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July 26th 2017 print

E.R. Drabik

The Great Immigration Non-debate

If the only justification for sky-high immigration is it’s “good for the economy”, it is a policy fundamentally flawed. Judged through the prism of existing citizens' interests, there is no economic case that can justify the transformative changes  current policies are inflicting

plane oz mapAccording to recent media reports, President Donald Trump and his team are working with Republican senators on a bill to halve legal immigration – to 500,000 per annum – into the United States. Across the Atlantic, Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to reduce immigration to less than 100,000 a year. In launching the Tory’s recent election manifesto, May said immigration to the UK needs to be brought down to “sustainable” levels. In 2016, she argued that there was “no case, in the national interest, for immigration of the scale we have experienced over the last decade.”

Immigration has also erupted as a major issue in the lead-up to September’s New Zealand election. The country’s main opposition party, Labour, has pledged to slash the migrant intake, which is presently running at record levels. Perhaps more significant is the recent surge in support for the populist New Zealand First, led by the wily Winston Peters. The great survivor of Kiwi politics and known for his colourful utterances, Peters has slammed the government’s unfocused immigration “merry-go-round” and wants permanent visas restricted to 10,000 per annum. With his party likely to hold the balance of power come September, Peters may very well get his way.

Yet, while other Anglosphere countries look to curb immigration, Australia is moving in the opposite direction, with Canberra firmly planting its foot on the mass-immigration accelerator.

The numbers coming in are, quite frankly, insane. Over the last 12 years, annual average net immigration has tripled from its long-term historical average, to 210,000 people a year. Australia is importing a population equivalent to Hobart each and every year or an Adelaide every six years, with this turbocharged intake expected to continue for decades. By way of comparison, Australia’s annual immigration inflow is roughly equal to that of Britain’s, despite Australia only having around a third of the population.

While the populations of most other developed countries have either stabilised or declined, Australia’s population surged by a staggering 21.5% between 2003 and 2015 on the back of Canberra’s immigration-on-’roids policy. If current trends continue unabated, Australia’s population is projected to nearly double by 2050, to over 40 million. Needless to say, this immigration-fuelled population explosion will have a host of far-reaching social, cultural, demographic, economic and environmental consequences. But practically no effort has been expended by governments considering what Australia will look like in 10, 20, 40 or 80 years under this high immigration scenario. Canberra is rushing at breakneck speed while blindfolded towards a big, ultra-diverse Australia. In the long history of human folly, this must certainly be a stand-out.

Nor has the Turnbull government provided an official rationale as to why it is running the largest per capita immigration programme in the world. The entire sum of its immigration policy appears to be to bring in as many people as quickly as possible while assiduously burying any sort of public discussion on the issue. The government didn’t even mention the 2017-18 permanent intake number in the budget papers. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton made no public statement on the matter. Dutton’s position atop a new super ministry, ostensibly to enhance national security, has been pilloried by pundits on both sides of politics as ministerial overreach. Yet, at the same time it has been reported that Dutton is considering outsourcing vast swaths of Australia’s immigration system to the private sector, effectively surrendering control over our borders. Rorters, dodgy middlemen and fifth columnists will be rubbing their hands in anticipation.

There has been a steady stream of puff pieces in the mainly left-leaning media claiming that mass immigration is both necessary and beneficial. However, the arguments proffered tend to be exasperatingly specious and quickly fall apart under scrutiny. Despite the various claims by some business groups and others, Australia does not have a general skills shortage requiring heavy and sustained inflows. Moreover, current immigration policy is, in fact, largely detached from Australia’s labour market requirements. As a recent report by the Australian Population Research Institute found, any relationship that existed between skills recruited under the points-tested visa subclasses and particular shortages in the labour market has eroded under successive governments. This is resulting in large numbers of ‘skilled’ permanent migrants of dubious professional quality and relevance in fields such as IT and accounting, despite these sectors having a significant surplus of workers. In any case, the annual immigration report by the Australian Productivity Commission made it clear that about half of the skilled migrant steam includes the family members of skilled migrants, with only around 30 percent of Australia’s total permanent migrant intake actually ‘skilled’.

