Tony Abbott repeats claim immigration cut will improve quality of life | Australia news | The Guardian

One could have a similar debate here without being xenophobic (“stagnant wages, unaffordable housing and clogged infrastructure”):

Tony Abbott has seized on Peter Dutton’s claim that Australia needs to cut its migration intake and signalled he will renew his push to do so by linking migrant numbers to quality of living issues.

On Monday the former prime minister said he would make the case for cutting migration to improve “stagnant wages, unaffordable housing and clogged infrastructure” in a speech in Sydney on Tuesday.

The speech coincides with Malcolm Turnbull’s trip to the US to meet Donald Trump and picks up on themes from Abbott’s “conservative manifesto” launched in 2017, viewed as a critique of Turnbull government policies.

Abbott told 2GB Radio that the “gossip” regarding Barnaby Joyce and politicians’ private lives was a “very serious distraction” to issues including power prices, wages, housing prices and traffic congestion that the government “should be attending to”.

Asked about Jim Molan’s first Senate speech in which the conservative Liberal called for a reassessment of migration levels, Abbott said the program must be run “in Australia’s national interest”.

“Just at the moment we’ve got stagnant wages, unaffordable housing, clogged infrastructure and there is no doubt the rate of immigration impacts on all of these things.”

Abbott said that immigration had averaged 110,000 a year for most of the life of the Howard government and since 2006 “it’s been running at double that rate”.

“That means every five years we are adding – by immigration alone – a city the size of Adelaide to our population.”

Abbott said the level of immigration was “very, very high”, “absolutely unprecedented by historical standards” and “on a per capita basis, vastly higher than any other developed country”.

According to the parliamentary library, an average of 107,000 permanent migrants and people on humanitarian visas entered Australia a year between 1996 and 2006 compared with 190,000 a year from 2006 to 2016.

However, the average in the Howard government was weighed down by low results in the early years. By 2006-07, 161,217 people came to Australia on permanent or humanitarian visas, almost as high as during the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments and Abbott and Turnbull Coalition governments, when it ranged up to 200,000.

The net overseas migration figures were 114,000 a year between 1996 and 2006, and 220,000 a year from 2007 to 2015.

However, from 2006 onwards, estimates for net overseas migration included people who stayed in Australia for 12 months or more, who were added to the population. This means the figures after 2006 are boosted by temporary migrants who later become permanent residents or citizens.

In his book Choosing Openness, Labor’s shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh noted that, according to an OECD survey of academic studies, migrants had minimal impact on housing prices.

Of the OECD’s 28 studies on immigration and wages, 13 reported no effect, seven a small positive effect, and eight a small negative effect, he said.

Abbott qualified his remarks by saying he was “all in favour of immigration but it has to be the right immigration, under the right circumstances, that’s right for our country, including the recent migrants”.

“I think the current rate of immigration does need to be looked at again – that’s what Peter Dutton seemed to be suggesting on Ray’s program last week.”

On Thursday Dutton said Australia must reduce its intake of migrants “where we believe it’s in our national interest”.

Dutton said it was a “perfectly legitimate argument” that Australia’s cities were “overcrowded” including “gridlocked traffic in the mornings”.

“We have to reduce the numbers where we believe it’s in our national interest,” he said. “It’s come back considerably and if we have to bring it back further, if that’s what required and that’s what’s in our country’s best interests … that is what we will do.”

After the Turnbull government recorded its 27th consecutive Newspoll loss on Monday, Abbott said it was “very dangerous and counterproductive” to get rid of a leader “on the basis of a poll, or the basis of 29 polls”.

“It was the prime minister who made the polls this kind of a test, and really it’s the prime minister who has elevated polling into the be-all and end-all,” he said.

via Tony Abbott repeats claim immigration cut will improve quality of life | Australia news | The Guardian

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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