He's upset that public opinion has forced a debate on immigration during the election campaign. He wants the two major parties to return to a bipartisan policy of ignoring what Australians think about the issue.
He looks back nostalgically to Menzies (a Liberal PM in the 1950s and 60s):
Last week, pollster Gary Morgan pulled out some old polls - like, really old. In 1952, when the postwar immigration program was starting to transform Australia from an Anglo-Irish nation into a diverse one, his dad, Roy Morgan, found 52 per cent of Australians wanted the immigration intake reduced - while only 43 per cent wanted to maintain or increase it.
Did prime minister Robert Menzies change the policy to satisfy its opponents? No, he kept immigration rolling, and gradually Australians got used to it...
Why didn't Menzies buckle? Because the Labor opposition supported the policy, which it had initiated in 1947. ''My father used to send the results to both Menzies and Arthur Calwell (then Labor's deputy leader),'' Gary Morgan recalls. ''They were at one on this, so there was no political issue.''
According to Colebatch, the role of the Australian public is to "get used to" what politicians decide amongst themselves.
And there's more. Colebatch thinks John Howard got things right as Liberal PM:
The Howard government was the author of the high-immigration policy that Howard's heirs are now campaigning against. It saw that Australia would need a lot more skilled workers, and that it was cheaper to attract migrants with the skills than to train Australians in the numbers needed.
First, after an initial cut to the official migration program, it steadily lifted it from 67,100 to 158,630 in a decade. Second, in 2001 it made a momentous change by allowing foreign students with skills to stay here permanently if they could line up a job after graduating. Third, it introduced section 457 visas to allow businesses to bring in overseas workers in areas of skills shortages.
These were sensible moves...
The right-liberal mind at work again. If it's cheaper to bring in overseas workers than to train Australians then it's considered "sensible" to do so.
Colebatch ends with this plea:
Immigration is one of Australia's great success stories. It's a bipartisan success story. Why can't we keep it that way?
Colebatch is telling several hundred thousand readers that their opinion on something as basic as immigration policy should simply not matter - that the Liberal and Labor Parties should keep the policy out of public reach.
Economists don't have to follow an orthodox right-liberalism as Colebatch does. Terry McCrann, for instance, has written a column questioning the economic need for large-scale migration. He is concerned that if the Chinese boom (on which our mining exports depend) falters that the Australian economy doesn't have a fall back with which to provide employment for the many hundreds of thousands of immigrants entering the country:
What if we run a 250,000-plus annual immigration intake and the China boom ends? We pour people into an ever bigger Australia, and we don't get even the indirect jobs from a resources boom because we don't get the resources boom jobs in the first place?
He also points out the flaw in the idea that such high levels of immigration will pay for the welfare costs of an ageing population:
At core the new "populate or our future fortunes will perish" cry is the ultimate national pyramid scheme. We need to get to 36 -- or 50? -- million, to have the taxpaying workforce to support the now ageing baby-boomers. Beware of a Japanese-style population implosion!
Oh yeah? And when all those younger new arrivals start to age, we will presumably then need to move to 72 -- or 100 -- million, to have a sufficiently large taxpaying workforce to support them. Just as every boom busts, even our China one will; the laws of arithmetic always topple even the most elegant pyramid scheme.