David Leyonhjelm guest post. Free trade in labour

A country with a generous public health, education and welfare system, such as Australia, would be quickly swamped if it were to allow unrestricted free trade in labour. Tens of millions of people in other countries would love the opportunity to work in Australia, or benefit from our welfare system if work could not be found.

We are not alone in recognising this; there is no country in the world with a policy of complete free trade in labour. That said, we do have partial free trade in labour. There are no barriers preventing Australians from working in New Zealand, or New Zealanders working in Australia, for example. If there is a job that interests us, and the salary is acceptable, we are free to move and take the job. The same is true within the European Union; a citizen of a member country is free to take a job in any other EU country.

However, there is an important difference. New Zealanders in Australia are only eligible for the dole for six months and only if they’ve lived here for a decade. In the EU, those who move to another country are eligible for that country’s welfare benefits, a level of generosity that has provoked considerable antagonism and was a major contributor to the success of the Brexit referendum in the UK.

Our labour free trade deal with New Zealand has served Australia well. Our sheep would never be shorn without Kiwi shearers and our mining industry during the boom would have needed thousands more 457 visa holders but for New Zealanders filling the many vacancies. Many Australians, particularly managers, have filled positions in New Zealand too.

Australia would benefit enormously from similar free labour agreements with other countries with which we have equivalent standards of living and liberal democratic institutions. Countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland, Japan and the UK come to mind. Australians would appreciate the ability to live and work in these countries, opening up a wide range of job opportunities and the potential to learn new skills, while their citizens could enjoy the same in Australia. There is also potential for considerable industry integration due to easier movement of people back and forth.

Such agreements would not necessarily result in any permanent change in our population. While plenty of New Zealanders have moved to Australia during downturns in their country, quite a few returned when things improved. Equally, plenty of Australians have lived and worked in New Zealand for limited periods.

Bilateral free-migration agreements would also have no electoral impact because the people from these countries could not vote in our election. While we should offer a path to citizenship for those who want to make Australia their permanent home and who have integrated into Australian society, a bilateral free-migration agreement need not provide a shortcut to citizenship.

Moreover, a bilateral free-migration agreement need not provide any access to public health, education or welfare. Where Australia provides New Zealanders with access to public health and welfare, this is the result of separate reciprocal agreements.

The benefits of bilateral free-migration agreements become clear when compared with the granting each year of hundreds of thousands of visas providing permanent residency. Holders of permanent resident visas, for example, become eligible for Medicare immediately and for income support (eg the dole) after two years. If they arrive as a family reunion immigrant rather than a skilled migrant, there is a good chance their use of health services and access to income support means they will become a net cost to taxpayers.

We should give priority to skilled migrants rather than family reunions, limit welfare to citizens, and charge tariffs for permanent residence which are scaled according to the migrant’s potential economic contribution or cost. The tariff could even take into account the migrant’s impact on the amenity of incumbent Australians (and therefore a higher tariff would be imposed on migrants settling in Sydney and Melbourne).

But none of that changes the fact that there is a huge opportunity to increase the pool of labour for Australian employers, and to expand job options for Australian workers, by pursuing free trade in labour on a bilateral basis. It’s an idea whose time has come.

David Leyonhjelm is a Senator for the Liberal Democrats

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28 Responses to David Leyonhjelm guest post. Free trade in labour

  1. Tel

    There’s never going to be free trade in labour because there is no abstract entity called “labour” that can be shipped around the place. You are talking about people, with a language, and a culture, and religion, and attitude and likes, dislikes, hopes and expectations.

    Australia would benefit enormously from similar free labour agreements with other countries with which we have equivalent standards of living and liberal democratic institutions. Countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland, Japan and the UK come to mind. Australians would appreciate the ability to live and work in these countries, opening up a wide range of job opportunities and the potential to learn new skills, while their citizens could enjoy the same in Australia. There is also potential for considerable industry integration due to easier movement of people back and forth.

    What the heck are you talking about? We have all that already.

    We had a Prime Minister from the UK quite recently if I remember (not so sure about “benefit enormously” but let’s presume someone got something out of it, else they wouldn’t have voted for her), and every second tech guy you bump into is either Irish or Northern European, or Japanese. It’s also relatively easy for young Australians to go around Europe and many do find work. I know plenty of people who have worked there.

  2. Tel

    The tariff could even take into account the migrant’s impact on the amenity of incumbent Australians (and therefore a higher tariff would be imposed on migrants settling in Sydney and Melbourne).

    Hmmm, no that’s not possible.

    Let’s suppose you import a bunch of skilled trades guys from the Philippines, and they come here and work hard and don’t cost too much, that’s a big benefit for employers, building developers, and possibly for consumers too if everything stays competitive down to the end product. That’s really bad if you happen to be an Aussie tradie who now has to either work very cheap and gets fewer jobs now that labour supply in that market has increased so much.

