LABOR must Slash Immigration to Save Wages and …

Labor must slash immigration to save wages (and itself)

By Unconventional Economist in Australian EconomyAustralian Politics

December 6, 2019 | 15 comments

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers will urge the federal government to address issues such as low wages growth, underemployment and falling productivity in its mid-year economic outlook. He will tell a Chifley Research Centre conference that the economy is not working for ordinary Australians, while warning of the dangers associated with the rise of populism. From The Australian:

“Wages growth has been so persistently low under the Liberals that last week the Reserve Bank said it was the ‘new normal’,” he will say.

“Most Australians would consider this to be an appalling outcome that the government should be ashamed about. But the Liberals think it is a triumph. For them, it’s mission accomplished.
“This is why suburbs and towns feel cut off from prosperity and opportunity and why populism has flourished.

“It’s why people feel like no matter how hard they work they just can’t get ahead, that the system is busted, or rigged. The economy’s not working for ordinary Australians.”

Chalmers’ sentiments are correct. But to truly make a difference to wages, Labor must abandon its globalist ‘open borders’ dogma in favour of deep cuts to immigration.

A key reason why Australian wage growth remains in the gutter is because labour supply via immigration is running well beyond labour demand. This has kept Australia’s unemployment and underemployment rates elevated (despite strong jobs growth), reduced worker bargaining power, and removed the need for employers to lift wages to attract talent.

Indeed, a recent paper by Melbourne University Professor, Peter McDonald, found that around three quarters of employment growth in Australia between 2011 and 2016 was attributed to immigration:

The permanent and temporary skilled migration policies established by the Australian Government from 1995 played an important role in meeting that labour demand, especially in the boom years of the first decade of the 21st century…

From July 2011 to July 2016, employment in Australia increased by 738,800. Immigrants accounted for 613,400 of the total increase…

Migration has had a very large effect on the age structure of employment with most new immigrant workers (595,300) being under 55 years.

Therefore, the ongoing supply shock from immigration is the primary reason why labour supply continues to outrun demand and why wage growth remains anaemic.

Of course, the systemic wage theft from ballooning numbers of temporary migrants has also become entrenched across the entire Australian economy:

Entire industries have become heavily reliant on migrant workers to perform low-skilled work in the labour market for below award rates, which is unambiguously undercutting local workers and lowering overall wage growth.

Therefore, if Labor genuinely wants to ‘solve’ Australia’s low wage growth, as well as maximise its chances of winning the next federal election, it must halve immigration.

Not only does this policy make perfect sense economically, but it would be very popular politically, given most opinion polls show a strong preference for lower levels of immigration and a stabilising population.

All Labor needs to argue is that it will slash immigration because:

  1. an excessive flow of migrant workers are displacing locals, reducing employment opportunities and lowering wage growth;
  2. excessive immigration is driving up demand for housing, pushing prices beyond the reach of locals, especially in Sydney and Melbourne; and
  3. excessive immigration is overrunning infrastructure and water supplies, reducing amenity and liveability, and pushing up the cost of living.

Most Australians know these to be true and would resonate with these common-sense arguments.

Moreover, Labor could argue that it is merely seeking to lower immigration back toward the historical (pre-2003) average, and that the new lower intake would still be at the higher end of developed nations:

If Labor wants to have any chance of winning the next election, it must return to its working class roots and represent the interests of regular Australians over inner-city progressives.

Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.




Cowards of Canberra launch minimal China pushback

Yang Hengjun

IS there any vetting done of those flying in on Real Estate Tours? Seriously …

HOW many thousands flying in each week? With 2.2 MILLION Visa Holders … largely from the PRC … in Australia at any given time … and all the grubmnt have coughed up is a mere $90M to fund a new Taskforce …

Cowards of Canberra launch minimal China pushback

By Houses and Holes in Australian PoliticsChina American Cold War

December 2, 2019 | 19 comments

This morning we find an Aussie being tortured in China, via The Guardian:

The detained Australian writer Dr Yang Hengjun is being subjected to daily interrogations with his arms and legs shackled, as Chinese security officials try to “break” him, his lawyers say, pushing for him to confess to unspecified allegations of espionage that potentially carry the death penalty.

Yang, an Australian citizen and globally influential pro-democracy political blogger, has been held by China’s Ministry of State Security since being detained in Guangzhou in January. After months held in secret detention, Yang’s conditions of incarceration had eased, but sources with knowledge of his case have told the Guardian his maltreatment was now growing worse.

For some of his incarceration, he had been subjected to a single interview each month during which he was not shackled, but the last 10 days had seen a return to daily interrogation sessions, sometimes commencing at midnight, while his wrists and ankles were held in chains.

No worries. It’s just re-education. Weekend coverage of the China Cold War kicked off with an excellent piece by Greg Sheridan:

…it is still difficult, understandably, for Australians to adjust­ to the new paradigm, and how radically different it is from the old. From 1972 to 2014, the Australia-China relationship was like a market stock that trended ever upwards. There were ups and downs along the way, but the chart of the stock, the band in which it moved, trended ever upwards­. This era began when Gough Whitlam extended diplomatic recognition to the People’s Republic of China.

And it ended in 2014 when Abbott hosted China’s President, Xi Jinping. On that visit, Xi embraced a Comprehens­ive Strategic Partnership between­ Beijing and Canberra.

During Abbott’s tenure the two nations also negotiated and finalised a wide-ranging free-trade agreement.

…Since then, Xi has changed Chinese political culture fundamentally. His government has crushed all internal dissent, ­suppressed religious minorities, arrested all the human rights lawyers­, occupied and militarised the South China Sea, forged a dangerous strategic relationship with Moscow, interfered in the domestic politics of numerous nations­, incarcerated foreign indiv­iduals as bargaining chips in bilateral disputes, and aggressively engaged in cyber and other espionage at a level beyond that of other nations. These actions are where the big change lies.

