On Sunday I wrote an article exploring immigration and the financing of public infrastructure. In today’s article I’d like to chart different types of immigration policies and the associated forms of control.
The table below has six regions marked A to F. The vertical axis of the table indicates the degree to which the policy tries to control the number of immigrants. The horizontal axis indicates the degree to which the policy tries to control the type of immigrants.
The policy of a libertarian purist would be represented by the region marked “F” in the table. Under policy “F” there would be no restrictions at all on the number or type of people that could immigrate to Australia. This policy is sometimes called open immigration. A libertarian purist would want our immigration policy to be reformed to become more like “F”.
Current Australian immigration policy can be regarded as being mostly in the region marked “A”. We have hard limits on the overall number of people that can immigrate to Australia in a given year. We are also selective about the type of person that can come. We are no longer selective on racial criteria like we once were, but we do discriminate on the basis of age, disability, health, technical skills, language ability, family connections etc.
The reform I suggested in my earlier article would move Australian policy from “A” to “E”. Or perhaps to policy “B” but with a strong leaning towards “E”. As such I think it is correct to describe this reform as a “liberalisation” of our immigration policy. Instead of hard restricting the supply of immigration opportunities we would merely moderate the demand for such opportunities. Instead of being selective we would be more open. Note that this reform is essentially the reform advocated by the LDP immigration policy.
Note that for New Zealand citizens we have an alternate policy setting roughly represented in the table by position “C”. Under policy “C” we are selective, you must be a New Zealander. However we are also unlimited in the sense that we don’t restrict the number of New Zealanders that can immigrate here.