The lost art of nation-building
Australia has a shortage of thinking, not skills
19 September 2022
If you’ve ever built something other than a political career, you will know that it takes lots of smarts and hard yakka. Building requires forward thinking, creativity, resilience, and, most importantly, a plan for what the finished product looks like. Take those things away and you’re mindlessly creating a big, ugly, and expensive mess.
This brings me to Labor’s plan for Australia.
In the months leading up to the Jobs and Skills Summit, Minister for Immigration Matthew Giles was on Sky News Australia promoting his plan for a hike in migrant numbers.
‘Immigration, I think, has to be seen fundamentally as part of a nation-building role of national government.’
His first priority, he said, was to ‘make sure we fix the skills crisis’ to ‘help businesses’. Forgetting perhaps, that his first priority was to help Australians.
‘It’s why we’ve processed more than 1.3 million visas in a short period since we’ve come into government.’
Giles – who is likely on a salary of at least $332,760 and was brought up in an Australia where migrants made up 23 per cent of the total population, as opposed to the 30 per cent today – wants to ‘work with business’ to ‘meet the challenges of the moment’.
High house prices and low wages, we can guess, aren’t the challenges they mean.
Tellingly, not once in the six and half minute interview on Sky News Australia did Giles mention what effect this will have on the living standards of Australians. Having already decided that more people is always the answer, he does not seem to care that most Australians want less migration. Instead, he derided the ‘benefits this will have for businesses’.
Whatever happened to listening to the experts? A 2018 report by the Grattan Institute – quick to point out the ‘success’ that migrants have brought to Australia – concedes the effect migration has had on housing affordability, noting that ‘Immigration has increased housing demand’, and thus, put pressure on prices.
‘Immigrants are more likely to move to Australia’s big cities than existing residents, which increases demand for scarce urban housing. In 2011, 86 per cent of immigrants lived in major cities, compared to 65 per cent of the Australian-born population.
‘Not surprisingly, several studies have found that migration increases house prices.’
The report concludes by arguing that unless dramatic changes are made to housing policy, ‘The Commonwealth should consider tapping the brakes on Australia’s migrant intake.’
Reporting on RBA Governor Philip Lowe’s comment in June last year, John Kehoe for the Australian Financial Review deep-dived into the relationship between immigration and stagnant incomes.
‘In the years before Covid, rapid immigration-driven population increases contributed more than half of economic growth in Australia.
‘But in per capita, or per person terms, growth and incomes were barely growing.
‘Wages growth in Australia has not reached 3 per cent for almost a decade and pre-Covid, the country had virtually the weakest pay growth out of advanced economies.
‘Perhaps it was no coincidence that Australia had one of the largest immigration programs.’
The problem isn’t just Labor. Yes, Giles may be hurting the workers he’s supposed to represent, but before he was the Hon. Minister for Goldman Sachs, Josh Frydenberg was already readying the runway for many millions more new entrants as part of the 2022 budget. Liberal Party Treasurer for NSW Matt Kean called for the government to create a new visa category targeting ‘lower-skilled occupations and allows a wider pool of workers’.
‘Start stamping passports today,’ he told the federal government.
Worse still, the only criticism Peter Dutton had against the migrant hike was that it was ‘too little, too late’.
Unions, in continuing their theme of doing exactly the opposite of what their members want, supported the migrant hike. With officials’ salaries hovering around the $400,000 mark, unions have decided not to stand up against big business, and instead become one.
Unsurprisingly, the media is out to lunch. There has not been anywhere near sufficient media examination of what is certainly one of most contentious policies in Australia. When was the last time a publication other than The Spectator Australia dared to talk about the ills of mass migration? Even Labor-loving FriendlyJordies is calling this one out.
That both major parties are in furious agreement, and that people like Jordies have noticed, says a lot. It shows that immigration is not a simple left versus right issue. It’s not a culture war, it’s a class war. The regime of vested interests, versus the middle and working classes of Australia.
Despite attempts to remove debate from the public eye, some shouts of protest are getting through. A Sydney Morning Herald poll showed that 65 per cent of Australians want migration to be at a lower level. Crispin Hull, writing recently for The Advocate, argues that higher immigration doesn’t solve labour shortages, but increases them. How else is it, he asks, after 30 years of continued mass migration, we are still suffering a so-called skills shortage? ‘Clearly migration didn’t work the first time, why would it solve it now?’
And as one other commentator on this article pointed out: Australia’s universities are some of the best in the world. How is it that we have a skills shortage?
Meanwhile, the other side is playing from the same old authoritarian handbook: scare the public with fear (‘skills crisis’, ‘climate crisis’, ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’) then cram policies through as the only solution. Dissenters will be made to seem small, fringe – with words like ‘xenophobe’ and ‘racist’ typically follow opposition. And if none of that works, simply make up falsities to suit your argument.
‘Australia has run out of people,’ writes Innes Willox, chief executive of the Australian Industry group, clearly lying.
Ironically, while Australia opens its doors to the world, the Jobs and Skills Summit was closed to the public. Undemocratically, legal migration has not been a part of any election in recent memory. While the voice for Indigenous is the hot-button issue of the day, the voice of those asking for reduced migration will simply be ignored. So it goes; politics, but only when it suits the regime.
This wasn’t a well-meaning attempt to fix the economy. Australia’s elites simply live in some sort of ether cloud, far away from the ruin and damage that their stupidity causes. As proof, consider I’ll end with this speech from Giles last month.
‘Others suggest the era of nation building in Australia is over, that globalisation and mobility have rendered a sense of place less valuable. Not me – on either front.
‘Multicultural affairs is an affirmative acknowledgement of where Australia’s migrants came from, a statement that everyone should be proud of who they are, that everyone belongs and that our diversity is our greatest strength.’