Perhaps an editor at The Age has a sense of irony, or more likely, politicians have a poor sense of economics. Today the broadsheet led with a story on Labor’s plan to relax working visa rules to “fast-track thousands of temporary foreign workers… to tackle the skills crisis.”

On page three, an alarming headline stated that the Melbourne rental vacancy rate was below one percent and that the “home drought worst on record.” The rental vacancy rate near the Melbourne CBD is 0.5 percent.

Sydney and Melbourne are suffering through dire shortages of accommodation, transport is completely overloaded, hospitals crowded while much of the southern part of country is experiencing severe drought. Not to mention carbon emissions which don’t tend to drop with a higher population. While doing little to solve those difficult problems, the Government is in fact exacerbating them by encouraging additional migration.

Further, the Howard government’s legacy of economic incompetence is again becoming apparent with the much maligned “baby bonus” increasing to $5,000 per baby on 30 June. The vote grabbing baby bonus is so ill-thought out it is an insult to pork-barrelling. For a start, there is no need for Australia to organically boost its population given that our major cities are already overcrowded.

Second, a Canadian study noted that 90 percent of recipients of Canada’s similar bonus planned to conceive anyway, so it was literally a cash handout which could go towards a new plasma TV. Third, if it the Government wants to actually encourage growth, the bonus should increase for subsequent children, rather than remain a flat rate.

The policy of increasing Australia’s population, by migration and organically beckons the question – what is a more serious problem, the apparent skills shortage or Australian’s rapidly diminishing living standards?

There is nothing wrong with migration. The world’s only remaining superpower was built on two centuries of open migration. However, with migration must come constant infrastructure improvements, especially in transport and housing. Neither issue has been adequately addressed by Federal or State governments and will be exacerbated by the Government’s own hand.

Peter Fray

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