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How immigration could save us from recession

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If we let more migrants into Australia they won’t take our jobs, drain welfare or steal university spots, despite what conservative commentators say.

Rather, migrants can be the impetus to help keep the economy firing after the mining boom, and evade a dreaded recession.

Our country’s success depends on it.

That’s the contention of George Megalogenis, who weaves the argument into a new book that praises the value of the migrant to Australia.

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George Megalogenis
The book’s author, George Megalogenis. Photo: ABC

In his book, titled Australia’s Second Chance, the former journalist meticulously explores how mass migration has coincided with prosperous periods in our history, from foundation to the present day.

He says that if Australia shuts its doors to migrants, our prosperity will suffer. 

To do that, he examines census data, colonial records, diaries, interviews (including Malcolm Fraser’s last), news analysis and Hansard that shows how migration levels peaked with times of successful economic performance and social cohesion.

“This book is designed to give you a map, to look at the high points and low points of our history, and then help address the fork in the road at the present day,” Megalogenis told The New Daily.

“I don’t want to predict the future, but I want to give you a feel for open and closed Australia.

“On the open side is the ability to get along with people, and on the closed side is that chip on the shoulder and inferiority complex.

“It was a pleasant surprise to find the correlation between mass migration and prosperity and cohesion.”

Mass migration equals Australian prosperity

Australia’s Second Chance makes this point continuously, and continuing the trend emerges as an attractive way to extend our “winning streak”, without a recession.

australia day
The Migration Council has data saying immigrants create more wealth than existing population. Photo: Shutterstock

Megalogenis explores how the gold rush of the 19th century brought our colony riches, along with mass migration.

Then he explains how after World War I Australia shut itself off from migration, with the Great Depression ravaging the nation.

But after World War II, mass migration flourished and so did the economy, despite the White Australia policy excluding people from Asia and Africa.

While that might sound simplistic, the data Megologenis uses to support his argument is convincing.

“The data shows that mass migration equals higher national income and economic growth,” he said.

In the book, he writes that “our standard of living depends on the migrant”.

He also points to an “extraordinary figure” revealed in the Migration Council Australia’s The Economics of Migration Report.

“It says the migrant that lands is going to contribute 10 to 15 per cent more to the national income than the existing population,” Megalogenis reveals.

The secret trick of our greatest leaders

Our contemporary leaders need the courage to convince voters that a ‘big Australia’ is a good thing, Megalogenis.

Megalogenis notes that with industrialisation, productivity and not population became the key driver for economic success.

However, he writes that as China and India undergo an economic resurgence, the trend is moving back to population being important.

Sir Robert Menzies
In opposition, Menzies knew the economic benefit of the migrant. Photo: Getty

“Unless you open the country up, you can’t get the unemployment rate down. But that is a lesson you only learn through hardship,” Megalogenis said.

“I can’t change opinions with a single book. You need a consistent message across both parties of probably a decade. Even then I am not sure you’ll have full support of it.”

He argues leaders need to signal such changes, and shows how they have in the past.

“The person in the street is going to need to hear it from the leaders first,” Megalogenis said. “From leaders, to treasurers, opinion makers in the media, people with huge profiles.”

“[We see in the public] the fear that the next intake is going to overtake out country … some of it started in the 70s with high unemployment and deregulation in the 80s and 90s.”

Megalogenis writes that in 1947 Australia’s overseas population fell to a record low.

Then in opposition, Liberal leader Robert Menzies pushed Prime Minister Ben Chifley to open Australia’s doors.

“Labor has adopted the view that immigration is undesirable so long as we have local problems of an industrial and economic kind to solve,” Mr Menzies said.

“To this we retort that if we wait for economic perfection … we shall someday find our lack of population has invited an attack in which our entire economy will be destroyed.”

***Australia’s Second Chance, by George Megalogenis is out now through Penguin Books Australia


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