Why did the Liberals smash Abbott on immigration cuts?


On Tuesday night Tony Abbott made a speech to the Sydney institute in which he modestly proposed reducing the net immigration intake back to what it was during the Howard years.

The response was hot, heavy and hit the former PM from all sides; but it was particularly furious from his supposed allies in the Liberal Party.

Ministers Mathias Cormann (himself an immigrant) and Steve Ciobo (the son of immigrants) as well as Scott Morrison (a supposed conservative) mocked Abbott for daring to insinuate that pouring hundreds of thousands of immigrants into Melbourne and Sydney might have ever-so-slightly artificially inflated house prices.

Peter Dutton who himself suggested cutting immigration only a week and a half ago back-flipped like an Olympic champion proclaiming that the government “has the settings right”.

Even Abbott’s long-time friend, Newscorp journalist Greg Sheridan, stabbed Abbott in the back, bizarrely declaring that cutting immigration meant that the former Prime Minister was now on the same ideological side as Gough Whitlam and the Greens.

Greg Sheridan

Yes you read that right, Greg Sheridan, the foreign editor for the supposedly evil-right-wing-nazi-rag The Australian just declared that the Greens (who don’t believe in the concept of borders and openly proclaim that anyone on earth who wants to come to Australia should be able to) are anti-immigration. Clearly something weird is going on.

Cormann in particular scorned Abbott for “not listening to the experts”. These would presumably be the experts that have led to our immigration system being the wonder that it is today. The same experts who decided Australia should have a proportionally greater immigration intake than any other developed country.

Presumably when these Liberal ministers speak of “Experts” they mean experts like former Immigration department public servant Abdul Rizvi.

Mr Rizvi was one of the senior officials deciding what advice our Ministers received on the topic of immigration from the tail end of Hawke years to all the way to the final moments of the Howard era. Yup one of the highest-ranking public servants deciding our immigration intake behind the scenes from the early nineties was named “Abdul”; explains a lot, doesn’t it?

Abdul took to the opinion pages of the Guardian (surprise!) and began by insulting Andrew Bolt and mocking Pauline Hanson before deriding Abbott’s comments on immigration driving down wages.

Gee, I wonder who he votes for?

According to Abdul, Abbott has ignored the fact that while immigrants do put downward pressure on wages they also add to aggregate demand which puts even more upwards pressure on wages.

This must explain why corporate Australia spends so much money lobbying politicians to increase immigration. Secretly they want to raise the wages they pay their employees. And here I thought big business only cared about profits! We have all clearly underestimated their altruistic streak.

Abdul also admits that Abbott is right to say that immigrants increase demand for housing and that this can drive up prices. But he then warns of the dire results for employment in our construction industry if we end our current policy of importing 200,000+ people a year.

The fact that almost our entire non-mining, non-farming economy, from construction to education to services, is now predominantly built around the assumption that we will continue to import an infinite amount of people forever, and that if we ever stop our economy might suffer catastrophically, is apparently not a concern for Abdul. And apparently not for the majority of the Liberal Party either.

Abdul warns that if we don’t keep importing these infinite amounts of people forever we might end up as an economic basket case like Japan.

Tokyo photo
Tokyo, Japan, so-called “basketcase”.

Yes, seriously. His example is Japan. That would be the same Japan who boasts the third largest economy in the world and the fourth largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). Japan, who still has the third largest car manufacturing industry on earth and the largest electronics industry, while still managing to maintain a first world standard of living with extremely high levels of social cohesion and one of the lowest crime rates for a developed country in the world.

That’s his economic basket case, his disaster scenario.

We should be so lucky.

When you realise that this is the calibre of “expert” advice our politicians have been getting on the subject of migration, all of a sudden things start to make a lot more sense.

But the reasons for the ferocity of attacks on Abbott by what we can only assume are now his former friends, go further than simply receiving bad advice.

It even goes further than the current political power struggle inside the government as Turnbull approaches the magic number of 30 lost Newspolls that he used as his justification for stabbing Abbott in the back (up to 27 now).

It certainly goes further than any remaining professed “Classical-Liberal”, “Right-Liberal” or free trader principles the attackers may once have had.

The ministers and journalists nominally on the right side of politics, now dog-piling onto Abbott like it’s the final act of a Mexican wrestling show, are doing so because it’s in their financial and political interests to do so.

The Liberals in recent years have struggled to match the funding that the ALP can take for granted due to the union movement. Many of the biggest corporations and business associations that give money to the Liberals also give to the ALP (Tobacco merchants being the noticeable exception).

Big companies aren’t particularly “right wing” in the political sense. Their interests often conflict with both social conservatism (as in the recent Gay marriage debate) and small government libertarianism (big companies like regulations that kill their smaller competition) so the Liberals have to perform the balancing act of dancing for their dollars while trying not to alienate their base.

And big corporations like mass immigration. They really like mass immigration.

As even the “experts” are forced to admit, it puts downwards pressure on wages and increases the size of the local market as well as allowing large companies to import skilled people rather than training Australian citizens.

The importation of foreign skilled workers to devalue the price of labour for their Australian equivalents is what people like Greg Sheridan mean when they talk about “skills shortages” and “productivity increases”.

If corporations can import someone from overseas to do a job they get the double bonus of not having to train your son or daughter to do it, as well as forcing anyone born here who does already have those skills to work for less.

For the corporate world, the fact that one of the by-products of mass immigration is skyrocketing property prices which increase the value of their concrete assets and thus helps keep their balance sheet in the black, is really only icing on the cake.

In his speech on Tuesday night, Tony Abbott hit partially on the reasons why so few ministers seem to care about reducing immigration:

“All too often … the people charged with sorting out our difficulties don’t have to suffer them… It’s easy to dismiss street crime when you live in an upmarket suburb and don’t have to use public transport or drive long distances for work.”

His words work equally well for the corporate bosses and their underlings, as well as the scribblers like Greg Sheridan who’ve been brainwashed into following the pro-mass immigration line.

Melbourne traffic. Photo by soham_pablo

They don’t care that the mass importation of humans from all corners of the globe is destroying our urban environments and has almost ludicrously outpaced our infrastructure. They don’t care that our communities are less safe, that cultural cohesion is almost non-existent, that social capital is draining away and that people are fixing razor wire to their walls and arming themselves with baseball bats in their own homes. They don’t care that those same unsafe homes are now out of the financial reach of anyone under thirty and that people I know now in university are praying for a property crash.

It’s not their kids getting bashed or outcompeted for jobs; it’s not their communities being torn away or their culture being swamped. They don’t have to deal with the consequences of these policies the way you do and they have way, way more influence over both the major parties than you could ever hope for.

And this last fact should make you very, very angry.

Photo by Abhisit Vejjajiva