Australian immigration

Opponents to Abbott’s Migration Plan Desperately Blowing Smoke

‘Ministers line up to slam Abbott’s immigration call’, read the headline in Friday’s The Age.

From all the teeth gnashing, you might think former Prime Minister Tony Abbott had suggested ending all immigration to Australia.

Abbott instead proposes reducing the migration intake from 180,000 per year to 110,000. A 39% reduction.

Reducing the migrant intake would slow Australia’s rapid population growth, currently at 1.4%. That’s faster than Canada’s 1.2%. And it’s double the US growth rate of 0.7%, according to data from the World Bank.

Since 1990, Australia’s population has already increased by 40%.

If Australia continues on its current path, the population is expected to grow by 11.8 million people by 2046. That would bring the population to 36.7 million people — up from the current 24.9 million.

Migration rate putting a strain on infrastructure in Australia

According to Infrastructure Australia, three-quarters of this growth is expected to occur in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

That would see 2.6 million more people crowding into Sydney alone. It would also mean 2.5 million more daily journeys on Sydney’s major roads, doubling the average time spent on the road during morning peak time.

And don’t think you can just hop on the train to escape the crowds. 950,000 more journeys are expected on Sydney’s public transport each day by 2046.

This kind of mammoth growth will also see a 70% increase in the demand for local schools. The demand for hospitals, police, and other taxpayer funded services will also ramp up.

At some point Australian pollies need to decide when enough is enough.

Is 36 million people the right target? Or 72 million? Or should Australia begin pursuing a stable population policy today?

The ministers currently lining up to bash Abbott’s call to reduce the migrant intake don’t appear ready for an open debate. They are either deliberately blowing smoke, or alarmingly misinformed.

And none have stepped forward to explain why 180,000 is the ideal annual migrant intake number. And not, say, 300,000. 

Instead, Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison said cutting the permanent migration level from 180,000 to 110,000 a year would could cost the economy ‘as much as’ $5 billion over four years.

Yet he made no mention of the additional government spending required to maintain the current intake.

He also omitted that decades of high migration levels have seen Australia’s population swell, while wages have remained flat.

Adding 180,000 new migrants each year does boost GDP (gross domestic product). And this does appear to help the government address its perpetual deficits. But growing the economy simply by growing the number of people is the ultimate Ponzi scheme. Only those at the top of the pyramid benefit…until the whole scheme collapses.

Morrison also added:

If you did what Tony Abbott suggests, then you would only reduce the proportion that was skilled migration, and you’d have a bigger proportion which was family migration, which ultimately gets more dependent on welfare.’

It’s unclear why Abbott’s plan would see more families migrate than skilled workers. Surely this is something the government can address as it considers reducing intake numbers.

And Morrison shoots his own argument of economic prosperity in the foot by mentioning family migrants ultimately get ‘more dependent on welfare’.

Mathias Cormann also sounded off:

To criticise the experts and say that someone who is not an expert knows better is not the right approach.’

This is the height of hubris.

We need a growth plan… and quickly

When talking about 30-year plans to add 11.9 million people to Australia, no one can claim expertise. And questioning the so-called experts is every Australian’s right. Certainly every former prime minister’s too…

Then there was Steve Ciobo’s effort at distraction:

I think it’s a great shame that we often see immigration, and in particular immigrants having the finger pointed at them on issues, like, for example, escalating house prices or depressed wage growth.’

Clearly house prices are high. And clearly the current high immigration intake isn’t adding to wage growth. There are many other factors at play here besides immigration. Record low interest rates and increasing automation are two.

But the real issue here is the lack of any longer-term growth plan.

Yes, Australia is a nation built on immigration. As Cormann, who was born in Belgium, also remarked, ‘What a great migrant nation we are.’

This is true. And Abbott is not pointing the finger at recent immigrants. He is sounding the alarm about the negative impacts of continued rapid population growth.

Simply because Australia was built on immigration in the 19th and 20th Century doesn’t mean that will always be the case. In fact, it almost certainly won’t be.

At some point the current level of rapid growth must come to an end.

Abbott is merely the messenger.

Bernd Struben

Bernd Struben

Bernd Struben is the lead editor at The Australian Tribune. Bernd makes use of his extensive network to bring you the top stories you need to know about each day. Stories the mainstream may miss. Or bury somewhere you’re unlikely to ever read them. Bernd studied aerospace engineering and journalism at the University of Michigan, before graduating with a degree in economics. Over the past two decades he’s worked in media, management, and finance in the US, the Caribbean, Europe, and Australia. His other role, as the editor of the Port Phillip Insider, puts him in a unique position to read Australia’s most exclusive financial advice. Some of which he shares with readers of The Australian Tribune for free.
Comments: 5

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  2. Joe, at a time when Australia has nearly full employment, it can be argued that we need to import people with specials skills that are not readily available in the country but other immigration, whether the persons come as refugees, family reunion or some non-specific class is pretty much a matter of public policy determined by the government of the day.

  3. We need to un-sign the UN convention on refugees less we get swamped by millions of people from as Donald trump says (shithole countries). We and other western counties have become the centrelink for the world. We should allow only imigrants that better our country, not drag us down or want to change our way of life (read what you want here…………….!)

  4. Cormann and morrison are twits. Joe’s right… many end up on the public tit! Morrison reckons- “If you did what Tony Abbott suggests, then you would only reduce the proportion that was skilled migration, and you’d have a bigger proportion which was family migration, which ultimately gets more dependent on welfare” !!!!!! WHAT ABSOLUTE BOLLOCKS! Just keep the skilled ones and refuse the welfare dependent family ones he’s crapping on about… It’s bloody simple. These twits are just cranky with Abbott because he’s now pointing out how they’re failing after ousting him as Prime minister.

  5. Mr Struben at last someone is talking sense. As you say Mr Abbott is merely the messenger and what he is saying makes perfect sense. I wish the bleeding hearts looked at this sensibly and realised that Australians need help first, our hospitals, our schools and our transport.