Leading up to the Federal election Immigration Research WA will assess the immigration policy proposals of the Federal Coalition and the Australian Labor Party (ALP). Post 6 reviews the migration planning levels proposed by the two major parties.


In late 2018 it appeared Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was starting to acknowledge public concerns about Australia’s mass migration program. Arguing that population growth was essential for economic success, the PM added “but voters in Australia’s biggest cities “are concerned about population”. [1] Here is the Australian PM commenting on rapid population growth, “They are saying: enough, enough, enough. The roads are clogged; the buses and trains are full. The schools are taking no more enrolments. I hear what you are saying. I hear you loud and clear. That’s why we need to improve how we manage population growth in this country.”[2]

Several polls uncover significant shifts in Australia public opinion on immigration.

In 2018, a Centre for Independent Studies survey found that the majority of both rich (65% highest income decile) and poor (77% lowest income decile) supported an immigration cut or pause in relation to the specific issue of congestion. An overwhelming majority, regardless of postcode, supported relieving population pressures on struggling infrastructure by cutting or pausing immigration.[3]

Somewhat surprising was the national identity element raised by Australian citizens in a Lowy Institute poll. For the first time since they started polling The Lowy Institute discovered a sharp spike in anti-immigration sentiment. A majority (54%, a 14-point rise from 2017) of Australians say the ‘total number of migrants coming to Australia each year’ is too high. Australians also appear to be questioning the impact of immigration on the national identity.[4] A substantial minority (41%), say ‘if Australia is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation’.

And the list goes on for example:

  • The Australian Population and Research Institute (TAPRI) survey found that, in October/November 2018, 50% of voters wanted immigration to be reduced, either a little or a lot, 26% wanted it to remain about the same as it is, and 24% wanted it increased, either a little or a lot.[5]
  • Essential Research discovered 54% of Australia’s think population growth is too fast in response to the question: Australia’s population has nearly reached 25 million and is growing by about 400,000 a year. Do you think Australia’s population growth rate is too fast, too slow or about right and;
  • They discovered 64% of Australians think the level of immigration into Australia over the last 10 years has been too high.[6]


What these surveys and polls indicate is that Australian’s are not turning against overseas migration, rather they have reached a turning point with the pace and scale of immigration. This is given rise to national identity and quality of life concerns, due to the substantial increases in migrant arrivals. For example, in 2006 they’re where 376,530 migrants arriving in Australia. By 2018 this figure had increased to 526,270, representing a 39.7% increase.[7]

And the concerns about Australian national identity may be as a result of changing demographic trends. At the 1976 census (80%) of the population, 10.8 million people were born in Australia. And (16.3 %) where born in the UK and Europe (2.2 million people), with 240,622 people (1.8%) born in Asia.[8] The 2016 census revealed that this has changed significantly with the population at 23.4 million, the Australian born proportion had dropped to 66.7% and England born had dropped to 3.9%.[9]

Figure 1: Historical and projected population growth, Australia.

(Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018[10])

Figure 1 above highlights the rapid population growth trends and the major driver of this is net overseas migration. In the 10 years to 30 June 2017, Australia’s population increased by 1.7% per year on average, with around 60% of growth resulting from NOM and around 40% from natural increase (births minus deaths). The huge intake of overseas migrants shows no signs of abating, in fact it continues to surge upwards. For the year ending 30 June 2017, the contribution of NOM to population growth again increased to 64%, with natural increase decreasing to 36%. [11] In each of the three selected series (Figure 1), 60% of growth is projected to result from NOM and 40% from natural increase.

To highlight how much the Federal government’s mass migration program can change a State’s populations and demographics in a short space of time. Take the case of Western Australia. In 2008 Western Australia’s population growth peaked at 73,922. The highest figure on record. Resulting in a growth rate of 3.5%, higher than some 3rd World Countries. Driven by overseas migration, the State’s population soared by over half a million people in the space of ten years, from 2006-2016.[12]


Federal government permanent migration planning levels (2019-20).

The key action the Federal government have taken to stem population growth is reducing the total number of permanent visas available from 190,000 for 2018-19 to 160,000 for 2019-20.[13] However, it is worth noting that in 2017-18 the planning ceiling was 190,000, but the total permanent program amounted to 162,417 places. This is because outcome levels vary due to a number of factors; For example, in 2017-18 there were a higher proportion of high-risk cases across programs, resulting in visa refusals increasing by 46.2%.[14]

In fact the total number of permanent visas provided in 2017-18 was greater than 162,417. The Humanitarian program provided for 16,250 visas, therefore there where 178,667 permanent placements in 2017-18. [15]