Nor can immigration realistically provide a solution to the ‘problem’ of an ageing population, as is frequently claimed by immigration enthusiasts. Again, the Productivity Commission has stated in numerous reports that immigration is not a feasible countermeasure to an ageing population since migrants themselves also age. As migrants grow old, even larger inflows will be required to support them, and so on ad infinitum. In other words, using immigration in an attempt to counter population ageing is the epitome of an unsustainable Ponzi scheme. Cambridge Professor of Economics Robert Rowthorn has memorably compared it to Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory’s insatiable demand for virginal victims. According to legend, the “Bloody Lady of Csejte” used to regularly bathe in the blood of chaste young women in an effort to preserve her fading youth. To stay young, she needed to constantly replenish the supply of virgins. At some point Australia’s Báthoryian policymakers are going to have to bow to the inevitable and deal with the ageing population, as Japan and other smart countries are already doing, rather than trying to delay the day of reckoning through misguided and ultimately counterproductive immigration policies.

As a small but growing number of commentators has quite rightly argued, large-scale immigration is being used to artificially pump up economic growth figures at the expense of the existing Australian population. While mass immigration may juice headline GDP growth numbers, the average Australian is no better off economically in per capita terms, as various studies have confirmed. And when one takes into account the greater congestion, higher housing costs, lower wages, intensified job competition, loss of amenity, and overburdened infrastructure and services linked to the present influx, there is a compelling case that wide-open immigration is degrading the living standards of existing citizens.

Those peddling the myth that high immigration is good for all of us tend to be driven by either vested commercial interests or open-borders ideology. Australia’s GDP per capita growth rates over the last decade or so have been weak when compared to a number of developed nations that have little to no immigration. Under current policy settings, Australia is experiencing largely prosperity-free growth. Economist Judith Sloan recently observed:

“Successive Australian governments have been keen to boost population growth through excessive immigration intakes and have been able to disguise two recessions by not measuring changes in GDP per capita.”

Despite the mounting problems associated with the current policy, the major parties remain silently locked in bi-partisan embrace of mass immigration. As Mark Latham has written, both the Liberal-National Coalition and Labor have “caved in to pro-immigration groups, property developers, big retailers and foolhardy Treasury officials who use planeloads of new arrivals to artificially inflate Australia’s GDP numbers.” The influence of this powerful growth lobby over government policy has previously been chronicled by sociologist Katharine Betts.

Federally, the only person within the major parties to publicly acknowledge that runaway immigration is not an unalloyed good has been Tony Abbott. In his recent address to the Institute of Public Affairs, Abbott argued that cuts were needed, stating:

“Right now, a big slowdown in immigration would take the downward pressure off wages and the upward pressure off house prices.

One of the reasons why statistical growth is not translating into higher living standards is that high immigration means that GDP per head is hardly growing at all.

Newcomers in hard-to-fill, high wage, high skill jobs make very good migrants – and should be encouraged – but they’re not the only ones coming.

A big slowdown in immigration would allow housing starts and infrastructure to catch up with population.

It would give harder-to-assimilate recent migrants more time to integrate with the wider Australian community before many more came in.”

Abbott’s conversion into a mass immigration skeptic is greatly welcome, although it is a pity he didn’t have this epiphany while still prime minister. The Liberal leader-in-exile is, of course, correct: curtailing immigration would alleviate pressure on infrastructure, housing affordability and wages. Australia’s clogged cities are struggling to keep up with population growth as migrants continue to flock in. Congestion is now a major drag on the country’s economic productivity and is only expected to worsen in the coming years. Governments will need to embark on the biggest infrastructure spend in the country’s history to prevent living standards being further eroded by immigration. Worse still, the costs will largely fall on existing residents.

The scale of the challenge is mind-boggling. In 2013, the Productivity Commission warned that the total estimated private and public investment requirements needed to accommodate a rapidly-expanding population over the 50 year period to 2059-60 would be more than five times the cumulative investment made over the last half century, or at least $38 trillion dollars over the projection period in 2011-12 prices.

Sydney and Melbourne, which receive the lion’s share of new migrants, now rank among the least affordable housing markets in the world. Panjandrums and policymakers expend countless words on Australia’s horrendous housing affordability nightmare but seldom mention the prime demand-side driver. Bill Shorten’s tacit support for current immigration settings shows that Australia no longer has anything approximating an authentic labour party. A myriad studies from around the world have shown that mass immigration depresses wages and exacerbates economic inequality, hence U.S. policy analyst Roy Beck’s description of immigration as the “great unequalizer”. It is unfathomable that nobody in Labor, which professes to care about wages and inequality, has realised the contradiction at the heart of its policies.

It may be the case that fostering and expanding the ethnic minority vote via immigration is now far more important to Labor than the interests of the old Australian working and middle classes.

