Sustainable Population & Immigration (Australia)

Related policies

  • Animals & Biodiversity
  • Environment
  • Finite & Non-Renewable Resources
  • Housing
  • Jobs & Economy
  • Planning & Development
  • Regional & Rural Australia
  • Sustainable Population (Global)
  • Transport
  • Waste
  • Water

Background

Population is a complex and widely misunderstood issue. Population policy in Australia has been corrupted by vested interests. It impacts on economic, environmental and social issues and requires a detailed policy response.

Population is first and foremost an environmental issue (also see Environment, Water, Waste, Animals & Biodiversity, etc policies). Like climate change, population is both a local and global issue, and so requires local action to achieve global outcomes.

Population growth is also an infrastructure issue, as it places strains on our schools, hospitals, roads, public transport, recreational spaces, etc.

Unfortunately, Australia's population policy has been corrupted by vested interests, particularly through their influence on the two major political parties:

“Canberra's population is set to nearly double within 40 years — but one developer wants it to grow even larger... [We already] require nine times the land area of Canberra to support the lifestyles we are living at the moment. Canberra Times

Importantly:

  • Rapid population growth is unsustainable, regardless of whether it comes from high immigration or high native-born fertility
  • Sustainable Australia Party is opposed to restrictions on family size and coercive efforts to reduce fertility
  • Sustainable Australia Party is opposed to discrimination of immigrants based on race (ethnicity) or religion
  • Sustainable Australia Party is for/pro-immigration not against/anti-immigration, but we advocate for lower immigration (overall) with a more sustainable cap of 70,000 permanent migrants per year - including our current humanitarian/refugee intake level
  • Australia’s rapid population growth is not caused by refugees, who make up only around five per cent of Australia’s population growth

Full background at bottom of page.

Policy

Based on the best scientific advice and as a positive example to the rest of the world, stabilise Australia's population size as soon as practicable, aiming for a population target under 30 million through to and beyond 2050.*

Sustainable_Australia_Versus_Big_Australia-Population.jpg

Policy Methods (Federal)

To help achieve this Sustainable Australia Party will:

  • Recognise that rapid population growth in Australia is not only not inevitable, but brought about through the corruption of federal government population policy by vested interests
  • Reject current Australian population growth projections which have Australia on target to grow from 25 million (2018) to over 40 million by 2050, and up to 100 million by 2100
  • Lower Australia's permanent immigration program from the current (post-2000, non-COVID) record of around 200,000 per annum back to a cap of 70,000 per annum, being Australia's average annual permanent intake level during the twentieth century(1)
  • Support skilled, family reunion and humanitarian/refugee immigration components within the annual permanent immigration program
  • Maintain an annual humanitarian (refugee) intake of around 14,000-20,000, according to circumstances(2)
  • Provide free universal access to contraception and related family planning services, to help prevent unwanted pregnancies (also see Health policy)
  • Limit government baby bonus-style birth payments (e.g. the Newborn Upfront Payment through Family Tax Benefit Part A) to each woman’s first two children(3)

Further Policy Detail (Federal)

We propose the following supplementary population policies:

Population and Immigration

  • Abolish the open borders Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement with New Zealand and, given the special relationship between our countries, open discussions on a preferential Australia-New Zealand migration agreement within the total annual permanent immigration program
  • Remove immigration from all trade agreements and instead manage it wholly through the official 'Migration Program'.

"The fact of the matter is that immigration should never be included in FTAs to begin with. Immigration is covered in Australia’s ‘Migration Programme’, and there is little sense in negotiating away control of our sovereign borders to another nation – and in the process diluting Australian wages and working conditions – for slightly improved market access." MacroBusiness

  • Where there is an abundance of water, jobs, housing, infrastructure and services, encourage population decentralisation

"[Otherwise] “If you have all these knowledge workers arriving into regional towns it will do the same thing the mines did. You will have a population arrive on a much higher salary and that will drive up the price of everything and it will displace local people..."

