As surely as night follows day, any mention of reducing Australia’s high-level immigration intake, to address its skyrocketing population, will see vested interests shout down the idea.
Invariably, these voices are led by those in the property industry and others in construction and infrastructure planning. These, after all, are the people that gain the most from the path of rapid growth.
Their arguments regularly centre on Australia’s history as an immigrant nation and the economic growth brought by new migrants. You’ll also hear that new migrants can solve Australia’s ageing population issue.
Of course, the rapid growth campaigners ignore the truth that migrants age as well, so any benefit is short term and merely kicks the can of an ageing population down the road.
They also turn a blind eye to the sticky issue of flat wages. That is, the average Aussie hasn’t enjoyed any significant real wage increase in the past 10 years. And this is 10 years where the nation has seen massive immigrant inflows. This does add to the overall economy (GDP). But it doesn’t make most Aussies any better off at all.
What is the limit on Australia’s population size?
And while Australia may have been built on immigration, this is the 21st Century. Not the 19th or 20th. Someday the level of immigration will have to come down. Australia cannot keep growing indefinitely. Yet rarely, if ever, will you hear the vested interests behind skyrocketing growth put forth their ideal population figure. A number where we can all agree that enough is enough and Australia should simply stop growing.
Is that 30 million people? 50 million? More?
Again, they refuse to say…because they have no final vision. All they can do is blindly demand the government follow the same path that has led to today’s congested cities and explosive growth. And, not incidentally, a path that tends to line the pockets of those advocating for more and more growth.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has boldly turned a deaf ear to their demands. He’s appealed to voters frustrated with road congestion and fuller schools, hospitals and public transport with a ‘fair dinkum process’ to cut the national permanent migration intake by 30,000 places annually. This is a small, but necessary step in the right direction.
Mr Morrison said the policy would target where 75% of migrants go; Melbourne, Sydney and Southeast Queensland. According to AAP, this week predictions showed that Brisbane’s population could grow to three million people by 2027.
The impact of interfering with migration levels
Queensland is one of the worst performing economies in Australia. And the federal government is now being warned about the impact of interfering with migration intake and levels could have on the economy.
Kirsty Chessher-Brown of the Urban Development Institute of Australia’s Queensland branch told AAP:
‘Immigration policy is not the answer to infrastructure shortfalls. Only infrastructure delivery will address these shortfalls…
‘The current levels are critical to the state’s economy and are a key strategy in supporting growth and jobs for Queensland.’
After Immigration Minister David Coleman said that cutting migration numbers made ‘absolute sense’, the Palaszczuk government has claimed the federal government of using the migration issue ‘to score cheap political points’.
UQ demographer Elin Charles-Edwards believes that slashing migration numbers in Southeast Queensland wouldn’t have the desired effect the Commonwealth is looking for, stating:
‘We’ve had more balanced population growth (than other areas). Internal migration and natural increase have been major components…
‘A reduction in migration might reduce growth slightly, but I don’t think a change of the order the prime minister is suggesting would have much of a measurable impact on the ground in SEQ.’
But it’s not only politicians and demographers criticising Mr Morrison’s proposal, the property industry has also criticised the policy. Chris Mountford, Queensland head of the Property Council of Australia, said:
‘The history of southeast Queensland has been one where population growth is something we’ve been able to adapt to…
‘The issue is not what the population is, it’s whether the planning and infrastructure is keeping pace.’
Though what is the limit on the scale of Australia’s population size? Do we simply continue to take in more people when we don’t have the infrastructure built to support them?
But that’s the idea. Those that are in the infrastructure industry are the ones opposing Mr Morrison’s policy.
It seems that many would like to continue to keep their heads in the sand, and ignore the impact that a quickly increasing population could have on Australia.
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