Public service mega-migration spin is winning the war on voters


By Stephen Saunders

Worried about misinformation? Worry about federal departments and agencies hyping UN “net zero” emissions, while institutionalising mega migration. 

Nominally, the educated and moneyed cheer-squads for Big (now Huge) Australia are arm’s length from the federal government.

These include state premiers, industry/developers, unions/employers, universities/scientists, economists/planners, media and “think” tanks, migration lobbyists, organised religions.

The federal departments and agencies are equally crucial influencers. Topmost mandarins, commonly earning twice what ministers earn, push Huge Australia as bedrock.


If it ever existed, frank and fearless Australian Public Service (APS) withered at Old Parliament House. “Australian Government” Service is a more apt description.

Scott Morrison dissed his public service. Anthony Albanese dovetails with them.

Partisan departmental Secretaries, Kathryn Campbell AO and Michael Pezzullo AO, got purged eventually. Not before the latter had bedded down duplicitous Albanese’s all-time “student” visa and net-migration surges.


Treasury Portfolio hoodwinks voters – on climate versus population

Prime Minister’s Department (PM&C) advocates the unsound UN concept of net zero emissions. There’s zero chance with Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ population deluge.


Morrison’s Treasury Secretary suited Chalmers. The 2022-23 net migration target in the October 2022 Budget was 235,000.

This was the same as Jim’s Intergenerational Report target, which was the same as Josh Frydenberg’s intergenerational target.

After “revising” his 235,000 target to 300,000 and then to 400,000, Jim scored a final outcome closer to 500,000. This doubled Josh’s top scores, from before COVID of 260,000:


This historic immigration overshoot is a scandal of misinformation and maladministration. Yet, it doesn’t bother the cheer-squads.

Treasury pretends net migration’s not even a target. Just la-la “forecasts” generating la-la population “estimates”. Budget Speeches omit the Huge Australia plan. That’s squirrelled into Appendix A behind Budget Paper 3.

Which “explains” in circular terms why migration-depends-on-migration. No one’s supervising our turnstiles, right? It’s not relevant to voters, OK?


Jim took this Treasury mockery to the next level. He showboated on national ABC that migration isn’t “government policy…that the government determines”.

“Congestion busting” Morrison gifted Treasury a Centre for Population to “understand how population is changing” [my emphasis].

Jim embraced it.


The end-2022 Population Statement fibbed that 2022-23 migration would only “recover” to 235,000. Which the Population Director passed off, as normal or the “pre-pandemic” trend.

Huh? 235,000 tops the Big Australia average over 2007-2020. The post-1901 average for net migration is only 80,000:

Jim’s big picture Treasury falsification is “slower” population growth. “Only” reaching 40.5 million. When 26 million was already overstretching Australia’s carrying capacity.


Former Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe sometimes mentioned unmentionables. Massive migration drags on productivity, wages and housing.

Now Jim’s found an accommodating RBA chief. A central banker right into climate change.

In her maiden Governor’s speech, the rental crisis is no big deal. She lifted interest rates, awkwardly denying that runaway immigration fuels inflation.


Jim’s new Productivity Commission chief, once an “exceptional” APS mandarin, arrives from the Grattan “Institute”. It’s a corporate “think” tank gaslighting for mega migration.

Her Commission’s conundrum? Our “slowest” pace of productivity growth in 60 years.

That wouldn’t link to the population deluge, would it?

Capital shallowing

Source: Gerard Minack

Instead, woke Jim has tasked her with technology, climate change, care services, and population “ageing”.

Not even Treasury’s ABS is untouched. Their new population projections still miscast 175,000 as “lower” migration:


Though they also attach, “zero net” migration scenario. Hapless voters should be so lucky.

Home Affairs and other Departments – normalising mega migration


Pezzullo’s dream empire is the contradictory Home Affairs conglomerate.

Directorates like Border Force and Cyber Security patrol borders, keeping us “safe”.

Immigration directorate stands for open borders. Until COVID, they were nailing Treasury migration targets, tolerably OK.


Over 2022-23, they totally overshot. Over 2023-24, don’t trust Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil re Jim’s huge target of 315,000.

Conveniently, an ex-Treasury Secretary oversaw Clare’s Migration Review. Spinning Treasury narrative. We mandarins can’t “cap” or “manage” net migration. Only “permanent”.