  • Conduct a comprehensive enquiry into Australia’s immigration program, including the audit and review of all permanent and temporary immigration programs, in order to assess their efficiency and validity for Australia’s immigration policy mix. This would include fully reviewing:
    • The Significant Investor Visa, which gives a streamlined pathway to permanent residency for wealthy migrants with $5million for investment, effectively buying citizenship
    • The poaching of skilled professionals from the developing world, which robs poor communities of much-needed health and technical expertise
    • The exploitation of visa workers across many sectors of Australia's economy

"I have extensive experience in hospitality and fruit and veg supply, but the minute I tell them I have my own accommodation it is the last I hear from any of them... Mr Muir said several farmers told him flat out they won’t hire Australians... I’m not as exploitable as a foreigner.” The New Daily

"Employers have only a limited range of options if they find themselves short of staff and it is not possible to call up reinforcements from overseas. They can invest more in labour-saving equipment; they can invest more in training to raise skill levels; or they can pay more in order to attract staff. It is not immediately obvious why any of these should be either impossible or undesirable." The Guardian

"Former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser has buttressed Philip Lowe’s view that high levels of immigration have contributed to low wages growth, saying the nation needs to train local workers to fill skills shortages rather than rely on migrants." Sydney Morning Herald

"Think about what's happened to the labour market in the past 18 months, with our closed borders... the unemployment rate fell rapidly... from 6.9 per cent to 4.9 per cent." ABC

Policy Methods (State)

To help achieve this Sustainable Australia Party will:

  • Withdraw the States, Territories and their government agencies from proactive population growth policies including:
    • Programs marketing states and territories to prospective international residents.
    • All Department of Immigration permanent and temporary visa programs including Regional Sponsored Migration Schemes, State/Territory Sponsored Business Owners and State/Territory Sponsored Investors.

"Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan announced today that the West Australian Skilled Migration Occupations List (WASMOL) used for state nomination has been slashed." SBS

Humanitarian Program (Refugees & Asylum Seekers)

  • Recognise that refugee migration is likely to increase worldwide due to 'ecological overshoot' and its symptoms - including water shortages, food scarcity and climate change – and note that stabilising Australia’s population as soon as practicable provides more flexibility to help those most in need
  • Protect genuine refugees from persecution, whilst having an overriding aim to help people live sustainably in peace and harmony in their homeland and region. To help achieve this:
    • Consider further refugee and asylum seeker requests and claims, including temporary asylum, according to circumstances
    • Provide support for the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (UN Refugee Convention), including Article 1(c), which provides that refugee status can cease where circumstances in connection with refugee status have ceased to exist(4)
    • Recognise and address the root causes of the world’s refugee migration, including rapid population growth pressures, overdevelopment, resource scarcity, climate change, corruption, poverty, conflict and war (also see foreign aid funding in Sustainable Population & Immigration (Global) policy).
    • Remove all asylum seeker children from detention as soon as practicable
    • Recognise that the first preference of genuine refugees is to live in peace in their region, and that given the scale of the global refugee crisis, foreign aid to achieve this can be a more sustainable and effective solution than permanently resettling people into new countries.(5)(also see foreign aid funding in Sustainable Population (Global) policy)
    • Work to prevent asylum seeker boat journeys and deaths at sea(6)

Refugee and asylum seeker issues are complex and global. Legislation and issues outside of our policy platform would be addressed, if we are elected, in an evidence-based way with appropriate stakeholder engagement.


Background

Population is a complex and widely misunderstood issue. Population policy in Australia has been corrupted by vested interests. It impacts on economic, environmental and social issues and requires a detailed policy response.

Population is first and foremost an environmental issue (also see Environment, Water, Waste, Animals & Biodiversity, etc policies). Like climate change, population is both a local and global issue, and so requires local action to achieve global outcomes.

Population growth is also an infrastructure issue, as it places strains on our schools, hospitals, roads, public transport, recreational spaces, etc.

