OUR COVID OPPORTUNITY –
Common Sense for Australia Inc believes the greatest economic problem facing Australians is cost of shelter (a roof overhead) for millions of us (5. Shelter).
This essay calls for:
(i) our Federal Treasury to formally prioritise GDP per capital before absolute GDP; and
(ii) our politicians to refrain from relying, on excess levels of immigration, as defacto economic policy.
Australian politicians appear captive, to Treasury Department advice, on benefits of high immigration.
Economist Judith Sloan, writing in The Australian on 11 May 2021, articulates this opinion:
“When net overseas migration (the difference between long-term arrivals and short-term departures) makes up two-thirds of our population growth and our population is growing at the rate of another Canberra every year, most sensible people think we have a problem.
At a minimum, it is surely obvious that the benefits of immigration at this scale are offset by costs, and that these costs are not borne evenly across people or place. The costs are wide-ranging in kind: lower wage growth, particularly for unskilled and semi-skilled workers; urban congestion; loss of urban amenity and social cohesion; and pressure on services, including health and schooling.”
Sloan’s article on 11 May 2021 is notable for its reference to recent quotes by the Reserve Bank of Australia, and to economists Gareth Airds, Ross Garnaut and Saul Eslake (in support of her view, that Australia’s high level immigration is badly mistaken economic policy).
Terry McCrann, Sloan’s fellow writer at The Australian, is more forthright, calling on 4 July 2020 for:
“Abandoning the ‘Big Australian’ population Ponzi that has been – chaotically – the foundation of our economic policy framework for the past 20 or so years which has not only substituted for the productivity growth that is the only basis of real national advance and wealth improvement but has worked to undermine it.
Does any sentient person really believe that a prosperous future lies in pouring more and more people into Melbourne and Sydney, building more and more high-rise apartment buildings, and then requiring more and more infrastructure from roads and rail to hospitals and schools just to try to catch up?”
Sustainable Population Australia (population.org.au) provides this comparison with other countries:
“In the decade to 2019, Australia’s population grew at an average of 1.6% per annum, very fast for a developed country, twice as fast as the OECD average and faster than the global population growth (around 1.05% in 2020).”
In this essay we call for our Federal Department of Treasury and parliamentarians to adopt (either by convention or regulation) the primacy of the concept of Gross Domestic Product Per Capita as a central emphasis in our national economic planning, targeting and reporting (as opposed to the concept of Absolute Gross Domestic Product).
For ease of communication and understanding by the Australian people, this essay nominates that for the next three years, Australia’s annual net overseas migration be capped (not targeted) at 125,000 people. This equates with ‘halving’ of net overseas migration prior to the Covid crisis (252,000 people in 2018; 247,000 people in 2019). 125,000 net migrants would roughly approximate our ‘natural increase’ in population (ie births less deaths: 142,000 people in 2019).
A more ambitious benchmark, for the longer term, might be to limit net overseas immigration to half of our natural population increase. Based on 2019 figures, that would equate to net overseas immigration in the order of 71,000 individuals per annum.
Net overseas immigration numbers take no account of overseas visitors who expect to spend less than 12 months in Australia over a 16 month period. So importantly, the proposals in this essay pose no direct limit on the number of people who can visit Australia, to work in seasonal agricultural and tourism roles.
The first economic aim of any immigration policy (of whatever number of individuals) should be welcoming people, who can teach us skills we lack in Australia (as distinct from welcoming people to do the jobs, for which we currently lack the skills). The task of attracting such people, is as much the responsibility of our industry, as it is of our Federal Government.
Transition already made, is rare opportunity: Ideally, in any post-Covid era, our politicians will decline to return Australia to 250,000 extra people each year.
Advocacy of lower immigration can be expected to resisted by a vast armada of different groups, some with competing interests.
The case for lower immigration is accordingly far more simply made, by a focus on its principals; as opposed to attempts, at any predefinition of what the constituent parts of smaller immigation, should be.
See Comments immediately above.
For and on behalf of Common Sense for Australia Inc
Authorised for publication, 28 October 2021