Labor’s migration changes a giant “nothing-burger”


This morning I was interviewed by Luke Grant on Radio 2GB’s Morning Show whereby I discussed the Albanese government’s migration reforms, which I labelled a “nothing-burger”:

Below are key extracts from the interview.

Edited Transcript:

My take is that it’s a nothing-burger. Basically, what they’ve [Labor] announced is a knee-jerk reaction to their poor polling.

Australians are pretty unhappy about this mass immigration. We’ve had record numbers, we’ve obviously got a rental crisis, all that sort of thing.


And what Albo basically come out and said is: look we’re going to reduce it to a “sustainable level”. But they’re not. Basically, they’ve still left the permanent migrant intake at a record high 210,000 if you include the humanitarian intake. They’ve also left the temporary Visa system uncapped and demand-driven.

Effectively, all they’re doing is they said they’re going to slightly tighten student visas to stop them from going into low-quality courses and crackdown on dodgy colleges.

But their own forecast say we’re going to have 375,000 net overseas migrants this financial year, which is 50,000 more than they said in the May federal budget. Then it’s going to go to 250,000 the following year, which is basically the May federal budget forecast.


So, it seems that “sustainable immigration”, which is what Albo said over the weekend, means a level of 250,000-plus, which is way above what we had pre-pandemic, or what the 2001 Intergenerational Report said, which was only 90,000 net overseas migration a year.

It still means we’re going to careen over 40 million people in just 40 years, and it’s going to mean mass population growth…

Population change

Last week’s national accounts said that the population grew by about 640,000 year-on-year and that’s against a net increase in dwellings of about 164,000.

Change in dwelling stock

So, the imbalance is getting worse and worse. And it’s going to keep getting worse because we’ve obviously got builders falling over left and right, we’ve got high inflation, high interest rates, high building costs, and a lack of skilled labor.


So it just means we keep adding to the problem…

Overall demand in the economy keeps growing because we’ve got this record population growth while individual households are cutting back.

Unfortunately, we can’t cut back fast enough to cover the increase in the number of households, and we’ve seen that in the rental market with rental rental rates obviously going through the roof.

Rent inflation

Rents are actually one of the biggest drivers of inflation, so that’s just one area. But basically, the RBA said they’ve got too much demand in the economy. Yet, the federal government keeps adding to demand through a population increase of about 640,000.

So, that’s adding to demand and obviously adding to inflation.

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.