The Australian economy is not in a particularly good place at present. Inflation remains stubbornly high; interest rates continue to rise; cost of living is soaring and government debt is at an alarming level.
The Reserve Bank of Australia, charged with the responsibility of reigning in inflation, has only had moderate success despite raising interest rates a dozen times in just over twelve months. Unfortunately raising interest rates is the only tool available to the RBA and often the government’s policies in other areas have often been inflationary rendering the RBA’s extremely difficult.
Now of course rising interest rates are unpopular politically largely because of its direct impacts on mortgage holders and more indirectly on rents. Consequently when the RBA raises interest rates the government likes to distance itself politically from the decision and attempts to argue that inflation is beyond the government’s control and is primarily due to international circumstances such as the wars in Ukraine and the Middle-East. Yet there are many things the government can do to reduce inflation. Most of all it needs to restrain government spending. All governments find this difficult as they seek to “buy” votes from various sectors of the economy but it seems even more difficult for Labor with their penchant for large government. (As I write there is a report that the number of public servants in Canberra has already increased by 10% under the Albanese administration!)
The other thing the government can do to reduce inflation is to raise the level of productivity. The more productive we are the cheaper we can produce goods and services. This keeps prices down and in the long term allows employers to pay higher wages. But most of the government’s initiatives seem more likely to reduce productivity rather than enhance it. In particular the government’s industrial relations reforms pander to its union base and reduce productivity by impeding workplace flexibility and reintroducing workplace practices that Hawke and Keating governments removed in their successful effort to improve workplace productivity and enhance Australia’s international competitiveness.
So finally I come to the issue of immigration. Immigration is essentially a government Ponzi scheme designed to make the public believe we are making real economic progress when we are not. When we bring migrants into the country, demand for goods and services increases commensurately. Hence our Gross Domestic Product increases. But unfortunately we have to share that increased wealth amongst more of us. In the last two quarters in Australia our percapita GDP has actually decreased as a result. Thus although the National Accounts might show that Australia has increased its overall GDP, at the individual level we are, on average, poorer.
Much of business (particularly big business) supports high levels of immigration because not only does it increase the size of markets but it also ensures business has access to a larger pool of labour.
Now Australia is planning for record levels of immigration with an additional 500.000 expected this financial year. (The RBA in fact reports for the twelve months ending September 2023; Australia’s population has grown by 654,000 people, with immigration contributing most of that increase.)As you might imagine this influx has many deleterious side-effects.
To begin with one of the main concerns in our rising cost of living is the cost of housing. The Australian property market is already under stress but the burgeoning numbers of immigrants looking for somewhere to live is putting further undue pressure on the cost of housing and the cost of rent. (Already vacancy rates for rental properties in our capital cities are around 1%. I wonder where are all these migrants, or the Australians they displace, are supposed to live.)
Secondly, on election the Albanese government stated that a priority was going to be higher wages. That goal is far harder to achieve if the government floods the labour market with immigrant workers.
Furthermore, this huge influx of immigrants not only impacts on our housing infrastructure but our roads, public transport, schools, hospitals, electricity and gas infrastructure as well as much other infrastructure essential to our modern society. This also creates a secondary effect of reducing productivity because of congestion.
As a result of all these economic impacts the RBA predicts there will be at least another twelve months of falling real average income levels for Australians.
But as well as all these economic imposts, we are being reminded that there is a major social issue to be considered as well and that is the maintenance of our traditional values that underpin our democracy.
Since the recent barbaric, unspeakable terrorist acts committed by Hamas against men, women and children, (including babes in arms) we have seen an alarming display of support for Hamas and blatant anti-Semitism, not only in Australia but around the world. This support has come, unsurprisingly, from the Muslim community and rather disturbingly from those of the political left.
In Australia we have seen large protests by people who have chanted “gas the Jews” and “f..k the Jews”. They chanted the pro-Palestinian slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” which in effect posits that Israel must be exterminated. At the same time we have seen reports of extreme Islamist preachers urging their congregations in their mosques to take violent action against Jews. This has resulted in many Jews in Australia now fearing for their personal safety.
Most of this vile hatred is being propagated by immigrants or the recent descendants of immigrants that we have allowed into our country.
Now there is a great paradox here. Most of these immigrants have entered Australia legally. In this regard as an island continent we have a greater ability to control who settles here than most other Western nations. Governments in Europe and the United States are dealing with a continuous flow of illegal immigrants totalling millions.
But it is worrying that having to deal with much reduced numbers of illegal immigrants; we are still allowing people to settle in Australia whose underlying beliefs are a threat to our democracy.
Historically some immigrants have been associated with organised crime. For example Italian immigrants brought with them the Mafia and in the 1980’s mass immigration of Vietnamese brought Vietnamese crime gangs with them.
Now Australia has largely combatted these threats and they don’t appear to have had many long term impacts on Australian way of life. And by and large most Australians would concede that the influx of people from overseas into Australia in the second half of the twentieth century enriched our culture without substantially changing our way of life. But the events mentioned above, along with the economic effects outlined should give us pause to reconsider our approach to immigration.
