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Do we want slower population growth for the ACT?

By John Haydon - 5 October 2016 14

population-istock

1.4% does not sound like much, perhaps the paltry level of interest paid by the banks at the moment.  It happens however to be Australia’s current rate of population growth, and co-incidentally the rate of population growth for the ACT.  It has Australia on track for a population in 2050 of 40 million up from the current 24 million, or close to doubling over the next 34 years.  The ‘magic’, in this case black magic, of compound interest.  This is important if your horizons are further ahead than the next election.

If you google India’s rate of population growth, it is 1.2%, or lower than Australia’s.  Many Australians are surprised to hear that our rate of population growth is more akin to that of a developing country and in fact higher than that of many developing countries.  Most of Australia’s population growth comes from our immigration program, with the rest of the growth due to a still large natural increase, that is many more births than deaths.  This high level of population growth causes us to chase our tail building ever more schools, hospitals, transport systems and above all, perhaps, houses and apartments.  Sure, the gross domestic product (GDP) is likely to grow as more people are pumped into an economy but not necessarily the GDP per person.  Is it any surprise that Australia has had 25 years of so-called ‘growth’ and yet many do not feel their standard of living has actually improved?  Big business loves lots of customers for its products, and lots of workers so it can bid down wages.  The major political parties’ ties to big business, especially property developers, in part explains Australia’s obsession with ‘growth’, population growth and the fake economic growth of a GDP swollen by more and more consumers.

The damage to the environment caused by population growth, the loss of natural and built heritage and the natural environment to new housing developments, the loss of habitat for native species and the destruction of sites of Aboriginal significance are all pretty self-evident around the ACT, which also happens to be in the arid part of Australia.  Only someone with no memory of the 2000-2010 drought can believe that Canberra’s water supplies are assured into the future.

But back to immigration.  I should explain that I’m a direct beneficiary of immigration; my wife is Uzbek, now Australian, and she and our twelve year old daughter happily chat away in Russian at home.  I worked in immigration for 25 years, including as a Director of the Department of Immigration, and have lived and worked in Mexico, Korea, Cambodia, Turkey and lately Spain, and have friends ranging from Thai to Turkish.  I’m also the president of Sustainable Australia (ACT) and running in the coming ACT election for the seat of Kurrajong.

During the last federal election, when I was a candidate for the Senate, Sustainable Australia ran under the banner ‘lower immigration’.  We are for immigration, and reject the selection of migrants based on religion or race, but would like to lower Australia’s annual permanent immigration program from the current record of around 200,000 back to around 70,000, being its average annual permanent intake level during the twentieth century. It would not mean lowering our refugee (or humanitarian) intake, which is separate.

Obviously the ACT government does not set Australia’s immigration program but Sustainable Australia is calling for slower population growth for the ACT which we propose could be achieved by taking a more neutral stance on population issues, for example discontinuing ACT government programs vigorously encouraging people to move to the ACT.  Of course if Australians choose to move to the ACT that is their right, and we are not suggesting they be discouraged, just simply not overtly encouraged.  As far as settlement from overseas goes, the ACT government is involved in various schemes that provide Territory government sponsorship for migrants, and Sustainable Australia’s policy is to cease involvement with such schemes. Migrants would of course still be very welcome in the ACT. These moves will not massively alter the ACT’s population growth rate but they are more than symbolic.

A slower population growth rate for the ACT does not mean the end of expansion or the death of the construction industry, but rather a chance to reduce the deleterious impacts of too rapid development and to help give all Canberrans a sustainable future. That means supporting a Canberra that is better, not bigger.

John Haydon, Sustainable Australia (ACT) candidate for Kurrajong

What’s Your opinion?


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14 Responses to
Do we want slower population growth for the ACT?
Here_and_Now 3:44 pm 19 Oct 16

Stop doin’ it so often.

There, I said it.

dungfungus 8:53 am 08 Oct 16

arescarti42 said :

Agree 100% with everything you’ve said.

Population growth via immigration is fine so long as it benefits the existing community. Australia’s last decade of extremely high population growth has benefited governments and business through rising taxes and profits, but left ordinary Australians facing higher living costs, congested transport, and overburdened schools and hospitals.

It’s time we have a rational debate about the level of population growth that is best for Australians.

That debate will have to be soon as there won’t be any Australians left to debate it.

arescarti42 6:57 pm 07 Oct 16

Agree 100% with everything you’ve said.

Population growth via immigration is fine so long as it benefits the existing community. Australia’s last decade of extremely high population growth has benefited governments and business through rising taxes and profits, but left ordinary Australians facing higher living costs, congested transport, and overburdened schools and hospitals.

It’s time we have a rational debate about the level of population growth that is best for Australians.

dungfungus 7:49 am 07 Oct 16

Canberra needs to consolidate or risk an economic collapse which we will never recover from.

Being retired, I note more than those still earning, that the cost of living is rising to an unsustainable level.
Most of my peers are finding themselves in the same situation.
We are scoping moves interstate to survive and hope to do this before property prices here collapse which they inevitably will.

Most young people I know are also leaving Canberra; Melbourne is the preferred choice and the reasons cited are better job opportunities (especially in the private sector) and a lower cost of living.

I don’t really care what happens to the construction industry as I won’t be here to see the outcome.

At the end of the day, vibrancy doesn’t put food on the table or pay the rates.

Deref 6:22 pm 06 Oct 16

No, we don’t want slower growth. We want negative growth.

