Lower population growth projections for Australia welcomed

6 December 2020

Findings from the federal government’s first Population Statement, which projects reduced population growth through to 2031, have been welcomed by the president of Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).

The Statement is projecting average population growth of 1.1 percent over the coming decade, compared to the 1.6 percent (more than 400,000 per year) in the past decade.  “This is positive news,” Ms Sandra Kanck said. “Opinion polls repeatedly show that a majority of Australians do not want our population to grow much beyond its present size of nearly 26 million.  They do not agree with the idea of a Big Australia.  We are big enough already.

“On that score, though, we disagree with the Statement’s assumption that we ought to be ramping overseas migration (NOM) back up to 235,000 by 2028-29, close to pre-COVID-19 levels.

“Immigration has been contributing around 60 percent of our population growth. Many Australians understand this. And they think it is time for a change.”

Ms Kanck said that SPA also rejects the implicit assumption in the Statement that gradual ageing of the Australian population is a cause for concern.

“Ramping up immigration again is not a long-term solution to population ageing,” Ms Kanck said.  “Migrants eventually get old too.  Boosting the working age population through higher immigration has resulted in our labour market being over-supplied, contributing to youth unemployment, wage stagnation and rising inequality.”

“The claim that there is an ageing population crisis is a furphy. SPA recently commissioned an expert study which concludes that a policy of rapid population growth to off-set ageing brings far greater problems than any brought on by ageing itself.” The study is available at https://population.org.au/discussion-papers/ageing/

“It is time for Australian governments to heed the wishes of the Australian people,” Ms Kanck added. “The slowing of Australia’s population growth due to COVID-19 has provided a fortuitous opportunity to reset our priorities for the future of Australia. We do not want a return to the red-hot rate of population growth we have had for the first two decades of this century. Our future does not lie in perpetual, unsustainable, population growth.

“It must be understood that it is the rate of population growth that has dropped; Australia’s population continues to grow and would continue to do so through to about mid-century, even if we had zero net immigration. The government’s own Population Statement confirms this fact.

“Even with the projected slower growth, Sydney and Melbourne would each be at least 6 million people by 2031.

“Reduced population growth will bring many benefits, including less pressure on housing prices, less congestion in the big cities, less pressure on state and federal budgets struggling to keep up with infrastructure demands caused by high population growth, slower increase in our  CO2 emissions, less loss of agricultural land from urban sprawl, and the easing of the relentless destructive impacts on our natural environment and threatened species.”

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