Reduction in population growth rate welcome
Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) has welcomed the reduction in Australia’s annual population growth rate from 1.6 per cent to 1.5 per cent over the past quarter.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released its figures for the year ending 30 June yesterday. They showed Australia’s population in June was 25,364,300, an increase of 381,600 people over the previous year. Natural increase had increased slightly (0.5 per cent) as had net overseas migration, but only by 100, to 238,300 people.
SPA National Vice-President, Ms Jenny Goldie, says that the trend of the growth rate downwards is welcome though remains more than twice the OECD average.
“It is still a very high growth rate for a developed country,” says Ms Goldie. “Net overseas migration of close to a quarter million is way too much for an arid country such as ours, one that is getting even more arid under climate change.
“We should be aiming to stabilise our numbers for the purpose of achieving ecological sustainability. That requires both low immigration and low fertility. While current fertility is now 1.74 births per woman, we are not yet seeing that reflected in the natural increase (births minus deaths) figures.”
Ms Goldie says for too long economists have dominated the population debate, claiming a bigger population is needed for a bigger economy.“A bigger economy does not necessarily translate into bigger GDP per capita, and does not take into account the downside of population growth such as crowding, congestion, pollution and loss of habitat for other species,” she says.“What we need is for the population debate to be dominated by ecologists for a change; by people who have some appreciation of the real carrying capacity of this country.
“We also need a new population debate; one that takes into account climate change. There are many parts of Australia that are becoming uninhabitable because of increasing temperatures and dryness. Droughts, like the current one, will become commonplace with dire impacts on agriculture.
“We certainly can’t grow beyond our capacity to feed ourselves. On current trends, we are heading for 3.6 degrees warming, a scenario that will wipe out most agriculture on mainland Australia.”