The global ponzi scheme that is our current economic system is rapidly unravelling. Ponzi schemes need growth and the minute that growth stops, the house of cards collapses. We need a rational system that encourages smaller populations.

madelini 3:08 pm 06 Oct 16

The thing is, because the ACT has a transient population and a lot of people who move away, by actively discouraging people moving here we are facing a population decrease. Clearly, the processes around population growth and infrastructure need reviewing as the population grows, but I would rather see the population hit a million in 50 years than begin to stagnate or shrink. Keeping in mind that the average age at the last census was 37 and is likely to have risen, not fallen, in the intervening years, it will not be long before the death rate could outbalance the birth rate across Australia. The baby boomers will not live forever, and many are already reaching retirement age.

In terms of environmental impact, surely there would be more support for denser living and infill in existing suburbs, as opposed to old-fashioned suburban housing. In a place such as Canberra, where we have statistically higher wages, how is quality of life calculated? Perhaps I need more information (and I have looked at the website, and read the policies), because it is difficult to tell from the above article what the ACT branch of Sustainable Australia actually seeks to do, aside from not encouraging people to move here and slowing property development. Will that have an impact on the Universities seeking students and researchers? The Federal Public Service recruiting for graduate programs? I understand the points that you are making, but I am ultimately unconvinced of their benefits for Canberra.

Arthur Davies 2:17 pm 06 Oct 16

There is a real circular argument going on here, we need more population to help pay taxes etc & to do the construction jobs needed for more infrastructure. But the need for much of that infrastructure is to serve the extra population! Lower population growth & we need to spend less on infrastructure. We have to bring in more people to do the work that is needed, but we have to create more jobs so we maintain our employment levels, circular doublespeak too.

I spoke to Peter Newman, an expert on urban planning & asked him what is the optimum size for Canberra both socially & for the minimum cost per head of population. The answer was the same for both, around 200,000. We have long since passed that & our costs per head are very obviously rapidly rising. There is a far larger sense of dissatisfaction in Canberra now than there was in the past, so the social issue is also beyond its optimum level too.

I for one have a real problem with the ACT Govt spending our money on encouraging more people into the ACT. We would all be better off with a more stable population.

WilliamBourke 1:04 pm 06 Oct 16

bringontheevidence said :

Arguments about population growth not resulting in real income growth or improvements in per-capita welfare ignore the massive elephant in the room – demographics…

Nope.

The evidence shows that:

a) Immigration has no material or sustainable impact on ageing/demographics (it’s been scientifically proven that migrants also age); and
b) Ageing does NOT lower workforce participation according to the evidence from analysis across the OECD (amazingly, human societies adjust, with many deciding to voluntarily work longer and/or actually enter the workforce due to increased economic opportunities for the many marginal workers who were previously unemployed / underemployed / disinclined).

Details here in The Conversation:
https://theconversation.com/the-tenuous-link-between-population-and-prosperity-38291

bringontheevidence 10:15 am 06 Oct 16

Arguments about population growth not resulting in real income growth or improvements in per-capita welfare ignore the massive elephant in the room – demographics.

If you go back and run the numbers for Australia’s economy if immigration had been half its current level for the last 25 years, everyone in the country is much worse off. The size of the workforce relative to the retired population would be much smaller, meaning the capacity of the economy to support the non-participating workforce (the oldies and the disabled) would be much lower and more of the workforce would be needed in less productive industries (health care etc) to service the needs of that population.

The only possible benefit would be lower property prices (assuming the generally anti-development mindset of the relatively larger elderly cohort didn’t restrict new dwellings too much), but even then most workers would be substantially poorer so wouldn’t even benefit from that.

WilliamBourke 8:32 pm 05 Oct 16

gbates said :

1.4%pa over 34 years amounts to a 60.43% increase, not even close to a doubling. I hope you weren’t in charge of maths at Immigration.

Oh, so it’s only going to double in 50 years, not 34… Phew, that’s a big relief…

But at 1.4% annual growth…

The next ‘double’, in 100 years will mean a population 4 times the size.
The next ‘double’, in 150 years will mean a population 8 times the size.
The next ‘double’, in 200 years will mean a population 16 times the size.
The next ‘double’, in 250 years will mean a population 32 times the size.
The next ‘double’, in 300 years will mean a population 64 times the size…

I assume you don’t care about the future of your great, great grandchildren?

gbates 6:53 pm 05 Oct 16

1.4%pa over 34 years amounts to a 60.43% increase, not even close to a doubling. I hope you weren’t in charge of maths at Immigration.

HiddenDragon 5:29 pm 05 Oct 16

“The major political parties’ ties to big business, especially property developers, in part explains Australia’s obsession with ‘growth’, population growth and the fake economic growth of a GDP swollen by more and more consumers.”

And the local version of that is spending money which is borrowed, or collected through rapidly rising rates and other charges (thus reducing the money which households have to spend on other things), on government activities and initiatives which are often justified – at least in part – as providing “jobs”. Not really an economically sustainable model in the longer term if it relies on constant borrowing and on rates and charges rising much more quickly than household incomes.

pink little birdie 3:35 pm 05 Oct 16

I have a few issues with the how you apply this and what effect it would have on a our main industries.
I realise for many that about 1/2 of the transient populations stay for under 5 years but that is still a fair chunk.
To begin with how do seek to reconcile this with the Federal services graduate intakes?
Also then the universities (UC, ANU, ADFA, ACU) and CIT?
How will attraction of high skilled professionals particularly in the Medical field happen? Canberra already has s shortage of specialists in the medical fields.

I’m really not sure how your policies work with the nature of Canberra’s population influx at the start of each year.

WilliamBourke 3:19 pm 05 Oct 16

It’s important that we do discuss these difficult issues, given the ACT is suffering from overdevelopment (BOTH sprawl and high rise infill). Where does ‘growth’ end?

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