Australian businessman Dick Smith has blamed immigrants for high house prices, claiming the “enormous population increase” is making young families unable to buy their first home.
Appearing alongside former Labor leader Mark Latham and controversial former Liberal MP Ross Cameron, Mr Smith said “jumbo loads” of immigrants arriving each week were the “main driver” behind the country’s housing affordability crisis.
“The main point that’s driving our unaffordable housing is about 200,000 immigrants come in a year. That’s five jumbo loads a week that go out empty,” he told Sky News.
“All of our problems are from this unbelievable population increase. You can’t drive in Sydney at the moment. The housing prices are enormous.
“The most fundamental right is to get a house with a backyard. Young couples can’t do that anymore, purely driven in 95 per cent of cases by the enormous population increase, mainly driven by ridiculous immigration.”
The entrepreneur has long argued in favour of a “sustainable” population and last year backed One Nation’s policy of restricting migration levels – though he disagreed with banning Muslim immigrants.
On Tuesday, Mr Smith asserted population growth of 1.7 per cent was not compatible with long-term prosperity, and Australia had reached a “sweet spot” of around 24 million people.
He said infinite population growth would “just mean that most people are poor”. In doing so he took aim at the service sector economy, which he described as “selling coffee to each other or doing nails”.
“You can’t run a country on that,” he said.
Both sides of politics and most economists spruik the benefits of immigration. The majority of the 190,000 migrant places offered by Australia each year are in skilled migration, attracting people with a high level of education and who tend to be of prime working age.
That contrasts with Australia’s ageing population, which requires the support of younger workers, and the relatively stable but low birth rate of 1.9 births per woman, which is below the population replacement level.
A report by the Migration Council of Australia used modelling by Independent Economics to declare that by 2050, migration will have added 21.9 per cent to the real wages of low-skilled workers, and will be contributing $1.6 trillion to the country’s gross domestic product.
It comes amid a deepening debate within the Turnbull government about how to combat the housing affordability crisis, with MPs pitching a variety of ideas from deposit-free home loans to high-speed rail.
Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar was criticised by Labor for suggesting that “highly-paid jobs” should be the “first step” for those seeking to buy a home.
The comments were reminiscent of former treasurer Joe Hockey’s infamous declaration that aspiring home owners should “get a good job that pays good money”.