Henry Ergas has a great piece today in The Australian on population and immigration policy. He concludes in the following way:
Overall, there is a compelling case for immigration. But high, sustained population inflows raise issues more troublesome than boosters of a Big Australia recognise. Those issues cannot be wished away, nor papered over with mealy-mouthed insincerities. Until they are properly addressed, our population debate will remain a pitiful sham.
I think many of us would agree that the standard of the population debate has been appalling; I couldn’t make it to the end of Dick Smith’s shrill anti-growth doco. I decided to do the ironing at the point he was telling us that we wouldn’t be able to feed ourselves in the future.
At the same time, Barry Cohen made a good point the other week when he said:
The bad news is that the advocates of a big Australia have bundled a range of immigration issues – asylum seekers, refugees, cultural integration and economic growth – into one debate and branded opponents as racists, rednecks or worse: Hansonites. It appears impossible to have a rational discussion about immigration.
My guess is that most Catallaxians would favour the free movement of goods, capital and people. But as Henry Ergas points out, the welfare state has distorted the flow of people, so instead of entrepreneurial, risk-taking folk given to improve their living standards by moving across the high seas, we now potentially attract migrants by dint of our generous welfare entitlements. Henry also makes the point that the immigration and population policy needs to be judged by what is in the best interests of those who are here.