e.g. Software). Most of the people I would see in the know point the finger at COVID and the border controls for creating a boom time condition for workers that “they haven’t seen before”. Its allowing people who wouldn’t normally be given a chance a chance and is driving wage increases across the board.

    Sadly vaccines are the cure to workers rights and wage rises particularly in the IT, Accounting, and spaces where migrants typically flock to.