I have written extensively about the pivotal role played by Jewish intellectuals and activists as ideological and political handmaidens of the demographic transformation of Australia over the last fifty years (see here, here, here, here and here). In this essay I want to explore another key driver of this transformation: business interests fixated on suppressing wages and boosting profits through the expedient of mass immigration and cheap labor importation schemes.
The White Australia policy (1901–1973) was, while it lasted, a hugely successful attempt to preserve the genetic and cultural legacy of the founding racial stock of the nation. It was also an industrial relations policy designed to prevent the capitalist class from flooding the Australian economy with cheap labor. This was a key part of the original rationale for the policy as articulated by Alfred Deakin, Australia’s first Attorney-General, who argued that:
a white Australia does not by any means just mean the preservation of the complexion of the people of this country. It means the multiplying of homes, so that we may be able to defend every part of our continent; it means the maintenance of conditions of life fit for white men and white women; it means equal laws and opportunities for all; it means protection against underpaid labour of other lands, it means the payment of fair wages. A white Australia means a civilisation whose foundations are built on healthy lives, lived in honest toil, under circumstances which imply no degradation; a white Australia means protection.”[i]
An analogous view had been expressed as early as 1841 by James Stephen, the head of the British colonial office in London, who warned that large-scale non-White immigration to Australia would inevitably “beat down the wages of poor labouring Europeans … [and] cut off the resource for many of our own distressed people.”[ii] In the four decades before the enactment of the White Australia policy in 1901, some 60,000 South Sea Islanders (called “Kanakas”) were imported and indentured to Queensland sugar plantation owners who built a business model on this ultra-cheap imported labour and who regarded themselves as a “plantocracy” in the manner of the American south. This practice alarmed Australian scholar Charles Pearson who observed in 1893 that: “We know that coloured and white labour cannot exist side by side; we are well aware that China can swamp us with a single year’s surplus of population; and we know that if national existence is sacrificed to the working of a few mines and sugar plantations, it is not the Englishman and Australian alone, but the whole civilized world, that will be the losers.”[iii]
The closing down of this and other cheap labour importation schemes with the enactment of the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 hugely benefited White Australian workers. Wages paid by business rose to secure labour. The sugar industry continued to thrive, but without cheap imported labour the plantation model struggled against the family farm model, and the industry came to comprise many smaller-scale enterprises. The White Australia policy was thus a policy of economic protectionism designed to benefit the entire racial group by preventing capitalists from importing cheap labour to undercut the living standards of White Australians. The policy reflected the desire of Australians to build a strong and prosperous society founded upon the principles of racial and cultural homogeneity. Reflecting this view, one commentator noted in 1939 that: “The Australian prides himself on his high standard of living; he wishes to do nothing that will endanger it. Neither does he wish to bring into being a colour problem such as he sees in South Africa.”[iv]
Advertisement for Australian-made furniture from the early twentieth century
Since the Jewish-led overthrow of the White Australia policy in the 1960s and 1970s, Australian policymakers have progressively embraced not only the Jewish diasporic strategic imperatives of increased racial diversity and multiculturalism, but also the cheap labor importation schemes prohibited under the White Australia policy. A dramatic increase in cheap labor importation into Australia took place after 1996 when the “conservative” government of Prime Minister John Howard created the Section 457 Visa for temporary workers—a visa program designed to be uncapped and totally driven by the putative needs of the Australian labor market.
The 457 Visa led to a massive increase in cheap non-White labor brought into the country, including in industries experiencing flat or no growth, such as cooks in the hotels/restaurant industry and shop assistants in the retail sector. One union noted how there was a 53% increase in the number of 457 Visa holders over a period when total employment in relevant industries fell by six per cent. Many businesses used 457 Visas to replace their existing workforces with cheaper migrant workers. Australia’s peak union body, the ACTU, noted how the proliferation of 457 temporary work visas meant that young people and graduates who previously would have been offered an apprenticeship or other entry-level opportunity have been effectively shut out of a number of industries.
Amid growing community anger and a Senate Inquiry into the scheme, the 457 Visa was replaced in 2018 with the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa, which, while ostensibly including more rigorous labor market testing and salary assessment requirements, has had minimal effect in limiting temporary migrant numbers. There are currently about 2.2 million temporary visa holders in an Australian workforce of 12.9 million—or about 17 per cent of the total (not including illegal workers). This is a massive 54 per cent increase from a decade earlier. Almost a fifth of the nation’s cleaners, store packers, and food and hospitality workers are on temporary migrant visas—at a time when nearly two million Australians are either unemployed or underemployed.
