For months the electorate has known that the only plan the government has for bringing life back to the Australian economy was to open the population Ponzi floodgates afresh. That expectation has been surely based.
Australia has about the word’s most expensive people, the world’s most expensive land and housing costs, the world’s most expensive energy and world’s most expensive internet. Because of the above no company or private investor in their right mind would want to look at Australia as a location from which to do something competitive with the rest of the world. Because of the above the only meaningful export or import facing activity Australia undertakes is mining or resources. Beyond this, with the exception of some software development, medical research, and some alternative energy trials, the economy is an inward facing bubble.
Within that bubble the only way to achieve ‘growth’ is to increase the numbers of people in the bubble. Australia has ramped up the numbers of people coming into that bubble from outside for a generation, since the NOM jumped from an average of about 75 thousand per annum which it averaged between 1980 and 2005, to the more than 200 thousand per annum it has averaged since 2005.
Australian society has experienced this crowded bubble as an increased ‘skills’ migration when the data has long suggested that the vast bulk of the ‘skilled’ migrants coming to Australia are skilled in things it would take little to train Australians to do. Where genuinely skilled and well educated migrants come to Australia, they far too often find themselves working in fields far removed from the exercise of their skill.
The net effect for mainstream Australia has been three fold.
The first and most obvious has been to suppress incomes. For a generation those employees inclined to push for higher remuneration or better workplace outcomes have run the risk of being ushered outside and replaced with someone more desperate to do the work. Everyone from the RBA down has acknowledged this effect. Virtually the only organisations and people denying it are those with a vested interest.
The second effect has been higher unemployment for younger Australians. The trolley pushing, labouring, basic administrative and customer facing people roles which once provided a useful path into the world of employment have been dominated by large numbers of migrants or student visa recipients. They are generally more desperate to work, far less likely to raise concerns of any sort (let alone ask for a pay increase or raise a safety concern). Coupled with an increasingly casualised and temporary employment environment heavy immigration has had a telling effect.
The third has been the increasing experience of outrageous exploitation of migrants occuring within the economy. From employees of abattoirs bullied and exploited through their families in another country (where the main economic activity of the labour provider is auctioning off the visas in China). To the large numbers of Indian students who find themselves being taken to the cleaners when the visa organiser takes a kickback from a dodgy employer. From the Pizza drivers and shops assistants who are paid a nominal rate of income with the rest shaved by their visa sponsor. To the large numbers of agricultural labourers who experience third world living conditions crammed into employer-accommodation, with the risk of harassment from labour organisers or farmers never far away.
As Leith and David have pointed out time and again in an epic lone stand on these issues, the electorate has become increasingly fed up with it. Leith’s post a few weeks ago Voters Reject Big Australia Flood aws the latest in a decade’s worth of output nailing just how vast the chasm between the electorate and the polity has become on the subject.
Last month, the The Australian Population Research Institute (TAPRI) released detailed polling showing that 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 (69%) of Australians also do not believe that Australia needs more people:
A new survey published by Fairfax also shows that 58% of voters support lower levels of immigration than existed pre-pandemic, with only 7% wanting higher immigration:
The Resolve Political Monitor asked 1606 eligible voters their views on migration and other issues over six days to November 21. The results have a margin of error of 2.5 per cent.
The survey on migration said: “Permanent migration into Australia sat at around 160,000 people a year before COVID but fell to negligible levels in the last two years. There has been some debate about whether this is a good or bad thing as it can have consequences for the economy, families, skills, diversity and infrastructure.”
It then asked respondents if they wanted the migration intake to go back to the same level, restart at a lower level, restart at a higher level or whether they were unsure. It found 15 per cent were undecided…
“When people voice concerns about immigration we find it’s not generally about xenophobia or loss of identity. It’s more about the scale of immigration, and whether the economy, services and infrastructure are able to keep pace,” Resolve director Jim Reed said.
For most of the generation since 2005 it has appeared as though the Liberal-National Coalition, which has been in power for most of the period, and the Australian Labor Party, in opposition for most of the period, have been joined at the hip, heart, mouth and mind on the subject of immigration volumes. That meant the population Ponzi was largely unquestioned in the mainstream media until recently as eminent persons from Cameron Murray, Crispin Hull, Alan Kohler, Christopher Joye, Gerard Minnack, and even media organisations such as the Guardian have entered the fray to overtly note some serious downsides to running immigration the way our current government has done.
That unanimity has ended this weekend (it seems)
The Liberal-National Coalition
On Friday Josh Frydenberg flagged an intention to increase the permanent migration intake to 160 thousand per annum. Only days after the Department of Home Affairs had closed its submission window for discussion of the 2022-2023 Migration Program. The net effect of the Frydenburg announcement is to double Australian skilled migration which resume the old growth model and negative affects. Josh of course has regularly flagged that this was precisely his intention, egged on by Prime Minister Morrison, and your ABC,
Under Anthony Albanese in recent months the ALP has been wriggling on immigration. After Kristina Keneally got a public singeing for suggesting Australia’s immigration program be overhauled back in 2020, and intermittent calls for the same, it has dipped its toe in the waters of asking why immigration needs to be so strong. Even the woke ACTU – ostensibly about helping workers organise to get better conditions and protections – has managed to bring itself to ask if Immigration is all good for its members.
Cometh the Hour, cometh the Albo?
The Labor leader has argued that while migration is important, the government should instead focus on training Australians who are unemployed or underemployed.
Mr Albanese told News Corp “migration has always played an important role in the economy and will continue in the recovery, but it’s important we take this opportunity to get the mix right”.
“After eight years of attacks on training, the Liberals and Nationals are silent on why we’ve got skill shortages at the same time as 2 million Australians who are unemployed or underemployed.
“I also know it shouldn’t be a substitute for training Australian workers for Australian jobs”, he said, adding “we should not be a country where Australian workers are cut off from job opportunities”.
It could be a line, it could be a target, it could be a link to exactly how flooding the country with fresh immigrants in large volumes is in the interests of people already here, the immigrants themselves, Australia’s carbon reduction hopes, or Australian infrastructure usage. Those words seem to be flavoured with words supporting employment aspirations and training needs of Australians. His recent Private Member’s Bill seeking to curtail the massive exploitation of Labour Hire across the economy bodes well too. These are inherently destabilising for all employees, and are major users of migrant labour – for everything from agriculture and retail to administrative functions in the public service.
As Leith has been pointing out for years if the ALP can bring itself to overtly declare a position on immigration and overtly declare what it sees as the limits of the Population Ponzi then it’s polling will rise.
Come on Albo, you will need to go a touch further, because some of those who might vote for you don’t quite believe you.