Immigration debate

Richard Allsop had a very good piece in the Drum today.

Immigration is a great issue for sorting the optimists from the pessimists.

Supporters of high immigration levels tend to believe that any problems caused by increasing Australia’s population can be overcome and we can have prosperous futures in vibrant big cities. In contrast, those advocating lower immigration argue that the problems are insurmountable and paint a bleak picture of waterless, congested cities.

Of course, using lack of infrastructure as an argument against immigration has not always been the first option for immigration opponents. Opposition used to be either economic (migrants will take our jobs) or cultural (migrants are too different).

Recent history has tended to discredit both of these. The massive expansion of the immigration program under the Howard Government coincided with unemployment falling to a 30 year low of 4 per cent, so it was hard to maintain the argument that migrants were taking jobs from those of us already here.

In fact, the traditional economic argument against immigration has now become so discredited that one of the nation’s leading anti-immigration figures, former NSW Premier Bob Carr, now argues the reverse, citing the fact that “immigration adds more to the demand for Labour than it contributes to the supply” as a reason to curtail it.

As a reminder, there’ll be a debate in Melbourne Thursday evening on immigration issues.

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13 Responses to Immigration debate

  1. JC

    …one of the nation’s leading anti-immigration figures, former NSW Premier Bob Carr, now argues the reverse, citing the fact that “immigration adds more to the demand for Labour than it contributes to the supply” as a reason to curtail it.

    I’m sorry Sinc, I just don’t understand that. How can Carr be anti-immigration if he argues immigration increases demand for labor than what it contributes to supply. Isn’t that what you want? Isn’t that making an economic case for immigration instead of using this argument against it?

  2. Boris

    JC he isn saying this makes pressure on infrastructure. This is a new religion of anti-immigration lobby. I am not sure what’s really behind it. Sounds like it has ‘green’ roots.

  3. Ev630

    You say religion like it’s a bad thing, Boris!

  4. Sinclair Davidson

    Carr’s position, as I understand it, is actually anti-market. If new mirgants could work but not purchase anything then he’s be in favour of it. Simply incomprehensible.

  5. jtfsoon

    If Carr had his way, more than half the state would be national parks. Oh wait, it already is …

  6. FDB

    “Of course, using lack of infrastructure as an argument against immigration has not always been the first option for immigration opponents. Opposition used to be either economic (migrants will take our jobs) or cultural (migrants are too different).”

    Perhaps these ‘immigration opponents’ aren’t a monlithic bloc then? The vast majority of anti-immigration sentiment is still coming from the last two places – but there are plenty of people who understand economics well enough to find the job-taking argument silly, and aren’t xenophobic, but nonetheless have concerns about immigration and overpopulation.

    They might be wrong, but to suggest this is just a figleaf for economic dunces and racists elides a reasonably well-thought-out position.

  7. Judith Sloan

    I am an optimist but still think it is important that economists need to question both the size and composition of the immigration program, particularly over the past decade. Howard allowed the program to over-shoot in a number of ways, including a rapid expansion in the (permanent) Migration Program and a weak connection between Skill in the Skill Category and real skills (including the inclusion of secondary applicants in this category); and the extraordinary expansion in overseas students using dodgy education courses as a backdoor to permanent residence through the over-inflated Skill Occupation List, even when many of these overseas students continued to have very poor English skills (never tested).

    The end result of this over-shoot has been a loss of confidence in the program and unacceptably high annual inflows which would strain even the best managed infrastructure program. And it should not be forgotten that recently-arrived migrants are essentially a drain on state governments finances.

    The way forward (no irony there) is to have a measured annual program that is more squarely based on real skills, while keeping the humanitarian program where it is. The economics really doesn’t help in terms of generating a case for a large immigration program (per capita incomes falls initially as capital is diluted; capital and the migrants themselves benefit, local workers lose out). It is ultimately a case of what kind of society we want to be and a sustainable and measured immigration program is the best way to ensure that a degree of consensus exists about this(sorry about stealing that line which I don’t believe in the context of climate change policy).

  8. If population growth is such an economic panacea, why not have 30% growth? What determines an optimum level? And do the same arguments apply in China? Would they not be more successfull pursuing a 5 child policy?

    I await a reasoned pro-population growth argument. To read my arguments in detail try these articles – here and here.

  9. JC

    Oh I get it. Immigration creates demand is a bad thing.

  10. The way forward (no irony there) is to have a measured annual program that is more squarely based on real skills

    The problem is Judith that nobody knows what real skills are any more. Take a look a the education thread from a few days ago.

    using dodgy education courses as a backdoor to permanent residence

    Those courses are no more dodgy than the ones offered to Australian welfare recipients and dullards at Tafe and regional “universities”.

    The sad reality is that if you haven’t done one of these “dodgy education courses” then you can’t get a job in an office building, you are unskilled labour.

  11. Sinclair Davidson

    JC – except when the government creates demand by burining houses down. That, we’re being told, is good demand. 🙂

  12. Boris

    “They might be wrong, but to suggest this is just a figleaf for economic dunces and racists elides a reasonably well-thought-out position.”

    FDB no one suggests this. But they ARE wrong. Moreover, they are riddiculous.

  13. JC

    Yes, that’s right Sinc. The perpetual insulation/burning down houses, removing the insulation and then doing it all over again is good demand. Especially when it’s on borrowed money. lol.

    These people are freaking amazing.

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