Is our immigration system groaning under an influx of new migrants? Some quick thoughts

I’m unsure what I think about a Trump victory but already it is shifting the norms around immigration here in Australia. I need more time to think about it but here is a quick example. Today in the Australian, Judith Sloan has an op-ed titled, ‘immigration system is groaning under influx of new migrants’.

Sloan writes regularly about immigration, she is knowledgable and worked on the Productivity Commission’s 2006 inquiry in migration. In this piece she makes a number of decent points but I think draws much too heavily from what is happening overseas as her main argument. She fails to show what has changed and instead leans on what she thinks (which shouldn’t be dismissed from someone who knows what they are talking about).  For example, she asks what is wrong with Australia’s immigration system and lists:

  • Too many occupations available for employers to sponsor 457 visa workers (the number is about 650, or equivalent to about 55% of the labour market);
  • Poor English proficiency standards;
  • Uncapped international students and working holiday migrants who transition to permanent residency too easily, including by using the family program (Table 7.02 shows 4.8 per cent of international students who move onto another visa select a Partner visa, a total of 6,329 – down 16.4% from 2014-15);
  • Persistently low employment rates of humanitarian migrants; and,
  • Low prices for parent migrants, who on a per capita basis are expensive for the government.

She concludes:

So before our politicians get too smug about our immigration program and contrast it with the divisiveness induced by immigration in the US, we need to face up to some hard cold facts.

Arguably, our program is no longer working in the national interest. Rather, it is working to favour particular groups and to buy votes in certain electorates.

My guess is that more people are beginning to appreciate this fact, particularly as they bear the costs of congestion, loss of amenity and safety, and declining housing affordability. Canberra insiders need to acknowledge this and start to remedy the deficiencies.

You should read her column in full. There are a number of important take aways. Yet my major concern with this analysis in when you compare it to a column she wrote less than 12 months ago, ‘Brexit Remainers could learn from Australia’s immigration policy’, where she concluded:

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