Abbott’s Lowy Institute speech is more use to Australia as a guide today than Kevin Rudd’s weighty analysis or Paul Keating’s pretty wordscapes. Rudd’s analysis is alway­s valuable but he, too, conveniently blames Trump for the disruption to the Beijing-Washington­ accord, whereas the fundamental change is that which Xi has brought to the political, strategic, economic and social arc of Chinese development.

Australia has not lost the formul­a for good relations with Beijing. It’s just the formula doesn’t work any more in a new and different environment. It’s not paradigm lost; it’s reality changed. This past few weeks, we’ve come some distance in catching up with reality.

Exactly. We’ve been grovelling as usual but it hasn’t stopped the CCP from overwhelming the Pacific with strategic loans and violating our sovereignty to capture Canberra.

Sadly the awakening has not yet encompassed the dodgy Glady Liu who, amazingly, still holds the ScoMo Government majority in her hands. She was pictured on the weekend with others enveigled by the espionage scandal:

The man who claimed he was offered $1 million by a suspected Chinese spy to infiltrate the Australian Parliament attended a Liberal Party meeting with MP Gladys Liu at her former home.

Nick Zhao – who died in a Melbourne motel in March after he disclosed the suspected spy’s approach to ASIO – attended the Australia Day 2016 meeting of a Liberal Party multicultural branch at the former Glen Iris home of Ms Liu, who was the president of the branch.

When shown a photograph of Nick Zhao, Ms Liu said she “had no recollection” of seeing him, and said she was unaware of any attempt by Chinese operatives to support candidates into office.

No recollection. Shocked, shocked!

There are more news and leaks hosing down a second figure in last week’s spy drama, at The Saturday Paper:

Australia’s security agencies are sceptical about a self-described Chinese defector’s claims of involvement in high-profile espionage and kidnapping activities, and are seeking to rule out the possibility he is a double agent.

Security sources say Wang Liqiang’s decision to launch his bid for asylum in the pages of the Nine newspapers and on current affairs program 60 Minutes has elevated the already high levels of caution among those assessing the veracity of his claims.

“People who do this work are naturally sceptical, clinical and dispassionate,” one senior source told The Saturday Paper, referring to the intelligence officers scrutinising the information Wang has provided to support his asylum claim.

“Lesson one of the week: You don’t defect through 60 Minutes.”

Another warns that nobody should “rush into any conclusions” about the allegations, adding: “It is highly unusual for an intelligence officer who defects … to go to the media.”

Peter Harcher offered some execllent texture but a clangor conclusion:

I’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks. In the process of launching and then talking about the Quarterly Essay I’ve written about China and Australia, Red Flag: Waking up to China’s challenge, I’ve seen and heard many dimensions of fear of Beijing.

It extends from the top to the bottom. One of our elite universities was interested in hosting me for a discussion of the essay until it emerged that it involved China. Suddenly, higher authorities needed to be consulted.

Similarly, a senior parliamentary figure was keen to help with arrangements for a launch in Parliament House until the word “China” was mentioned. At that, he explained that it was just too sensitive.

Our universities and our national Parliament are supposedly the very cradles of free inquiry and free debate in our society. Yet at least some officials have been conditioned to think that the People’s Republic of China is an exception to Australia’s normal processes.

An event was held at a university this week, and another is scheduled for next. A launch in Parliament House did happen. I’m not arguing that our institutions are paralysed. But the timorousness is real.

I also found it in discussions with a business analyst, who is happy to issue commentary on any economic subject, but has a self-imposed rule against making any comment on the biggest economic subject for Australia, China.

Even a bloke cutting my hair told me that he’d learned to be careful about discussing the news with his Chinese Australian customers after being upbraided by one young man for expressing his view on the Hong Kong protests. After all, said the hairdresser, one day the Chinese government will be monitoring everyone in Australia.

Some tens of readers emailed with their own stories of being silenced, intimidated, monitored or otherwise discouraged from speaking frankly about this apparently radioactive subject. These included encounters in universities, workplaces, even retail establishments. Others expressed relief that I was broaching a topic they felt too nervous to canvass in their own lives.

Talkback radio shows and sessions with live audiences brought me in touch with fear and anger in roughly equal measure.

Fear and anger at the extent of Chinese investment, at Beijing’s efforts to buy and bully its way into Australian politics, at China’s crushing of its Uighur minority. And frustration at the perceived lack of Australian government action to restrain Chinese government activities, overt and covert, in Australia.

These themes recurred in the hundreds and hundreds of readers’ comments posted to columns I’ve written in the past week or two.

…Skilfully tapped, this is a potential vein of hot political magma, building pressure for populist exploitation. If such public concern isn’t addressed rationally, it may well be deployed irrationally for political gain.

Lowy’s Sam Roggeveen recently published an essay titled Our Very Own Brexit. He ruminates on the possibility of one of the main political parties breaking the consensus on immigration and fomenting a xenophobic backlash. It can happen here.

Xenophobia is one possible response. Trade protectionism is another. We’ve tried both in the past century and a half. Both failed. Either, or both, would be deeply harmful to Australia’s interests as a multicultural trading nation.

Roggeveen’s paper completely lacked logic. It presupposed that immigration is a univeral positive and set about proving it so. That is circular argument. It also conflated multiculturalism with mass immigration, as did Hartcher, another non-sequitur. Arguably both positions are, in fact, racist.

*What about the freedoms of other Aussies, including migrants, that are threatened by the encroachments of Beijing? They enjoy or came for the liberal democracy that frames freedom of religion, of politics, of work, of family, of fraternisation and of speech.

*If further Chinese immigration threatens that freedom via rising CCP influence then it also threatens multiculturalism. See silenced Hong Kong freedom fighters. Who is next? Australian Ahghanis? Australian Pakistanis? Australian Taiwanese? Australian Koreans? Australian Japanese? Everybody?*

*So long as the CCP seeks an ethno-centric autocracy then multiculturalism needs protection from open immigration.

