Just days after the Christchurch killings, Scott Morrison was back on the racist dogwhistle, announcing a cut to immigration.
Morrison blamed immigration for congestion in Sydney and Melbourne and said his plan was about, “easing population pressures in our biggest cities”. This is simply racist scapegoating. The real problem is the chronic government underspending on infrastructure and poor city design.
Governments have cut spending and relied on privatisation to fund new infrastructure. The NSW Liberals are funding their new projects through the selloff of the power industry, ferries, buses and other assets. This means worse services as a result of privatisation.
As we saw with the shoddy construction exposed on Sydney’s Opal Tower just before Christmas, planning laws have been hijacked by corporate profiteers.
And there has been chronic underspending on public transport, with only 35 per cent of homes in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney within 400 metres of adequate services, according to the Centre of Urban Research.
After a year of talking about the need to cut immigration levels, the government announced a cut in the permanent migration level to 160,000. This is hardly a radical change, given it accepted just 162,417 permanent migrants last year. But it is a reduction from the previous cap of 190,000. Morrison feared that doing any more could hit economic growth.
More migrants will also be forced to live in regional areas in order to remain here permanently—now for three years. This will apply to 23,000 people a year. Morrison says regional areas are crying out for workers, but the fact is most of the high-skilled jobs that migrants arrive to fill are concentrated in the major cities.
This follows a campaign by the hard right of the Liberal Party. A year ago Peter Dutton claimed Australia’s cities were “overcrowded” and blamed immigration levels for “gridlocked traffic in the mornings” and the state of hospital services.
In November Tony Abbott repeated his attack on migration, saying it was putting, “downward pressure on wages, upward pressure on housing prices and adding to the crush on our roads and public transport”.
It’s time governments got serious about funding services instead of continually blaming scapegoats like migrants and refugees for their own failures.