Immigration reboot under threat from new COVID variant

Last week, the Morrison Government announced that Australia will re-open its international border to overseas students, skilled visa holders and working holiday makers, with Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews expecting that at least 200,000 migrant workers will arrive in Australia by July 2022:

“We are working on a figure of 200,000, it may well be more than that but we will be actively looking to bring as many people into Australia as soon as we possibly can – Karen Andrews, 22 November 2021.

This decision effectively brought forward the Intergenerational Report’s (IGR) projection of 235,000 annual net overseas migrants from 2025-26 onwards:

The various business lobbies and universities hailed the decision, with Restaurant & Catering CEO Wes Lambert stating “this is the biggest early Christmas present the hospitality industry has ever received”.

However, the emergence of the new “Omicron” COVID strain in Africa, which has already spread across the globe, has thrown a spanner into the gears of the Morrison Government’s ‘Big Australia’ immigration reboot.

This new strain is believed to contain more than 30 mutations, making it more infectious and potentially more deadly than the Delta Strain. There are also concerns that vaccinations could be far less effective.

Already, the Omicron strain has spread across the globe and there are fears that it may even have already landed in Sydney:

Urgent genomic testing is underway in NSW after passengers who arrived in Sydney from southern Africa overnight tested positive for Covid.

Authorities are scurrying to determine if two positive cases have been infected with the Omicron variant…

Multiple countries including Australia banned arrivals from African nations. Australia has also imposed a 72 hour quarantine requirement on all international arrivals, with more restrictions flagged:

New South Wales and Victoria both moved on Saturday night to introduce 72-hour isolation requirements for all vaccinated international arrivals…

The federal government had earlier warned it was prepared to slap further travel bans on arrivals from overseas.

The Sunday Age and The Sun-Herald can reveal that several state and territory chief health officers pushed for a temporary pause on all overseas arrivals during a meeting of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committees on Saturday.

Two sources familiar with details of the AHPPC discussions said several state and territory health officers expressed “significant concerns” about the fact that Australia’s recently reopened borders left the country exposed to the Omicron variant…

Asked if the federal government could go further than the temporary suspension of flights from affected countries, Mr Hunt said: “If the medical evidence shows that further actions are required, we will not hesitate to take them. And that may involve strengthening or expanding the restrictions.”

Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese urged the Morrison government to go further and reintroduce a period of quarantine as soon as possible for “all relevant international visitors whilst an assessment of what the potential health impact of this variant will be”.

Thus, the federal government’s mass immigration reboot could be in trouble before it has even begun. The whole policy hinged on quarantine-free access, which now looks sketchy. Should the Omicron virus spread as feared, the federal government could be forced to either close the international border and/or reintroduce 14 days mandatory quarantine in dedicated facilities and hotels.

Just when the edu-migration, business and property lobbies thought they had won in rebooting ‘Big Australia’ immigration, Omicron may slam the door shut at the eleventh hour.

Australians, who are overwhelmingly against pre-COVID levels of immigration, may yet breathe a sigh of relief; even if the means of arriving at this point are depressing and not what we wanted to hear.

Unconventional Economist
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  1. LibLab pushed the irrational “Big Australia” program through six prime ministers over 15 years. Turns out, you needed a global virus, to overrule them. Only mutations of that virus, or similar-force health calamities, will stop them from resuming. Their Treasury GDP targets are implacable, at all times reducing the environment and electors to expendable externalities.

    • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

      Even election loss wasn’t going to stop them driving forward with mass immigration.

      The drive is now even more powerful than staying in government.

      Imagine the amount of money and corruption into LNP and Labor, behind the scenes to achieve this?

  2. ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

    Hopefully we don’t go into lockdown until after the Boxing Day sales.
    Fingers crossed

  3. ”Just when the edu-migration, business and property lobbies thought they had won in rebooting ‘Big Australia’ immigration, Omicron may slam the door shut at the eleventh hour.”
    Sadly we have not had the political leadership needed to see opportunity in adversity for some time. Little vision beyond a term in office and their immediate self-interest.

  4. The Traveling Wilbur 🙉🙈🙊

    Papercut. Just a bunch of double-jabbed schickenhits running for the safety of some badly set stop losses in case they’re made to monitor trades from the office and catch something that’ll give them a runny-nose off the in-house Batista.

