The return of John Howard’s immigration ‘bait and switch’


Former Prime Minister John Howard played a ‘bait-and-switch’ on the Australian people, scapegoating and slamming the door shut on the comparatively small number of refugees arriving by boat while throwing open the door to economic migrants arriving by air.

The end consequence was a large increase in Australia’s net migration intake, which skyrocketed beginning in the mid-2000s and drove population growth to around twice long-run norms.

During Howard’s first three years in office, Australia’s annual net overseas migration (NOM) averaged 86,000 persons per year. In his last three years in office, NOM averaged 188,000 individuals each year and has been turbo-charged ever since.

NOM projection

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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.