    Government decisions inevitably favour some groups at the expense of others, there is no “we” who end up better off. This gets even worse with indirect effects like cost of housing where high migration benefits people owning property (especially when rents are driven up) but does not benefit people who want to buy property (which is now out of their reach). This whole belief in one person’s surplus being cancelled out against another person’s loss is total garbage. It’s meaningless.

  3. max

    David Leyonhjelm proposes “managed trade” in labour.

    “he knows which side his bread is buttered on”

    he should call for ending of welfare system.
    instead he calls for more bureaucracy.

  4. sfw

    The sheep would have been shorn and any work that needed doing would have been done, the wages would have risen to the point where people would have done them. All imported labour generally drives down the incomes of the less well educated, whether this is good or bad is debatable.

  5. Roger.

    he should call for ending of welfare system

    Max, you’ll only get Australians to give up their welfare system by prying it from their cold, dead hands.

    Incremental reform is the best we can hope for.

  6. Tel

    Such agreements would not necessarily result in any permanent change in our population. While plenty of New Zealanders have moved to Australia during downturns in their country, quite a few returned when things improved. Equally, plenty of Australians have lived and worked in New Zealand for limited periods.

    First rule of politics, no politician ever keeps a promise, ever.

    Second rule, when they say “temporary” it will be permanent. Just ask Germany.

  7. John Constantine

    Unfortunately, the drive towards Big Australia by our quisling Class is all about transforming the polity by mass migration of clients for services.

    Ethnic branch stacking swaps votes for access to State funding, this is immensely rewarding for all except those paying through dilution and confiscation of legacy assets.

    Therefore, free trade in skills is never going to be considered against mass importation of diversity services providers to achieve decolonisation through transformation of the polity.

    The voting and demographic change is what Stalin demands, Stalin don’t care if the ewes don’t get shorn before lambing as long as the revolution overthrows the oppressors of the sheep.

    All the State needs is robots to do total monitoring and surveillance of the proles, robots to fester up the algae sludge in the ration vats and robots to transport unsound proles from the gulag to the vats for processing.

    Free people wanting to live in a free world where free trade of valued skills can exist are exactly those the State is genociding through mass importation of the aggrieved.

  8. mh

    I was hoping you would be explaining to us the recently signed TPP agreement, which I have heard contains changes to the rules on importing labour.

    BEN FORDHAM: Have you read the agreement cover to cover?

    STEVEN CIOBO: No. I’ll be honest with you. I haven’t read the agreement cover to cover. That’s not something that I’ve done.

  9. max

    “Max, you’ll only get Australians to give up their welfare system by prying it from their cold, dead hands.”

    When Western national governments run out of money as a result of old-age retirement programs and subsidized medicine, which they all will face over the next 30 years, the legitimacy of centralized government planning will be steadily overcome.

    When the modern welfare states at the national level go bankrupt, as all of them will, and they default on payments to oldsters and basically half the population, power will shift back to local communities. Power is where the money is, and if the money is not coming from the national government and the central bank, then it is going to be collected at the local level and spent there. Local political action will count for far more after the great default. We should be preparing for this ideologically. We should be preparing for this institutionally.

  10. Tel

    When the modern welfare states at the national level go bankrupt, as all of them will, and they default on payments to oldsters and basically half the population, power will shift back to local communities.

    Or chaos will descend and power will shift to whoever happens to be the next biggest gang of thugs nearby.

  11. sfw

    Venezuela seems to guide as to possible future’s

  12. Infidel Tiger

    I think Trump started very well.

    His Presidency now shows all the danger signs of becoming GWB’s third term. He has surrounded himself with some of the worst of the neo-con filth imaginable.

  13. Infidel Tiger

    David Leyonhjelm proposes “managed trade” in labour.

    “he knows which side his bread is buttered on”

    he should call for ending of welfare system.
    instead he calls for more bureaucracy.

    Leyonhjelm is aware of the political reality, unlike most of his libertarian brothers who live in a dogmatic bubble.

  14. Jannie

    There is always much to disagree with in David’s proposals. But there is a core of common sense. In the end I vote for the LD because I don’t want to spoil my vote.

  15. max

    “Leyonhjelm is aware of the political reality, unlike most of his libertarian brothers who live in a dogmatic bubble.”

    you mean : compromise with your belief and principles.



    to become spineless politicians ?

  16. gowest

    Free trade of labour wont happen David. Governments wont allow it because they are too scared of their revenue stream voting with their feet to go where the grass is greener. They want to keep em where they can tax em!

  17. So it’s official: David Leyonhjelm is a globalist.

  18. max

    Liberalism the Real Meaning
    The term “liberalism,” from the Latin “liber” meaning “free,” referred originally to the philosophy of freedom.

