Now I realise that immigration is a bit of hot topic because it’s one area where people don’t fit into the predictable normal left versus right viewpoints. Some lefties will favour increased immigration; others will argue that it threatens Australia’s sustainability. Right-wingers have those who are concerned that immigrants will take our jobs opposing those who want them here to stimulate demand. And let’s not forget that some people will oppose immigration because it involves foreigners.
So I’m not surprised that the reaction to Tony Abbott’s tweet centred on the immigration part:
“Big business reps are wrong about very high immigration numbers. High immigration adds to housing demand which boosts price. And it adds to labour supply which dampens wages. Big business is talking self interest here; not the national interest”.
And, of course there were comments about Tony Abbott’s pursuit of “national interest” when he was PM.
However, what struck me was the fact that Abbott was simultaneously being a cheerleader for both high house prices AND lower wages. Granted, some of you will think that there’s no surprise in that because isn’t he one of those Tory oppressors who’ll be among the first lined up against the wall when Russell’s Revolution comes!
It’s not that he believes in those things. Or even that the expresses them. It’s that he put the two things together in the one tweet.
Most of the time, politicians rely on the fact that we’ll behave like proverbial goldfish with a three second attention span (yes, I know it’s an urban myth!) and just forget that they told us about the sauce for the goose, and what’s all this nonsense about ganders getting sauce?
It’s one thing for Malcolm’s Misrepresentatives to be telling us that Labor’s policy on negative gearing is a bad thing because it’ll lead to a drop in house prices and house prices are just fine the way they are because we’ll all be able to afford a harbourside mansion once jobs and growth… Jobs. Growth. Undersand? House prices, good. High house prices gooder. Understand? Labor will cut your asset.
Then when you’ve had enough time to worry about the devasting effects of Labor’s policy, but not enough to time ask how it’ll drop prices for anyone selling, but won’t reduce prices for anyone buying, they change the subject to the need to stop the boats. We need to stop the boats to discourage drownings at sea and in order to stop people attempting to come here, we need to imprison them indefinitely. When someone is trying to articulate a response along the lines of: How much bigger deterrent can you get than drowning at sea?? – we suddenly are reminded about the terrible things that refugee advocates are alleged to have done by Peter Dutton. You know, giving them hope or treating them like people.
After this, it’s safe to come back to the issue of wages stagnating and put forward the argument about how the most important thing is to have a job and it’s only by keeping wages low that we’ll be able to employ some of those poor sods without a job, and nobody starts suggesting that greater employment might push up house prices even further and risk a bigger bubble, because house prices are so yesterday. And besides, low wages will help keep house prices down which is now a good thing again.
Tony’s tweet should encourage people to actually look at the economic contradictions in the Liberal pronouncements. It seems, for example, that wages are low because of immigration dampening wages. And house prices are high because of immigration. So, logically it should follow that less immigration would help reduce both our wage stagnation and enable more people to buy their own home.
No, I’m not about to join some anti-immigration group. I’m just pointing out the obvious logic if you accept Abbott’s assessment. As a general priniciple, that’s not really something that I’d actually recommend.