*As Hartcher himself describes in detail, CCP influence-peddling is real, the war to corrupt Canberra is joined, universities are overrun with nationalist Chinese, business is muzzled by the bribe, individuals are being stalked, as all are “silenced, intimidated, monitored”.

*This underlines that the issue is not moral or racial at all. It is political. Would we have had mass Russian immigration during the Cold War?  Would it have been racist or xenophobic to not have it?

*In such cricumstances, it makes abundent sense to cut immigration to slow it all down.

*Indeed it becomes urgent, as a part of a broader package of reforms to push back against the CCP.

MB suggests a halving of the current rate, which would still be consistent with the historical average at 80k per year. That is slow enough that all migrants can be more easily absorbed, and risks that come with any and all groups by managed and mitigated.

At least there is some good news in the Government finally backing other MB reforms, at The Australian:

An elite intelligence taskforce led by ASIO, the Australian Signals Directorate and Defence intelligence will be created to put the country on a virtual war footing to combat national security threats from an unprecedented level of foreign interference and espionage.

The move will see the role of ASIO expand for the first time to share classified intelligence with Australian Federal Police on foreign interference. The pooling of intelligence — through security investigations conducted by ASIO and criminal investigations under the AFP — will help determine whether charges are laid against foreign targets or whether they are quietly thrown out of the country.

The taskforce will also bring in aerial and satellite intelligence-gathering used by the Defence Department’s Australian Geo­spatial-Intelligence Organisation, as well as drawing on Austrac’s ­financial intelligence capabilities.

The formation of the unit, which will begin with initial new funding of almost $90m, comes amid the Chinese spy scandal involving claims by defector Wang Liqiang that he was a Chinese spy.

The government said the creation of the taskforce was not ­related to the recent claims of Chinese interference and that it had been in development for months. It was, however, signed off by cabinet last week.

Scott Morrison confirmed the establishment of the Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce, saying it would elevate the intelligence agencies’ abilities to detect and disrupt foreign interference attempts and bring prosecutions under criminal espionage offences passed last year.

…The taskforce will see the ­National Counter Foreign Interference Co-ordinator in the ­Department of Home Affairs take on an operational role in discovering, tracking, analysing and disrupting foreign interference.

*This was a part of the Turnbull plan for CCP pushback which ScoMo and friends have been dithering over for over a year. It is modelled on the very successful Commonwealth Counter-Terrorism Coordinator.

Whether it will be enough to counter the world’s largest tyranny time will tell.

Houses And Holes

David Llewellyn-Smith is Chief Strategist at the MB Fund and MB Super. David is the founding publisher and editor of MacroBusiness and was the founding publisher and global economy editor of The Diplomat, the Asia Pacific’s leading geo-politics and economics portal.

He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.




AUSTRALIA's Low-Skilled, Low Wage Permanent Visa System Exposed

Australia’s low-skilled, low-wage permanent visa system exposed

By Unconventional Economist in Australian Economy

December 2, 2019 | 7 comments

On Friday, the ABS released its Personal Income of Migrants survey for 2016-17, which tracks the median earnings of permanent migrants aged 15 years and over who have arrived in Australia between 1 January 2000 and 30 June 2019.

According to the ABS, permanent migrants earned a lowly $49,438 median income in 2016-17:

Australia’s 1.9 million migrant taxpayers generated $112.3 billion in total personal income in 2016-17 according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today.

ABS Migration and Small Population Insights Director, Jenny Dobak said most of this migrant income ($102 billion, or 91 per cent) was earned by employees.

“With new data for 2016-17 now available, we have a better understanding of the personal income earned by migrants,” she said.

“For example the data shows the median employee income of all migrant taxpayers in 2016-17 was $49,438, which was slightly higher than the median employee income for all Australian taxpayers ($49,412)”.

Skilled migrant taxpayers

The 2016-17 data shows that 61 per cent of migrant taxpayers held a skilled visa and they reported $81 billion in total personal income, an increase of 5.8 per cent in real terms on 2015-16.

“We also know that migrants from the skill stream had the highest median employee income of migrant taxpayers ($59,304)” said Ms Dobak.

Family migrant taxpayers

Migrant taxpayers with family visas reported $25 billion in total income, and were most commonly born in the United Kingdom (13 per cent) and China (12 per cent).

Humanitarian migrant taxpayers

The data also showed that migrants with humanitarian visas reported $3.4 billion in total income and had a median employee income of $32,792, below the Australian taxpayer median employee income ($49,412).

Predictably, big business lobby group – the Migration Council of Australia (MCA) – tried to spin the survey as positive and argue that it justifies increasing Australia’s permanent migrant intake:

The “pervasive myth” that mig­rants are a drain on the economy has been busted by new Australian Bureau of Statistics data showing migrant employees’ median income is no different than for other taxpayers.

The ABS data, which reveals the nation’s 1.9 million migrant taxpayers generated more than $112bn in total personal income in 2016-17, prompted Migration Council Australia to call for a fresh look at increasing Australia’s permanent migration program, after the annual intake was reduced from 190,000 to 160,000 during the term of the last Coalition government.

The median employee income of all migrant taxpayers in 2016-17 was $49,438, the data reveals, slightly higher than the median employee income for all Australian taxpayers at $49,412.

“The income and tax revenue generated by migrants is critical to our economic growth and to maintain the government’s budget bottom line,” said Carla Wilshire, CEO of Migration Council Australia.

“We need to recognise the power of the migration program to foster growth, fuel investment, build trade linkages and develop new industries. Migration has ­always been a key economic lever and as global economic conditions weaken, we need to consider increasing Australia’s permanent migration program as a stabiliser.”

Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia chair Mary Patetsos said the ABS figures “confirm just how strong a contribution migrants make to the Australian economy”. “The figures also dispel the pervasive myth that migrants are a drain on the economy and government services,” Ms Patetsos said.

“The median income for ­migrants is slightly higher than it is for all Australians, which means the tax paid by migrants to help fund our hospitals, schools and other services is also likely to be about the same or slightly higher than the median for all Australians.”

*Anyone with an ounce of statistical nous knows there are major compositional flaws with comparing the median income of permanent migrants with the median Australian.

*The median Australian income is weighed down by kids and university students working casually, mums working part-time, seniors working part-time, etc.

By contrast, 60% of Australia’s permanent migrant intake arrive under the skilled stream. They are purported to be highly qualified and brought into Australia to overcome ‘skills shortages’.

*These ‘skilled’ migrants should, therefore, predominantly work full-time and be paid way above the population median, otherwise why import them?

*Thus, for permanent migrants to only have earned $26 more than the median Australian (which includes unskilled, part-time and casual workers), and for skilled migrants to only have earned a median of $59,304, is a disgrace and suggests that Australia’s purported skilled permanent migration program is instead a low-paid, low-skilled migration program used to undercut Australian workers.

Further evidence is provided by the Department of Home Affairs’ Continuous Survey of Australia’s Migrants, which revealed that the median full-time salary 18 months after being granted a skilled visa was just $72,000 in 2016, below the population median of $72,900. This is another shocking result given the population median includes unskilled workers, which obviously drags the nation-wide median full-time salary down.

*With employers hiring low-skilled, low-paid migrants en masse, no wonder Australia’s wage growth is so low.

Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.


HARDLY NORMAL: Appalling Insults by Gerry mar Harvey Norman meeting amid Activist Revolt

‘Hardly surprising’ either …

Isn’t it the case that some sufferers of the onset of envy get really really nasty about others pointing out their foibles?

Certainly this moment in time presents the opportunity for more of us to consider 

-shopping elsewhere 

-telling others of our disdain 

-spreading the word about how good the deals were elsewhere 

-seeking to have super investments diverted elsewhere 

AGAIN it seems we are increasingly being treated badly by the corporate sector … the banks and insurance companies took us for a ride, declaring they are the good guys only to be exposed as 


-lying to customers 

-lying to regulators

-exploiting the vulnerable 

-charging illegally fees

-deriving some of their massive profits from bad business practices

-underpaying workers, aka wage theft probably over a billion dollars in the last 12 months

OMG … the list goes on and now we hear some of our industry leaders still feel entitled to say ‘how dare they criticise us’

Time will tell, and so will further light illuminate attitudes and practices that the broader community in due course are more and more likely to reject

As West pointed out getting into bed with, and having understandings with mates in the political arena and in the media is helpful and may work for a while but it’s hardly something that doesn’t have a use by date like some OF the players seem to fail to recognise!

Hardly Normal: appalling insults by Gerry mar Harvey Norman meeting amid activist revolt

by Michael West — 27 November 2019 — FeaturedMarkets

Michael West

Author: Michael West

Hardly Normal: appalling insults by Gerry mar Harvey Norman meeting amid activist revolt

Gerry Harvey, chairman of Harvey Norman. Image: ABC

“Are you a sexual predator?” asked Gerry Harvey of a dissident shareholder who was politely though persistently questioning him in front of a packed house at the Harvey Norman annual meeting. This was the crowning insult, a gross defamation, amid the volley of abuse and ridicule directed at “agitators”; anybody who didn’t agree with him that is, men and women. Michael West reports on an extraordinary show of arrogance.

Questions cut off mid-sentence, proxy advisors and others dubbed “idiots”, derision at shareholders who dared question him, no cameras allowed. It was an extraordinary performance, belittling for Katie Page the billionaire’s wife and highly successful chief executive who sat on the podium next to him, appearing slightly uncomfortable though dignified throughout.

Most of the abuse by the billionaire chairman was aimed at shareholder activist Stephen Mayne who had nominated himself for a board seat to address concerns about corporate governance. When it came to the vote, Mayne picked up just 8.2 per cent. Still 84 million Harvey Norman shares voted in his favour.

For the second year running, the retailer’s Remuneration Report was thumped by shareholders: a 47.5 per cent vote against and 51.85 per cent for (ex the Harvey family shares), which led to a spill motion, solidly defeated in due course.

Mayne didn’t expect to win a board seat, he even voted in favour of the re-election of Katie Page himself. He came to deliver a message, a message on behalf of large shareholders (via proxy advisors) who were not happy with Gerry Harvey.

The extraordinary brawl was essentially about board independence, whether Harvey Norman should be run as a Harvey fiefdom or a public company with concern for the rights of minority shareholders.

“Harvey Norman is a family company, it always has been,” said the billionaire retailer in his opening preamble. Indeed it has been one of the most successful companies in ASX history, delivering 18 per cent returns to shareholders over 30 years.

And Gerry Harvey has a point when he says the autocratic structure had worked for shareholders. The likes of News Corporation and the Westfield group had delivered strongly for their owners over the years, both with executive chairmen Rupert Murdoch and (formerly) Frank Lowy.

That does not mean however that it will work in the future, or that the strongman approach is right. Gerry Harvey might control almost half the shares in Harvey Norman but the rest are held by minorities, investors who help finance the company on the ASX. They too have a voice and the independent directors on the company board are there to represent that voice.

There are broader issues at stake.

The power of corporations over democracy is growing. It needs to be monitored, its excesses curbed, and that is precisely what activist shareholders, indeed minority shareholders do.

Shareholder activists are merely exercising their right to exert a voice in the way corporations are run. It is a legal right, and it should be said that, despite his relentless vilification by Gerry Harvey today, Stephen Mayne has done as much for shareholder rights and corporate reform as anybody in this country.

And he has done it politely.

The other point about corporations in democracy is that they make political donations, they sway public policy. They have vast resources to influence policy via their lobbyists and control over elements of the mainstream media.