We have often applauded ourselves as the most successful multicultural nation on earth. Whilst this is probably true, it is also true that multiculturalism has some pitfalls.
In a recent speech former long-serving Liberal Prime Minister, John Howard, admitted that he always had a problem with the concept of multiculturalism. He said that the country accepting immigrants had the right to expect that immigrants would respect the culture of the host country“ without trying to create some kind of federation of tribes and cultures”. But it is obvious that radical Muslims have not accepted our culture and our values and have no intention of doing so.
It is ironic that these illiberal fanatical ideologues take advantage of the very freedoms that liberal democracy provides to undermine that very same democracy.
In a recent article the Australian, journalist Janet Albrechtson made good sense when she wrote:
The greatest virtue, and challenge, to free societies has always been our freedoms. We have the freedom to disagree over so many matters, even over where to draw the line when it comes to tolerating the intolerant. Those disagreements are healthy – up to a point. Philosopher Karl Popper called it the paradox of tolerance. In a free society we are meant to tolerate the intolerant. But there is a point when tolerating the intolerant becomes a death wish.
It is admirable that we in our democracy can find room for people of various ethnicities, religions and belief systems but as Albrechtson implies there must be a limit to what we can accept. We should draw the line when a subgroup of those with Islamic beliefs is preaching “hate speech” and inciting violence and Jewish extermination. We have laws forbidding these very things but there is little sign they are being enforced for this particular group of people.
We have just had a referendum where a large majority of Australians voted against dividing the Australian population by race. It would not be drawing a long bow to assume they would feel the same about dividing us on the basis of religious beliefs.
It is quite evident that those violating the law should be prosecuted and where possible the miscreants deported. Peter Dutton, to his great credit, has recently expressed the same opinion.
But this issue has compromised the Labor government. For many decades the left of labour has sided with Palestine despite the fact that Israel is the only functioning democracy in the Middle East. The Prime Minister himself is on the record as having been an ardent supporter of Palestine for decades. It is no wonder that when Hamas committed those horrible atrocities he was very slow out of the blocks in condemning this heinous terrorist atrocity. Many in his government have sought to draw a moral equivalence between the death of Palestinian civilians in Gaza as a result of the Israeli defence initiative and the massacre of innocents by Hamas that initiated Israel’s defence response. This is patently ridiculous. Hamas (and Hezbollah as well) have not targeted the Israeli Defence Force but the Jewish people at large. Their indiscriminate rocket attacks routinely are fired off with the hope that they will slay Jews, whoever they might be. The Hamas strategy is to always cowardly hide behind the Palestine people, using them as a shield wherever they can. As a result the Israelis have their hands tied behind their backs. Despite their best efforts to avoid civilian casualties, Hamas’s strategy of hiding in hospitals and schools provides the Hamas propaganda machine with ammunition to argue the Israelis are unnecessarily targeting civilians. The left seize on this subterfuge to try to argue that Israel is just as bad as Hamas. Consequently the government’s response to the Hamas atrocity has been equivocal at least.
The support of the murderous Hamas massacre has created a very strange alliance. The outrage against the Israeli response has seen modernist “woke” lefties and medieval religious zealots come together to denounce Israel.
Those supporting Hamas from the Labor left are exactly the same “woke” people who champion women’s rights and the rights of the LGBTQI+ community. Yet, Hamas and the other fundamental Islamist groups, oppress women and murder homosexuals.
As a result one might wonder what these disparate groups have in common. Well, what they have in common is a hatred of Western society, Western history and Western traditions. (The size of the demonstrations on Remembrance Day is a reflection of that!)
I don’t want in this essay to comment further on the current conflict in the Middle East. The main point I wish to reiterate is that unfortunately Australia has seen freedoms eroded and violence fomented in our communities by allowing immigrants into Australia who have values and attitudes that are in conflict with those traditionally held by Australians. Mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure the likelihood of this occurring is reduced and if such mechanisms can’t be installed then that is surely another argument for reduced immigrant intake. The very fabric of many European countries is now being vastly disrupted by the impact of illegal immigrants most of whom are Muslim.
Now my comments are likely to be dismissed as Islamophobic by the politically-correct left. And of course we need to acknowledge that many Muslim immigrants have integrated well into our communities and pose little threat to our tolerant culture. Yet it cannot be denied that those that pose the biggest threat to our democracy are disciples of fundamentalist Islam. It therefore should be a precautionary principle that we need to take care when assessing the suitability of potential immigrants that they don’t fall into that camp.
John Howard was certainly right when he said’:
‘I don’t think it is wrong, racist, immoral or anything, for a country to say ‘we will decide what the cultural identity and the cultural destiny of this country will be and nobody else.’
To sum up then, I believe that our immigration targets need to be more carefully scrutinised as should our selection criteria for immigrants. As I have argued, government immigration policy has been driven by a false narrative when it comes to its economic impact. But we need to take care also that we are more careful in scrutinising potential immigrants lest our tolerance and the innate concern we have for others less well-off than we are, leads us to fundamentally altering our democracy and our culture to the disadvantage of future generations.