However on Sunday 3 January 2010 the reporter Karl Hoerr allowed Mark O’Connor to contest the claims of the growth lobby, which had been accustomed to putting out its propaganda unanswered. I believe this was the first time in over a decade that a member of Sustainable Population Australia had been allowed to do so on ABC TV’s National News. As well, the demographer Graeme Hugo provided a third viewpoint. Though the report was brief and carefully “balanced”, this was still a major shift for ABC TV News.The result can be viewed at
Presenter (introducing the report)
Well as we head towards the 2nd decade of the 21st century, debate over the rate of population growth in Australia appears to have new impetus. Those who argue the country is growing beyond its means say current projections are conservative. But with the economy on the rebound there are others who say Australia’s recovery will depend on maintaining the current pace of growth.
Karl Hoerr (reporting.)
The idea of an Australia of 35 million by 2049 has sparked plenty of discussion about population growth. But even though the revised Treasury forecast stunned many people, some say it’s the tip of the iceberg.
For the last 2 quarters we’ve been growing at 2.1%. Now at 2.1%, if you keep that up, you double every 33 years. So in 40 years we would be more like 50 million.
Karl Hoerr (with visuals of the cover of Overloading Australia)
Author and environmentalist Mark O’Connor is among those lobbying for a major rethink of Australia’s population policy. He says the PM’s comments in support of a bigger Australia, were unusual for a political leader, and have fueled the debate.
The usual line is that it’s natural, inevitable, not their fault, so that even when in government they shouldn’t be blamed for it. And that’s what Rudd began saying, but then he strayed right off message.
Migrants account for 64% of the growth rate. Australia’s skilled migrant intake was slashed at the height of the global crisis to 115,000 people. But the recovery is likely to see more businesses struggling to fill their vacancies and looking off shore.
Shane Oliver, Economist AMP Capital
And particularly as the mining boom hots up again, I think over the course of the next 12 months, we will hear a lot more about skill shortages.
Graeme Hugo (demographer):
We’ve got the retirement of the baby boomers who make up 43% of the workforce. We are going to have to replace them.
In February a public enquiry will begin in Queensland to look at how best to cope with the population explosion in the State’s South East. Sydney and Melbourne too are dealing with a combination of massive growth and crumbling infrastructure.
Graeme Hugo (a bit hesitantly)
In the longer term we should move towards a more balanced situation—and because of environmental constraints, in which, I think, migration is likely to be significantly scaled back.
And with Australia’s fertility rate running at a 30 year high, the debate seems certain to grow, just like the population. Karl Hoerr ABC news.
We understand The 7.30 Report may soon follow suit with a series of segments on the population debate.