Yesterday, The AFR published the views of vested interests beating the drum for a quick return to mass immigration:
The Australian Financial Review revealed on Tuesday that NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet is being urged by his top bureaucrats to back a post-World War II-style immigration wave, making up for lost population growth via a doubling of the pre-pandemic net overseas migration rate over the next five years – the equivalent of 2 million new Australians…
Rob Scott, managing director of Wesfarmers, on Tuesday supported the need to get “immigration going again… All Australians benefit”…
Tarun Gupta, CEO of Managing Director and CEO, property group Stockland said: “Australia’s enduring success has been fostered by the significant contributions of many generations of migrants”…
Andrew McKellar, chief executive of Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry [said]… “Migration is one of the most effective mechanisms to deliver substantial economic benefit to all Australians, as well as improving the age profile of our workforce… Our recovery is not just contingent on restoring migration to these previous levels, but pushing for ambitious growth in skilled migration to realise Australia’s economic potential”…
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet doubled-down, declaring himself a ‘Big NSW’ man that will campaign Prime Minister Scott Morrison for a massive immigration increase:
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said as he declared himself staunchly in favour of a “big NSW”… Mr Perrottet said he would pursue the matter with Prime Minister Scott Morrison…
“We’re going to have a real discussion [about] catching up some of those numbers that we’ve lost during this pandemic,” Mr Perrottet said on Wednesday, echoing calls from business groups and aged care and hospital services providers who say they are desperate for staff.
“I’m someone who believes in a big NSW,” he said. “I think that provides greater opportunity and prosperity for people across the state. “It is something we will necessarily address working with the federal government.”
Whereas the businenomics shills at The AFR View love the idea of flooding Australia with warm migrant bodies:
The official advice to incoming NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet that Australia must double its pre-pandemic rate of immigration is just the kind of big policy idea that the country needs now.
In a representative democracy like Australia, our politician’s number one focus should be to represent their voting constituents, not the vested interests of business. If our politicians did so, they would categorically reject a return to pre-COVID mass immigration, which is opposed by the overwhelming majority of Australian voters.
The evidence for this claim is provided in a new survey from the The Australian Population Research Institute (TAPRI), which asked voters whether they want Australia to return to pre-COVID levels of 240,000 annual net overseas migration (NOM), or whether they would prefer lower levels.
Only 19% of respondents supported pre-COVID levels of immigration, with 70% wanting lower levels of immigration (of which 48% want significantly lower or zero immigration):
The overwhelming majority (61%) of Australians do not support importing labour to fill skills shortages and would prefer employers pay higher wages and train Australians:
The majority (58%) of Australians do not want international student numbers to return to their pre-COVID level:
The overwhelming majority (69%) of Australians do not believe that Australia needs more people:
Why? Because more people means declining liveability, a degraded environment and more expensive housing:
The TAPI report concludes with the following:
There is a massive disjunction between elites and non-elites in Australia on population issues.
Since Australia largely closed its borders to migrants in March 2020 business and employer interests as well as the media and most peak leaders in civil society have been putting the case for restoring Big Australia immigration levels.
There have been almost daily appeals from interests asserting that they cannot perform their role without an influx of migrants. The aged care industry wants more migrant carers, the tech industry more IT specialists, hospitals want more migrant nurses and doctors, universities want more overseas students, fruit and vegetable growers want an influx of Pacific Islanders and others to do the work that they say locals are not prepared to do.
Governments at the federal and state level have generally been supportive of these appeals. In extreme cases, as with Victoria, the Labor government (with support from the Liberal opposition) has based its business plan on providing debt-supported infrastructure (its ‘big build’). This is to cater for a population that it projects will grow by another one million by 2026 (two thirds due to net overseas migration).
These federal and state responses indicate that, if implemented, in the post-pandemic era, immigration levels will reach at least the annual net 240,000 achieved prior to 2020.
TAPRI’s 2021 survey of Australian voters’ attitudes to these issues indicates that on population issues elites are not connecting with voters or, if they are, that most voters disagree with the message.
In the case of immigration levels, TAPRI asked voters whether they supported a return to Big Australia migration levels (around 240,000). The survey explained in the preamble to the question that this number was the level prevailing prior to 2020 and that it was contributing some 64 per cent of Australia’s overall population growth at the time.
Only 19 per cent of respondents supported a return to this level. Most voters (Figure 1) wanted far less, including 28 per cent who favoured nil net migration.
In answer to the broader question about whether Australia needs more people, 69 per cent said that it did not. This level or higher has been recorded in previous surveys. However, in this case, the question was asked in a context where net immigration levels were negligible, and when advocates had been urgently pressing their case for a revival…
The majority of voters do not support the elite assumption that Australia should be wide open to the movement of people and goods and services. Instead, they favour a more independent and self-reliant Australia, which implies giving priority to developing Australian sources of skills and locally produced goods and services.
On employment policy we asked whether voters supported the elite view that employers should be able to import the skilled workers they need in order to boost economic growth or, alternatively, that we should respond to worker shortages by raising wages and increasing skills by training locals (Figure 2). Only 26 per cent of respondents supported the first option. 61 per cent supported the second option.
On recruiting more overseas students, we asked whether universities should be able to restore overseas student recruitment, or should recruitment stay low because universities had become too dependent on it, and that some have been neglecting local students (Figure 3). Just 33 per cent supported the first option, while 59 per cent supported the second option…
Voters have another potent reason to reject elite claims about the merits of high immigration. This is the quality-of-life consequences of having to accommodate high numbers of additional migrants, especially in Australia’s major urban centres. These concerns have been recorded repeatedly in previous surveys.
We asked the 69 per cent of respondents in the 2021 survey who did not think Australia needed more people about their views on these quality-of-life issues. Big majorities of this group of voters thought that there were major costs in congestion, housing prices, competition for hospital and school services and in stresses on the natural environment (Table 1).
Elites claim that the quality-of-life costs flowing from high migration can be mitigated, as by providing more higher density living opportunities and by the infrastructure ‘big builds’ being pursued in Melbourne and Sydney.
However, when asked about these strategies the weakest support of all was for high rise options. A much larger share of respondents thought lower immigration was a better option (Figure 11)…
One important piece of evidence is that opposition to Big Australia immigration levels is common across all birthplace groups, as the following table indicates. In none of the groups listed, including those born in Asia, does a majority support a return to the Big Australia level of 240,000 or more per year. The proportion of Australia-born voters supporting the various options is much the same as for the other birthplace groups. The one exception is the Asia-born, 30 per cent of whom support the 240,000 number. Nonetheless a majority of Asia-born voters support levels below this number.
As we have indicated, the magnitude of the gulf between the elites and non-elite voters on the question of immigration has had minimal political implications in the recent past. Coalition and Labor leaders have shared a bipartisan support for Big Australia immigration levels.
Sadly, in the unrepresentative democracy of Australia, our politicians and media bend the knee to vested interests in the property/business lobby rather than representing the wishes of the Australian people.
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