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- Public opinion and the politics of immigration
- Betts, Katharine
- You have already heard something about the pros and cons of population growth, and I’m sure will hear more over the course of this conference. Rather than talking about these, I’m going to focus on why it is that we are continue to have growth, despite the fact that as many as seven out of ten voters believe that Australia does not need more people. But even with this focus it’s not possible to dodge the topic of costs and benefits entirely. For example, if population growth were clearly in the national interest the question of why governments pursue it would have a ready answer. Leaders often have to follow policies that many people do not like, simply because these policies are right. For example, they might legislate for a GST, or to outlaw discrimination against homosexuals, or to ban smoking in public places, or to eliminate the death penalty. And the potential opposition among political and intellectual elites might support them, even though they knew that many voters were offside. This would be because the potential opposition knew enough about the pros and cons to agree that the legislators were right and that the unpopular move in question should get their support. While voters might not like it, they do not know enough to make an informed decision. But this does not explain Australian governments’ pursuit of substantial immigration-fuelled population growth. Even though many political and cultural elites may think it is in the national interest a sizable body of research shows that, overall, it is not. They are wrong and do not know enough to make an informed decision. Others may be swayed by less forgivable considerations. So whatever their motives, an answer to the question of why governments want to go on pushing the numbers out to 36 million and beyond is not self evident. Consequently this paper will not focus on the intrinsic question of the costs and benefits of growth but on two extrinsic questions: why do Australian politicians insisting on pursuing it when a majority of voters are not in favour, and what is it about the political climate that allows them to do this? Thus it is about the politics of population growth which, in Australia, largely means the politics of immigration.
- Publication type
- Conference paper
- Research centre
- Swinburne University of Technology. Faculty of Life and Social Sciences
- Paper presented at the 2nd Annual Population 2050 Australia Summit, Melbourne, Australia, 26-27 September 2011
- Publication year
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © 2011 Katharine Betts.