Wednesday, September 29, 2010

OMG immigration is down

OMG immigration is down: what are the long term consequences?

I'm glad that I visited Norway. It is a seriously rich country. But Australia is heading towards being as rich as Norway. Nobody talks about a "big Norway". They would just look at you as if you had lost your mind. But Norway is a good international citizen, and makes many positive contributions to the future of the planet. Is it a bad thing to be a rich country? No. But it quite confronting to compare Australia with Norway as an international participant.

More Australians won't help the environment.

Australians are the worst environmental vandals on the planet, by a fair margin. But if this was done in a sustainable way? Sure. But you are not going to give the worst offenders another chance.

Some Australian economic activity relies on immigration.

Yes. It does. But it was very clear at the last election that the country as a whole has had enough of simply taking more people without providing decent infrastructure. This might be understandable in a poor country, but there are no excuses in a rich country. Norway has pretty much zero infrastructure problems. How? The taxes and charges represent the real cost of providing the service. Salaries for nurses, teachers, policemen, etc etc. actually are market competitive. They don't import more victims to rip-off. They do it properly. We should do the same.

Tourism? Education? Manufacturing? All very heavily impacted by the steadily rising Australian dollar. The consequences of getting richer. You are going to have a hard time running on the slogan "...drive the dollar down to 50 cents so my factory can compete." When you look at countries that have followed the path of subsidising sentimentally favourable industries, it is not a pretty picture. Did building ridiculous bridges to nowhere help the Japanese economy? No. Unfortunately sentiment and economic success are not close cousins.

But what about world development. People escape poverty by coming to Australia.

What is the one thing Australia could do to alleviate world poverty? Improve its trade with developing countries. Buy food off them. Export service jobs there. Yes, let's see your phone call answered in Africa or Mongolia. Why not?

The idea that we can make any impact on world poverty by letting more people immigrate to Australia is simply wrong. It dramatically under-estimates the scale of the problem.

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