How will Australia manage its population growth?
Since Scott Morrison became Prime Minister, we have been keen to see how he would begin to shape Australia’s immigration policies and population growth. It seems he is already beginning to shift debate on the size of Australia’s annual immigration intake, revealing facts which challenge common immigration myths circulated in the media over the past year. Stay sharp and read on.
The Debate: Australia needs to reduce its annual national permanent migration intake of 190,000 people
Last month, One Nation’s lead senate candidate Malcolm Roberts said he believed Australia’s migrant intake should be slashed from 190,000 people down to 70,000. It has been a numbers game keeping up with the various reductions proposed for Australia’s migration intake however, Mr Morrison warns these are “fairly irrelevant figures” saying the debate on Australia’s population growth needs to assess the impact of migration on a region-by-region basis rather than on a national level. Mr Morrison says statistics such as those showing 77 per cent of Australia’s total population growth in 2016-17 was in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and their greater surrounding areas paint a clearer picture of the impact of migration in certain areas.
As population growth varies significantly in different parts of the country, Morrison believes we need to consider how each individual city and region is managing the impact when considering changes to Australia’s migration intake. According to Mr Morrison, focusing on the average population growth is like making decisions based on Australia’s average rainfall across the nation – the statistics vary so greatly in different parts of the country that it requires a much more considered debate.
Mr Morrison also believes it’s important to acknowledge how different migrant groups contribute to Australia in different ways, and that the numbers shouldn’t be the main consideration for a reduction. He says, “You can have very low levels of population growth that are actually being quite unhelpful in terms of what’s happening in the economy or social cohesion. You can have high levels of it, which if it’s all pretty much skills based and everybody’s in a job and it’s focused in regional areas, it can be quite suitably absorbed.”
The Debate: Rather than talk about a big Australia, we should strive for a better Australia
The debate over whether the Government should plan for a big Australia or tighten immigration laws has again resurfaced with New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian recently saying, “Rather than talk about a big Australia, we should always strive for a better Australia.” Like many, Ms Berejiklian links a higher population growth with a strain on infrastructure, which may be the case in some areas – however with the right city planning, the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.
Mr Morrison recognises Australia needs a plan that prepares cities for population growth while protecting its quality of living standards. One of the Government’s biggest focus points will be on ‘congestion busting’ with a $1billion fund established to tackle urban congestion as announced in this years’ budget.
The Debate: Australia’s permanent migration is largely to blame for Australia’s population pressures
Contrary to this sentiment, which has seen migrants demonised for contributing to pressures such as city congestion, Mr Morrison says Australia needs to acknowledge that temporary migration and natural population growth are more significant factors contributing to the size of Australia’s population.
“I’ve never bought this idea that the permanent immigration intake is the thing fuelling population growth. Because it’s not borne out in the actual maths,” Mr Morrison said. “When it comes to population growth at the moment, there are 10 extra people that have got on the bus. Just over four of the are temporary migrants. Just under four of them were born here, a natural increase. And only two of them are permanent migrants,” he says.
Mr Morrison also emphasised that in some areas the combination of natural population growth and interstate migration “eclipses international migration a couple of times over,” requiring a more sophisticated region-by-region approach to understand the real impact of immigration.
A fair go for migrants
We are pleased to see the Government shifting the immigration debate to a more considered and balanced view on the impact of migration. It is great to see common immigration myths and sentiments in the media over the past year challenged with insights that show simplistic reductions to Australia’s migration intake are not the answer. By shining a light on economic perspectives which had previously been overshadowed in the media, Mr Morrison appears to be calling on the Australian public to reconsider common immigration perceptions.
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