Unfortunately, Australia's population policy has been corrupted by vested interests, particularly through their influence on the two major political parties:

“Canberra's population is set to nearly double within 40 years — but one developer wants it to grow even larger... [We already] require nine times the land area of Canberra to support the lifestyles we are living at the moment. Canberra Times

Importantly:

  • Rapid population growth is unsustainable, regardless of whether it comes from high immigration or high native-born fertility.
  • Sustainable Australia Party is opposed to restrictions on family size and coercive efforts to reduce fertility.
  • Sustainable Australia Party is opposed to discrimination of immigrants based on race (ethnicity) or religion.
  • Sustainable Australia Party is for/pro-immigration not against/anti-immigration, but we advocate for lower immigration (overall) with a more sustainable cap of 70,000 permanent migrants per year - including our current humanitarian/refugee intake level. 
  • Australia’s rapid population growth is not caused by refugees, who make up only around five per cent of Australia’s population growth.

Current Australian growth projections, largely due to high immigration, have Australia on target to grow from 25 million (2018) to over 40 million by 2050, and around 80-100 million by 2100.

There has been no real public consultation and therefore no political mandate for this rapid growth which is increasing social and economic inequality.

"The fastest-growing outer suburbs tend to show lower levels of some of the drivers or social conditions needed to achieve social inclusion, well-being and health." The Conversation

Slowing population growth will help maintain social cohesion and long term public support for immigration, by addressing the public's growing frustration with rapid population growth on infrastructure and the environment.

Perversely, Sustainable Australia Party is attacked by both the extreme left and right of politics.

The left wrongly attacks SAP's criticism of Australia's high immigration-fuelled rapid population growth as 'anti-immigration' - or worse. This phenomenon has been studied by sociologist Dr Katharine Betts:

"Taking a strong stand against racism is a core moral principle, and rightly so. The problem lies in automatically equating any criticism of high migration with racism. All this does is feed the growth lobby and stoke growing discontent among the silenced... We must be able to debate the future of Australia clearly and publicly..." Full article here.

The right attacks SAP because we are opposed to discrimination of immigrants based on race (ethnicity) or religion.

As outlined above, Australia’s rapid population growth is not caused by refugees or asylum seekers. Refugees, including asylum seekers, make up only around five per cent of Australia’s population growth, and are being used as a distraction by federal governments in order to quietly maintain a record permanent (combined skilled and family reunion) immigration program - by plane.

"It was the sleight of hand of John Howard that originally mislead the Australian people on immigration. Howard effectively performed a ‘bait-and-switch’ on the Australian people whereby he slammed the door shut on the relatively small number of refugees arriving into Australia by boat all the while stealthily shoving open the door to economic migrants arriving here by plane. MacroBusiness

This unsustainable 'economic' immigration is driven by the desire of large industries including the property developer lobby for more customers and cheaper labour, as well as a larger 'aggregate' (but not per capita) GDP statistic for governments to promote. Sustainable Australia Party supports our current intake of refugees.

Our immigration intake should be lowered back to the more sustainable long-term average level (see below) of 70,000 to allow for more screening of, and support for, all prospective migrants (including skilled and family reunion migrants) than is currently the case.

"Australian immigration officials have been referred for investigation over more than 100 cases of alleged corrupt activity in Australia's skilled and student visa program." ABC

"A new report has found migrant women on temporary visas who experience family violence are often left to suffer in silence because of fears they will be deported if they seek help." SBS

"Imagine, for a moment, being a woman who comes to Australia on the promise of having a job as a cook and a visa for a new life. Then imagine being told to work without pay for six months. Then being told to pay tens of thousands of dollars for that visa." The Age

"The most comprehensive study to date of wage theft and working conditions among international students, backpackers and other temporary migrants in Australia has found almost a third earned $12 an hour or less, approximately half the casual minimum wage." The Guardian

There are serious dangers, including sexual abuse and employer exploitation of migrants, in not devoting sufficient resources to managing our record high immigration intake. The Department is simply overloaded with work. Lowering our immigration intake back to the normal level of 70,000 p.a. will help the Australian Government to lift both skills and genuine family reunion outcomes, and so properly manage our failing and corrupted immigration program.

