Thursday, October 14, 2021

Plan for two million migrant surge blasted as ‘crazy’ by Dick Smith and others

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says he “believes in a big NSW”, after a leaked proposal to bring in two million more migrants to rebuild Australia post-Covid was lashed as “crazy” by entrepreneur Dick Smith.

The Australian Financial Review on Tuesday revealed that top NSW bureaucrats had urged the incoming Premier to push for an “explosive” post-WWII-style immigration surge that could bring in two million people over five years.

The “top-secret, politically sensitive” advice was part of an incoming briefing document prepared by the Department of Premier and Cabinet, delivered to Mr Perrottet’s desk as he took up the top job last week, according to the newspaper.

In it, the bureaucrats urged Mr Perrottet to seize on the initiative to push for a “national dialogue on an aggressive resumption of immigration levels as a key means of economic recovery and post-pandemic growth”.

“An ambitious national immigration plan similar to Australia’s post-World War II approach would ensure Australia would benefit from skills, investment and population growth,” the document said.

The advice advocated for a “doubling” of pre-Covid immigration levels for the next five years. Net overseas migration reached 240,000 in 2018-19, before falling sharply to around 194,000 in 2019-20.

A doubling of pre-pandemic levels would see net migration surge to more than 400,000 a year, adding around two million people by 2026.

Peter Shergold, chancellor of Western Sydney University and the Commonwealth’s former top bureaucrat, supported the proposal.

“There is a need to return to higher levels of migration across the board, both in terms of skilled migration and being more generous to people coming in under specialist humanitarian visas and, indeed, international students returning on temporary visas,” he told the AFR.

“These things are very important to the economic future of NSW.”

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Mr Perrottet confirmed he wanted immigration increased to address labour shortages.

“There’s no doubt that with the closure of international borders, immigration has come to a halt,” he said.

“We are seeing one of the biggest challenges at the moment as we’re opening up our economy, labour shortages are coming to the fore.”

Mr Perrottet said he had already discussed immigration with federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg last year, and “obviously I think we’re going to have a real discussion around catching up some of those numbers that we’ve lost during the pandemic”.

“I think that’s important – I’m somebody who believes in a big NSW, I think that provides greater opportunity and prosperity for people right across the state,” he said.

“It provides important workers for businesses. So that is something that will become a significant challenge for our state and our country as we move forward, but it’s something I believe we will necessarily address, working with the federal government.

“It will need to be targeted in the short term in relation to where those labour shortages are. Obviously that will also differ across state borders.”

Mr Perrottet said the first priority was on bringing home stranded Australians “who are double vaccinated”. “That then paves the way (for) international students, which is crucial to the NSW economy, our largest service export supporting tens of thousands of jobs across our state,” he said.

“Our international education exports have been significantly hit during this pandemic and it’s crucial to our economy going forward and we need to reclaim the markets we had and also explore other markets in the future.

“What’s the next stage after returning Australians? You move to tourism and you move to labour, and immigration will be a key focus. I want to have those conversations with the federal government as quickly and as early as possible. The earlier we have those discussions the brighter our future will be.”

The advice marks a sharp change in tone from the NSW government prior to the pandemic.

In 2018, former Premier Gladys Berejiklian called for a halving of immigration to the state to keep up with infrastructure demands, saying NSW needed “a breather because rates have gone through the roof”.

Weeks later, Mr Perrottet, then NSW Treasurer, wrote an opinion piece for The Australian arguing against “extraordinarily high rates of immigration”, saying “merely adding more people isn’t a sustainable economic strategy”.

“We can’t pretend that high immigration comes without a cost, and we believe growth should not impose an unfair burden on those already here,” he wrote.

“Excessively rapid growth puts downward pressure on wages and upward pressure on housing ­prices, both of which have sorely stung workers and aspiring homeowners in Sydney and other parts of NSW for a decade.

“It also means more people on trains, more cars, more students in our schools and more patients at hospitals.

“Even if the NSW population stayed at today’s level, it would take time to complete the work so that our communities could be more liveable, our commute times more manageable, and our schools and hospitals more capable of offering exceptional care rather than just coping.

“Instead, extraordinarily high rates of immigration risk pushing those outcomes beyond our grasp.”

Speaking to Sky News on Tuesday night, Mr Smith, a long-time critic of high immigration policies, said it was “ridiculous”.

