Yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for a cut to immigration seemingly because “the roads are clogged, the buses and trains are full, the schools are taking no more enrolments … I hear what you are saying, I hear you loud and clear. … That’s why we need to improve how we manage population growth in this country.”1
Normally this would almost sound sensible if it came from anyone other than Morrison. The fact that it has come from him immediately makes one suspicious, as ‘sensible’ is not something he normally does. Coupled with this is the fact that when Tony Abbott suggested slashing immigration in February this year, Morrison came down on him like a tonne of bricks. He stated that Abbott’s assertion that migration impacted the cost-of-living, was cutting off “your nose to spite your face”. Morrison added that permanent migration was the same as it had been since 2011, and that he did not “recall any discussion that that should be lowered and I do recall housing affordability being a significant issue at the time” and “if you cut the level of permanent immigration to Australia by 80,000 [as Abbott had suggested], that would cost the budget, that would hit the bottom line, the deficit by $4 billion to $5 billion over the next four years.”2
As it says in Shaping a Nation, a study from the Treasury and Department of Home Affairs: “Migrants deliver an economic dividend for Australia due to current policy settings which favour migrants of working age who have skills to contribute to the economy. This leads to higher rates of workforce participation and likely productivity benefits. This, is turn, increases Australia’s GDP and GDP per person, with positive flow-on effects for living standards. As well as delivering an economic growth dividend, migration improves the Commonwealth fiscal position, since migrants are likely to contribute more to tax revenue than they claim in social services or other government support. The positive effects of migration on economic growth and Australia’s fiscal position are well documented”3. That paper also stated that high rates of population growth can heighten existing pressures on infrastructure, housing and the environment, and that without action to find innovative solutions, such problems will simply be exacerbated3.
Asking for innovative solutions from this government is asking the impossible, particularly when it involves spending money. Build more schools? Too costly. Better public transport? Too expensive. Build more social housing? Too dear. Have a very fast internet? Rupert Murdoch won’t let us. The only thing innovative about this ‘solution’ is its slightly muted dog-whistle, as it is simply what the ‘@#$% off, we’re full’ brigade have been saying for years.
This government seems intent on trying to woo those who deserted them for One Notion and the Australia Conservatives, the bigoted and the religious, respectively. I hope they continue along this road, as it will lead to their demise, which is dearly to be wished for.