OPINION | Pollies & media misunderstand the mood on population
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he understood voter concern over congestion. But very little has changed.
Rather, Morrison and the major parties, including the Greens, do not understand population pressure as polling this week revealed.
A Newspoll revealed that 80 per cent of NSW voters want the population to either fall or remain as it is. Only 16 per cent want it to increase.
Not only do politicians refuse to get the message that people do not want the population to grow. The Murdoch press also refuses to get the message. The Australian newspaper, which commissions Newspoll, ran a headline opposite to what the poll showed. It read “Most happy to keep population growth rates at current level”. No they are not. They do not want any population growth at all, let alone at the astonishingly high rate it is now.
Even the article confused “population growth” and “population”. It said a majority wanted the growth rate to stay the same when the question asked by the pollster was not about the growth rate of the population at all, but about the population itself.
No more people, the voters told the pollster. For that to happen immigration would have to be slashed.
But that has not happened. Some minor fudging of the figures still leaves us with at least 160,000 a year, and a lot more if you include the illegals.
On that score, at the very time Morrison boasts that he has stopped the boats, he has opened the airports to illegal immigration. People are arriving by air on visitor visas with the intention of over-staying and seeking bridging or protection visas.
How many? It was 28,000 in the most recent financial year. That is more than any year while Labor was in office, including people arriving by boat.
In the six months to the end of January 14,231 air arrivals sought protection visas, so the number is rising. And they are worse queue-jumpers than people who came by boat, most of whom had genuine fears of persecution at home.
The ones who come by air are truly “economic refugees”. Repressive governments simply do not allow people who they are suppressing to leave the country, even on a visitor’s visa.
The idea that Morrison has secured Australia’s borders is as ludicrous as his suggestion that he understands concerns about congestion.
The Coalition and Labor are more concerned about their donors than the environment and well-being of Australians.
And the increasing number of voters fed up with both of them should be wary of voting for the Greens.
The Greens have not dared to put up an environmentally responsible population policy for Australia, fearing they might be accused of racism or being anti-refugee. But sensible immigration and population policy can be, and should be, colour-blind.
If Australia cuts the overall intake it would be cutting the intake from Britain and New Zealand as well as India and China.
Many countries with small or no immigration programs are not racist. The Greens should put the environment first. And also consider whether it is fair to developing countries to skim off their best trained as our points-based system does.
The head of the Department of Immigration and Border Security, Mike Pezzullo, told Senate Estimates that 90 per cent of the new wave of asylum applicants have no legitimate claim.
He said there was a backlog of about 200,000 visa applicants whose status is yet to be determined. The determination process can stretch to up to eight years.
The arrivals pose an obvious security threat, given that people applying for visitor visas get only perfunctory checking.
They are also subjected to unscrupulous employment exploitation, working for miserable cash wages in the illegitimate economy.
We have used the Navy and an agreement with Indonesia to stop the highly visible boats to great effect. But now even more people are quietly flying in with the intention of overstaying against the law.
Unless we do something to tighten the system up we will become like the US with a vast underclass of unpaid, undocumented exploited labour.
But maybe some employers prefer that, so Governments turn a blind eye.
Immigration is just one of the issues about which voters feel ignored by the major parties in the face of the interests of big donors. Unless corporate donations are banned and individual donations severely capped and made public immediately, the trend against the major parties will continue.
At the 2016 election fewer than a third of successful candidates got 50 per cent of the first preference vote. Two thirds relied on preferences.
At present, the major parties’ first-preference vote is hovering in the mid-30s. If it goes much lower we will hit a tipping point that will transform Australian politics. Independents and minor-party candidates will collectively have more first-preference votes than the worst major party in quite a few seats, thereby giving themselves a good chance of winning.
Once an independent or minor-party candidate wins a seat they usually win again at subsequent elections so the trend is towards almost permanent minority governments .
It may not happen in 2019 because Labor is reasonably well ahead, but if there are a few years of disillusion with a new Labor Government it could easily happen the following election. And the major parties would richly deserve it for not weaning themselves off the donation drip of big organisations who incessantly conspire against the public at large.
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