Is migration opinion turning?

In November last year, most people (52%) thought that the scale of the migration program was ‘about right’ or ‘too low’. But an Essential Research poll reported by Pollytics blog today suggest that opinion may have turned.

At very least it suggests that by raising the salience of three distinct issues relating to migration – infrastructure overload, change to society, and the environment – public opinion can switch sides on the basic too many/about right or too few question.

16 thoughts on “Is migration opinion turning?

  1. Devastating to see, given how much immigration to highly functioning countries can improve human welfare.

    Good discussion of some of these ideas from page 9 here.

    The infrastructure one hardly makes much sense – we build infrastructure in proportion to the people who are living in the area. Naturally we don’t have infrastructure in place to support people who aren’t there yet, but if we had those people paying taxes, we could indeed build that infrastructure. I wonder if anyone thinks “Australia doesn’t have the infrastructure to support my children, so I’m not going to have them.”

    The environment argument is dubious unless you think Australia’s environment matters more than the environment of emigrant countries, or that we ought to remain in poverty to preserve the environment.

    It’s hard to know what people are meaning to say when they disagree that a larger population will help the economy (are they thinking space per person, wages per person, unemployment, etc). I would guess the main reason so many people disagree is that they suspect immigration increases unemployment, which is probably not true.

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  2. There is no question that, overall, Australia is better place for immigration. The contributions that different groups, mozzies aside, make to Australia is nothing short of outstanding.
    That said, it should be recognised that immigration is here to benefit native Australians and not the other way round. Thus, I think a carefully managed program is important to ensure that the three issues you raised are also considered and managed accordingly.
    In terms of the scoietal change to Australia, a diversity in immigration mix, discouragement of urban ghettos and mixing with the locals, not having an immigration rate too high, and promotion of ‘Aussie’ values should all assist.
    Infrastructure and the environment are interesting because they are intertwined. Governments want a growing economy, but not the enviornmental impacts. In other words they want their cake an eat it too. The result is this quagmire – no new dams, but water restrictions, residential zoning limits so houses become unaffordable, trains that run slower than in the 1950s. And don’t get me started on the hospital system – it’s downright criminal.
    And then we have the ETS? Tell me conrad, rusty and co, how can you support limiting carbon emmisions and be pro immigration. It can’t be done without a drop in living standards. Unless the Ruddster comes clean on this issue (a big Australia v. enviornmenal concerns), he will continue to have zero credibility.

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  3. Not sure what the hospitals have to do with the environment, but yes. Although I’m generally against giving more power to the Commonwealth government, I really think we’d be better off with the people who are responsible for setting immigration rates, also to be responsible for the infrastructure. (And I can’t see anyone agreeing with the idea that states should control immigration. IF that’s even constitutionally possible.)

    But in principle the infrastructural/environmental problems aren’t something we necessarily have to suffer from, or trade from immigration. With sensible government planning, we have wads of land we could use and dams we could build on under used rivers too far from major cities to be worthwhile — unless we build major cities out there. Australia’s form is not fixed for all time yet…

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  4. “and promotion of ‘Aussie’ values should all assist.”
    .
    And what values would they be? Do you mean the males should partake in high levels of violence (OECD), high levels of crime (OECD), binge drinking (AIHS), have poor academic performance (60% of graduates are female + PISA results) etc. ? Or are they no not the values you mean?
    .
    “Tell me conrad, rusty and co, how can you support limiting carbon emmisions and be pro immigration”
    .
    There are lots of ways. Like nuclear power and no doubt alternative energy as the prices continue to drop. Personally I think immigration is too high, so perhaps you should ask your royal highness as to his opinion, Andrew Bolt, rather than me.

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  5. To me it just goes to show that most people don’t know what they are talking about.

    Looking at the overlap between some of those categories makes me wonder what would happen if you changed the questions around to their opposites:
    ie: We have the infrastructure and services to manage more population growth.
    Australia doesn’t have the space and resources to cope with a much larger population.

    I bet you’d end up seeing that quite a few people are looking to justify being against immigration and they’ll take whatever reason you give them.

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  6. “I bet you’d end up seeing that quite a few people are looking to justify being against immigration and they’ll take whatever reason you give them.”

    Possibly, but the question remains why this poll is so different to the November poll. One possibility is that most people are not against immigration unless the question expressly notes one of its downsides. Another is that opinon genuinely has changed since last November. I think the first possibility is probably the more likely, in the absence of obvious triggers for opinion change in the last few months.

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  7. Another possibility is that some of it is due to all of the housing market stuff in the paper of late, where immigration is blamed for the high prices.

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  8. where immigration is blamed for the high prices
    The odd thing is that, in a roundabout way, it is, at least in part. Regulatory restriction of the supply of land for housing so that supply cannot respond directly to demand is the real driver of high housing prices. But if a significant number of housing market entrants are non-citizens, then the interests of housing market entrants suffer an even greater political discount in favour of housing-land owning incumbents, making it easier to restrict supply of land to housing.

    It is a particular twist on the strong tendency of regulation to be in the interests of incumbents (see taxis, labour regulation, licensing …)

    And what values would they be?
    The Australian values that lead Australia to be No.2 country on the Human Development Index perhaps?

    As for carbon emissions, nuclear power is pretty daft for Australia, given our coal reserves (nuclear waste holding, a different matter). But even going there, doing so without some drop in living standards does not seem likely.

    As to the economic effects of immigration, the costs and benefits of immigration are not evenly distributed. Crowding effects and downward pressure on wages affects the resident working class disproportionately. Those with various forms of capital (including intellectual capital) generally benefit from increased comparative scarcity.

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  9. Increased comparitive scarcity? But our immigration programs are weighted towards professionals (and in general those with more capital, again including intellectual capital).

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  10. “That said, it should be recognised that immigration is here to benefit native Australians and not the other way round.”

    Why do you think that? Do you simply have no concern for people not born within the borders of your pretty arbitrary nation state? If not, why should foreigners matter less than Australians?

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  11. “it should be recognised that immigration is here to benefit native Australians and not the other way round.”

    Immigration to Australia has been a voluntary activity since England stopped sending convicts. If immigration didn’t benefit migrants, they wouldn’t choose to come in the first place. Isn’t that rather obvious?

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  12. Andrew- I agree that (assuming it’s not a sampling issue) it is more likely to be the former than the latter. My point, however, is that people are inclined to only take an “offensive” or “politically incorrect” stance if they can justify it. Whether the justification is accurate or not, may actually be totally inconsequential.

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  13. SOR – appanretly not obvious enough, as of course immigrants get a benefit out of coming to Australia. But the point is to use the program to maximise the welfare of existing Aussies, not potential ones.

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  14. “But the point is to use the program to maximise the welfare of existing Aussies, not potential ones.”

    In what sort of moral code/philosophy it is acceptable or encouraged that someone be indifferent to the welfare/freedom of people just because they happen to have been born within the (somewhat arbitrary) borders of a different nation state?

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