The Bombastic Multicult By Bruce Bennett
I have just read, Judith Sloan, “Let’s Test the Bombastic Claims of Multiculturalism,” The Australian, July 18, 2017, p. 12; http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/judith-sloan/lets-test-the-bombastic-claims-of-multiculturalism/news-story/50dbc65dbbceb7f9936ac9bcb6f8984c.
I must admit, I was surprised to find a criticism of immigration made in this paper, so as much as I hate to say it, this is welcome. Here are some punchy bits, if you didn’t read it:
“It is now appropriate to ask the Prime Minister to defend his assertion that we are the most successful multicultural society in the world because this has become code for the government supporting what is in effect a mass migration policy.
Also note that, in 2011, Turnbull made the astonishing claim that “anyone who thinks that it’s smart to cut immigration is sentencing Australia to poverty”.
Here’s a tip, Malcolm: there are plenty of countries without a substantial flow of immigrants and with low rates of population growth that are not sentenced to poverty. Indeed, if you look at the relationship between population growth — in Australia, immigration accounts for more than half of it — and GDP per capita, there is no statistical correlation at all.
But let’s just backtrack to the past century or so. The proportion of the Australian population born overseas fell continuously from the turn of the 20th century to the end of World War II. Virtually all of the immigrants who came to Australia during this period came from English-speaking countries.
After 1946, the maxim “populate or perish” drove government policy and there was an influx of migrants from the Britain, Ireland and Europe.
But between the early 1970s and 2003, there was a long pause in the permanent migration program, with annual numbers cut back. (The long-term average was 70,000 per year; it is now 190,000.) From 2003, there has been a surge in immigrant numbers as well as an influx of temporary entrants, including 457 visa holders, international students and people on a working holiday.
The net overseas migration numbers have varied between 150,000 and 300,000 a year. You don’t have to be very good at arithmetic to realise that we are adding another Canberra in the space of a few short years, or another Adelaide in just a few more.
But here’s an important feature of the flow of migrants: they overwhelmingly go to Sydney and Melbourne, which some would argue are bursting at the seams. And the most common countries of birth of recent immigrants are China and India.
One of the arguments put for such a substantial immigration program — and avoiding poverty is not one of them — is that the ageing of the population can be slowed. But the recent Productivity Commission analysis has dismissed this link: “(Immigration) delays rather than eliminates population ageing. In the long term, underlying trends in life expectancy mean that permanent immigrants (as they age) will themselves add to the proportion of the population aged 65 and over.”
This is one reason why some commentators refer to immigration as a sort of Ponzi scheme: any impact on the age profile of the population is only sustained if the program continues to be ramped up. And note that the PC’s analysis was undertaken before the government decided to provide a special temporary visa category for grandparents.
But what about the economic benefits of immigration? Returning to the analysis undertaken by the PC, by 2060 — a very long time away — it is estimated that per capita GDP will be 7 per cent higher based on the continuation of our immigration program compared with zero net migration.
But the PC makes it clear that no account is taken of the costs that immigration imposes on urban congestion, rising house prices, loss of social amenity or environment impacts. And compared with no net migration, real wages and productivity are actually lower with ongoing mass migration. The economic gains are simply the result of the (assumed) higher employment-to-population ratio.
In sum, it is important that we have a measured and informed debate about our immigration policies, in terms of both numbers and the integrity of the visa categories.
Are people really happy that Australia’s population will exceed 40 million in 2060? Are we really testing for skill when we set the visa categories? Has the migration program simply become a way of allowing universities to charge very high fees to international students on the understanding that the graduates can attain permanent residence?”
Yes, all that and more. It is utterly incredible that we have an article almost every day telling us that the AI revolution is going to make most people, including the Asian elites, unemployed – Elon Musk has spoken of the AI threat to jobs, as has Stephen Hawking. But the local capitalists are only concerned with short-term profits. Whether Australia survives in 10 years, or 40 is no concern for them. That is the sort of being that civilisation has created.