UN climate policy has hijacked Australian population policy


By Stephen Saunders

Captivated by the UN climate emergency, our smug ruling classes happily endorse Albanese’s regressive population-housing emergency.

At some titanic level of immigration, I used to imagine that movers and shakers might begin to have second thoughts on Big Australia. Anthony Albanese’s “Huge Australia” proves me dead wrong.

In 2020-21 under COVID, Australia had negative 85,000 net migration. It was the lowest figure for a century. By 2021-22, the Morrison Government had already flipped that by a quarter-million, to plus 171,000.

We won’t be reopening the floodgates on migration, Morrison blustered. As he reopened the floodgates on migration.

Albanese has taken the numbers (and lies) to a new level. Net migration for the year to March 2023 was 454,000.

Net overseas migration

Just to recap, 454,000 pulverises the extreme Kevin Rudd record of 316,000. It’s twice the average of the Big Australia years 2007-2020. It’s nearly six times the long-term average of about 80,000. It’s eight or nine times our 20th century average.

The resultant 2.2% population growth is third-world regression, not first-world reform. Most wealthy nations practise low or negative population growth.


Albanese, Treasurer Chalmers, other senior Ministers, all sing from the same cheat sheet. It’s “not a target”, they’re just “catching up” for COVID, with “lower” numbers than Morrison, leading to “smaller” population growth.

Most media have xeroxed these fables, for broad circulation. More inclined to scrutinise are News.Com (yep, evil Murdoch) and Daily Mail (yep, from UK).

The ABC and Guardian are tenacious mass-migration mavens. Rubbing it in, with hypocritical handwringing stories of the homeless.


Costello Nine media has appeared to wobble. Recently, they rated “immigration a mixed blessing as housing shortfall looms” with the 454,000 “about to trigger a toxic debate”.

Does this mean Baby Bonus Costello might heed angry voter comments in his own newspapers?

No, he’ll still spin think-tank guff, that tighter graduate visas might “reduce population pressures”. He’ll keep insinuating the best Treasury/Guardian fib of all. That 235,000 (not 80,000) is the normal or long-term migration average.


To seriously question mega migration would add a “toxic combination” that’s “ugly and divorced” from reality. Meaning – you’re a racist. Don’t you even want rising house prices forever?

But wait, hasn’t the rental distress triggered a political backlash? Nope.

Rental growth

Instead, Labor and Greens diss the homeless, via an ineffectual Housing Australia Future Fund. Greens spokes-youth Max Chandler-Mather wins plaudits for his fake “affordability” concerns.

All the while a Greens-Labor dominated Senate Committee tables a lame Rental Crisis report. Staying on message, it only targets supply-side “solutions”. Because it might be racist to unpack the demand side.

Quotes the report, mega migration hasn’t caused the rental crisis becasue it is “well below the 2009-2019 trend”. The government fib is returned-to-sender via a “progressive” think-tank.


The Coalition has pushed back. At Budget in Reply, Peter Dutton linked the rental crisis to mass migration. Immigration shadow Dan Tehan is keeping up the pressure.

Yet they’re light years from any voter-friendly net-migration commitment – like 80,000 and less.

What about all the other “stakeholders” who influence (or buy) government? Our central agencies, state premiers, developers and industry, unions and employers, universities and scientists, “think” tanks and migration “agents”, economists, urban planners or demographers, and organised religion.


As one beehive, key stakeholders buzz for the UN climate emergency and its implausible net zero.

A net-zero crystallised remarkably recently, apparently via “green” activists rather than the endless-growth corporates. But it is small comfort for our failing environment. Small comfort for ordinary Australians whacked by Albanese’s unnecessary immigration/housing emergency.

With Steven Kennedy at Treasury, a pro-migration think-tank guru to head the Productivity Commission, and a Reserve Bank lifer to run the RBA, Treasurer Chalmers now has his economic A-team.


For the duration, these lavishly remunerated influencers will proffer the upside-down “advice” he’d want to hear. Like, population growth is a natural for jobs growth and economic growth, boosting productivity and real wages, also miraculously enabling a “net zero”.

Even before taking office, RBA Michele Bullock was proselytising at ANU. Not about wages and unemployment, but “climate change and central banks”. By golly, she’d scrub her bank’s “scope 1 and scope 2” emissions back to “net zero” by 2030. The students rioted.

State premiers in the key migration states of NSW and Victoria are no better.


They too offer glitzy net zero plans alongside risible plans for housing “affordability”. Again, their “reform” pathway is – you guessed – endless population growth.

Sydney supposedly needs more migrants to build more homes for more migrants. Good plan if you’ve already lost your mind. Proclaims cockeyed Guardian, “Dan Andrews was a visionary leader on climate change but neglected Victoria’s natural environment.” You can’t make this stuff up.

All the while our unions and universities welcomed Albanese’s open-ended qualifications and migration pacts with Indian (Bharat) ultra-nationalist Narendra Modi.


Unions dared not oppose this historic dilution of Australian skills and wages. That might be racist. Universities just saw bigger rivers of cash from unregulated rivers of overseas “student” arrivals.

Universities and scientists ought to be parading common-sense evidence – massive population growth works against environment and equality. Globally and here, such growth is the key driver of increased emissions – hardly rocket science.

Instead, our public intellectuals are the epicentre of ideological and unrealistic UN net-zero exhortations.


It’s not enough for them to indulge Albanese’s fanciful 43% “emissions reduction” and “net zero” by 2050. The Climate Council, also the true believers at ANU and the Academy of Technological Sciences, are already spruiking a “net zero” 2035.

Carbon offsets are a costly fraud, direct carbon removal is largely a pipe dream. But the virtuous classes can still imagine bending our “net” emissions like Beckham.

“Left” think-tank the Australia Institute (TAI) has taken this thinking to its logical conclusion. Jetting to the US to plug their big New York Times ad, lecturing Albanese about coalmines and “climate action”. Signed by 220 world and Australian experts.


Sure, let’s do renewables, dial back coalmines. Not omitting that pesky but pivotal Indian-owned Griffin mine in resource-rich WA.

But why would Albanese hurry? When Canada swoons over his “ambitious” climate action and Germany ushers him into their international Climate Club.

Pity TAI and experts didn’t storm Fifth Avenue to expose his hypocrisy. To reduce the carbon footprint and expand the welfare footprint, he could easily halt his highly unpopular population overload.


Our hairy-nosed wombats offer this thought experiment: Assume net zero’s a robust concept. Assume we could even get there. Would that “save” Australia’s environment?

Nope, not under conditions of rapid population growth, native forest logging, laissez-faire land clearing, wanton species-crashes, poorly regulated rural irrigation, and urban-water profligacy.

And yet, inside the beehive, this unthinking and uncritically adopted net-zero is suddenly the new black. The environmental no-brainer for the arid continent of climatic extremes and fragile soils – low population growth – is now dismissed as uncool and racist. 


Deferring to UN climate and population propaganda, our “stakeholders” license Albanese’s punitive population drive for years to come. Having piled on a crazy seven-million extra just since 2000, they’ll chance Treasury’s 14 million on top.

They don’t care that their environment-eating Huge Australia inevitably widens inequality. Not while Treasury/ABS rates the “average Australian” as worth AUD$567, 632, mostly tied up in housing.

Not while they can accrue virtue, via the multicultural family on the cover of the inequality report.

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.