Population growth slowdown is welcome

28 March 2021

Media Releases 2021

Sustainable Population Australia



Population growth slowdown is welcome: SPA


The slowing of Australia’s population growth is a welcome development, according to Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).

SPA National President, Hon. Sandra Kanck, says that the slowdown is a chance to change course from the high population growth, ‘Big Australia’ path of the past two decades.

“The Covid-19 slowdown offers an opportunity to reset Australia’s population goals in pursuit of a sustainable future for people and the environment,” Ms Kanck says.

“The recent flood, bushfire and drought disasters highlight the risks of putting more people in harm’s way, in areas that are not safe for human settlement. Droughts, heatwaves, bushfires and floods will continue to become more extreme due to climate change.

“The Australian environment, already much diminished by human impacts, is not capable of supporting ever-more population growth.

“We believe there are a lot of positives in reduced population growth but a sustainable future is undoubtedly the most important.”

Ms Kanck was speaking in response to the release of new ABS data showing a reduction of Australia’s population growth rate to 0.9 per cent per annum for the year to 30 September 2020, and an actual decline in numbers of 4,200 people (-0.02%) for the September quarter.

The reduction was largely due to reduced overseas migration because of Covid-19 border closures.

“During this pandemic, the Australian people have been able to see with their own eyes what reduced population growth actually means. And most of it, if not all, is very positive.

“There are already signs that slower population growth means more demand in the labour market, with potential for lower unemployment and higher wages in the longer term,” says Ms Kanck.

“It means less pressure on our sprawling cities struggling to keep up with infrastructure demands.

“It means less destruction of natural habit, threatened species and agricultural land caused by urban sprawl.

“The claim that the slowing of population growth will cause an ageing population crisis is a furphy”, Ms Kanck added. “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/ .

“Population growth dilutes to a small extent the pension, health-care and aged-care costs of an ageing population. These modest advantages are far outweighed, however, by the costs of providing extra infrastructure for all the extra people, as well as the extra environmental impacts.”

Ms Kanck also highlighted that recent horrific floods and bushfires raise an often-ignored dimension of population growth, namely, the limited safe spaces for human settlement in Australia in light of growing climate risks.

“Flood plain and ocean-front dwellings are high risk, as are buildings located in or near thick forest. With climate change pressures, we have to re-think where we can live in Australia. If densifying our cities means more water restrictions and hotter heat waves, and sprawl puts more people in disaster zones, then where do we live if population keeps increasing?” she asks.


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