There is for instance one very important question we need to consider. Exactly how many people do we want in our country?
Australia’s population is close to 25 million. That doesn’t sound much when you look at the size of the country but in fact our population is concentrated to a quite incredible degree in a handful of large cities. Well over a third of the population is concentrated in Sydney and Melbourne. Those cities are increasingly unpleasant places in which to live.
So assuming we want to stabilise our population, at what point do we want to stabilise it?
The same applies to other countries. The UK’s population is now 66.5 million, surely much too high. The US has a population of 325 million.
In all these cases the ideal figure would probably be somewhat lower than the current figure. Arguing for any serious population reduction is not within the realms of the politically possible. But we do need to have some kind of target to aim for. Which means we need to come up with a realistic rate of immigration to achieve that target. A rate that will obviously be very much lower than the current rates.
Of course in reality we probably don’t need any immigration at all. The problem with that is that such a view will get you labelled as not merely an extremist but a hopelessly unrealistic one. I do think though that choosing some kind of target figure would be politically useful. If you’re asked how much immigration you want and you reply that you don’t know then you tend to look like someone who hasn’t thought things through.
In the year ending June 2017 Australia’s net migration intake was a staggering 245,000. The danger for anti-immigration advocates of not having a clear idea of how many immigrants we should be bringing in is that the government could announce that it was “slashing” the yearly immigration intake to 220,000 and we would be expected to hail that as a major concession. On the other hand if we say that we actually need no more than a maximum of 20,000 then it would be easier for us to point out that any minor reduction was merely a sham.
We also need to address other major issues. The demographic collapse of white European populations is real and it’s been happening for a long time. The official figures for fertility rates in western countries understate the scale of the problem because those figures are artificially inflated by the very high fertility of immigrant populations in those countries. The problem is a critical one. We need sensible ideas for addressing this problem. The big worry is that the demographic collapse may already be irreversible. We don’t know, because we’re the first society in history to try to commit suicide by failing to reproduce.
If we can’t articulate a strategy for reversing this demographic suicide then we leave ourselves open to the specious arguments of immigration boosters that western countries cannot survive without mass immigration. We also need to be able to counter the argument that an ageing population will be a disaster.
We also must find a counter to the argument that without immigration GDP would stop growing and the sky would fall.
There’s a fair amount of anti-immigration sentiment out there but it’s hopelessly disorganised and diffuse and incoherent. We need to take a position on the issue that is focused, consistent and well-reasoned.