International Student Explosion
In addition to creating the 457 temporary work visa, it was the Howard government that, from the early 2000s, encouraged overseas students to apply for permanent residence after completing their courses in Australia. This was partly in response to lobbying from the universities who sought to promote overseas student enrolments as another revenue source. The inevitable result was an explosion in overseas student enrolments, and by 2017–18 overseas students had become the largest contributor to Australia’s very high level of Net Overseas Migration (NOM) which numbered 271,700 people in 2019. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates, overseas students comprise around 44 per cent of total NOM. Between 2012 and 2017, the share of commencing overseas students of all commencing students in Australian universities grew from 21.8 per cent to 28.9 per cent and to around 40 per cent in Group of Eight (Go8) leading universities. The majority of these students were from China and India.
The head of The Australian Population Research Institute, Dr. Bob Birrell, estimates that around one in five overseas students is granted Permanent Residency each year, noting that “Most of these students had been in Australia for years. They had managed to stay here by transferring from one temporary visa to another before eventually finding a PR pathway, mainly by finding an employer to sponsor them or a resident to sponsor them as a partner.” An overseas student studying for a bachelor’s degree typically extends their stay to pursue a post-graduate qualification and then moves on to a 485 visa to work for up to 18 months. Overseas students (especially those from India) show a high propensity to seek and obtain another temporary visa each year, and an equally high propensity to appeal any decision to deny them an additional visa. This enables them to stay in Australia while their appeal is heard by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Overseas students are by far the largest contributors to population growth in inner Sydney and Melbourne. As well as contributing to a collapse in academic standards at Australian universities (who have a vested financial interest in setting low English language standards for their courses), their presence in the labor market actively harms Australian workers:
Many thousands of overseas students are being enrolled who do not hold the funds needed to finance their stay in Australia for more than a short period. They have to rely on obtaining employment here. They have created an underclass of workers with little choice but to accept whatever terms employers are prepared to offer. Most of those holding an overseas student visa do not possess professional or trade qualifications accepted in Australia. And, because they hold temporary visas, employers are usually only willing to recruit them on a casual or part-time basis. They enter low-skilled labour markets (notably in hospitality, retail and other service industries). The costs are borne by the many young domestic workers who do not possess post-school qualifications and who are also seeking work in these occupations. These domestic job seekers face ferocious competition from overseas students and other temporary migrants. This has eroded wages and conditions.
While this labor supply abundance persists, employers don’t have to raise wages or invest in labor saving capital equipment. Real incomes have, consequently, stagnated in Australia for a decade and in 2018 the labor productivity growth rate fell to zero. Between 2008 and 2016 Australia’s labor market created an extra 474,000 full time jobs but only 74,000 went to people born in Australia. The bulk (400,000) went to migrants (both permanent and temporary)—the vast majority of whom arrived in the country after 2001. Close to 30 per cent of Australian residents are now born overseas.
The Scale of Recent Australian Immigration
In 2000, the Australian Bureau of Statistics forecast that Australia’s population wouldn’t reach 25.4 million until 2051. As a result of mass immigration and a population growth rate much faster than other developed countries, Australia got there in 2019. Jewish Monash University professor and leading immigration and diversity propagandist, Dr. Andrew Markus, recently enthused: “You have to pinch yourself. In 2006 our population was under 20 million, and now it’s over 25 million. I can’t think of a developed Western country that’s experienced a change of that magnitude.” The Chinese-born population of Australia grew by half to 650,000 in the five years to 2018 (more than eight times faster than the overall population), and by 2023 is on track to surpass the English-born. The Indian-born population grew even faster to 590,000. In 2019 more people from Nepal settled in Australia than from the United Kingdom, mainly due to the high number of students who come here and remain after graduation, and who then use chain migration to bring in their relatives.
Australia’s Nepal-born population is now about 95,000, compared with only 1,410 in 1996. Tara Gaire arrived from Nepal as a student in 2008, and now works as a trainer in the vocational education sector. Living with his family in the northern suburbs, Mr Gaire said he felt very at home in Melbourne’s multicultural environment. “We catch up with community members, we go to the temple, it doesn’t feel like overseas,” he said. … Dr Bob Birrell, from the Australian Population Research Institute, said Nepalese students had created a bridgehead in Australia from which the community grew rapidly. “We have former students who got permanent residency through skilled entry and marrying locals, and then inviting relatives from the homeland to join them,” he said.
