Michael Fullilove, of the Lowy Institute, last week gave a speech espousing the established (non-radical) centrist view that more immigration to Australia is highly desirable – that migration is an essential step to A Bigger Australia.
I like immigration. In fact, my gut supports something a flea’s dick away from open borders, and my head constantly feels its not being fair dinkum when trying to justify policy much more restrictive than that.
Yet I am utterly unconvinced by the Bigger Australia arguments, of which Fullilove is but one proponent.
I like immigration because of the (modest) benefits to existing Australians, and the (immense) benefits to new Australians.
It is probably the single best way Australian policy can help the welfare of humanity (whether measured in in crude economic metrics like GWP or otherwise), but entails costs that are so modest we’ve had to create a vigourous passtime imagining them on talkback radio and odious comment threads.
In short, my gut tells me that the freedom and productivity of people can be immensely increased by a free choice to move country, at no net cost to others, then restricting that choice is not just irrational, it is deeply immoral, whatever the practical politics are.
But it does not seem to be welfare of Australians old and new that motivates a Bigger Australia advocate, and least not primarily. Their concerns do not seem to lie with Australians, but an entity called Australia.
Fullilove automatically links a more populous Australia with bigger defence budgets. Big Militaries are something Big Nations Do. He invokes the weight a Bigger Australia can have at international summits, and that a bigger force of DFAT bureacrats is needed for the Bigger Australia to throw its bigger bulk around.
We seem to be coming to the similar policies in radically different ways. Continue reading