An important and insightful piece of Australian economic and social research was published last week and got virtually no coverage.
I will come back to it, but first to some history.
In 1996, Pauline Hanson (pictured) made a racist, divisive and appalling speech in the House of Representatives declaring, “I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians.”
That speech was vastly damaging, not just because of the racism, but because the egregiously appalling portion of the speech made any agreement with the other correct part of the speech completely socially unacceptable.
Hanson was half right. In 1996 we were, in fact, “in danger of being swamped”. The outcome in the past quarter century proves that.
It does not matter whether we were being swamped by blacks, browns, yellows, or fluent English-speaking whites. What matters is that excessive immigration has put a massive strain on the environment, government services, and the living standards of the majority so a tiny few can vastly profit. We have a housing crisis, congestion, health care beyond reach, and blistering education costs and student debt.
The real danger of Hanson was not the racism in her statements but the fact she helped make it socially unacceptable to question high immigration for fear of being branded racist.
Now the research is in to prove it. The Australian Population Research Institute surveyed more than 3000 people and published a report on it by Dr Katharine Betts. (https://tapri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/Guardians-FinalV2.pdf)
61 per cent wanted lower or no immigration. Only 12 per cent said Australia needed more people.
An earlier survey by Essential Research survey found that 67 percent of respondents thought “People are scared to say what they really think [about immigration] because they don’t want to be labelled as racist.”
Betts wrote that a “cone of silence” was cast by both major parties and the Greens during the 2022 election campaign that excluded voters from a voice in immigration policy.
But behind that cone, “close to the policy makers, is an active growth lobby”, she wrote. “This includes property developers, many employers and, in recent times, the universities. In their different ways all can profit from population growth, be it through selling land and apartments, suppressing wages, or gathering up tuition fees from international students.“
The growth lobby also enjoys active support from Treasury, a powerful department of government. Treasury focuses on income tax receipts from immigrants and downplays the less precisely documented costs of congestion, house-price inflation, pressure on services and erosion of the environment. From their perspective population growth looks like a bonus, but others wear the costs.”
She spoke of the one in five people surveyed as “guardians against racism” who told the survey that “people who raise questions about immigration are usually racist”.
These people had no financial stake in high immigration, but were taking the high moral ground and felt they had a moral right to call out people who wanted lower immigration as racist.
They influenced people, especially in the media, to ignore or just accept in silence high immigration, especially its costs and damage.
Even Treasurer Jim Chalmers seemed to accept as inevitable the cost of high population growth as if there was nothing he could do about it. When, of course, he and his government can. Betts cited a conclusion that if Labor had announced before the election that it would increase immigration to 400,000, it would not have been elected.In short, property developers, retailers, and big business in general have been getting a free unquestioned policy run ever since the immigration surge in the Howard years. The policy has delivered great profit to them at the expense of everyone else, and people are generally too intimidated to say anything about it.
That perhaps explains the paucity of reporting on the Population Research Institute’s report and on similar work.
It is an unholy, strange, and damaging alliance between leftists taking the high moral ground, especially in the media, and greedy, profit-driven, environmental and social vandals.
Are the Greens on a suicide mission?
If they block the housing legislation and hand Prime Minister Anthony Albanese a double dissolution trigger and he pulls it, the Greens most likely will lose four of the 10 Senate seats they had after the 2022 election.
In a double dissolution the quota for one of the 12 seats in each state goes down from 14.3 per cent to 7.7. It means two things. First, the Greens will find it extremely hard to get the 15.4 per cent (7.7 times two) of the vote to get two senators in any state. Second, the major parties will be struggling to get the 38.5 per cent of the vote for five seats in most states. Remember nearly all of the 15.4 or 38.5 per cent of the vote has to be primary vote. Preferences don’t come in to it until the last seat, or at most last two seats are decided.
It means that three senators from each state are likely to be non-Green minor parties. Getting contentious legislation through will be like herding cockroaches.
Albanese may well disempower the Greens in the Senate, but put himself in a worse fire.In the Reps, however, Labor could get a leg up if the election is held before the Electoral Commission completes its redistribution, quite a few months away.
Population changes since the last big redistribution give rise to a constitutional requirement that Victoria and NSW each lose a seat and Western Australia gains one. If the full redistribution is not complete, in NSW and Victoria the two contiguous electorates with the smallest number of voters are amalgamated into one. In NSW that is most likely Warringah and Wentworth – so goodbye one Teal. In Victoria it will most likely be Higgins (Teal) and an electorate next to it or possibly Wills (Labor) and an electorate next to it.
Western Australia gains a seat by amalgamating the two largest contiguous electorates and making them three electorates. That is most likely the Labor seats of Perth and Cowan. So, Labor could be up a seat before the first vote is counted.
The process takes up several thousand words in the Electoral Act to explain, so I won’t bore you with the details.
My guess, though, is that even the prospect of decimating the Greens in the Senate would not be enough for Albanese to take on the huge risks of a double dissolution.
This article first appeared in The Canberra Times and other Australian media on 1 August 2023.
Crispin Hull is a former editor of The Canberra Times and regular columnist.