Gillard and Abbott talk about restraining immigration and sound dinky di, but each is more representative of the changing nature of our population they would have us believe.
Whichever candidate takes office after the poll will be the first foreign-born Australian elected Prime Minister since at least John Gorton, and there's doubt about whether he was born in Melbourne or in Wellington, New Zealand.
But when Gorton became Prime Minister in the late 1960s only 1 in 5 Australians were born overseas. New figures released yesterday show steady increases in migration since have pushed up the total to an astonishing 1 in 4. By mid last year an extraordinary 26.5 per cent of the Australian population had been born overseas - the highest proportion since Federation.
The Bureau of Statistics figures show Australia at its most Australian in modern times in 1947 when 90 per cent of Australians were born here - with the actual proportion doubtless higher given that at the time Aboriginals were not automatically included in the census.
Abbott and Gillard are also representative of the record 5.8 million Australians born overseas in another way... Each was born in the United Kingdom which remains the biggest single foreign birthplace for Australians, supplying 5.4 per cent of our present population, followed by New Zealand with 2.4 per cent.
Over the past decade China and India have displaced Italy and Vietnam as our third and forth most important foreign birthplaces, supplying 1.6 and 1.4 per cent of our population.
And the most recent crop of migrants are about the most useful we could want. According to the Bureau of Statistics an impressive two thirds of recent migrants are aged between 15 and 34, compared to less than one third per cent of the population at large. This means migrants are most unlikely to need support in either nursing homes because they are old or in schools because they are young, and are highly likely to be in a position to provide support to an increasingly aged Australia.
These are the sorts of questions Tony Abbott has pledged to ask a renamed Productivity and Sustainability Commission if he wins office.
The figures show migrants overwhelmingly chosing to settle in NSW and Victoria with Queensland a distant third.
But as a proportion of its population Western Australia is by far the state most affected with migration accounting for 4.4 per cent of its population turnover, compared to 3.5 per cent in eastern Australia.
Around 30 per cent of Western Australian were born overseas compared to 26 per cent in NSW and Victoria.
Published in today's SMH
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