Harvey Norman is a huge advertiser, as Stephen Mayne points out. It spent $391 million on advertising last year, a vast chunk of that, perhaps $100 million with News Corp, which has acted as little more than a fan club for the billionaire via The Australian and Sky News.

After today’s front page of Melbourne’s Herald Sun published an enormous front page advertisement for Harvey Norman, its chairman kicked off his media day with a spot on Alan Jones’ high-rating 2GB radio show.

They ripped in to Mayne. Harvey thanked Sky News boss Paul Whittaker and Sky presenter Paul Murray for their support. But in all this, there was no mention of the $150 million losses made by the company in to non-retail plays such as dairy, school lockers and mining camps.

No mention either of shareholder grievances about the independence of directors, or the lack of women on the board apart from Katie Page. Nothing about accounting irregularities which have been the cause of substantial concern among professional investors; irregularities which were not adequately addressed by auditor EY.

It seems Gerry Harvey, with his “you’re an idiot if you disagree with me” schtick, just doesn’t get the fact that a $5 billion public company should listen to its minorities rather than mock them.

Perhaps the board thinks Harvey Norman ASX Index Weight refers to a brand of bathroom scales. The reality is that this stock attracts investment from superannuation funds who invest on behalf of ordinary Australians. These investors owe a duty of trust to those who invest with them, just as Harvey Norman owes a duty of trust to those who invest with it, not a duty of derision.

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Michael West

Michael West established to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. Formerly a journalist and editor at Fairfax newspapers and a columnist at News Corp, West was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences.




Population growth and Infrastructure in Australia: the catch-up illusion

By Unconventional Economist in Australian Economy

November 27, 2019 | 35 comments

Yesterday, I flew up to Sydney to launch a new discussion paper with former NSW Premier Bob Carr, entitled “Population growth and Infrastructure in Australia: the catch-up illusion”, of which I was the lead author.

This paper was commissioned by Sustainable Population Australia (SPA), which “is an Australian, non-partisan, special advocacy group that seeks to establish an ecologically sustainable human population”.

Below is the table of contents for the paper:

And here are links to the Summary and the Full Report, which can both be downloaded in PDF format.

This is the first in a series of discussion papers that will be released by SPA.

Please pass this paper along to your friends and colleagues, as we need to educate the general public on these vitally important issues.

Sustainable Population Australia

An independent not-for-profit organisation seeking to protect the environment and our quality of life by ending population growth in Australia and globally, while rejecting racism and coercive population control. SPA is an environmental advocacy organisation, not a political party.

Power - What drives our energy demands?

The future is something we create.

Development - what are its impacts?

Population growth and Infrastructure in Australia: the catch-up illusion

Sustainable Population Australia – Discussion Paper

Lead Author: Leith van Onselen

November 2019

Sydney and Melbourne now have worse traffic congestion than New York and Toronto. This congestion is but one symptom of an infrastructure shortfall caused by Australia’s rapid population growth, fuelled by very high levels of immigration since the beginning of this century.

If these trends continue towards a ‘Big Australia’, living standards for existing residents will continue to decline as people are forced into smaller, more expensive and lower-quality housing, endure worsening traffic congestion, pay more to access basic infrastructure and services, and have less access to public services and green space.

Our political leaders are claiming that these problems can be managed by decentralisation, ‘better planning’ and more investment. This paper disagrees with those propositions.

We find that these proposed solutions will not work under conditions of high population growth. Instead, the increasing cost and complexity of adding new infrastructure in our already sprawling cities can only guarantee declining living standards.

Sustainable Population Australia’s Discussion Paper series provides in-depth analysis of key issues relating to population policy and discourse.

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SPA Inc. (National Office)
PO Box 85


0434 962 305


Click here to email us


High IMMIGRATION is changing the AUSSIE way of life … rapidly …

WHY does the frequent failure of the HOUSING INDUSTRY to keep up with the FOREIGN DEMAND for NEW HOMES add to the price of HOUSING?

2.2 MILLION Visa Holders in Australia at any point in time … many seeking our housing and a Permanent Resident Visa

real estate gatekeepers exempt from Anti-Money Laundering Laws (October 2018)

WAS this the Big Boys Ponzi Plan all along?


-“Well, since I am not a modest person I say I had the biggest hand in it because I devoted myself to Sydney. I did a little bit in Queensland, but absolutely I am Sydney!”

(One Plus One with Jane Hutcheon when she enquired if HT had a hand in the way the Sydney landscape has changed?)

“I will bring in more migrants”

(AFR in response to the oversupply of apartments)

-“The problem with Australians is they are very slow. They ask their lawyer, they ask their financial adviser, they ask their family, they ask everybody. The Chinese don’t ask anybody, they come off the plane, buy their unit and go.”

(July 2017 AFR)


High immigration is changing the Aussie way of life

Ross Gittins
Ross Gittins

Economics Editor

November 27, 2019

View all comments

The nation’s economic elitepoliticians of all colours, businesspeople and economists – long ago decided we need to grow our population as fast as we can.

To them, their reasons for believing this are so blindingly obvious they don’t need to be discussed.

Unfortunately, however, it’s doubtful most ordinary Australians agree.

A survey last year by researchers at the Australian National University found that more than 69 per cent of respondents felt we didn’t need more people, well up on a similar poll in 2010.

An artist's impression of Parramatta in coming years.
An artist’s impression of Parramatta in coming years.

This may explain why Scott Morrison announced before this year’s election a big cut in our permanent migrant intakewhile failing to mention that our booming temporary migrant intake wouldn’t be constrained.

CAAN: At any point in time there are 2.2 MILLION TEMP. VISA HOLDERS IN AUSTRALIA …. Many seeking PERMANENT RESIDENCY!

He also foreshadowed measures to encourage more migrants to settle in regional cities.

