Think of the economic cost of migration boost

Your editorial (‘‘ A bigger Australia to push up growth, pay down debt’’ , October 13) in support of NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet’s call for 2 million more migrants, was disappointingly blinkered.

We are long past the time when we can focus only on any short-term economic benefits of massive population growth and ignore the social and environmental ramifications .

Nor can we ignore the moral aspects of poaching skilled workers from other countries while we fail to adequately support our universities, TAFEs and other training institutions to provide the skills we need.

You write of Perrottet “unashamedly” grabbing talent and capital, yet he should be ashamed, especially as an avowed Christian. Poaching, stealing, call it what you will, but what right has Australia to take the talents of other countries who have borne the cost of training them?

Both you and Perrottet ignore the fact that a number of learned economists, including Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe, Professor Judith Sloan and Professor Ross Garnaut, have cited high immigration as contributing to the past decade’s stagnant wages and rising job insecurity. And just last week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the Conservative Party Conference: “What I won’t do is go back to the old failed model of low wages, low skills, supported by uncontrolled immigration’’ .

For 15 years, until COVID closed our borders, we had massive population growth fuelled largely by immigration that led to infrastructure not keeping up. That led in turn to a decline in standard of living. Since borders closed, however, resident Australians filled many of the jobs normally filled by immigrant workers.

Unemployment fell and some employers have lifted wages to attract staff.

Economists can no longer ignore the environmental consequences of population growth – not the least, the loss of habitat of other species’ habitats, including the koala from urban and agricultural expansion. And a critical issue is the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet our climate change targets. Not long ago, the NSW government increased its ambition in that regard (from 35 to 50 per cent reduction by 2030) which was admirable, but adding a million or more people is going to make that almost impossible to achieve. People need food, shelter and transport, and providing that requires resources and energy. These infrastructure costs have to be weighed against any economic gains we might achieve from a mass influx of people.

Jenny Goldie Australian Financial Review 15 October 2021

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