It is difficult to predict if the reduction by 30,000 permanent places will make any difference to the migration intake or indeed net overseas migration. For instance, Post 3 provided evidence that it is opportunities within the immigration system to transfer from various Temporary worker visas (included Student and bridging visas) to permanent residency, which is propelling growth in visa arrivals. Temporary visa holders are drawn by the fact that the Australian government now offer the majority of permanent skill stream visas to clients in Australia (55,853 places) or 50.3 % of places – as opposed to clients outside Australia (55,246 places) or 47.3%.[16]

And for all those words put up by the Australian PM about managing population growth “better” and “enough, enough, enough”. His own government have forecast net overseas migration will continue to climb. Table 1 below reveals the NOM assumptions used in the Australian government 2019/20-budget paper.[17]

Table 1: Net Overseas Migration, 2018-2022
[table id=27 /]

(Source: Australian government, 2019.[18])

The Australian Labor Party.

A review of recent migration policy speeches by Shadow Immigration Minister Shayne Neumann reveals there are no policy decisions yet, in regards to population growth.[19] However, Mr Neumann has given a clear indication that the Australian labor Party will implement a high migration intake program. Here is the Shadow Immigration Minister on migration planning levels:

“I have said before 190,000 was about right previously. We will get the best advice and set the level accordingly,” the Shadow Immigration Minister said.“I haven’t seen any evidence that will justify [cutting down the immigration intake], and the Liberals have never provided us with any evidence with relation to that”.[20]

 Concluding remarks.

A key migration policy has been implemented by the Federal Coalition (aimed at managing Australia’s immigration driven population growth) by reducing the annual ceiling on permanent visas. This suggests the Federal government is taking the concerns of the public seriously? But this is only a small part of Australia’s migration program. Bearing in mind that while the opportunity for a transition from temporary to permanent visa exists in Australia for tens of thousand of visa holders. This suggests that demand for permanent places will continue to exceed supply. To ease the flow of the number of Temporary migrants arriving primarily to apply for permanent residency – permanent planning levels may need to be dropped lower than the 2019-20 ceiling of 160,000 places for population growth to be better managed?

The ALP position on permanent visa planning is surprising; taking into account the widespread concern about rapid population growth and that over 60% of growth is driven by overseas migration. The ALP has indicated that 190,000 permanent visas are about right. Have they developed a sound methodology to back up there policy? Will the Australia Labor Party’s high migration ceiling accelerate population growth in Australia’s major cities?


[1] Katharine Murphy, ‘Scott Morrison Flags Cutting Migration in Response to Population Concerns’, The Guardian, 19 November 2018, section Australia news <> [accessed 25 April 2019].

[2] Katharine Murphy.

[3] Jeremy Sammut & Monica Wilkie, Australian Attitudes to Immigration: Coming Apart or Common Ground? (The Centre for Independent Studies, 2018) <> [accessed 22 April 2019].

[4] Alex Oliver, ‘2018 Lowy Institute Poll’, 2018 <> [accessed 17 January 2019].

[5] Katharine Betts and Bob Birrell, ‘Immigration, Population Growth and Voters: Who Cares, and Why? The October/November 2018 TAPRI Survey’, The Australian Population Research Institute, 2019.

[6] Essential Research, ‘The Guardian Essential Report, 24 April Results’, The Guardian, 2019 <> [accessed 11 May 2019].

[7] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics, Sep 2018’, 2019 <> [accessed 21 March 2019].

[8] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘2104.0 – Census of Population and Housing, 1976’, 1978 <> [accessed 12 May 2019].

[9] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘2071.0 – Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia – Stories from the Census, 2016’, 2017 <,%202016~2> [accessed 12 May 2019].

[10] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘3222.0 – Population Projections, Australia, 2017 (Base) – 2066’, 2018 <> [accessed 5 May 2019].

[11] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘3222.0 – Population Projections, Australia, 2017 (Base) – 2066’.

[12] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2016’, 2017 <> [accessed 14 April 2019].

[13] Department of Home Affairs, ‘Migration Program Planning Levels’, 2019 <> [accessed 7 May 2019].

[14] Department of Home Affairs, ‘2017-18 Migration Program Report’, 2018 <>.

[15] Department of Home Affairs, ‘Australia’s Offshore Humanitarian Program: 2017–18’, 2018 <> [accessed 9 May 2019].

[16] Department of Home Affairs, ‘2017-18 Migration Program Report’.

[17] Australian Government, ‘Budget Paper 3 | Budget 2019-20’, 2019 <> [accessed 3 April 2019].

[18] Australian Government.

[19] Shayne Neumann, ‘Immigration and Border Protection’, 2019 <> [accessed 11 May 2019].

[20] Shamsher Kainth, ‘Regional Australian Visas: Migrants Face Deportation If They Move to Other Areas’, SBS, 2019 <> [accessed 11 May 2019].

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