Report finds infrastructure backlog too big for catch-up

26 November 2019

Media Releases 2019

Unless Australia’s population growth is substantially reduced, it is an illusion to believe that infrastructure will ever catch up, according to a report launched today by the Hon Bob Carr.

The report called “Population growth and infrastructure in Australia: the catch-up illusion,” was commissioned by Sustainable Population Australia (SPA). The lead author was Leith van Onselen of the leading investment and business blog, Macrobusiness.

The report finds that Australia’s population growth of around 400,000 a year – over 60 per cent from overseas migration – results in Australia’s infrastructure supply not keeping up with demand, despite our best efforts.

SPA national president, Ms Sandra Kanck, says the report notes that, as a consequence, individual living standards are being eroded through rising congestion, declining housing affordability, growing infrastructures costs (e.g. toll roads and water), environmental degradation, and overall reduced amenity.

“The report reminds us that each additional person (whether by immigration or birth) requires well over $100,000 of public infrastructure, to provide the same standard of living to existing residents,” says Ms Kanck. “If that investment is not made – and often is not – then the pressures and demands on existing infrastructure build up, causing congestion.

“The main finding of the report is that, with continuing population growth, Australia’s infrastructure catch-up will remain illusory,” says Ms Kanck. “The backlog can only increase, further adding to congestion and loss of amenity.”

The report deals with two myths: 1) that we can encourage more decentralisation and 2) that we just need to invest more in infrastructure and plan better.

“As the report notes, the current federal policy of sending migrants to the regions is doomed to fail,” says Ms Kanck. “There is nothing to keep migrants there. Also, there is the problem of water. Towns like Dubbo and Tamworth cannot deal with thousands of new people when they are already short of water.

“And as for investing ever more in infrastructure, there have already been massive increases in infrastructure spending by all levels of government. It has added significantly to state debt.

“In 15 years of hyper-immigration to this country, Australia has failed to build enough economic and social infrastructure to cater for rapid population growth, and as more and more people arrive in our major cities, the cost and complexity of providing infrastructure for them increases accordingly,” Ms Kanck says.


Population and Economics
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