Give Us A Fair Go! Work, Mass Migration, Housing, And The Red Tape Disaster

Written by:
12 June 2023
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In this article, Saxon Davidson contextualises and disseminates the findings of the IPA’s research into Australia’s worker shortage crisis and how that affects Australia’s economic freedom and prosperity. The IPA has been dedicated to preserving and strengthening the foundations of economic freedom through research and analysis since its inception in 1943.


The recently announced plan of the federal government to preference a new round of mass migration over those Australian pensioners, veterans, and students who wish to work strikes at the very heart of the notion of the Australian fair go.

And Australians are concerned. A recent survey by the Institute of Public Affairs found that 60 per cent of Australians want migration paused until adequate infrastructure is built. This was backed up by The Guardian, which found that 59 per cent want a cap on immigration until there is sufficient housing built.

For those of us outside the Canberra bubble, the combined pressures of a worker shortage crisis, housing shortages, and inflation are all contributing to a declining standard of living for Australians. Yet, the Albanese government is failing to act with the urgency these issues demand.

There are currently more than 438,000 job vacancies across the country, which is double the pre-Covid level, with almost a quarter of businesses unable to find the workers they need. This is costing Australians $32 billion in foregone wages, and the federal government $7 billion in income tax.

The high level of job vacancies is largely attributable to the tax and red tape barriers facing those pensioners, students, and veterans who would otherwise return to work. These three groups face an effective marginal tax rate of 69 per cent if they choose to work. This is because once pensioners, for example, earn more than just $226 a week they lose 50 cents on the dollar in pension payments.

Today, only three per cent of pensioners in Australia work, compared with approximately 25 per cent in New Zealand. But a recent survey by National Seniors found that 20 per cent of Australia’s pensioners would work if tax and red tape barriers were removed.

Yet, instead of implementing a policy that enables willing and able Australians to work, the federal government has proposed increasing immigration by 715,000 over the next two years at a minimum. We are told this will cure our worker shortage crisis.

Throughout our history, Australia has proven itself to be one of the world’s most welcoming and tolerant communities. Sustainable immigration has been the bedrock of our country’s social and economic success, but what the government is now proposing is not only unsustainable, it will exacerbate the very problems facing everyday Australians.

Any sudden acceleration in unplanned, mass migration is reckless in the extreme, considering Australia’s acute housing shortage. Analysis by the IPA found that the proposed increase in migration will exacerbate the nation’s housing shortfall, leading to a shortage of at least 212,800 homes between 2023 and 2028.

To be fair, not all in the Canberra bubble are unaware of the problems facing mainstream Australia. Shadow Immigration Minister Dan Tehan has been on the front foot on this issue, stating:

‘When people are stuck in deadlocked traffic or can’t find somewhere to live, they should ask themselves why is Labor running a Big Australia.’

The IPA also found that seven in ten Australians want pensioners, veterans, and students to receive first preference for local jobs. Rather than taking the short-sighted, lazy approach of more migration to spur economic growth, governments must act urgently to get Australian pensioners, veterans, and students into the workforce.

To his credit, Peter Dutton has called for Australians to have priority when filling vacancies in the labour market. It is clear that concerns in the community about unplanned, mass migration are starting to hit home in the corridors of power.

Removing all red tape and tax barriers facing Australians who wish to enter the workforce is a simple and effective policy measure that is good for them and good for our nation.

Allowing more Australians into the workforce will improve productivity, incentivise private investment in the economy, and increase tax revenue for the federal government. It’s a win-win-win policy with broad community support, and our leaders in Canberra must back it in.

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