What he didn’t say is what he’d be doing differently this time, given the many times such efforts had failed in the past.

*In between scandalising over the invading hordes of boat people, John Howard greatly increased the immigration intake after the turn of the century, and this has been continued by the later Labor and Coalition governments.

*“Net overseas migration” accounts for about 60 per cent of our population growth.

Illustration: Simon Letch
Illustration: Simon LetchCREDIT:



2030: Sydney’s housing ambitions signal rising risk in segregation

In 2000, the Australian Bureau of Statistics projected that our population wouldn’t reach 25.4 million until 2051. We got there this year. Our population is growing much faster than other developed countries’ are.

The growth in our economy has been so weak over the past year that they’ve had to stop saying it, but for years our politicians boasted about how much faster our economy was growing than the other economies.

*What they invariably failed to mention was that most of our faster growth was explained by our faster-growing population, not our increasing prosperity.

Over the year to June, for instance, real gross domestic product grew by (a pathetic) 1.4 per cent, whereas GDP per person actually fell by 0.2 per cent.

*That’s telling us that, despite the growth in the economy, on average our material standard of living is stagnant.

*All that immigration isn’t making the rest of us any better off in monetary terms.

Illustration: Andrew Dyson
Illustration: Andrew DysonCREDIT:

Of course, that’s just a crude average. You can be sure some people are better off as a result of all the migration. Our business people have always demanded high migration because of their confidence that a bigger market allows them to make bigger profits.

CAAN: The Rich Listers …

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Daily Telegraph: Future Development: Harry Triguboff

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The Australian: How the Rich Invest: Gerry Harvey

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The Australian: Rich and Rare: Frank Lowy looks back

Economists, on the other hand, are supposed to believe in economic growth because it makes all of us better off. They’re not supposed to believe in growth for its own sake.

This week one of the few interest groups devoted to opposing high migration, Sustainable Population Australia, issued a discussion paper that’s worth discussing. It reminds us that many of the problems we complain about are symptoms of migration.


As interest rates get closer to zero, it's becoming clearer that very cheap debt doesn't necessarily cheer us up. Illustration: Dionne Gain

Rate cuts getting less bang for their buck

The biggest issue is infrastructure. We need additional public infrastructure – and private business equipment and structures, and *housing – to accommodate the needs of every extra person (locally born as well as immigrant) if average living standards aren’t to fall.

*Taking just public infrastructurecovering roads, public transport, hospitals, schools, electricity, water and sewage, policing, law and justice, parks and open space and much more – the discussion paper estimates that every extra person requires well over $100,000 of infrastructure spending.

When governments fail to keep up with this need – as they have been, despite a surge in spending lately – congestion on roads and public transport is just the most obvious disruption we suffer.

*The International Monetary Fund’s latest report on our economy says we have “a notable infrastructure gap compared to other advanced economies”.

Spending is “not keeping up with population and economic growth”. We have a forecast annual gap averaging about 0.35 per cent of GDP for basic infrastructure (roads, rail, water, ports) plus a smaller gap for social infrastructure (schools, hospitals, prisons).

*One factor increasing the cost of infrastructure is that about two-thirds of migrants settle in the already crowded cities of Sydney and Melbourne – each of whose populations is projected to reach 10 million in the next 50 years, with Melbourne overtaking Sydney.

The proposed West Gate Tunnel crossing of the Maribyrnong River.
The proposed West Gate Tunnel crossing of the Maribyrnong River. CREDIT:WESTERN DISTRIBUTOR AUTHORITY

*According to a Productivity Commission report, “growing populations will place pressure on already strained transport systems. Yet available choices for new investments are constrained by the increasingly limited availability of unutilised land”.

*New developments such as Sydney’s WestConnex have required land reclamation, costly compensation arrangements, or otherwise more expensive alternatives such as tunnels. It’s reported to cost $515 million a kilometre, with Melbourne’s West Gate Tunnel costing $1.34 billion a kilometre.

*Who pays for all this? We do – one way or another. “Funding will inevitably be borne by the Australian community either through user-pays fees or general taxation,” the commission says.

Combine our growing population with lower rainfall and increased evaporation from climate change and water will become a perennial problem and an ever-rising expense to householders and farmers alike.

The housing industry’s frequent failure to keep up with the demand for new homes adds to the price of housing. And the only way we’ll double the populations of Melbourne and Sydney is by moving to a lot more high-rise living.

High immigration is changing the Aussie way of life. Before long, only the rich will be able to afford a detached house with a backyard.

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Property Observer: Meriton’s Harry Triguboff: Vaucluse Mansion

Ross Gittins is the Herald’s economics editor.

Ross Gittins

Ross Gittins is the Economics Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.

Illustration: Andrew Dyson




NSW Planning Minister: Population growth impossible to control

NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes has spoken about the challenges of providing good growth.

IS population growth really impossible to control?

WHAT’s stopping Stokes stomping on the Feds?

HOW do you like these suggestions … ?

‘PERHAPS we should embrace this and demand development in Point Piper, Vaucluse … Balmain … perfectly suited to 30 storey apartment towers. Good facilities, transport , and parkland. AND to match the housing types like that in Macquarie Park, North Ryde and the Godzilla Ghetto of Meadowbank to accommodate different cultures so as not to work against “all sorts of ingrained prejudices”!

If you decide to house another million these are the locations.
And make it affordable low rent housing

Turn the private schools into public, and they have plenty of schools too … ! “

He he … that will increase the opposition to the GROWTH AGENDA!

NSW Planning Minister: Population growth impossible to control

By Unconventional Economist in Australian Economy

November 26, 2019 | 18 comments

After last week attacking so-called “NIMBY baby boomers” for opposing high-rise development across Sydney, NSW Planning Minister, Rob Stokes, claims it is “a completely quixotic quest” to try and control Sydney’s growth [my emphasis]:

A drone shot of a housing development in a semi-rural area.

