One of the more high profile union leaders in Australia was somewhat vexed by the recent agreement between the UK and Australia, suggesting it will increase competition for jobs to the detriment of the locals:
It’s unusual for the unions or indeed anyone on the left to say the quiet part about immigration out aloud.
She’s right, of course. It’s not a difficult mental exercise to realise immigration would have a negative impact on employment prospects for the exisiting population and their ability to negotiate wage increases.
But it’s an interesting ideological contortion for someone on the more left of politics to attempt. It’s the side of politics most associated with the open (or at least more open) borders position, and yet here’s McManus pointing out immigration isn’t all upside for existing residents.
She’s not alone in being an immigration sceptic on the left, either. This opinion piece by Kristina Keneally from early on in the pandemic makes a similar point, which McManus also endorsed on social media when published.
So what’s going on? Is it cognitive dissonance or simply the often knee jerk reaction of one team opposing whatever it is the other team say and do? Perhaps there’s a third explanation.
I’ve recently been rereading Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. My first reading was a decade ago and, although I took some interesting insights from it, my reading was more of a skim than in depth. I stuck at it this time and have been rewarded with some absolute gems, of which this is one:
Perhaps Sally and Kristina’s disdain for immigration is driven by concern for Australian workers.
Given that the Australian minimum wage is the second highest in the world, just behind Monaco, and Australians can access comparatively generous unemployment benefits, free medical treatment and subsidised child care, why wouldn’t a socialist want to share this wealth with others?
Because, as Hayek points out, they’ve thought it through to its logical conclusion and realised it is diametrically opposed to their agenda.