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Australia’s most prestigious newspapers don’t understand basic economics

Basic economics

Media Shame File

Outlet: The Age

Headline: You know your country’s in trouble when Pauline Hanson is claiming vindication

Summary: This is another “X is bad because it helps the far-right” article, but instead of focusing on that as we usually would, the point of this addition to the Noticer News Media Shame File is to highlight the economic illiteracy which is rife in the corporate press.

Peter Hartcher is one of Australia’s most highly respected journalists with four decades of experience and a mountain of awards to his name, the author of several books on politics and economics, and political editor of two of the country’s most prestigious newspapers, but in this opinion piece he gets a key argument against immigration totally backwards.

After detailing Australia’s extraordinary migrant-fuelled population growth, he writes:

Remarkably, this record increase in immigration doesn’t seem to have aggravated unemployment, even during an economic slowdown.

The old nativist war cry that “immigrants steal our jobs”? It falls completely flat. This week we learnt that the unemployment rate fell from 4.1 per cent to 3.7 per cent in February. The number of new jobs created in the month was a remarkable 116,000, two-thirds of them full-time.

But as the Macrobusiness graph above shows, job applications are up and at near Covid lockdown levels, but unlike during the pandemic it’s not due to forced unemployment, but because we are bringing in hundreds of thousands of foreigners who want to steal our jobs.

The whole point of the “old nativist war cry” is that these immigrants compete with us locals for a limited amount of jobs, putting downward pressure on wages.

And in our case we are bringing in skilled migrants on working visas to do specific jobs on a list drawn up by government and big business.

In addition, more people means more demand for goods and services, which means more jobs created, which is what the Labor government has been boasting about. Unfortunately for Australians, they have all gone to immigrants.

So the unemployment rate is falling because of mass immigration, not despite it. And, of course, every job taken by an immigrant is one that could have gone to an Australian, and would likely have paid more too.

This is one of the most basic immigration-related concepts, but one that Hartcher seems not to have encountered. Worryingly, his editors don’t appear to understand it either.

It’s confusing how they could get it so wrong – do they think the jobs market is a fixed pie, and when an immigrant takes a job then a local hits the dole queue, causing the unemployment rate to increase forever? It’s quite absurd.

We suspect it’s because the employees of major newspapers don’t hear anti-immigration arguments at all – they work and live in opinion bubbles where opposing views are either entirely absent, or where uttering them is career suicide.

But Hartcher is not the only one to make this kind of mistake, and he is far from the worst. Ridiculous supply-side arguments are pushed in the mainstream media almost daily, along with the tiresome and easily debunked “skills shortage” myth.

Key Quote: “This sort of inflammatory racism [Hanson saying she was right about being “swamped by Asians”] is death to Australia’s social harmony and national functioning. Yet it’s just a small foretaste of the divisive, right-wing populism that will follow unless the country fixes its housing problems, and its accompanying problems of missing infrastructure.”

Subtext: “Um, hey guys, let’s wind the immigration back a bit, you’re proving Pauline right, and if you’re not careful everyone is going to notice”

Peter Hartcher immigration opinion piece

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