Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tim Colebatch: why can't we keep the public out of it?

Tim Colebatch has written a strikingly awful column for today's Age.

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.


  1. Excellent mainstream opinion is starting to reflect the weaknesses of the migration expansion.

  2. Yes, there have been a number of well-written articles in the mainstream media questioning the extent of mass immigration and subsequent population growth.

    It shows how important it is to have some alternative voices within the political class.

  3. The Japanese example is useful but delusive. Aside from a small detachment of Korean and Chinese specialist workers, and the descendants of half-caste Japanese-Korean children from an intermarriage and bastardy experiment a century ago (all those peoles are still unmixed amongst the general Japanese populace), Japan remains over 98% Japanese.

    When affairs do founder in that country, the people, as a large and homogeneous family, can decrease the strength of the inevitable riots, famines and fear. Who will rally together in Australia?

    Also, Mr McCran is blunt and honest - an exceeding rarity in the Australian press.

  4. Yes, its important to pick away at this issue. The idea that its a magic economic bullet is ridiculous. A policy of desperation really.

  5. Hesper said,

    "Who will rally together in Australia?"

    We need to restore a sense of community in our society. If you feel connected to your community, and care about it, you won't sign on for this. Its only passive consumers and isolated individuals who feel they have to go along with everything. Active community members I would say are also happier and more productive.

  6. Finally, I can't refrain from attempting to dislodge this persistent fallacy which Colebatch accepts.

    The sign of a country being in peaceful and opulent condition is an increase in the native birth rate and the prosperity of families, particularly rural and suburban.

    This is seen, for instance, in the splendid growth of farmsteads and therefore larger litters of children amongst Italic peoples moving from the Bronze to Iron Ages.

    A country's population growing by innumerable and prolific outsiders, which Colebatch applauds, is a sign of a weak government and crumbling native society. Where does Australia fall?

  7. Pardon for being a pain with these too frequent comments, but contrary to Colebatch's mythological comparisons, Greek, Italian, Dutch, German and Maltese immigration under Menzies was never so high as to threaten the predominance of Anglo-Irish blood constituting the nation's font of origin.

    Chinese and Indian migrants alone now occupy a place beside the biggest three, of Britain, Germany and Italy, for the countries of heritage for 'Australian' citizens.

  8. The great tragedy of Australian democracy is that the political elites have successfully managed to remove the issue of mass-immigration from the agenda for so long. Now the public is at last waking up.

    Bob Carr pointed out recently, that John Howard doubled the size of the intake from 2000-2007 and hoped that no-one would notice. Phoney Tony is now promising to pare it back to what would still be record high levels.

    As for Labor, they are so hopelessly compromised by vested interests they would never dream of putting the brakes on. They are all, pretty much without exception, "Big Australia" men and women.

    Next time you hear a colleague, family member or friend complain about how mass-immigration is making life worse in Australia, remind them that - if they voted Liberal or Labor - they have no-one to blame but themselves.

    Please people. Don't vote for more mass-immigration. Vote informal; vote for any number of other smaller parties with sensible population policies. Put the parties that are doing the most damage - Liberal and Labor - last on your ballot. Send them a message that the Australian people won't be silenced any longer on this issue.

  9. Hesper said,

    "but contrary to Colebatch's mythological comparisons, Greek, Italian, Dutch, German and Maltese immigration under Menzies was never so high as to threaten the predominance of Anglo-Irish blood constituting the nation's font of origin."

    Here, here. Also all those communities were European.

    Anonymous said,

    "Bob Carr pointed out recently ..." Stuff him, he's just trying to move the blame from himself and get away from the current shellacking he's getting for letting infrastructure slide. State Labor have been terrible, talk about a guy who's all talk.

    "Please people. Don't vote for more mass-immigration. Vote informal..."

    No, voting informal is no vote at all. The only message you're sending then is that you don't matter. I stand again for the Libs and say that they are the most ideologically inclined to stop the migration (I'll use that now I'm tired of saying the word immigration). A vote for a party isn’t carte blanche and you can use your vote to provide pressure too. Whether you vote minor party or not you still have to preference the major parties, worst system apart from all the others ...

    Final thought, Howard doubled immigration in the hope that nobody would notice. How big do you think immigration/migration (blah) would have been if we had 12 straight years of Labor?

