Fresh voices against a Big Australia

The increasing pressures from high immigration on Australia’s population and infrastructure  – present and future  – are being recognised across the country.

Yesterday, Brisbane’s Courier Mail revealed a plan by the Queensland and Australian governments to decentralise the settlement of immigrants (Newman and Abbott governments plan for immigrants and refugees to be sent to regional Queensland towns, 20 January 2014).

The article claimed that, “under the Queensland Plan, the Government wants 50 per cent of the population to live outside the southeast corner by 2034, meaning the regions would have to cater for another 2.3 million people”.

A photograph accompanying the story shows a family of migrants from the UK enjoying the beach at Cairns. They expressed concern about future “overcrowding”.

On the same page of the Courier Mail website is a short video comment by demographer Bernard Salt who observes, “the Big Australia scenario just got bigger”. The video actually seems to have been filmed last November, when the Australian Bureau of Statistics launched its latest Population Projections for Australia. Salt suggests that the public might not be happy with the statisticians’ prediction of 240,000 overseas migrants per year.

Today’s letters column in the Courier Mail engages forcefully with the issue of regional overpopulation. One writer, David Haselgrove, wisely notes:

All coastal regions are just like the main cities. They are being swamped by population growth now. An influx of new immigrants, many of whom would have foreign values and special needs, will only make things worse.

It would be much more logical to cut immigration from the current 200,000 plus a year to around 70,000.

This would balance immigration with emigration, which would mean that immigration did not add to population growth. Cutting immigration to a net zero would be popular politically.

Meanwhile, in Victoria, federal MP Kelvin Thomson has challenged the rapid urban expansion that is “spilling over into agricultural land” (Land available for Melbourne’s growth but MP warns on fast expansionHerald Sun, 21 January 2014). He observed that “growth was too rapid for the capacity of infrastructure and was fuelling higher council rates, electricity, gas and water charges”.

Thomson has also criticised the Liberal Government’s proposed solution to the currently unsustainable level of welfare spending as “a mean spirited attack on the poor”. A post on Thomson’s blog today suggests that there are “fairer and more appropriate ways of reducing the $70 billion welfare budget”, including by lifting Australia’s workforce participation rate:

The latest figures show our participation rate has fallen to 64.6%, the lowest level since 2006. We have over 720,000 Australians out of work, and over 820,000 Australians receiving the Disability Support Pension. Why, then, are we running such massive permanent and temporary migrant worker programs? Over one million temporary visa holders have work rights in Australia. We need to cap and reduce the migrant worker programs and give job opportunities and job security to Australians who are presently out of work.  (21 January 2014; 3.34pm)

Last week, correspondents to The Australian made similar observations, suggesting that we need to “train our own workers before imports”.

We congratulate everyone who is speaking up on behalf of reduced immigration. We also urge Australian voters in the electorate of Griffith to use their by-election on 8 February to send an urgent message to Canberra by writing REDUCE IMMIGRATION in the blank space at the top of their ballot papers.

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