In regard to migrant integration, the issue is more problematic than Abbott alludes to. In terms of its magnitude and sheer diversity, the current, seemingly relentless influx is unparalleled in our history. Notwithstanding a drastic and permanent reduction in migrant numbers, it is difficult to see how such a vast number of dissimilar newcomers will be able to successfully integrate into the mainstream when what we would historically consider to be mainstream Australia is in full demographic and cultural retreat. The recent results of the 2016 census confirmed what we can see every day on the streets of our cities: immigration is transforming Australia into something very different from the mainly European, Christian society the majority of the adult population grew up in.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 28% of the population in 2016 was not born in Australia. Another 21 per cent of the population was born in the country, but with at least one foreign-born parent. No other Western country has such a high proportion of residents from recent migrant backgrounds. For the first time in modern Australian history, those with two Australian-born parents are on the verge of becoming a minority. The Asian-born population has eclipsed the number of residents born in Europe for the first time ever, reflecting the seismic shift in migrant source countries over recent decades. In terms of the country’s ethnic composition, the Anglo-Celtic and European share of the population is in marked decline.

With a sustained high rate of immigration, largely from non-Western sources, the makeup of the population is changing profoundly and, if present trends continue, it’s fairly safe to assume that Australia will become a “majority-minority” country at some point this century. This dramatic shift is already occurring in our heavily migrant-impacted megalopolises, Sydney and Melbourne, where recently-arrived groups are able to wield disproportionate and growing social and political influence, while the more traditional Australian outer suburban, regional and rural areas are increasingly marginalised. For a country which once prided itself on the “crimson thread of kinship” and fiercely sought to protect its cohesiveness, the ongoing transmutation of Australia into a kaleidoscope of diasporic communities – most with shallow roots in this land and little connection to each other – is extraordinary and represents a bold social experiment on a colossal scale.

One would think that this unfolding social and demographic revolution would elicit some sort of serious national discussion. Instead, open discourse on the issue is largely suppressed in political and media circles, with only the most trivial or effusive commentary tolerated. Multiculturalistas in the media, academia and politics applaud the country’s growing “diversity” but rarely consider in anything but the most superficial manner the wider, long-term effects on national unity and identity. There is no serious consideration given to whether the old Australian majority might be uncomfortable with the prospect of being supplanted by different peoples and cultures from other parts of the world. To raise such matters publicly is to risk charges of ‘xenophobia’ – or worse – ‘racism’.

Nevertheless, as University of London political scientist Eric Kaufmann has argued, there is a need for ethno-demographic interests to be aired more openly and without accusations of racism. In a recent study for the UK think tank Policy Exchange, Kaufmann put forward the case that all groups, including the old majority, have legitimate interests that should be taken into account by governments when formulating immigration policy.

According to Kaufmann:

“The rise of the populist right in the West has been fuelled in large measure by concern over immigration and ethnic change. Now more than ever it is important to draw a distinction between irrational racism and rational group self-interest… Group-based sentiments should be considered rather than vilified.”

It is high time that Australia had a mature and honest debate about such issues. Geoffrey Blainey once wrote that to shape an immigration policy is to “influence nearly every facet of life, now and for generations to come.” Governments are pushing us down a path that will dramatically impact the quality and way of life of current and future generations, without ever having allowed any sort of real public discussion on whether or not Australians want their country transformed beyond recognition.

If the only justification for sky-high immigration is that it’s “good for the economy”, it is a policy fundamentally flawed. When judged through the prism of the interests of existing citizens, there is no economic case that can justify the transformative changes that current policy is inflicting on Australia.

Comments [8]

  1. Tony Tea says:

    What gets up my goat is that no one asked me if I want to live in Future Melbourne. I can’t see my hometown winning any of those nebulous “most livable city” awards in 2050.

  2. Bill Martin says:

    A most timely article, it is such a shame, as is often the case, that it saw the light of day in this excellent, offbeat conservative magazine and not in the mainstream press.

    It must be noted that the author refrained from mentioning the elephant in the room: Muslim immigrants and the islamisation of Australia. There is a myriad of reasons why immigration from countries of non-western culture and traditions is detrimental to the host society, but none as stark and serious as in the case of Muslims, irrespective of the countries of their origin. Theirs is the only religion with the specific aim of obliterating everything and everyone that is non-Muslim by using any and all means. Please, for goodness’ sake, do not rationalise about fundamental, moderate, drastic, peaceful or any other variations of being Muslim! They all wave about and revere the same evil book which commands them in no uncertain terms what to do about non-muslims. Leaving aside the ridiculous linguistics flourish, it commands them to massacre them mercilessly! Is there any sense in having a single one of them in our midst?

