An overwhelming majority of Australians oppose high immigration, fearing it could affect their way of life, a study has found.
Before the pandemic saw the border closed to non-citizens and non-residents in March, Australia’s net annual immigration rate was approaching 200,000.
Australia’s population also surpassed the 25million mark in August 2018 – 24 years earlier than predicted in the federal government’s inaugural Intergenerational Report of 2002.
With Sydney and Melbourne among the world’s least affordable housing markets, 72 percent of respondents have told The Australian Population Research Institute (TAPRI) Australia was full.
Half the people polled wanted a reduction in immigration, fearing it caused more pollution and congestion.
Study authors and sociologists Katharine Betts and Bob Birrell said rapid population growth before the pandemic had worried a majority of Australians, who regarded both major parties are representing the interests of ‘leftist elites’.
‘High immigration was responsible for the deterioration of the quality of life in Australia’s big cities, as well as stressing its natural environment,’ they said in an opinion piece for News Corp.
‘Moreover, at least half the electorate do not support the progressive cultural values that left elites (including Labor’s leaders) regard as legitimating high immigration.
‘This is a key finding since it shows that there is only lukewarm support for the core Big Australia strategy of high immigration.
‘We can say with confidence based on our and other surveys that half the electorate are prepared to say, within the safety of an anonymous survey, that immigration should be reduced.’
Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd a decade ago declared himself to be a supporter of a ‘big Australia’, with business leaders also favouring high population growth.
His Liberal predecessor John Howard two decades ago increased net immigration levels to the six-figures, putting them well above the 20th century average of 70,000 a year.
The TAPRI survey however found people no longer believed it was ‘possible’ to accommodate more immigrants.
‘The conditions that made it possible to sustain a Big Australia and ignore this concern no longer exist in the post-Covid environment,’ the study read.
‘If the Coalition, or Labor, does try to revive a Big Australia many of these voters would respond readily to any attempt to mobilise them.
Australia’s population stood at 25,715,134 as of October 27, 2020.
The survey found that most respondents who took a stance against more immigration were not university educated, while those with a degree were more likely to back immigration.