“Consider the long-term average immigration has been about 80,000 per year, and that’s given us the fantastic country we are now, to go to 400,000, it would take us to that 100 million population figure,” he said.

“No one wants 100 million, it’s an arid country, we’d be crazy to go to that size.”

Host Peta Credlin, who was chief of staff to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, said that high immigration was “pushed constantly by the bureaucracy”. “I know from my time in Canberra, it was lazy growth,” she said.

“Just keep bringing the migrants in, the numbers will look good in an economic sense. But per capita it doesn’t work and people end up feeling worse off, they feel poorer, and they live with the consequences of infrastructure that’s not fit for purpose according to the population. “Why can’t we have a sensible population debate and plan?”

Mr Smith said it was “going to be very hard because the bureaucrats all go to the same universities” and only cared about headline economic growth.

“If it was growth per person it would be OK but it isn’t,” he said. “Per person we’ve actually got less growth. We’ve got to move to growth from efficiencies, from improving productivity, not having more and more people.”

Leith van Onselen, chief economist at MacroBusiness, said the plan was the “definition of insanity”.

“Every Australian knows that the pre-Covid 15-year immigration boom, whereby net overseas migration averaged 220,000 a year, was a disaster for living standards, as evidenced by things like declining housing affordability and quality, worsening commute times, and record low wage growth,” he said.

“The definition of insanity is to double the post-Covid immigration intake and to expect different results.”

Mr van Onselen questioned whether there would be “matching infrastructure, housing and improved labour and environmental laws to go along with the proposed immigration boom”. “We all know the answer to that,” he said.

“Policy-makers will juice headline GDP growth and business profits by flooding the nation with people, while ignoring the negative impacts on the community.”

Simon Kuestenmacher, co-founder and director of The Demographics Group, told 3AW on Tuesday the plan was “definitely not unrealistic”. “There’s no problem at all accommodating 400,000 new people per year, as long as we provide enough infrastructure, as long as we provide enough housing.”

Mr Kuestenmacher claimed that as most skilled migrants were young, single people who lived in small dwellings, “even a large migration intake wouldn’t even have a massive impact on the housing market in terms of the need for new dwellings”.

The big issue, he said, was infrastructure. “The good news is the federal budget really doubled down on infrastructure growth, so they’re willing to spend an awful lot of money on infrastructure,” he said.

“The problem is ... all industries complain about the lack of skilled workers. So we do actually need migration to actually build all the infrastructure things we are willing to pay for.”


Extraordinary moment Andrew Bolt slams boss Rupert Murdoch for publishing '16 pages of propaganda' about climate change

News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt has used his Sky News show to slam his employer for its U-turn on global warming, calling it 'propaganda' and 'rubbish' and saying it will delight Scott Morrison.

The controversial commentator's intervention was prompted by the Murdoch Australian tabloids' new campaign backing action to do more to tackle climate change.

'Millions of Australian readers would have got a shock this morning when they picked up their Murdoch newspapers around the country,' an angry Bolt told his TV audience after the company's metropolitan dailies published lengthy newspaper wraparounds.

'Sixteen pages of News Corp's global warming propaganda, telling them why Australia should cut its emissions now to net-zero, telling them it will be good for us. And that is a shock,' he said.

Rupert Murdoch's Australian branch launched its new environmental project Mission Zero this week, saying it aims to 'inform Australians about the key environmental and climate issues of our time' in support of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The campaign is backed by business leaders and environmental campaigners but has come as a shock to many Australians - not least some of the company's in-house climate change sceptics.

Bolt said the Murdoch papers' seeming change of heart on the need to do something to curb global warming is hypocritical given how they had previously relentlessly attacked the Labor Party and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull for their stances on the issue.

He said Prime Minister Scott Morrison will 'actually be delighted because he can now have the Malcolm Turnbull-type policy that he wants - net-zero emissions - and take it to the next big global warming conference in Glasgow in November, knowing that he has the backing of the Murdoch media.'

Bolt - who seemed floored by News Corp's move - added that people 'should worry' when big business, big media and big government' all seem to agree with action on the climate.

He said the tabloids' coverage urged readers to 'forget all that stuff we used to say' and that they were now expected to prepare for government action on the issue.

Bolt said he discussed the issue with his News Corp editors and was assured the company still believes in debate. 'I am still free to say exactly what I think and that is the only reason I'm still here,' he said, adding that 'It's rubbish. I don't buy it.'

