Dubious arguments for population growth

13 February 2010

Media Releases 2010
Media Releases 2010

8 February 2010

Migration reforms will help support national development

Universities Australia today endorsed the aim of the Government’s proposed migration reforms to encourage the best and brightest – people with advanced skills and qualifications – to migrate to Australia.

The reforms include improving occupational listing, encouragement of state and territory migration plans, reviewing the points system with emphasis on applicants with advanced qualifications, and reduced queuing for independent migration applicants.

“In recent consultations with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), Universities Australia called for a review to turn around the emergence of low skill migration entry and lengthy queuing for applicants. The changes announced today will help with redress of that situation,” said Universities Australia Chief Executive, Dr Glenn Withers.

“Universities Australia is pleased that the Government has anticipated the need for transition arrangements into migration for current international students, who will be able to apply for permanent residence if their occupation is listed on the new Skilled Occupation List, or be given additional time to work and seek sponsorship from an Australian employer,” Dr Withers said.

“Unfortunately, some uncertainty will continue to exist for international students in Australia who arrived under prior arrangements,” Dr Withers said.

“Universities Australia will continue to work in partnership with Skills Australia on occupational priorities, and with the government in the review of the points system and ongoing improvements in program design and management. Support for highly qualified international students to study at Australian universities and bring benefit to Australian development will be a focus in that collaboration,” Dr Withers said.

“For the present, these migration reforms will strengthen an historically strong program and provide a foundation to make it even more robust and responsive


Universities Australia submission can be found here

Universities Australia’s submission to DIAC can be found at:


Media Inquiries Rebecca Harris – phone: (02) 6285 8106 or 0400 1666911

NB the above Media Release can be found along with an archive of previous media releases from Universities Australia at


Mark continues; On the same day Withers’s longstanding partner in pro-population growth polemic, Professor Peter McDonald of ANU (see Overloading Australia on their collaboration), put out a media release boasting of his close relationship to Department of immigration and implying that despite the government seemingly having decided to reduce immigration, he hoped to remain their trusted consultant.

In it he claimed;

“In the public discussion of a bigger population for Australia, there has been surprisingly little attention given to the main driving force of immigration, the demand for labour in Australia.

“Since the 1830s, immigration to Australia has been primarily determined by the demand for labour and this will continue to be the case. However, for the first time in Australian history, the homegrown or domestic supply of labour is falling and, as the baby boom retires, this trend will continue.”

“In that context, our research suggests that any growth in Australian labour supply will necessarily come from immigration. This is the fundamental reason that immigration is expected to be higher in the next 40 years than it has been in the past 40 years. ”

The words in bold seem dubious, since Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that births in Australia are twice deaths. (http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Web+Pages/Population+Clock?opendocument#from-banner=PC ) It is also reported that 100,000 young Australians aged between 15 and 24 who dropped out of the labor force last year, essentially because employers preferred pre-trained skilled immigrants (Population Growth and the Democratic Deficit).  Simply accepting the fact that they dropped out as evidence of low participation rates by “homegrown” Australians, may be biased thinking.

The media release shows a rather selective fatalism whereby the things he wants to happen are inevitable, while the alternative futures that others might prefer are impractical fantasies. Thus he moves from the half truth that “Since the 1830s, immigration to Australia has been primarily determined by the demand for labour” (as if the need to take in refugees after WWII was irrelevant) to the conclusion that “this will continue to be the case.”  His conclusion is all the more dubious because by “demand for labour” he doesn’t seem to mean the actual demand for labour (which Ken Henry has pointed out is actually quite low at present, and which may fall still further if the recession deepens).   He may be relying instead on the ambit claims made by some employer groups who want to bluff the government into providing them with a pool of unemployed skilled workers to choose from (provided the taxpayer pays for those left out of work), and on similar claims by mining companies who want the government to sell off Australia’s mineral and energy resources with reckless speed. Such companies know the value of self-fulfilling prophecies. If they can bluff the government into importing the labor force for the job, they can then start howling about the need to provide jobs for the labor force.

McDonald has consistently argued for increases in immigration to provide employers with a larger labor pool. For instance in his 2008 paper ‘ Population And Australia’s Future Labour Force’, (reported in the Sydney Morning Herald  as ‘Migration must double: report’, 6/2/2008),  he proposes that migration will rise from 160,000 in 2006 to 316,000 in 2051 (when population is expected to reach 36.2 million). See http://www.assa.edu.au/Publications/OP/op12008.pdf.

Note also Peter McDonald’s assumption that our labor force needs to expand — despite automation, computers and robotisation. This makes no sense unless one assumes we want an ever-expanding population in the first place. In other words, his argument is as circular as Withers’s is partial.  Neither, it seems to me, is thinking sufficiently clearly about the public interest of Australia’s existing citizens.

Comment provided by Mark O’Connor whose website is at www.australianpoet.com

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