Pro-immigration political commentator George Megalogenis recently noted that demographic trends in the city of Melbourne point “to a future in which Australia is no longer a majority white nation.” Melbourne is the first Australian city in which the largest ethnic community are migrants born in India, followed by those born in China. “Melbourne’s ethnic face, with the Indians first, the Chinese second and the English [born] third, is” he observes, “expected to become the nation’s before the end of the 2020s, as cities and regions increasingly rely on migration for population growth.” Megalogenis, a leftist with a longstanding animus to Anglo Australia, celebrates the fact “history will be made at the core of our identity. Indigenous Australians will outnumber the English-born for the first time since the 1820s. At that point we can stop pretending we are just a white nation.” While this is obviously a change Jewish intellectuals and activists will be cheering, it’s something unlikely to alarm White Australian business leaders devoid of any racial or national feeling.
Scene from Boxing Day sales in Melbourne 2019
Despite growing community unease, successive governments have steadfastly refused to reduce Australia’s high immigration intake due to the pleadings of ethnic lobbies, universities, and a business sector that finds it far easier to recruit cheap migrant workers than train locals. A report by the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia recently advocated totally unrestricted inflows of temporary migrants and the abolition of any labor-market testing for positions filled by migrants. Noting that Net Overseas Migration now accounts for about 60 per cent of Australia’s population growth, David Alexander, writing in The Australian, observes that:
Many of the policy themes of recent years echo those of earlier eras. Labour importing businesses argue that they shouldn’t be expected to pay market rates for labour, and on this basis deem there to be labour shortages that government must assist with. These businesses have increased competitiveness against those that do not use cheaper imported labour, and this is contributing to the structure of industries reverting to a more manorial model. Looking across historical episodes, we can identify the economic principles at work; high differentials between wealthy-country wages and poorer-country wages will always create incentives for some businesses to arbitrage away the difference through labour mobility schemes. And, correspondingly, the pressure for wage convergence with poor countries can be expected to elicit opposition from domestic workers.
Clearly racial and cultural imperatives would, in a sane country, override government support for large-scale cheap labor importation schemes. It is disingenuous to declare labor shortages on the basis that businesses decline to pay the market rate, and it is also unfair to give structural advantage to labor-importing firms over local-employing firms. The Indian government recently cited spurious “labor shortages” in Australia (i.e. the unwillingness of businesses to pay market wage rates) to argue for even greater access for Indian workers to “fill the gaps” in the Australian economy, proposing that Indian health workers, infrastructure specialists and security guards be given enhanced access to the labor market. The Indian population of Australia has, as mentioned, exploded in the last two decades: Melbourne and Sydney have been the destination of choice for more than 60 per cent of the 500,000 Indians and more than 70 per cent of the 500,000 Chinese who have migrated here since 2001. The Australian Chamber of Commerce has welcomed this unprecedented surge in permanent and temporary migration, noting “The biggest reason for the growth in our NOM (net overseas migration) is international students [with the right to work], something to be celebrated.”
Increased Scope for Worker Exploitation
Australia’s extremely high per capita level of immigration, fueled by uncapped temporary work and overseas student visas—where over two million workers in Australia are currently on visas—creates tremendous scope for worker exploitation. In 2015 it was revealed that thousands of workers, generally Indian students on visas, were paid as little as $5 an hour by 7-Eleven and were blackmailed, or threatened with deportation if they spoke up. The company apologized and paid back more than $160 million to thousands of workers in back pay. A long list of companies have since been caught underpaying staff or using fake traineeships to avoid paying workers their entitlements. A recent study found underpayment of wages to temporary workers is rife, with as many as a third being paid less than half the legal minimum wage. The underpayment of workers in the hospitality industry is so widespread as to be standard practice. Most recently, a restaurant fronted by Jewish celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal was found to owe employees at least $4.5 million “in what appears to be the worst case of underpayment yet in the high-end restaurant sector.”
Such practices inevitably have a flow on effect throughout the entire economy where high school and university students are widely underpaid and overworked. Business journalist Adele Ferguson noted how “These companies have come to symbolize what is wrong in a number of sectors of the economy, where underpayment or wage suppression is part and parcel of doing business and vulnerable workers are like lambs to the slaughter in this insidious practice. It isn’t an overstatement to say that worker exploitation is widespread and have become entrenched over time.” A lawyer leading a class action of former employees subjected to such practices observes how employers “have been allowed to build empires and expand their business portfolios on the backs of employees being paid less than their minimum award [legal] entitlements.”
