Posted on March 18, 2024

Australia’s Migration Surge ‘A Disaster for Families’ as January Records Highest Arrival Intake Yet

James Morrow et al., Daily Telegraph, March 15, 2024

Australia’s migration intake hit record numbers in January despite the Albanese government’s plan to slow the surge of new arrivals, leading to what legendary businessman Dick Smith has called “a disaster for families.”

Figures released Thursday by the Bureau of Statistics revealed 125,410 permanent and long-term arrivals landed in Australia in January, the highest on record.

Even accounting for departures, the net growth in permanent and long-term arrivals in January came in at 55,330, or 40 per cent higher than the highest January intake ever previously recorded, all the way back in 2009.

Mr Smith said Australia urgently need “a population plan” to limit growth to about 75,000 a year, adding unless migration slowed we would be on track to hit the 100 million population mark by the end of the century.

“Every Australian family has a population plan to have the number of children they can give a good life to, but at the rate we are going it means the average Australian family will have less,” said Smith, who added he was “very pro-immigration” at sensible numbers.

“The problem is billionaire political donors have a short circuit in their brains, and all they want is unlimited population growth to grow their wealth,” he said.

Thursday’s figures came despite the government pledging to hit the brakes on migration numbers to bring them back to what Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has called “sustainable numbers.”

While Labor has cited the return of arrivals post-Covid, new analysis released by the Commonwealth Bank found “Australia’s population growth is well above pre-Covid rates.”

Data also revealed NSW took the bulk of long-term visitor arrivals, with about 34,000 landing in the state in January, followed by Victoria, which saw about 28,550 arrivals.

Daniel Wild, deputy executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs, warned the migration surge was hurting individual Australians.

“Migration has played a critical role and will continue to, but it must be planned for, otherwise the immense pressure on house prices, rents, schools, roads and hospitals will only get worse,” he said.

“For the first time in 40 years, per capita GDP has gone down for four consecutive quarters, Australians at an individual level are in recession.

“The federal government’s unplanned migration program is driving the decline in GDP per capita, which means while the overall size of the economic pie is growing, the slice each Australian receives is getting smaller.”

Leith van Onselen, chief economist at MacroBusiness, said at the rate the country is going, “we are adding one and a half Canberras a year.”

“All indicators are that our migration rate is ramping up even higher.”

Mr van Onselen pointed to the fact that most migrants arrived as renters, and would land in capital cities like Sydney and Melbourne where construction of new dwellings was not keeping up with demand.

“We only added 166,000 new dwellings last calendar year, which means if the overall population increased by 680,000, we only added one new residence for every 4.5 people.

“We have a government that is literally making people homeless.”

Tenants’ Union of NSW chief Leo Patterson Ross said migrants should not shoulder all the blame for the rental crisis with Covid-era data, when migration was halted, revealing the problem lay with a lack of development.

“The worry is we don’t want to lose any positive impacts of migration on the education industry, the tourism industries, skills shortages,” he said.

“The point for us is that we make sure that in other essential services like health and education, the infrastructure meets the needs of a community and adjusts to population growth and we don’t have the same approach in housing.”

The pressure on housing in particular has led to both state and federal Coalition MPs to call for the federal government to do more to slow population growth.

NSW Upper House MP Rachel Merton said high migration was “putting unnecessary pressure on NSW residents who are taking the largest share of new migrants, amid a housing crisis that is making it harder and harder for Australians to keep a roof over their heads.”

Shadow immigration minister Dan Tehan said, “New home approvals have dropped to the lowest point in a decade while rents are up 26 per cent since the election.”

“These record arrival figures will just put more pressure on housing and rents.

“The Australians who are struggling to buy a home or even pay the rent will be asking this Labor Government: where are all these extra people going to live?”

Urban Taskforce Australia chief executive Tom Forrest does not agree cutting migration is the answer but instead called for better planning for population growth.

“We have an ageing demographic … we have more people on the pension and less people working and paying tax,” he said.

“The only solution to the problem we have got right now is the ageing demographic is to bring in skilled migrants who are already educated overseas.”

Even so, the housing crisis is causing trouble for both locals and migrants alike.

Among those feeling it most keenly are international students, 82,890 of whom arrived in Australia in January, an increase of 23,660 from the previous January but still not at the levels of pre-Covid 2019.

JMC Academy student Jinsol Seong found it difficult to find a place to live when she moved to Sydney from South Korea.

“It was too hard, especially for international students but Australians as well,” the 28-year-old said.

“The hardest thing was booking the inspections and there were so many people lining up to see the houses. Another thing was rental history because if I don’t have one, it’s more difficult for me.

“I [had to] try to find less popular suburbs in the end.”

For Shengjie Wu, 25, her family in China are supporting her so she can focus on her studies and not worry about finding a job in Sydney.

“I am studying full time so my family sends me money from back home,” the UTS student said.

The government was contacted for a response.