27 April 2023
‘The rental market right now is currently utterly f**ked,’ reads a post currently trending on r/Sydney, a Reddit board devoted to the Sydney area. ‘Our landlord wants a $300 increase, we can’t find anywhere to live.’ A similar comment posted on r/AusFinance asks: ‘Is anyone else feeling a sense of long-term hopelessness regarding housing?’ This is followed by a rather depressing comment stating ‘a regular job can’t afford a regular life anymore’.
This could simply be, as is often suggested by older generations, another case of sensitive Millennial syndrome. But the facts don’t lie. Rents really have risen 24 per cent nationally. Housing prices really did rise a record 27.5 per cent in the last few years. Inflation really is running hot at 7.4 per cent, and interest rates really have jumped more than 3 per cent in less than a year. Wages are growing on paper – but in real terms are shrinking.
Young people – typically the most exposed to economic volatility – are complaining, and they have good reason to be. As one former RBA head says, they ‘should be squealing louder’.
While the political class likes to pretend that most of these economic events are simply out of their control, the reality is that much of what was listed above is a direct result of government policy, especially immigration policy. Sadly this is still a topic that goes dangerously under-discussed, and if recent events in Europe are anything to go by, it could soon have huge political consequences.
We know that the last twenty years in Australia has seen the highest intake of migrants ever. We also know that young people today are poorer, unhappier, and having fewer children than at any other time in history. Yet for all the government reports, think-tank studies, academic essays, news articles, and comment pieces, nobody – nobody – has bothered, or had the courage, to draw a connection between the two.
And it’s not for a lack of evidence. A 2018 Grattan Institute report concedes that immigration overwhelmingly puts pressure on affordable housing, hurting younger Australians. Data from the Australia Bureau of Statistics shows a direct correlation between rising migration and depressed wage growth. Report after report shows that migration is creating a rental crisis, and a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald has suggested how rapid population growth might worsen inflation, requiring higher interest rates. It truly is the worst of all worlds.
Just this week, a Resolve Political Monitor poll showed that two-thirds of young Australians expect they will never be able to buy a house.
‘Young Australians and middle-income earners have given up on ever buying their own homes amid mounting evidence the nation’s dysfunctional housing system is destabilising the entire economy.
Among those who do not already own a home, 63 per cent of low-income earners and 54 per cent of those on middle incomes believe they will forever be shut out of the property market that is among the most expensive in the world.’
Young Australians today are currently being economically pincered. From below, their wages are being arbitraged to migrants from poorer countries willing to work for less, while from above, renting or purchasing a property is made more expensive thanks to increased demand.
Yet on the flipside of these policies, the economic advantages for the old and rich are hard to dismiss. For the rich, decades of low labour costs and a growing consumer base has meant record profits for corporations, with the wealth of Australia’s richest rapidly growing. And for the middle class, decades of consistent house price growth has meant that buying a simple family home in 1970 probably makes you a millionaire today, without an hour of work needed. The best financial decision you could ever make is to be born a Baby Boomer.
To add insult to injury, much of Australia’s economy and tax system today is overwhelmingly geared towards wealthier older Australians, while costs are passed on to younger working Australians.
Ours is now a two-tier economy. If you’re rich and you own assets, your net worth is likely going up with GDP. If you’re young, your net worth – and quality of life – is likely in reverse.
Remarkably few people are talking about this. Albanese, despite saying in the lead-up to the election that ‘Australia can’t rely on overseas migration’, has since lifted migration to its highest annual intake ever. The Greens, choosing to ignore the fact that rampant population growth is the single biggest destroyer of the environment, promote immigration, while simultaneously proposing rental caps – a blaring example of economic nonsense. The Liberals and Nationals say nothing, and only One Nation – to their credit – have spoken out against the current levels of migration.
The media has only just now started to whisper about the real reason for the rental crisis. After months of endlessly spruiking migration as a solution to the so-called ‘skills crisis’, they begun reporting on the inevitable harmful effects of that policy. Yet for every hundred articles churned out by ‘demographers’, ‘property specialists’, and ‘economists’, only one will even mention migration as a direct cause of the crisis. A remarkable coincidence.
Which brings forward a bigger question – if migration really is causing such huge strain on the country, why do we hear so little about it? The reason, writes Edward Smith, is because those promoting migration are seldom the ones affected by it.
‘One of the reasons CEOs, politicians, public servants, lobbyists, humanities academics, consultants and journalists — what I call protected knowledge workers — are so fond of globalisation of the labour market is because they do not experience it.
‘Protected knowledge workers face negligible competition from most recently arrived migrants who obviously lack the native cultural ‘skill’ set.
‘But for farm workers, drivers, cleaners, hospitality workers and uncertified construction workers on the other hand — manual labourers — next year’s migrants will compete directly for wages.’