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Bill:

      They all wave about and revere the same evil book which commands them in no uncertain terms what to do about non-muslims.

      The offensive passages in what they call the Holy Koran are readily identifiable, as seen at https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/10719/islam-multiculturalism-france-june
      I propose a suitable test for Muslim would-be immigrants. They take a (cheap) copy of the Koran, given a black felt pen or a pair of scissors, and are invited to excise all the passages you refer to calling for jihad against infidels, unbelievers, Christians, Jews and others the Koran rails against or lists for elimination in the glorious Caliphate to come.
      Those who choose to refuse are shown the door, and put on a never-to-be-admitted list.
      Otherwise, this country is sleepwalking to the sort of disaster you describe.

  3. Adellad says:

    All those boys dying for King and country in 1914-18 and 39-45 – for what? A great big swamp of miscegenation with no links to anything much, just a bunch of tribes each with its own fanatical hatreds and vices. What a marvellous destiny our grandchildren face; dystopia or civil war – either way, the future we once imagined shall not come to pass.

  4. Nezysquared says:

    Perhaps a few simple rules would sort the problems out. Any and all immigrants must be self sufficient from day one. No welfare of any kind will be provided. They all have one year to learn the lingo, hold down a job and pay some tax. Failure to do so renders them liable to extradition to their country of origin. There is a 10 year probationary period where any conviction for breaking the law renders them liable to extradition to their country of origin. Simple.

  5. Julian says:

    This hits the nail on the head – One of the few things I’ve seen that perfectly encapsulates my views on this whole farcical, yet tragic situation.

    And, once again, it’s something that should be in the main-stream press yet won’t be (unless the environmental angle can interest the mindless relativists and Leftists at Fairfax. The News tabloids are dumb cheerleaders for mindless economic growth so forget them- but, maybe, The Aust would be the only other place that’d run it).

    It’s a shame that the economic argument is the only reason they do such things (e.g. the house building ponzi scheme, “education” and services etc in Melbourne, etc) and they don’t have any other plan (e.g. ‘Populate or perish’ must have run its course) – and, in the meantime all the social indicators are heading south (e.g. falling education levels and social cohesion; rising crime, etc).

    It’s interesting to compare the failure that is the Australian / Western Europe mass-immigration model with places like Eastern Europe and Japan that have proven that one does not have to go down that path (which is a sad indictment on our politicians and vested interest groups – e.g. property developers, etc).

    Finally, whilst Islam is a problem, and no doubt it’s a problem. For me, the main problem will be Asian immigration – they’ll just end up buying everything up piece by piece and turn the place into something largely devoid of its intrinsically more beautiful European heritage to look like some kind of apartment-heavy despotic oriental hell-hole. And, to think what we once had, and could have been?

    And, the author is right, Tony Abbott is probably the only person in the main stream to offer a a credible alternative (Bernardi maybe too).

    And why we import Indians at all is beyond me.

  6. whitelaughter says:

    If any of this was accurate, then the 1950s and 60s would have had all of our problems, rather than being a golden age. Our current problems are due to incompetent government, not immigrants.

    An economy needs workers – you can either spend a fortune rearing a child to adulthood, when they *might* start paying back the money spent on them; or you can import a worker, and every cent they earn is pure profit for the economy. And yes, you can constantly replace workers with migrants as we age; have you forgotten that we die? Most people spend 5 times as long in the workforce as they do retired.

    Still, there’s no shortage of driven enthusiastic workers, so if you wish to run with this stupid xenophobia, just push for a percentage of migrants to be available only to those people who pay for the privilege, and have the money they cough up used to pay off the govt debt.

    Better yet, require *all* migrants to pay a fee that goes towards buying military equipment from Israel; Islomofascists, Neo-nazis, Marxists and the latte sipping trendies will all refuse, allowing us to exclude the worst vermin on the planet. Everyone else will be pleased to know that we will all be defended by battle tested equipment.

  7. Bushranger71 says:

    An outstanding article ED. Congratulations!

    As for you ‘whitelaughter’.

    The bulk of immigrants who came here soon after WW2, mainly from a shattered Europe, were seeking to start new lives and most were grateful for the opportunity offered in Australia and integrated into our society.

    Majority of more recent immigrants are attracted by government subsidies and their allegiances remain wherever they hailed from.

    The proportion of immigrants these days gainfully employed is pretty low, particularly when their extended families are considered.

    Loyalty to Australia among the burgeoning populace is a fast diluting characteristic.