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25 November 2021

SENATOR KRISTINA KENEALLY
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY
LABOR SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES


POPULATION SHOCK- ABUL RIZVI

ADDRESS TO CAUCUS AND STAFF WITH DR ABUL RIZVI

CANBERRA
THURSDAY, 25 NOVEMBER 2021

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Good afternoon,

I want to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet – the Ngunnawal people – and their leaders past and present.

And welcome you all here today, as we celebrate Abul Rizvi’s new book- “Population Shock.”

It’s the latest publication in a series from Monash University called- In the National Interest.

And true to form, Abul’s book does extend our knowledge and encourage informed debate about matters of great significance to Australia’s future.

Many of you will know Abul. He has indeed had a long and distinguished career.

He was the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration.

He won the Public Service Medal and the Centenary Medal for services to the development and implementation of immigration policy.

And in particular, the re-shaping of Australia’s intake to focus on skilled migration.

Not only does Abul have significant expertise and knowledge, he’s also incredibly generous in sharing that knowledge, through the advice and feedback he willingly gives to any politician who cares enough to listen. 

Recently, Abul completed his PhD in Australian immigration policy, and he is of course a prominent contributor to the public debate about migration in Australia. 

And what a debate it’s turned out to be!

Like Abul, I believe that population growth will be one of the great public policy challenges of this century.

And it’s this very issue that is so eruditely explored in Abul’s book- Population Shock.

At the heart of this book sits the baby boomers.

A generation that -when they reached the workforce, in the 70’s and 80’s- created a bubble.

There were so many of them, that governments struggled to keep wages and inflation down and economic and migration settings were adjusted accordingly.

But while the boomers eventually left the workforce and moved on to the next chapter of their lives, the policy settings remained stuck.

A well- managed immigration policy can have a positive impact on wages growth and inflation.

But we hardly have a policy, let alone a well- managed one.

Abul’s book gives us a new understanding of population growth.

For decades we worried about global overpopulation.

But the situation we face today is quite different.

Instead, we’re experiencing a temporary ‘population shock’, caused by the uniquely large ‘baby boomer’ cohort as they near their twilight years.

In fact, boomers in the developed world entered the third stage of the population shock – old age, about ten years ago.

Over the next ten to twenty years, most of Europe, China, Russia and South Korea will join Japan as nations with sharply declining populations.

The world and modern capitalism have never before been in this situation.

While Australia’s population will continue to grow over the next forty years, we will age significantly.

Economic growth will slow, government and household debt will rise, and inequality will accelerate.

And it is against that background, that government will chart our immigration and economic future.

Now as you can imagine, I have a few ideas of my own about what that policy framework should look like. And I’m happy to say that much of it lines up with Abul’s ideas.

The immediate challenge Australia faces right now is how it will build back better after COVID.

This week we had an announcement from the Morrison Government- not a plan- just an announcement.

But we need a plan for immigration.

There is so much that is wrong with our immigration settings.

We have an obligation to ensure that we have a migration program that works in the national interest.

It should give Australians a first go and a fair go at jobs.

It must stamp out wage theft and exploitation.

And, where there are legitimate skill shortages, verified by labour market testing, we need a system that targets skilled migrants.

And those migrants should have pathways to permanency.

Our migration program, designed and introduced by Ben Chifley, has been built on permanent settlement.

People arrive, with their skills, and if we like them and they like us, they stay here.

What this Government has done, prior to the pandemic, is let temporary migration soar to historic highs.

That has entrenched wage theft and exploitation and made it easier for employers to get skilled labour from overseas, rather than invest in Australians.

Australia is at its best when we all do well.

Our values of fairness and opportunity are part of what makes our country great – but over the last eight years of this Liberal government, Australia has become a harsher place, with too many Australian workers left behind with low-wages, underemployment, and insecure work.

A realigned migration policy is an important part of any plan to improve the lives of these Australians. 

We have a unique opportunity to reform our migration system to ensure that it works better for our country – for Australian families, for Australian industry, and for those New Australians who wish to call this great land home.

Now is a time for big ideas and great ambition.

Abul has done his part in writing Population Shock. I congratulate and thank him.

ENDS