These ‘protected knowledge workers’ simply don’t see what all the fuss is about when it comes to mass immigration. What’s wrong with letting a few people in? So removed are they from the effects of immigration, they fail to consider what bringing in hundreds of thousands of newcomers might mean for others. No group better represents this phenomenon than the Teals, who are quite happy to have massive new apartment blocks built on the cheap to house the rapidly growing migrant-fuelled population, just so long as it’s not in their neighbourhood.
Speaking to a friend involved in state politics recently, I asked why they think so few politicians publicly recognise mass migration as a direct cause of the housing crisis. ‘They don’t want to be called a racist. It’s as simple as that.’ Cynically, one of the biggest and most important conversations in Australia goes without discussion, out of fear of being cancelled.
Of course, this silence suits big business and the political left just fine. The conversation is kept sewn shut, with workers, politicians, families and young people harmed by mass migration left too afraid to speak out.
It’s now looking like the end result of this can only go one of two ways. We can admit the fundamental core of the issue, ignore the ridiculous accusations of racism and xenophobia, and gather enough political power to sufficiently reduce migration to a more sustainable level – or, we can continue to grow our population exponentially by bringing in 300,000+ a year, put intense strain on housing and wages, dramatically reduce our standard of living, and inevitably bringing the country to a political and economic flashpoint. It’s not as far off as you think.
‘Australia has not yet had the populist backlashes that have led to crises in other liberal democracies,’ writes Claire Lehmann in The Australian.
‘But our good fortune may be starting to unravel. High immigration can be absorbed when the pie is growing, and opportunities for upward mobility are abundant. But the pie is no longer growing, and younger and lower-income people in particular, feel like they’ve been screwed out of a fair go.’
Could we see a populist backlash? Populist parties across the world have figured out what time it is and are capitalising on a backlash – a smart party in Australia would do the same. Finland recently went to the polls, with the right-wing populist Finns Party coming out as the major winners after forming a coalition government with the centre-right. Notably, a 2020 poll showed that the Finns Party was the most popular party among young people, especially young males.
A not too dissimilar story in Italy, where a poll showed 17 per cent of young Italians backed Giorgia Meloni’s populist-right Brothers of Italy party – the second highest for support after the politically fashionable centre-left Democratic Party on 19 per cent. Likewise in Sweden, which now boasting both its first Millennial leader, and its first leader vowing to reduce immigration. The reason for this is simple: younger people have grown up with globalism, they are now naturally reacting against it.
This fact stands in complete contradiction to the narrative that young people are becoming more left-wing. A recent article from the Australian Financial Review rightfully tells us ‘Millennials are getting older, but not more conservative’, yet fails to mention that one reason younger people aren’t becoming more conservative, might be because they’re becoming more like their European counterparts.
It’s not hard to see why conservatism failed. Australia’s ‘conservative’ movement is nothing more than the exact same reheated Howard-era hyper-growth economics. While that may have worked back then, it’s these exact policies that are today worsening the housing crisis, the wage crisis, and ruining our standard of living. It may be good for the think-tanks, corporate donors, and the upper and older echelons, but it’s not good for the young Australians who were hoping to have living standards at least equal to that of their parents.
So what alternative should young people vote for? One Nation is increasingly shaping up to become a mainstream alternative populist party, but it needs some help. If it were smart, and if it wanted to grow its influence, it would look to the success of the parties overseas in Europe, and broaden its appeal to younger voters. It would modernise, professionalise, and digitise its image and its approach. It would start leaning on the issues flowing on from immigration: namely housing, wages, infrastructure, public services, environment, and social cohesion, as well as globalisation: namely culture, social cohesion, wealth gap, and cultural Marxism. Like Meloni’s party, like Finns Party, and like the Sweden Democrats, they would encourage more involvement from younger, energised members. They would talk to younger voters, ask their concerns. Support for the major parties is at its lowest ever, and young people today are angry and looking for not just a protest vote, but a genuine path out of this mess.
Of course, the Liberal Party could do the same, but the genetic makeup of their party is now far too upper-middle-class, far too established to understand the concerns of the average Australian, let alone lead a populist backlash. Like the conservatives above, they’re likely too removed from (or dependent on) the effects of globalism to effectively rally against it. They may have in the past effectively tricked voters into thinking they’re fighting for them, but that clearly isn’t working now.
One final point. People reading this who think they can buy their way out of the effects of globalisation are correct, insofar as it only affects them. But their children, and their children’s children will have to inhabit a country far different from the one they enjoyed. Looking around, I see a lot of rich parents who were made richer by a growing population, with their kids left materially and financially poorer, culturally astray, mentally unwell, and removed from the community that the parents enjoyed. The parents wonder what went so wrong, oblivious to the obvious connection: that globalisation gave them immense wealth, while ruining the country their children inherited.
We are in a skills shortage. There is now more than ever a desperate need for talented, smart, and driven people to speak up on the issue of immigration. If politicians, media figures, unions, businesses, and others only use their voice to silence dissent, shout louder. Right now, it’s all we’ve got.
Jordan Knight runs his own digital consultancy. Email him: email@example.com.