In the next 17 years, Sydney’s population is expected to grow by 1.5 million people, a large percentage of whom will pour into the south-west growth corridor…

Conceding that the city is spreading too far too fast, Planning Minister Rob Stokes has revealed that he wants a new relationship with councils to help manage growth and infrastructure pressures.

“We want to help shape growth,” Mr Stokes said.

Even if it were a desirable outcome to restrict growth, and I am not sure it necessarily is, but even if that is what people wanted to do that is a completely quixotic quest.

“You can’t stop it, so the best thing you can do is work together”…

*What a load of gaslighting rubbish. Sydney’s current population growth has been caused almost entirely by net overseas migration (NOM): *

*And all of Sydney’s future 4.5 million projected population increase will come from NOM:

*Therefore, Sydney’s population growth could easily be “restricted” by simply returning Australia’s NOM back to the historical average of around 70,000, from 250,000 currently:

Heck, even cutting NOM to 100,000 – still a generous intake – would greatly reduce Sydney’s future population increase.

Sure, immigration policy is set by the federal government, so in this sense it is out of the NSW State Government’s control.

*But why isn’t the NSW Government lobbying hard for deep cuts to the migrant intake?

As the nation’s largest state, and the centre of political power, it could force the federal government’s hand.

*After all, the overwhelming majority of NSW residents strongly oppose further population growth:

They (majority of NSW Residents) know that population growth means more over-development, crush-loaded infrastructure and services, and lower living standards.

*Their views are also explicitly supported by Infrastructure Australia’s modelling, which shows projects worsening traffic congestion, longer commute times, and reduced access to jobs, schools, hospitals and green space as Sydney swells to a projected 7.4 million people by 2046 under ongoing mass immigration, regardless of whether Sydney builds up or builds out:

Current mass immigration settings also means that Sydney will turn into a high-rise battery chook city mid-century, according to Urban Taskforce projections:

Rather than attacking his own constituents, Rob Stokes should represent them and lobby the federal government to slash immigration, given it is the driver of Sydney’s projected population explosion, over-development, and falling living standards.

Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

Public housing towers at Waterloo.




GERARD MINACK: On What is Killing Wages …

SHARE this with your families … so they are better informed … then challenge your local MPs for a cutback to 100,000 p.a. immigration for a better future for Australia!


Gerard Minack: Mass immigration killing wages

By Unconventional Economist in Australian Economy

November 20, 2019 | 11 comments

Economist Gerard Minack has warned that the huge rise in labour supply from mass immigration is holding down Australian wages:

Gerard Minack, an economist and principal at Minack Associates, said when compared with the boomer generation, the economic choices of recent generations are much more limited.

“Well, young Australians are facing a hell of a hill,” he told 7.30.

“They are coming out of universities with a much larger debt than their parents did and they are going to have to buy in the most expensive housing market in the world.

“All against a backdrop of a negative income growth.

“It’s a trifecta that’s pretty tough for them”…

High immigration levels also mean that more people want work.

That, in turn, means there is no need for employers to give people pay rises to keep them on.

“The biggest single problem since the GFC 10 years ago is that we have struggled to get any income or wage growth,” Mr Minack said.

“Why is that? A massive increase in labour supply.”

Too right. When you add 200,000-plus migrants to the economy every year, most with work rights, then it represents a massive rolling labour supply shock which must be absorbed.

Indeed, a recent paper by Melbourne University Professor, Peter McDonald, found that around three quarters of employment growth in Australia between 2011 and 2016 was attributed to immigration:

The permanent and temporary skilled migration policies established by the Australian Government from 1995 played an important role in meeting that labour demand, especially in the boom years of the first decade of the 21st century…

*From July 2011 to July 2016, employment in Australia increased by 738,800. Immigrants accounted for 613,400 of the total increase…*

Migration has had a very large effect on the age structure of employment with most new immigrant workers (595,300) being under 55 years.

Embedded in this system is the systemic wage theft from temporary migrants, which has become entrenched across the entire Australian economy:

Entire industries have become heavily reliant on migrant workers to perform low-skilled work in the labour market for below award rates, which is unambiguously undercutting local workers and lowering overall wage growth.

The economics is simple: continually increasing labour supply via immigration necessarily reduces workers’ bargaining power and ergo wages growth.

So why aren’t Australia’s union movement and younger Australians up in arms at the mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ policy, which is not only eroding workers’ conditions and pay, but also pushing-up their cost of living via housing as well.

Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

Gerard Minack

ABC Photo: Gerard Minack




New modelling: MASS IMMIGRATION makes AUSSIES poorer

With net migration of 100,000 a year by 2030, the population reaches about 28 million rather than 30 million … the consequences …

Tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is about 8.5% higher than now.

-This funds more spending on health, education and social security

-The equivalent to 1% of GDP on the sustainability of transport, water, energy, agriculture and energy systems

-Unemployment and income inequality are lower

Fewer people live in relative poverty, and life expectancy is higher

Energy, water and resource consumption is down so are greenhouse gas emissions with more forested land

This delivers a more prosperous, fairer and greener nation in 2030.

New modelling: Mass immigration makes Aussies poorer

By Unconventional Economist in Australian Economy

November 20, 2019 | 19 comments

New modelling from a group of academics from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) suggests that Australia’s mass immigration policy is making Australians poorer and raising inequality:

We modelled four development scenarios for Australia through to 2030:

  • “Growth at all Costs”, emphasising economic growth
  • “Green Economy”, emphasising environmental outcomes
  • “Inclusive Growth”, emphasising social equality
  • “Sustainability Transition”, balancing economic, social and environmental outcomes…

We then evaluated each scenario against the Sustainable Development Goals, an internationally recognised set of targets and indicators that measure national progress in 17 major areas.

These include economic growth, poverty, inequality, education, health, clean water and clean energy

Economic growth – defined as an increase in a nation’s production of goods and services – is generally measured by the annual change in real gross domestic product (GDP).