  5. Camden HavenMEMBER

    Talking to a business Visa holder yesterday. Planning on returning to Jordan with family one way ticket

  6. Camden HavenMEMBER

    When Rebecca and I were selling all of our stuff on Gumtree and Facebook, we told of our plans for leaving Oz. Most had plans of their own to leave or knew someone who had plans to leave. Significant number

  7. Totes BeWokeMEMBER

    Australia needs a vaccine against mass immigration, LNP and labor.

    We’ve already got some. SA and nationalist Independents.

    TAKE THE FKING VACCINE. How hard does this need to be?

    • The Traveling Wilbur 🙉🙈🙊

      To be fair, Scomocchio did make that very difficult for resident Australians for many many months.

      • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

        It was for the greater good. Something those idiots in the Labor party should try and learn/understand.

        Australians were given plenty of time and opportunity to get home. I personally know people that did, despite the media hype at the time. Our society is too soft, too dumb to survive globalisation and competition from overseas.

        We deserve to, and will, eventually lose everything we’ve got thanks to the Laborvirus mindset.

        • The Traveling Wilbur 🙉🙈🙊

          Thank you, very much. Please use it at every available opportunity. #Scomocchio

  8. Totes BeWokeMEMBER

    This is a disaster.

    The electorate seemed ready to punish LNP and labor.

    If we shut down, the election will roll around before the restart of mass immigration. LNP will win, meaning we are a number of election cycles before anything is done about insane rates of immigration.

    • Punish them both. Vote independent all the way.
      P. S. Has anyone seen that guy, I think his name was Albo, not sure what he stands for. Don’t thinks he’s had much to say about anything. Pretty forgettable type with a speech defect that sounds like he’s got chewy in his mouth.

        • Speaking of which there was YET ANOTHER puff piece article about Plibbers on the weekend

          How many of these articles are already out there? what is the purpose of these and what are they trying to groom us for exactly? I read it but I don’t get what they’re driving at?

          All I take away from it is a Women’s Weekly vibe that love overcomes addiction or some such bs.

          Saying she’s qualified to be PM doesn’t make it so. She’s as bad or worse than the rest of the woke, lost and incapable traitors.

        • That’s interesting. If I read this right, this is something he did whilst young and did his time.

          Your comment implies there is no space for someone who has been rehabilitated? Or is it just not as the spouse of a PM.

          My read on the piece was to defuse any Liberal gutter pieces by getting in first, just in case Labor lose and she makes a move. Or in case they win and she’s deputy PM.

          • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

            People (normal people outside the ranks of the elite) cannot get employment in the PS with petty criminal convictions.

            Let alone major crime.

            It is corruption as bad as we’ve seen.

        • Ah, you’re talking about his position in the PS. I inferred your comment to relate to his potential position as Mr PM.

          On your first line, are you sure that’s true?

          For example, in justice an adverse criminal history does not preclude employment:

          And from the PSC

          • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

            PS conduct a criminal check. If you’re not married to a core MP (or other elite) you WILL NOT be employed.

          • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

            …”In April 2007, Coutts-Trotter was appointed Director-General of the NSW Department of Education. This appointment was criticised by opposition members of parliament, the NSW Teachers Federation and the Public Principals Forum for his lack of experience in teaching and education and his criminal conviction as a heroin trafficker”….The Teachers Federation also questioned his criminal past and time spent in prison for heroin dealing; with the Federation’s president, Maree O’Halloran, saying that a teacher with his criminal conviction for a serious drug offence would be unable to continue teaching and working with children.[4]…..Appointing him as Director-General of the Department of Finance and Services in April 2011, Premier Barry O’Farrell said that Coutts-Trotter’s skills would allow this new department to deliver on its results.[6] It was reported in July 2013, upon his appointment to lead the Department of Family and Community Services, that Coutts-Trotter’s new role was a demotion.[7] Following the report O’Farrell held a media conference to reject the suggestion”……

            Working for the NSW Department of Education requires a criminal check. As society would expect. Unless you’re an elite of course. It shouldn’t apply to them.

            Fatty O’barrel employed him, and now so has Perrottet. When it comes to elites, there is no political barrier.

            LNP and Labor are the same thing, state and federal.

