Monday, January 13, 2014

Extraordinary Call for Increase to Migrant Worker Program

It is astonishing that the Australian Industry Group is calling for an increase in Australian migration from 190,000 to 220,000, through an increase to our permanent Migrant Worker Program. First it is astonishing that they think the number should be lifted by 30,000, when as recently as twenty years ago the entire permanent Migrant Worker Program was less than 30,000.

Secondly it is astonishing that they want to increase the number of migrant workers when we are already unable to find jobs for Australian workers, including those who have come here on previous permanent Migrant Worker Programs. Last month unemployment increased by 3,400 to 712,500 Australians who cannot find work, and this number is forecast to increase.  Official forecasts are that the jobless rate will rise within about 18 months to 6.25%, and stay there through to the end of 2016-17. More Australians will be out of work than at any time during the past decade, and far more than during the Global Financial Crisis.  The forthcoming closures of Ford and Holden, job losses at Qantas, concerns for jobs at SPC Ardmona and Alcoa, the resources industry construction workforce winding back – all the indicators are that many Australians, including migrant workers, are looking for work or will be looking for work in the near future. They are entitled to our first consideration.

The Australian Industry Group says that increasing migrant numbers is needed to “support positive growth in our population”, and refers to relatively low levels of natural population growth. This is incorrect. For each of the past thirty-six years I have gone back to check this, births have exceeded deaths in Australia by over 100,000 – we have natural population increase by over 100,000 every year without any migration at all. In any event, population growth is not a good thing. It is putting great pressure on our environment, quality of life, housing affordability, traffic congestion etc.
The permanent Migrant Worker Program, referred to as “Skilled Migration”, should be used to bring workers with skills that it is not possible to find in Australia,  not used as a catch all scheme – recently we even saw calls to bring in truck drivers from overseas.  It should not be used to drive population growth, not used to put downward pressure on wages and conditions, and not used as a substitute for genuine action to train and skill young Australians. If we are fair dinkum about reducing unemployment, and fair dinkum about increasing workforce participation, we will reduce migrant worker programs, not increase them, and build and use the skills of out-of-work Australians.


  1. In a recent comment on a population-denying editorial in the journal Nature, I wrote:

    "Both the Australian Labour Party (previous gov) and the Liberals (present gov) have dogmatically driven Australian population skywards. Witness the baby bonus. Australian population has never grown so fast --- calculated as the yearly increase in the total number of people living in Australia --- as it did under the previous Labour government. I'm just waiting to see what the new Liberal government will do to top them."

    Well, now I know! Hold onto your hats folks, we're in for one hell of a ride!

  2. Well said Kelvin. The demand for ever increasing economic growth through population growth is an unsustainable Ponzi scheme and just plain lazy economic thinking. This laziness extends to business and politicians in both major parties your good self excepted. Unfortunately the simplicity of the pro growing population argument is hard to overcome. Especially since our waves of immigration have so enriched our society thus far in many ways. We need ways to articulate what a successful egalitarian, sustainable and culturally rich society would look like with a stable population.

  3. Kelvin, I read recently, that up to 50% of the huge surge in "skilled" migrants from the Indian sub continent, came here on forged or fake documents. You would have red this too last year.
    It seems that their is either no work to match their "skills" or indeed their skill documentation was fake too?
    It seems that their skills are driving taxis and buses.
    Is our immigration system a rort for many people to have a better life?

  4. Oh Kelvin, you're my sustainable population hero!!!

    A lone thoughtful voice in the wilderness of population. Where have all the 'thinkers' gone??

  5. Thanks Kelvin for another great essay!

    I believe that it is not appropriate for immigration to be at its current level let alone be increased by a further 30,000 for whatever reason.

    I have long held the view that the drive to increase immigration to satisfy so called unmet demand here in Australia is at least partly the result of the economic rationalist view that it is cheaper to import skilled labor into the country rather than outlay the money needed to train and skill our own workforce. This kind of policy not only diminishes the chances of our own (especially young) citizens of gaining a skill, it also takes away skilled citizens from other countries where they are often desperately needed. It is another example of the completely amoral nature of the fundamentalist economic rationalist ideology that appears to have permeated virtually every aspect of not only our economy but of our very society.

  6. I concur with you wholeheartedly Kelvin! In true neoliberal fashion - if you can't kill it with a stick, the stick isn't big enough, we have rising unemployment and they want to raise the immigration rate. I've just finished reading Daniel Steadman Jones' book Masters of the Universe a thorough treatise on neoliberalism from Hayek, von Mises and Popper until the GFC with the resounding conclusion that it hasn't worked, won't and never will.