Stagnant Wages in Australia
It is little wonder, in such an environment, that real wages in Australia have stagnated. Wage underpayment fueled by mass immigration (temporary and permanent) has seen Australian wage growth fall off a cliff since 2013 and remain at low levels. Economics professor Roger Wilkins notes over the last decade “the almost complete absence of any growth in household incomes. After tax, the typical Australian household earned $80,600 in 2009. In 2017 the same household earned $80,100. Meanwhile, ultra-low interest rate policies by Australia’s central bank has inflated asset prices, fanning inequality, and supercharged an already high debt burden without much increase in genuine economic activity.” Since 2000 the volume of loans outstanding in Australia—to households, businesses and governments—has soared from $740 billion to 2.9 trillion. The average mortgage on an existing dwelling in New South Wales recently hit an all-time high of $621,500.
Australian politicians are fond of boasting that, during a period of time when other major developed economies experienced several recessions, the Australian economy has experienced almost three decades of uninterrupted economic growth. This disguises the fact that, due to record high immigration, Australia’s annual growth in Gross Domestic Product per capita has, in the last decade, averaged less than one per cent, lower than America, Japan, and even the Eurozone. Per capita incomes have gone backwards during 18 quarters of the past 28 years (including two technical recessions). In per capita terms, both the Victorian and Melbourne economies have gone backwards four times in the past ten years. On that measure, it is the worst performing state and city in Australia—despite being the favored destination of new Chinese and Indian migrants. “The population growth has disguised the fact that Victoria has become a poor state,” notes economist Saul Eslake. “Let me put it this way, economic growth that’s only driven by population growth is not really worth having, as it is not improving people’s living conditions.”
Mass immigration has so transformed the demographics of Melbourne that more than 40 per cent of residents are now migrants. And this is only the start: if current trends continue a city the size of Brisbane will be piled on top of Melbourne in the next two decades. A consequence has been that house prices have risen to among the most expensive in the world as house size and quality have declined. A 2017 survey of 406 cities ranked Sydney the world’s second most expensive (housing costs against inflation) only behind Hong Kong (which it increasingly resembles). Melbourne came in sixth, more expensive that London, Tokyo and New York. Wage stagnation amid soaring house prices has made shelter a luxury, and priced a generation out of the property market. The amenity of local suburbs is declining, congestion is worse, there are fewer parks and “green spaces” and most modern apartment blocks are cheap eyesores. Meanwhile, Australia’s annual intake of around 20,000 mainly African and Middle-Eastern refugees has fueled a surge in violent crime.
Australia’s New Economic Strategy
Population growth fueled by mass immigration and the servicing of it with cheaply-built houses, apartments, and supermarkets has essentially become Australia’s economic strategy. Former Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, pointed out that “Australia digs up and sells raw materials. In the cities the economy is based on building apartment blocks and shopping malls. The idea of Australia as a clever country is a myth, it’s an illusion.”
Unsurprisingly, surveys have found a steep fall in public support for immigration over the last decade. A 2018 survey found that more than 69 per cent of respondents felt the country didn’t need more people. Community concerns about the deleterious effects of mass immigration are not, however, represented by Australia’s political class. At the 2019 federal election, despite some clear differences between the two major political parties in a range of policy areas, they effectively ran a joint ticket on immigration. Economics journalist Judith Sloan notes that immigration is “a no go subject for many in the political class,” who are “in heated agreement in their support for high migrant intakes, both permanent and temporary, and the associated high population growth.”
Conscious of the public’s growing hostility to mass immigration, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a small cut in Australia’s permanent migrant intake (from 190,000 to 160,000) in 2019—while failing to mention the nation’s massive temporary migrant intake wouldn’t be constrained. According to the 2019-20 federal budget, Net Overseas Migration is expected to average 268,600 annually for the next four years—an increase on the 228,700 estimate from the previous budget. A former Department of Immigration bureaucrat notes that “If [Morrison] sticks to that plan [to lower permanent migration to 160,000], then Treasury’s rise in net migration inevitably means a huge surge in long-term temporary migration to more than offset the reduction in permanent migration.” Moreover, the 160,000 permanent immigration figure also does not include the 20,000 people granted permanent residence each year through Australia’s refugee program.
