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Australian Media AFR on Population Growth

From Christopher Joye at the Australian Financial Review:

Why Australia needs to get real on population growth. It is potentially the biggest economic and social challenge we face. Yet it hardly registers in the popular debates. Within the lifetime of the typical Australian the number of people living here is expected to jump 60 per cent from 23.3 million today to 37.6 million by 2050.

Sydney and Melbourne’s populations are projected to explode by 60 to 80 per cent to reach almost 8 million inhabitants each. Perth’s size is set to more than double to 4.6 million within the next 37 years. But ­politicians, policymakers and the private sector appear unprepared for this radically different future….

….A second even more influential turbo-charger of Australia’s contemporary ­population boom has been immigration.

Soaring demand for skilled labour fuelled by the mining investment expansion, coupled with Australia’s station as a favoured destination for those aspiring to better educations, has resulted in a flood of arrivals. 

Over the last 30 years annual net ­overseas migration has averaged 128,000 people. Yet since 2006 net overseas migration has been running at 224,000 persons, 80 per cent above trend. It has made 1.3 times the contribution of fertility and longevity to population growth. The 316,000 person peak in 2008 was more than an order of magnitude higher than its 1993 nadir.

The racial insecurities that feature in our population and boat-people controversies are surprising given that one-quarter of all Australians were born overseas. Almost half of us have a parent from another country.

UBS economist George Tharenou points out that immigration affords several dividends. At 27 years the typical migrant is a decade younger – and more productive – than the median person. They also yield higher reproductive rates.

Migrants therefore enhance the vitality, virility and longevity of the pool of labour supply, and through a higher tax take and stronger population and economic growth, help mitigate the financial drag ageing ­populations place on public budgets through rising health and pension costs….

…Gillard told the ABC the government wanted to crack down on alleged rorts in the temporary skilled visa program to “stop foreign workers being put at the front of the queue with Australian workers at the back”. Nobody in the bureaucracy would support her stance.

A senior member of the department of immigration’s ministerial advisory council on skilled migration, professor Peter McDonald, told the ABC that the racial implications of Ms Gillard’s remarks were “nasty stuff” and “undermined the system”.

A decade worth of misses in our population projections mean that policymakers have likely been working towards the wrong future. We appear ill-prepared to cope with the prospect of 8 million people living in each of Sydney and Melbourne.

Long-time financial market economist, CommSec’s Craig James, says the upgraded ABS projections are a “game changer”. Asked why the ABS has got it so wrong, James responds that the “answer to almost every economic question lies in China”.

He believes population pressures are already having profound effects on Australia’s urban environment. “Who would have thought 10 years ago that we would be building more apartments than free-standing homes today,” James asks.

He thinks the revised estimates necessitate a “fundamental reassessment of all of our key resource requirements, including our social and economic infrastructure.”

James says this warrants a “community discussion to determine whether we are comfortable as a nation with the path we are on”. But he worries that the debate remains missing in action. Politicians run for the hills when presented with an opportunity to contribute to what is a divisive topic.

“At the end of the day somebody has to take a stand and drive this agenda,” James says. “A newspaper would be a good place to start.”

 

I think (?) this article is suggesting the media needs to explain what population and immigration mean for Australia, i.e. a positive story versus the ignorant and misinformed view from Australia’s (ageing white middle class male media) and the anti immigration or over population spruikers led by Dr. Bob Birrell, related groups such as Sustainable Population Australia and compliant media.

However, even in this attempt at levity there are the same mistakes made in reporting and interpreting data:

  • Confusing definition of NOM net overseas migration by deeming those included as ‘immigrants’ (false), they are temporary residents but are also conflated with permanent immigrants which in turn inflates population data;
  • Failing to point out that Australia’s population definition changed in 2006 to include international students (of whom a small minority stay permanently via formal immigration).

Importantly Joye did highlight the following:

  • The racial insecurities that feature in our population and boat-people controversies are surprising given that one-quarter of all Australians were born overseas. Almost half of us have a parent from another country.”
  • A senior member of the department of immigration’s ministerial advisory council on skilled migration, professor Peter McDonald, told the ABC that the racial implications of Ms Gillard’s remarks (re. ‘foreign’ workers) were “nasty stuff” and “undermined the system”.

CommSec’s James seems to fall for the unfounded ‘carry capacity’ arguments which Birrell, SPA, Thomson and compliant media constantly spruik.

What newspapers and media need to start doing is to analyse facts and not accept ‘research’ from Bob Birrell etc. at face value.

 

 

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