      • Goldstandard1MEMBER

        I think that might be the Lib media filter more than him not having anything to say. I’ve seen him give some good speeches on reddit

      • “Punish them both. Vote independent all the way.”
        Given the Libs seem to have no shortage of stooges that pretend to be independent (calling PH), it would be a mistake to think voting that way would automatically punish them both.

  9. Looks like the Cwth policy of ignoring its quarantine responsibilities has delivered another gift. If O is more infectious, i guess we may have a max of month or so until we have a case jumping into the community. Wonder if a Xmas or jan lockdown is possible or if this will be viewed similar to delta and politicians and happy to keep the live-with-it settings.

    • It’s still too early to tell, but I’m personally worried that Omicron may be an airborne version of HIV.

      • They all are to a degree, however yes if omicron can infect a lot of people on a plane who gave a negative test before boarding it must be a lot more effective at transmitting by air or cause a lot more virus to be shed & infect others.

        • Arthur Schopenhauer

          I read 7 times more infectious than Delta, but yet to find an authoritative source to confirm it.

      • Wonder if it sufficiently different to Delta such that Omicron infections and Delta infections can co-exist at the same time in a single human body ?

  10. Looks like the Wellcamp quarantine facility will just be in time for this. The easing of quarantine restrictions was the worst part of our re-opening. Look at the amount of Covid on these flights from SA to Netherlands ( one in ten ) and realise that all 600 had paperwork saying that they had a negative PCR test or vaccination. Mostly lies which is why quarantine is essential and China is right with 21 days.

    Those SA Rugby Union tests lately in London and Scotland with supporters will soon show up in the disease figures in the UK.

    • It was always a lie, but a convenient one. Some of the reasons could be:

      – Property, universities, big business paying more wages: All have an interest in going back to the old normal. The cost to them of saving people’s lives w.r.t wages and profits isn’t acceptable.

      – Quarantine facilities change the economic paradigm if a permanent arrangement. Some industries will no longer make sense at their current scale (e.g. aviation), and local industries/small business should quarantine work will flourish comparatively. Businesses with a local presense will benefit should dedicated quarantine be successful. That’s not currently where the money and power is though.

      – Current government planning and opportunities to “get stuff done” and funnel money to their connected mates won’t make sense should immigration be unviable. For example Badgerys Airport and surrounding development is banking on both growth in population and aviation. Despite it originally deemed to not be economic (fudged later) even with those assumptions suddenly looks like a total white elephant without those factors. Neither does the environmental destruction of many infrastructure developments planned. So many of their developments, zoning practices, and opportunities to funnel money to their mates suddenly don’t make sense.

  11. I’ve always said on this site and elsewhere. Dedicated quarantine facilities with appropriate staff arrangements are the cheapest, low tech, most effective long term control of COVID there is. Unlike vaccines which by their very nature are “laggy” (i.e. it takes time from variant discovery to making vaccine to getting it approved and jabbed into everyone’s arms) quarantine works every time on all variants with no risk of any medical side effects.

    Done properly it can eliminate and let people live a relatively normal life. If I want an overseas holiday I can work remotely in the quarantine centre when I get back or just budget time accordingly and take more leave in bulk so I can stay in the facility on the way back. Compared to the cost and uncertainty we have and are now experiencing I don’t think its a big price to pay. If it allows free domestic travel and less division between the states (all COVID free) even better for us and our economies.

    My guess which isn’t that educated is that it has been resisted despite being the obvious answer because it is anti-globalist. Therefore it will be resisted at all costs by the people in charge – despite globalisation on the whole being a negative for the western lower and middle classes in general (lower wages, crush loaded infrastructure, global competition for houses, elastic labor supply curves, more development due to migration, etc).

    • Always like your posts, AK. I just despair of the stupid people who keep voting for the major parties that are ruining their and (especially) their children’s lives. Even if there were no Covid, what is going on is unsustainable and already doing harm. Australia’s Genuine Progress Indicator rating peaked in the 1970s.

      • Its more my opinion this comment but somewhat educated by what I know. I’m too young to remember the 70’s but most per capita measurements that matter seem to agree with you. My view is that the peak was probably the 80’s. Technology was still employed for the average man, the future on current trajectory still looked bright (you can see it in the movies and art of the time), music was still OK, industries were still relatively local which meant strong local communities, etc.