Thus, Immigration consults and reports industriously on the “size and composition” of Permanent Migration.


But it barely mentions that most of the 195,000 (190,000 for 2023-24) permanent “outcomes” are already here on “temporary” visas. Total “outcomes” mostly reflect visa upgrades – via Minister Giles’ APS platoons.

Nor do “outcomes” much represent “skills” in demand. That’s always been overegged. Much of today’s net migration arrives on “student” visas.

Meanwhile, the Transport and Infrastructure Department develops a net zero “roadmap” for transport emissions. Agriculture has a “sectoral” net zero plan.


Piggy-in-the-middle is the Climate and Environment Department, DCCEEW. “CC” reports to Minister Bowen of the gimcrack Safeguard Mechanism and “43%” emissions reduction.

DSEWPAC prepared the 2011 Population Strategy for the Gillard Government. But Treasury/PM&C massaged it.

“There are natural limits to growth in Australia”, intoned then Population Minister Burke, “it will never be a free-for-all.” Hilarious.


Then, as now, Treasury’s is our real population-environment overlord.

While they’re propagandising guru Ross Garnaut’s “net zero” economy, the Environment Minister “protects” the environment under the EPBC Act.

Rarely does the Environment Department kibosh some mine or dam. Every five years comes their undertaker’s report – declining State of the Environment. It laments ever increasing population “pressures” on the driest continent:


But the Treasury pooh-poohs this inconvenient truth.

ABC and SBS – multiplying immigration spin

The Government-owned ABC occasionally quizzes ministers on migration. It occasionally consults low-migration advocates to “balance” ANU’s Liz Allen or other influencers.

The ABC might even yoke the rental crisis to migration pressures.


But scan their everyday hand-wringing coverage of the rental and housing crisis. It regularly masks its prime causes – unprecedented and undemocratic levels of immigration.

Yet, against annual population growth under 0.5% in the OECD bloc, Albanese’s immigration (over 1.5%) and population-growth deluges (topping 2%) unduly punish voters.

Meanwhile, the government-owned SBS lives and breathes multicultural migration. It’s even less likely to second-guess Treasury’s line.


Quietly, David Anderson was reappointed ABC chief. He and his SBS equivalent command audiences of many millions.

They are government networks massaging government spin. It might backfire if Australian oppositions weren’t so me too for mega migration.

Complaisant ANU and CSIRO – pushing “net zero”


ANU’s our one university that’s in effect federal, not state, or private.

That’s not saying its new Vice-Chancellor would tailor the message. It’s more a natural confluence of educated-elite preferences. For yonks, Albanese’s PM&C chief Glyn Davis headed the University of Melbourne.

ANU demographers, economists, and climate specialists wield national clout. They superficially explain away the unpopular population deluge, playing up UN “net zero”.


Similarly, CSIRO oversells net zero “industries”, while it contemplates fish populations, rather than human.

Public-service mega-migration spin – winning the war on voters

There it is – Albanese’s agency apparatus for mass-migration propaganda. Not a topic at the lofty “Institute” of Public Administration.


Instead, public-policy wonks complain. “Unaccountable” ministerial advisers are restricting the contest of policy ideas. Hullo? Ministerial mandarins do that.

Unsurprisingly, their “contest” prefers “climate” not population mitigation. Knowing, Albanese always anticipates, more migrants please.

His misnamed Misinformation Bill would be another win for Treasury population spin.


This Bill targets “misinformation” from outside government. Government and agency messages would be exempted. Purportedly, social media might block “disaster alerts”.

Here’s an unofficial disaster alert: Treasury’s immigration blitz is a war on beleaguered voters, a pasting for the economy and environment.

Yet, our Treasurer applauds himself. For two Budgets, Reserve Bank “overhaul”, tax tweaks, cost-of-living “relief”. We’re beneficiaries of his “change”.


In other pro-government coverage, Jim also shines. Never mind about: wealth thrashing labour, graphic setbacks in household incomes and real wages, energy bill shocks, record house prices, all-time rental crisis, and rising homelessness.

The Albanese government and agencies have propagandised – normalised – the Coalition’s triple-treat immigration levels. Then doubled down. Winning the war on voters.

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.