The Coalitionâ€™s political positioning against unauthorised arrivals on boats has led to a widespread misapprehension about their position on immigration. The inner-city Left has been keen to demonise the Liberals as against immigration in all forms.
â€œJust because youâ€™re against illegal immigration doesnâ€™t mean youâ€™re opposed to all immigration,â€ retiring LNP MP for Herbert Peter Lindsay told VEXNEWS at the start of the election campaign.
Many Liberals have made the point that the influx of unauthorised arrivals â€“ most of whom become asylum seekers â€“ has done much to undermine public confidence in a growth-facilitating immigration programme that they are generally strongly inclined to support.
Indeed, the record shows party leader Tony Abbott is strongly in favour of a big immigration programme, even if itâ€™s not been front and centre in this election as both parties have tried to manage the fall-out in the outer suburbs and northern Australia about boat arrivals.
In an interview with Derryn Hinch just before Australia Day this year, Abbott said there was nothing wrong with Melbourne and Sydney aiming to grow to become mega-cities of 7 or 8 million people:
DERRYN HINCH: There have been headlines lately saying Australia could have a population of 30 million, 35 million. Sydney and Melbourne could get to 7 million, 8 million. I donâ€™t see whatâ€™s wrong with that. I mean, our population at the moment is about the population of California.
ABBOTT: I donâ€™t see whatâ€™s wrong with it either, Derryn, as long as we plan for the infrastructure we need to make it all workâ€¦
Around the same time Abbott made the point in a speech that there is no limit to Australiaâ€™s capacity to absorb newcomers:
â€œthereâ€™s no reason to think that Australia has a fixed carrying capacity …My instinct is to extend to as many people as possible the freedom and benefits of life in Australia. A larger population will bring that about provided that itâ€™s also a more productive one.â€
His pro-immigration views are not new either, they are consistent with long-held views. He told the Young Liberals Federal Convention on the 4th of January 2002:
â€œIt is in Australiaâ€™s interests to run a large, non-discriminatory immigration programme based on merit and humanitarian principles.â€