        These days technological advancements are either to solve problems caused by the time that wouldn’t of been problems back then anyway (e.g. COVID), or to further people rich with capital (e.g. Cloud, ML, etc). The advancements that most people have usually have their own set of costs and don’t really assist people all that much compared to the inventions of old (e.g. smartphones, social media). Real wages are down, housing affordability is worse, there’s less environment to enjoy than previous eras, mental illness and isolation is higher since communities have become more global, etc. But that’s just my opinion.

        On the major parties what choice do we have? Most people are fed misinformation daily about most topics. Most people want to live, not research and learn about the world; and tbh I don’t blame them. We have a very compliant society in Australia which means things have to get really bad for any change to be had. By then its usually too late and the damage is done.

    • “If I want an overseas holiday I can work remotely in the quarantine centre when I get back or just budget time accordingly and take more leave in bulk so I can stay in the facility on the way back.”

      Works for some of us but not everyone has an office job where this is possible.

      • We all get 4 weeks annual leave (most employees). On a personal note going on a 6 week holiday every 2 years and using two of those weeks to quarantine vs a holiday every year doesn’t seem like the biggest sacrifice if it means a pre-COVID life with no every day worries to whole communities (e.g. poorer workers, aboriginal communities, etc). I’m sure people will adjust their discretionary holiday plans accordingly. Especially if it means the people flying don’t disrupt and put at risk the usually essential workers and local communities. Many who could never afford the “overseas holiday” in the first place; many of them are the first to be shafted when COVID disrupts their industries.

        e.g essential workers, warehouse workers, etc – the people who do stuff, typically in the west of cities, and demographically rarely get on a plane are the ones feeling the pain of open border “let it rip” COVID policies. Remember reading the 2012 study on who flies regularly in Sydney many years ago – the amount of people originating flights west of Parramatta is 10-20% of the volume east of Parramatta. It was mainly attributed to lower income demographics.

        Its ironic – the people who suffer the most from COVID waves and open borders are the ones who travel the least.

        I’m not saying this for the office workers. In fact it is the opposite – the office workers can make a small sacrifice for the good of the whole community. In the last COVID wave it was the people who couldn’t WFH that suffered the most because of these people wanting to travel – such entitlement from the travelling types.

        This entitlement to cheap and easy overseas regular travel is a very high end first world problem – maybe post COVID it is the ultimate selfish act that puts at risk other people’s livelihoods and every day freedoms?

  12. Number of things concern me about Omicron. Individually they can be dismissed. But collectively they raise concern.
    1. Widespread vaccine mandates, booster mandates, and impositions on the unvaccinated that are not supported by what is in the public domain.
    2. Sweden last week appeared to change tack and is planning to introduce a vaccine pass.
    3. The initial acceleration of omicron. Absolute numbers are still tiny. But the initial inflection for omicron is far sharper for omicron than delta, which itself was sharper than earlier strains.
    4. The very short interval between discovery and designation as a VOC. This took months for delta. Days for omicron.
    5. Timing. Heading into northern winter. Angry divided populations.
    6. The genomic structure. It is linked back to April 2020. That’s a very long branch. There are 3 plausible explanations for this
    a) it has been quietly circulating in a relatively isolated group of people and has evaded detection
    b) it has been hiding all this time in an individual who was unable to clear the infection (eg an immunosuppressed person with HIV), and then that person suddenly spread it
    c) non-natural
    7. The unprecedented number of base substitutions present in omicron. Far more than in earlier variants. People looking at the 3D structure of the spike are predicting a degree of immune evasion as well as transmission advantage. Our immune system operates like a lock and a key. The pathogen is the lock. The key is your immune system. If you have a key that fits the lock, you have immunity. If the lock changes shape sufficiently, your key no longer works.
    8. History. All previous variants that reached VOC status turned out to be more troublesome than their predecessors. Maybe omicron will break this pattern.

    Yes S Africa officials say the disease looks mild. BUT
    1. This has only just been discovered. It will take several weeks for pathogenicity to become clear.
    2. S Africa has a very young population with median age 27. Botswana even younger at 24. Let’s see what happens in European cities.

  13. Now that all the great work of the past 5 months is coming under threat from the xenophobes, protectionists and isolationists alike,
    it is time to reinstate the Gold Standard™ Let it Rip® Dude Who Saved Australia©.
    We must remain open for business.