    “liberalism” originally meant, and continues to mean for some, individual freedom, private property, free enterprise and impartial rule of law under constitutionally limited government.

    “Liberal” was once an honorable word used to describe those who put liberty first.

    Liberalism is a comprehensive philosophy, the political creed, of those who favor liberty above the power of the state.

    A society in which liberal principles are put into effect is usually called a capitalist society, and the condition of that society, capitalism.

    all that has created the wealth of our time can be traced back to capitalist institutions.

    in a social order in which liberal principles were put into effect In a country with a liberal regime, in which there are no tariffs, cartels capable of driving the price of a commodity above the world market price would be quite unthinkable.

    Liberalism is not a policy in the interest of any particular group, but a policy in the interest of all mankind. It is, therefore, incorrect to assert that the entrepreneurs and capitalists have any special interest in supporting liberalism. Their interest in championing the liberal program is exactly the same as that of everyone else.

    Through self-knowledge he must learn to endure his lot in life without looking for a scapegoat on which he can lay all the blame, and he must endeavor to grasp the fundamental laws of social cooperation.

    The liberals maintain that the only workable system of human cooperation in a society based on the division of labor is private ownership of the means of production.

    Liberalism: In the Classical Tradition by Ludwig von Mises
    https://mises.org/library/liberalism-classical-tradition

  19. struth

    So members of the mussie invaded EU are countries David thinks would be good to have free movement of workers.
    What a genius.

  20. Infidel Tiger

    “Leyonhjelm is aware of the political reality, unlike most of his libertarian brothers who live in a dogmatic bubble.”

    you mean : compromise with your belief and principles.



    to become spineless politicians ?

    Max, politics is the art of compromise.

    Fuck me, you are aware of how powerful the opposition to freedom and logic is? Being a pure xunt who lives in a gulag being gang raped by leftist filth might be pure of heart, but it’s no way to live.

  21. struth

    Max just copies and pastes.
    He probably doesn’t know what he has posted.

  22. max

    First, there is not much that national elections can do to change the civil government. The budget is 85% fixed: non-discretionary spending. The existing laws of the books are close to fixed in a gridlocked government. The Federal Register will publish 80,000 pages of new regulations per year, no matter what. The President can appoint 4,000 federal employees out of 2.8 million. The House of Representatives is gerrymandered so that hardly any seats are in play. The U.S. census has a marginal effect in years ending in zero, but national politics does not change this. State politics does: more gerrymandering.

    Second, politics does not count for much in our day-to-day lives. We get used to the prevailing system of laws and regulations. We adjust.

    Third, the focus of American national politics is on the President, for he alone represents all voters. But the President has little power to change things except at the margins of politics. The Presidency matters for this: war, rhetoric, symbolism, an occasional veto that is sustained, and foreign policy. The Council on Foreign Relations supplies the Cabinet members and senior advisors. The big banks supply the Secretary of the Treasury. We will see if this takes place with Trump. If it does, then it will be business as usual.

    SALVATION BY LAW

    The mainstream media, because they are intensely liberal, are intensely committed to politics. They are committed to the doctrine of salvation by politics. This is the doctrine of salvation by legislation, which always becomes salvation by executive regulation: the Federal Register. In short, this is salvation by law — not ethical, personal salvation — liberals do not believe in this, not believing in heaven or hell — but political law for corporate salvation.

    As a conservative in the Burke-Nisbet tradition, I don’t care much about politics. I think social change starts with voluntary associations. Localism matters more than nationalism, except in major wars, which we have not seen since 1975. So, I see politics as mainly entertainment.

    There is an old slogan: “Don’t worry about what you cannot change.” This is good advice.

    https://www.garynorth.com/public/15894.cfm

  23. classical_hero

    Just what we need is more idealists. Open borders destroys nations. What we see here is a call for the destruction of the West. Let’s not forget that you can get a loan to emigrate to Australia. Active destruction is what’s instore for us.

  24. Chris M

    An open border kook.

    If you had a functioning brain you would know that open borders will never work with a welfare state. But you would rather destroy the country with your kook ideas; open borders, drugs for all, death for elderly etc.

  25. Chris M

    Most of Africa is open borders, or shambolicly enforced.

    Libertarian paradise Africa, works great apparently.

  26. sdfc

    Creation of 1.7 million new jobs, cutting unemployment to 4.1 percent.

    US payrolls have increased over 2 million in each of the past seven years. Employment growth hasn’t accelerated under Trump.

  27. DavidA

    Most of the critics here seem to have missed this bit:

    Australia would benefit enormously from similar free labour agreements with other countries with which we have equivalent standards of living and liberal democratic institutions. Countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland, Japan and the UK come to mind.

    He’s not importing the 3rd world – as we are now.

  28. Kent

    DavidA is would agree to immigration from these 1st world countries into Australia,it is hideous to me the 2nd/3rd world trash we are bringing in here how.

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