25 November 2019

Population growth and infrastructure in Australia: the catch-up illusion

Sustainable Population Australia – Discussion Paper

Lead author: Leith van Onselen

Date: November 2019

Full version of the infrastructure Discussion Paper  (PDF)

Sydney and Melbourne now have worse traffic congestion than New York and Toronto. This congestion is but one symptom of an infrastructure shortfall caused by Australia’s rapid population growth, with both births and immigration elevated since the beginning of this century.

If these trends continue towards a ‘Big Australia’, living standards for existing residents will continue to decline as people are forced into smaller, more expensive and lower-quality housing, endure worsening traffic congestion, pay more to access basic infrastructure and services, and have less access to public services and green space.

Our political leaders are claiming that these problems can be managed by decentralisation, better planning and more investment. This paper disagrees with those propositions.

We find that these proposed solutions will not work under conditions of high population growth. Instead, the increasing cost and complexity of adding new infrastructure in our already sprawling cities can only guarantee declining living standards.

This discussion paper on infrastructure was launched by the Hon Bob Carr at the State Library of NSW on 26 November 2019. Speakers also included the Hon Sandra Kanck, President of SPA, and Leith van Onselen, lead author of the discussion paper. See all the talks in this video. You can also watch it on SPA’s YouTube channel.

View Leith van Onselen’s slide presentation at the launch event for this Discussion Paper.

Full version of the infrastructure Discussion Paper (PDF)

View a version of this paper optimised for tablet and smartphones: