Pauline Hanson’s push to have a national vote on immigration levels has been crushed in the Senate.
The One Nation leader on Monday asked the upper house to support a plebiscite, arguing the country’s roads and health system were buckling under the weight of new migrants.
But Senator Hanson and her partyroom colleague Malcolm Roberts were the only votes in favour of the bill, which was thrashed 54 votes to two.
Senator Hanson launched a pre-emptive strike on claims her proposal was racist before the major parties shot down the plebiscite.
“Raising an issue like immigration – in particular the idea of an immigration slowdown – seems to attract those who want to drag the racism tag into the discussions,” she told parliament.
She said population growth stemming from immigration was contributing to stagnant wage growth and a fall in living standards.
“It just makes common sense that more people means more demands for services,” the One Nation leader said.
The Morrison government has reduced Australia’s immigration cap from 190,000 to 160,000 per year for the next four years.
Liberal senator Amanda Stoker said One Nation was trying to push its anti-immigration agenda based on weak arguments.
“There’s nothing noble about this bill. It’s long on alarmism and short on realism,” she told parliament.
“This bill endorses a solution that would have a catastrophic consequence for our economy, for a problem that is already being addressed by this government in a sensible, measured and long-sighted way.”
Senator Hanson wanted to have a national plebiscite at the next general election, with the question: “Do you think the current rate of immigration to Australia is too high?”
Labor senator Raff Ciccone said Australia would not be the nation it is today without the contribution of migrants.
“There is simply no place in our inclusive and proudly diverse nation for an expensive opinion poll on questions that don’t need to be asked,” he told the upper house.