    Welcome to the land downunder
    You'll shake your with wonder
    Came here with all of my family
    Thought we'd live here happily
    A house, a good car, employment
    But, we got stooged by the government
    This was the land of plenty
    Scuse me, can you lend me twenty
    Sorry I think I've blown my cover
    I had better warn my brother..........


  7. These growth-lobby groups are out of hand and have extra-ordinary powers to sway governments for their own vested interests. Empirical evidence is showing that contrary to having high rates of skills shortages, Australia is going through an unemployment and under-employment crisis. Already migrants are facing high unemployment rates, and research shows they are the first to struggle when jobs get scarce!
    The Australian Industry Groups need to get back into the real world. Their "skills shortages" are more likely the result for our full-speed population growth rates being imposed upon us! The lack of infrastructure is due to population overshoot, and adding more migrants to a declining economy, and massive infrastructure debts, will only exacerbate the problem we already have.
    The population drive is simply a case of adding to the size of our GDP, through amassing people, and can't be justified rationally. It's a case of speeding up population growth so that more houses can be built for all the migrants who come here to provide us with skills, and then claiming there's a "shortage" of them - and demanding more of them at the cost of jobs for locals.

  8. According to the iA media release, "...early indicators suggesting a positive upturn in national housing market activity, we expect the residential and commercial construction cycles will pick up significantly from 2014-15 which will in turn lead to further skilled trade shortages.."
    So, with more migrants demanding houses, and more construction needed, the Ponzi housing scheme can be promoted and supported by adding more "skilled" migrants who will inevitably need houses, and more skills will be needed when more shortages become apparent. It's a cyclic and self-serving argument, and a self-fulfilling prophesy! The cycle of demand, shortages and growth will continue to prop up the housing bubble - and come crashing down with unaffordable housing, more unemployment, higher costs of living and all the ills of over-population!

  9. Spot on Kelvin. This AIG call for increased immigration (we already have the highest rate in the world) comes just weeks after the infamous editorial in Murdoch's 'The Australian' also calling for more immigration. Both the Australian Industry Group and the Murdoch press would benefit from higher rates of immigration, even though the other 99% of us would suffer from the faster population growth it would cause.
    Both AIG and Murdoch give large 'donations' (in most nations they are called bribes) to political parties, and that is why no politician except Kevin has the guts to say or do anything to stop population growth.

  10. What can one say, its so bleeding obvious it hurts

  11. What can one say! Its so bleeding obvious it hurts.

  12. I agree with all the above comments. I am not usually a Labor voter but Kelvin, you would have my vote on this topic alone. The "Big Australia" idea is not for the benefit of Australians already living here, except for the ones growing richer through the government-sponsored property Ponzi scheme.

    More and more Australians are becoming unemployed or under-employed, and remember too, there is a whole group of older Australians who have simply given up looking for work because they are considered "too old" when they are, in fact, very capable of working. Wages are not rising nearly as quickly as house prices which are already deemed unaffordable, yet this call for more people to create more demand for housing just so that property prices can go even higher is insane.

    Please maintain the voice of reason and keep up the good work.

  13. Thanks, Kelvin - and as you know, unless we change the economic system we're operating under, there will always be a push for population growth - more consumers and more workers to compete for lower wages. Why don't we push for an earth-centric economic model like Herman Daly (you may know he's a professor of economics and former World Bank exec) - Thanks for everything you're doing - you give me hope for the future - KT as PM!

  14. Well done as always Kelvin - your seat is probably the most secure that Labor have.

    It was disappointing that not more Australians voted for the Stable (soon to be Sustainable) Population Party but it appears Australians haven't as yet worked out that population growth is the problem masquerading as the solution. Still, let's hope that the Griffith bi-election gives an indication of growing awareness.

    Please keep it up and good luck with your NGO!

  15. It is recklessness on the part of the Business council of Australia to call for a 30,000 increase in migration levels. Their sole agenda is to keep the businesses of their members ticking over; totally self-serving and very short sighted.As stated above we have, together with our natural birth rate plus existing migration levels, sufficient growth in population levels already. Eventually we, and other developed countries have to, at some stage, consider moving to a steady state economy with a population that is consistent with the ability of our island continent to support. If the effects of global warming prove to be accurate we'll be in serious trouble with a population of 30 million plus.

  16. As usual, insightful and succinct.
    I'm in mining, and at our site we've laid off 40 tradesmen in the last 12 months, 180 equipment operators, and most of our contractors and consultants.
    "Skills shortage" not sure how long they think they can keep repeating that falsehood.