Not everyone was buying News Corp's supposed change of mind, though, with former prime minister Kevin Rudd tweeting 'Murdoch is today predicting an investment bonanza for agriculture under a decarbonised economy.

'I wonder what's changed since they joined with the Liberal (Party) to criticise climate action under Labor as a "lunchbox tax",' he wrote, going on to repeat his call for a Royal Commission into the power and influence of the Murdoch newspapers.

When News Corp initially flagged its intent to embrace action on climate change last month, Bolt said he had lost the battle over global warming.

'My whole company's against me. I know that against these huge players, all the big political parties, my own employer, all the media and big media outlets, what am I? Just someone on the sidelines. Someone just howling on the sidelines, but telling you the truth,' Bolt said.

Mr Turnbull said last year that News Corp's 'campaign on climate denial' had done 'enormous damage to the world' and had left a 'shocking legacy' of inaction.

Michael Miller, the executive chairman of News Corp Australasia, said commentators such as Bolt would not be 'muzzled' on the issue of global warming.


Australia to back international definition of anti-Semitism

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promised an international forum to stamp out anti-Semitism that the Australian government will formally endorse an international working definition of discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group.

In a pre-recorded message from Canberra, Mr Morrison told the Malmö International Forum on Wednesday evening that his government would embrace the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition, joining more than 40 nations and hundreds of local governments, sporting organisations, institutions and universities around.

Mr Morrison said Australia would adopt the definition “as a people, and as a nation”.

“Anti-Semitism has no place in Australia,” Mr Morrison told the forum. “It has no place anywhere in the world. And we must work together, resolutely and as a global community to reject any word or any act that supports anti-Semitism towards individuals, towards communities or religious facilities.”

The IHRA - an intergovernmental body made up of 31 member countries - defines anti-Semitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities”.

The non-legally binding definition is also supported by 11 contemporary examples of anti-Semitism designed as a resource to help educate people as to what anti-Semitism is, and what is legitimate criticism of Israel.

Many police forces around the world use a version of the definition, which has been described as a useful tool which assists officers to identify what could constitute anti-Semitism.

But the definition has become increasingly contentious with human rights groups, university academics and lawyers, who have expressed concerns that it restricts freedom of speech by prohibiting legitimate criticism of Israeli government action in the Palestinian territories.

They argue the language is vague and open to interpretation and invites a conflation of the criticism of Israel with antisemitism.

Legal experts, including prominent human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson, have raised concerns that the definition was being used to police speech.

The definition spells out that it is not anti-Semitic to criticise the government of Israel, but says it is anti-Semitic to draw comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis and also holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of Israel.

It also includes traditional stereotypes such as regarding Jews having inordinate power over media, financial systems or governments and or denying Jews the right to self-determination.

Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge last month called on the government to adopt the definition amid a rise of violence and threats toward Australian Jews on university campuses and in the community. He said Jewish students had reported being prevented from joining some clubs, particularly progressive ones such as an LGBTI club because Zionism was said to be contrary to the club’s mission.

The British government was among the first to adopt the working definition in 2016 while the United States, Canada and Germany have also followed. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has publicly supported the definition as well as the European Union and the English Premier League.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese and foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong endorsed the definition on behalf of their party in discussions with Jewish community leaders last year.

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said the government had reconfirmed its commitment to fighting anti-Semitism.

“Antisemitism is increasing around the world”, Mr Leibler said. “And the key to its reduction is education. The IHRA working definition provides the central plank to this educational endeavour. Antisemitism should have no place in our society. It should be defined, identified and rejected.”

Mr Leibler said its adoption should not be merely symbolic and while the government has led the way, universities, institutions and businesses across the country should also adopt the definition as part of their anti-discrimination policies.


Minister flags further free speech measures as sacked climate sceptic loses High Court case

Universities face the prospect of further rules to protect academics’ free speech after Education Minister Alan Tudge raised concerns about a High Court decision upholding the sacking of marine physicist and climate change sceptic Peter Ridd by James Cook University.

The decision ends Dr Ridd’s four-year legal battle with JCU after he was censured and ultimately sacked for challenging his colleagues’ views on climate change and the Great Barrier Reef, along with the university’s attempts to discipline him.

Mr Tudge said on Wednesday he was “concerned that, in some places, there is a culture of closing down perceived ‘unwelcome thoughts’ rather than debating them” and was seeking advice on the case’s implications.

