BIG AUSTRALIA – PONZI OR NOT?
Australia’s population growth is slowing down. Some think this is a good thing, others don’t.
The slowdown – good or bad – isn’t uniform. Queensland is down, but New South Wales and Victoria aren’t.
More so, most of our capitals are attracting the lion’s share of population growth these days. This is an accelerating trend and maybe not a good one.
Do we accept the overcrowding; increasing congestion; loss of private space and increasing cost of living, which seems to go hand in hand with urban congestion? Are we really happy with battery kids instead of free- range ones?
Big Australia – Ponzi or not?
Or do we aim for something different? Less people? Different land use patterns? Decentralisation? Staggered working hours and different school times/terms?
The Productivity Commission (PC), two weeks back, released its final Migrant Intake into Australia report which, under current migrant intake volumes, suggests Australia’s population is likely to increase from 24 million people today to 40 million by 2060.
Under this model, net overseas migrants would add some 13 million people or 80% to the population forecast.
The PC expect that this intake will be good for the economy, adding an extra 7% or $7,000 (in 2014 terms) per capita as a result. Yet labour productivity is forecast to decrease under current immigration settings over the forecast period, as are real wages.
I must be missing something.
And a review of our two charts this week shows that the ‘populate or perish’ theory isn’t working too well at present. Higher population growth isn’t creating a better economic outcome.
Some other observations
Here, we focus on the next ten years, not some distant future, so far away that most just say “too hard” and move on.
- Just over 28 million are expected in live in Australia by 2026 (remember, that’s just ten years away). Close to four out of five of this increase – some 3.2 million people – are expected to be housed in our capitals, and mostly in Melbourne (up 925,000); Sydney (up 820,000); Perth (up 710,000) and Brisbane (up 530,000).
- Assuming this growth eventuates, there will be a need to build some 1.72 million new homes, of which 75% or 1.3 million will be in our capitals. The main figures are 375,000 new homes in Melbourne; 330,000 in Sydney; 270,000 in Perth and 200,000 in Brisbane (all between 2016 and 2026)
- This growth could see 3.2 million more cars on our roads, of which 2.5 million will be in our already congested capital cities. Imagine another 720,000 more cars in Melbourne; 600,000 more in Perth; 570,000 more in Sydney and another 420,000 driving around Brisbane. The latest figures show that, on average, there are 765 vehicles per 1,000 people living in Australia. And this ratio is increasing, not falling, like many in the planning space predicted.
Something to ponder
Why are we increasingly living on top of each other?
Yes, there are strong economic forces driving urbanisation; but we don’t have to live this way. We are not forced to. We have plenty of land. We have other options.
More importantly, our economic well-being (on a per person basis) is declining. Revisit chart 2.
More people living here – and especially the way they aren’t dispersed – is already having a negative impact.
Do we go really big – and build a massive internal market – or do we cut back; and better utilise what we’ve got; and start thinking outside of the box?
It is time for a frank and honest discussion about population growth. We need a population policy and one which focuses, first and foremost, on raising the living standards of the existing population. We need to get rid of our current ‘grow and hope’ approach.
I am not against migration – with a surname like Matusik, I am obviously from overseas stock. We need to have a plan. We don’t have one.
And before someone compares me to Pauline Hanson, chill. This debate isn’t about race, ethnicity or being swamped by anybody. It is about economic utility, equity and strategic stability.
We need some serious debate here, not tuck shop racism.
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