    I am tired of the Howard bashing. He's not an arch conservative fine but he’s still conservative in many respects. Judge him compared to Labor and make a decision. Or start your own damn party. If the right criticises Howard and the Left criticises Howard who the hell would ever bother to be conservative? You can't win either way can you.

    Australian's Against Further Immigration was mentioned in the last thread. Its clearly time that came online. I can just see how the first meeting would go though, "I'd just like to blame Howard ..." Seriously men its pretty pathetic.

    You live in the world that is. We live in an industrial/post industrial society, the majority of us don't live on a ranch in the outback. Major parties will reflect the politics of the people. If people cared more about immigration then it would have been an issue sooner. They do care enough though so the happy anti people consensuses upstairs can only last so long.

    I do appreciate reading your posts though Anon.

  10. Jesse, like you I was a rusted on Liberal voter since I first came of age. Even now I've never voted anything else in my life. But after seeing what 12 years of Liberal government has done to Melbourne where I live, I will never vote Liberal again.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't hate JWH, not at all. In fact I am very often berating (and baiting) the real Howard-haters on other forums like The Age. They cheese me off like there's no tomorrow. I also like the fact that he sided with Keith Windshuttle in the history wars.

    However, what I do intensely resent is the fact that he pretended to be tough on border protection to get the battlers' votes in the marginals, while flinging the front doors wide open without actually even bothering to seek the consent of the Australian people. He dudded us.

    Now you can expect that sort of rubbish from a mob of pathetic Marxists like Labor. But coming from the Libs - it really galls. And unlike other kinds of mistakes that governments make from time to time, mass-immigration is irreversible. What Howard (and all the pollies) are busy doing is changing us from an essentially European country to an Asian one. All so that their mates in big business can fatten their wallets.
    If they are going to make such an enormous change to my identity and to my country without even asking I think I have a right to be just a teensy bit annoyed with them.

  11. You're not wrong Anonymous. Its very hard to defend Howard on this. The irony is that in my opinion the heat in the asylum seeker issue was from public opposition to immigration.

    The question still is I think not why immigration is an issue, but why it isn’t more of an issue.

  12. It has always seemed to me that part of the problem with "democracy" in The Rest Of The World is the parliamentary system of government in contrast to the (for lack of better term) congressional system of the US.

    And then, what does the idiotic US government do when it sets up a new regime (a la Germany, Japan, Iraq, etc)? It sets up another damned Parliament-and-PM!

    The Anglosphere nations with parliaments just barely have both stable and (mostly) non-oppressive government. The ROTW can’t seem to manage even that.

  13. If you live in NSW you could give your first preference in the Senate to independents Mark O'Connor and William Bourke.

    They're from the Stable Population Party of Australia. They are not traditionalist conservatives, but seem to be moderate liberal types concerned about quality of life issues relating to immigration.

    They want immigration reduced to 50,000 to 80,000 per annum.

    From candidate William Bourke:

    Australia is desperately in need of democracy to stop the bi-partisan policies of extreme population growth that are causing or exacerbating most of our major economic, environmental and social problems.

  14. Well I basically agree with anonymous and think Howard is a treasonous traitor (at the least VERY naive on immigration)...BUT....like Jesse said....the past is the past is the past....

    I think that if we (well u ozzies) just keep harping and harping....being pro-Pauline Hanson, screeching and screeching you can move the liberals RightWard....

    And part of moving the Libs rightward requires.....

    ...if you live in an Area like Mark said that has an independent candidate or something who is on the same page as us....Give your vote to them. Forget this bullshit of "well then labor will get in and things will get worse"

    That's a bullshit American Scare Tactic Imported to Australia.

    That's what the Libs want you to think. But guess what...if they can't do the job they are going to get unemployed!

    If labor wins at least it sends a big f-ing message to the Libs who now have a bunch of unemployed people.

    Here in the US I didn't vote for Republicans (but I live in CA so my vote doesn't count) and gave my vote to a third party. At least I have a clear conscious.

  15. Brilliant post.

    That arithmetic comes from:
    Sargent, T and Wallace, N (1981), 'Some unpleasant monetarist arithmetic'


  16. That really is how they think, the issues they don't want to talk about should not be talked about, and screw the plebs.