“While I respect the decision of the High Court, I am concerned that employment conditions should never be allowed to have a chilling effect on free speech or academic freedom at our universities,” he said. “University staff and students must have the freedom to challenge and question orthodoxies without fear of losing their job or offending others.”

Dr Ridd, a long-serving professor at the university, was fired in 2018 after forming the view that the scientific consensus on climate change overstated the risk it posed to the reef and vigorously arguing that position.

In a unanimous decision on Wednesday, five justices of the High Court dismissed Dr Ridd’s appeal, finding his early criticism of climate research and the reef was protected by academic freedom but that he later went much further, justifying his termination.

The university welcomed the outcome as confirmation “that the termination of Dr Ridd’s employment had nothing to do with academic freedom”, saying in a statement it strongly supported the freedom of staff to engage in academic and intellectual freedom.

Dr Ridd took a parting shot at the university as he informed his supporters of the outcome on Facebook. The university’s actions, he said, “were technically legal” but it was “never right, proper, decent, moral or in line with public expectations of how a university should behave”.

Dr Ridd said one of the worst consequences of the decision was it allowed universities to demand disciplinary processes stay confidential, undermining government legislation designed to support intellectual freedom.

“I know a couple of really egregious cases happening right now where freedom of speech has been curtailed, and the university is sitting on confidentiality,” Dr Ridd told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. “I can’t even tell you who they are because they would lose their job.”

Dr Ridd, who says he is only sceptical about “cataclysmic climate change”, wants the government to legislate to provide further protections to free speech directly in academics’ employment contracts.

Mr Tudge has previously used the threat of legislation to force universities to adopt free speech protections, warning earlier this year he would act if they did not fully implement a model code on free speech. All 41 Australian universities now have policies aligned with the code, proposed by former High Court chief justice Robert French, and will report against it annually.

Dr Ridd, the Institute of Public Affairs and the National Tertiary Education Union had argued that whatever the merits of Dr Ridd’s views, he was protected by a right to academic freedom in the university’s collective pay agreement with staff.

The university argued Dr Ridd was not sacked for his views but instead breached its code of conduct, which required staff to act in a courteous and respectful way, and confidentiality requirements about the disciplinary process.

The High Court found intellectual, or academic, freedom as contained in the university’s pay deal “is not qualified by a requirement to afford respect and courtesy in the manner of its exercise” and as a result, an initial censure in 2016 against Dr Ridd was not justified.

The justices quoted 19th-century philosopher John Stuart Mill in their reasoning.

“Whilst a prohibition upon disrespectful and discourteous conduct in intellectual expression might be a ‘convenient plan for having peace in the intellectual world’,” the justices held, “the ‘price paid for this sort of intellectual pacification, is the sacrifice of the entire moral courage of the human mind’.”

The union hailed that aspect of the judgment as a win. But that did not result in a win because the court found Dr Ridd’s conduct extended well beyond the expression of opinion within his area of academic expertise.

Had his conduct related only to his area of expertise or criticism of the JCU decisions through prescribed processes, it would have been protected by intellectual freedom. Because his case was run on an all-or-nothing basis, that meant Dr Ridd lost.

“This litigation concerned conduct by Dr Ridd far beyond that of the 2016 censure, almost none of which was protected by the intellectual freedom. That conduct culminated in the termination decision, a decision which itself was justified by 18 grounds of serious misconduct, none of which involved the exercise of intellectual freedom,” the judges found.

The Institute of Public Affairs, which had helped Dr Ridd run his case via crowdfunding and public relations support, said the decision showed Australia’s universities were mired in a crisis of censorship.

“Our institutions increasingly want to control what Australians are allowed to say and what they can read and hear,” executive director John Roskam said in a statement that also announced Dr Ridd would be joining the institute as an unpaid research fellow to work on “real science”.

The federal government in March legislated a definition of academic freedom into university funding laws – a push led by former education minister Dan Tehan, who said last year he’d received legal advice that Dr Ridd would not have been sacked had the definition been in place at the time.

The definition, which was also based on wording recommended by Mr French in his government-commissioned review of free speech at Australian universities, includes “the freedom of academic staff to teach, discuss, and research and to disseminate and publish the results of their research” and “to contribute to public debate, in relation to their subjects of study and research”.




1 comment:

Paul said...

2 million migrants, net-zero.

Yeah, that should work.