The Labor Party opposition in Australia, like its counterpart in the UK and the Democratic Party in the US, has essentially abandoned any pretense of representing the interests of the White working class. Most of the “creative destruction” that followed the economic globalization of the post-Cold War era has been in jobs lost by blue-collar White men. White manual workers across the West now face fewer jobs and, spurred by mass immigration (both legal and illegal) falling real wages and unaffordable housing. Rather than representing these people (their traditional constituency) by supporting immigration restriction, the Australian Labor Party panders to ethnic communities. In the wake of its shock 2019 election loss, the party is “prioritizing engagement with migrant communities” and will focus on “reviewing legislation from a multicultural perspective.”
Australia’s Plutocratic Elite and Mass Immigration
Noting the reasons for the major parties’ flagrant disregard for wishes of the electorate, Judith Sloan notes that “The lobbying behind immigration is so strong that both parties have concluded the views of ordinary folk can be ignored. These forces include the bureaucracy—check out the Treasury’s reports—big business, property developers, the universities, and various interest groups, some ethnically based.” These business and ethnic groups lobbying for unrelenting waves of mass immigration often overlap. Australia’s largest property developer, the Jewish tycoon Harry Triguboff (known as “high-rise Harry”) is a pro-immigration zealot for ethnic and business reasons. Born to Russian-Jewish parents who fled to China, Triguboff, who came to Australia as a young boy in 1948, pioneered selling apartments to the Chinese, and hopes mass immigration will see Australia’s population soar to 55 million by 2050 and 100 million by the end of the century.
High-rise Harry Triguboff
Fellow Jewish plutocrat, Frank Lowy, is also “an advocate for an ambitious immigration program.” In response to talk of a small cut to the permanent immigration intake in 2018, Lowy, claiming to be “disturbed by the negative tone of the debate over immigration,” protested that “we are moving in the wrong direction. We should bend that curve back upwards. We should be talking about targets, not caps.” Mass immigration proponents like Triguboff, Lowy, and fellow Jewish property tycoon John Gandel, were leading donors to both major political parties in the lead up to the 2019 election. All three, meanwhile, strongly support Israel’s ethnically-restrictive immigration policies, with Lowy recently moving to Israel after retiring from active involvement in his business affairs.
Downward Social Mobility of White Australians
Pivotal to the growing backlash against neo-liberal economics in the West has been the downward social mobility that has resulted from decades of the kind of plutocratic rentier capitalism championed by Triguboff, Lowy, Gandel and other pillars of Australia’s corporate elite. Analysis by a Harvard economist in 2016 found that just half of children born in the 1980s were better off than their parents, compared with 90 per cent of baby boomers. The downward social mobility of younger generations of White Australians is especially acute because of the crushing rise in house prices and the incredible corruption of the banking and financial systems that has accompanied it. Plutocratic rentier capitalism is an economic system where certain players are able to extract a “rent” from everybody else because they have an excess of economic and/or political power.
While these and other business interests are undoubtedly made better off as a result of mass immigration, its negative effects are mainly borne by White working people and taxpayers. Taking just public infrastructure—covering roads, public transport, hospitals, schools, electricity, water and sewage, policing, law and justice, parks and open space and much more—Sustainable Population Australia estimates every extra migrant requires well over $100,000 of infrastructure spending. A failure to make this kind of investment in infrastructure results in growing congestion on roads and public transport. Infrastructure Australia forecast that the annual cost of road congestion will increase from $19 billion in 2016 to $39 billion in 2031. Exacerbating this is the fact two-thirds of migrants settle in the already crowded cities of Sydney and Melbourne—each of whose populations are projected to reach 10 million in the next fifty years. The only way this doubling of the populations of Melbourne and Sydney can be occur so rapidly is by moving to a lot more high-rise living—a fundamental and profoundly negative change to the Australian way of life.
It is little wonder that, when asked, Australians feel their living standards are declining, especially those struggling to squeeze into an overheated housing market. Asked how they felt about the level of change during the past decade, more Australians opted for “concerned,” “overwhelmed,” and “fatigued” than “positive,” “empowered” and “energized,” according to research published late last year. These results reflect growing sentiment throughout the West where growing numbers of White working people are becoming heartily sick of plutocratic rentier capitalism fueled by unrelenting waves of permanent and temporary immigration.
[i] Ian Cook, Liberalism in Australia (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1999), 179.
[ii] Eric Richards, “Migrations: The Career of British White Australia,” In: Australia’s Empire, Ed. Deryck Schreuder & Stuart Ward, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 163-185; 167-168.
[iii] Charles Pearson, National Life and Character: A Forecast, (London: MacMillan & Co., 1893), 16.
[iv] Richards, “Migrations: The Career of British White Australia,” 173.