Australia is better off with immigration - Neumann & Leigh - Op Ed, Ten Daily

Australia is better off with immigration

Ten Daily, 16 August 2018

Diversity strengthens our culture and economy.

In 1981, economist Julian Simon published a groundbreaking book titled The Ultimate Resource, in which he pushed back at the prevailing view that the world was threatened by overpopulation. The ultimate resource, Simon argued, is people "skilled, spirited, and hopeful people who will exert their wills and imaginations for their own benefit, and inevitably they will benefit not only themselves but the rest of us as well".

In today’s immigration debate, people often forget that the 2016 census showed nearly half of all Australians have either been born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas.

The Australian story is inherently linked to migration and our non-discriminatory immigration policy is our strength and our pride, having allowed for 7.5 million migrants to call Australia home since World War II.

Surveying the evidence, the OECD finds little evidence that migrants drive down wages or are responsible for significant house price rises. And yet that hasn’t stopped some of the more extreme voices in the debate making precisely that claim.

What’s often forgotten in the immigration debate is that new migrants aren’t just mouths to feed, but minds to inspire. Migrants have helped drive our economy with one in three small businesses in Australia being run by migrants and migrant business owners employing 1.4 million people.

In Australia, the pantheon of entrepreneurial migrants includes Tan Le, Frank Lowy, Ruslan Kogan and Huy Truong. Australia is surely better off thanks to the arrival of heart surgeon Victor Chang, science communicator Karl Kruszelnicki, and biologist Gustav Nossal.

Studies show that immigrants have higher patenting rates, are more likely to author highly cited scientific research, and are more likely to win a Nobel Prize. One possibility is that it is related to speaking two languages, with some evidence suggesting that bilingualism raises intelligence. It could also be that a global outlook is good for business.

In Israel in the 1990s, some predicted that the migration of nearly a million Jewish people from the former Soviet Union would lead to mass unemployment. Instead, because mathematicians and scientists were overrepresented among the immigrants, this episode is widely seen as one of the factors in Israel’s success as a ‘startup nation’.

More than half of all billion-dollar startups in Silicon Valley were founded by migrants. This is one of the reasons why last year Labor announced that, in Government, we would establish a new SMART visa for world leaders in Science, Medicine, Academia, Research, and Technology. This would allow the best and brightest talent from around the world the opportunity to develop their ideas in Australia and collaborate with their Australian counterparts.

Indeed, the presence of diversity seems to make us more productive. In a series of intriguing studies, researchers have noted that differences within teams seem to spur people to work better.

Summing up a plethora of findings, scientist Scott Page observes that "diverse cities are more productive, diverse boards of directors make better decisions, the most innovative companies are diverse".

No country’s migration program is perfect, but it’s hard to find a nation around the world that has made multiculturalism work as well as Australia. Rather than demonise migrants, let’s recognise the benefits of diversity on our community – and our economy.

This opinion piece was first published by Ten Daily on Thursday, 16 August 2018.

Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra


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