Our “Growth at all Costs” scenario involves accelerating economic growth through higher population growth and lower taxes.

Net migration is modelled as being 350,000 a year by 2030, with the population reaching just over 30 million. The government’s tax revenue as a proportion of GDP is 10% less than now as a result of lower tax rates…

In our modelling this scenario increases GDP growth to about 2.6% a year, with low unemployment and declining government debt.

But it comes at the expense of income inequality and the environment.

Even on the one goal it might be expected to do relatively well – Goal 8 – this scenario performs quite poorly. That’s because the goal measures per capita GDP growth, not just the total GDP growth most politicians talk about, along with a range of social and environmental indicators.

The following graphs show how the four scenarios compare on real GDP (i.e. adjusted for inflation), per capita GDP, income inequality and greenhouse gas emissions.

Sustainability transition

With an overall score of 70%, the “Sustainability Transition” scenario is the clear winner.

*This scenario modelled slower population growth and higher taxes on consumption, income and profits and trade. With net migration of 100,000 a year by 2030, the population reaches about 28 million. Tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is about 8.5% higher than now.

This funds more spending on health, education and social security, as well as the equivalent to 1% of GDP on the sustainability of transport, water, energy, agriculture and energy systems.

The overall result is economic growth of about 2.1% a year, with government debt 10% higher than our business-as-usual projection.

*But per capita GDP is higher. Unemployment and income inequality are lower. Fewer people live in relative poverty, and life expectancy is higher. Energy, water and resource consumption is down. So are greenhouse gas emissions. There is more forested land. This delivers a more prosperous, fairer and greener nation in 2030.

While there are obviously other factors, it is worth emphasising that reducing net overseas migration (NOM) to 100,000 people a year achieves far better outcomes in terms of GDP per capita, equality, employment and the environment than the “business as usual” (NOM of ~200,000 a year) or NOM of 350,000.

Once I obtain a copy of this paper (locked behind a paywall), I will investigate the modelling more closely.

Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs. 





Memo to Recessionberg: mass immigration is destroying productivity

Financial Review: Ageing Population is economic timebomb.

LVO explains where they have gone wrong … and why we have been crushed!

Memo to Recessionberg: mass immigration is destroying productivity

By Unconventional Economist in Australian Economy

November 19, 2019 | 9 comments

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has penned an op-ed in the AFR championing the “three P’s” of 1) boosting productivity; 2) raising workforce participation; and 3) increasing the population via immigration, to see off the nation’s ageing population:

As a nation, we need to effectively leverage the three P’s – population, participation and productivity – to meet this challenge.

When it comes to workforce participation, we are at record highs and the participation rate for those aged 65 and over has increased from 12.3 per cent to 14.6 per cent over the past five years.

The participation rate for this cohort was less than 6 per cent 20 years ago.

However, with Australians in work currently undertaking 80 per cent of their training before the age of 21, this will have to change if we want to continue to see more Australians stay engaged in work for longer.

When it comes to population, our migration program has served us well. With the median age of migrants being 20 to 25, or 10 years less than that of the broader population, immigration has helped to soften the economic impacts of an ageing population.

Productivity is, however, one area where we must do better. Tracking at less than half the long-term average, our focus is on deregulation, skills, industrial relations and other micro-economic reforms to improve service delivery.


Boosting productivity is by far the most important driver of rising living standards over the long-term, since it allows more goods/services to be produced (consumed) from less effort.

Raising labour force participation can also raise living standards.

However, working more hours (increasing participation) can mean that less time is available for other pursuits, such as relaxing or meeting-up with friends.

So while working more will, other things equal, raise incomes and GDP, it can also take away from the other pleasures in life, reducing its benefit.

By contrast, population growth’s impact on living standards is highly questionable. While it certainly does raise headline GDP (more inputs equals more outputs), there are significant doubts over whether it raises per capita GDP, while also placing greater pressure on the environment, pre-existing infrastructure and housing, and Australia’s fixed endowment of mineral resources.

*In fact, there are strong reasons to believe that Australia’s mass immigration program is crushing the nation’s productivity.

*First, Australia’s mass immigration model is crush-loading our major cities, stifling productivity through rising congestion costs, as well as encouraging growth in low productivity people-servicing industries and debt creation, rather than higher productivity tradables.

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*The infrastructure investment required to keep pace with population growth is also much higher cost than in the past, due to diseconomies of scale (e.g. tunnelling and land buy-backs), alongside government corruption in infrastructure selection.

Allowing employers to pluck cheap migrants in lieu of granting wage rises to local workers also discourages companies from innovating and adopting labour saving technologies, while also preventing creative destruction by enabling low productivity companies to remain in business.

Indeed, Australia’s productivity slump has occurred alongside the massive lift in immigration from the early-2003, which speaks volumes:

Of course, there are other drivers of Australia’s sluggish productivity growth.

Australia’s ghastly energy policy (especially around LNG exports) has sent Australian power prices through the roof, raising input costs, making Australian industry uncompetitive, and forcing higher productivity firms in tradable industries to close.

*Third, Australia’s tax system encourages speculation and investment into non-productive housing, and has also helped bias bank lending towards housing over businesses.

Fourth, Australia’s economy is ruled by oligopolies and rent-seekers, whom bend the political decision-making process at their whim.

*Currently, there is no economic plan other than to flood Australia with hundreds-of-thousands of extra people each year to stoke overall economic growth (but not growth per person), to support big business (e.g. the property industry), and to prevent Australia from going into recession (despite growth and income per person stagnating).

Meanwhile, productivity and individual living standards are being eroded through rising congestion costs, declining housing affordability, paying more for infrastructure (e.g. toll roads and water desalination), environmental degradation, and overall reduced amenity.

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Josh Frydendberg and his cronies are part of the problem.

Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.