"Ms Bao, registered as a federal government migration agent in Melbourne, has for months allegedly been working with a syndicate that runs illegal brothels in apartments in Melbourne's CBD. The brothels are staffed by Asian women on student visas." The Age

"A former visa processing officer used their role to receive ‘substantial’ sums of money and engaged in ‘dishonest and deceitful’ conduct, a corruption investigation has found. They did this by using their position to obtain visa applicant details, contacting visa applicants and their sponsors outside of work, and granting, or offering to grant, a number of visas in exchange for an unlawful financial benefit." The Mandarin

"Dr Patel, the former director of surgery at the Bundaberg hospital, fled Australia at Easter after it was discovered he had been struck off and discredited in the US for botched surgery that killed a number of patients." The Age

"Embattled pizza giant Domino's has kicked a Queensland store owner out of its network after a Fairfax investigation caught him offering to sell a visa sponsorship for up to $150,000." Sydney Morning Herald

"Compensation paid out to underpaid 7-Eleven workers has tipped over $110 million, fuelling criticism of failures in Australia's employment law system to keep wage theft in check." Sydney Morning Herald

"Despite nine months of looking she was unable to find a job in her field in Hobart and so turned to driving for Uber to make end's meet... You can't push a migrant to somewhere where they're not going to be able to economically support themselves." ABC


*Why a <30 million population target?

The Australian Academy of Science reported on population sustainability in the 1990s (when our population was 17 million): 

"In our view, the quality of all aspects of our children's lives will be maximised if the population of Australia by the mid-21st Century is kept to the low, stable end of the achievable range, i.e. to approximately 23 million."

We have now rushed past this population level with no long-term planning.

Further, according to successive national State of the Environment reports chaired by Professor Ian Lowe (formerly President) of the Australian Conservation Foundation, most of the important environmental indicators in Australia are getting worse, all of which are being further worsened by population growth. Ian Lowe’s recommendation, like Sustainable Australia Party’s, is to stabilise Australia's population.

"Pressures on coastal areas also continue to be driven by our unusually high rate of population growth." State of the Environment Report via The Conversation

Given Australia’s current rapid growth, including a high birth rate and high immigration, 26-30 million is now around the lowest point we can reasonably expect to stabilise within the bounds of sensible and responsible population policies.


Population 'Myths & Facts'

There are a lot of myths surrounding the population issue. Here are some:

MYTH: Refugees drive population growth.

FACT: Refugees make up less than 5 per cent of Australia’s population growth. The skilled and family reunion migration programs make up more than 60 per cent of our growth.

MYTH: The Australian Greens support lowering population growth in Australia.

FACT: The Australian Greens support increasing the refugee intake from around 15,000 to 50,000, and increasing access to family reunion migration, with no commensurate reduction in any category of immigration. Overall, this would result in a significant increase in immigration and population growth.

MYTH: Australia can stave off ageing by importing younger immigrants

FACT: Any attempt to stave off ageing via immigration is an unsustainable pyramid scheme. The Productivity Commission stated clearly that immigration cannot make any significant or lasting impact on population ageing:

“Substantial increases in the level of migration would have only modest effects on population ageing and the impacts would be temporary, since immigrants themselves age”.

MYTH: Immigration resolves skills shortages.

FACT: Immigration creates three skills shortages for every one that it resolves, fuelling a vicious circle of skills shortages.

Note, according to Roy Morgan Research, there are over 2 million Australians either unemployed or underemployed (over 1 million, or 10%, in each category). They deserve better education and skills training.

MYTH: Australia needs to grow its population in order to grow prosperity.

FACT: Productivity and workforce participation are the important factors. Smaller stable populations generally have far higher per capita wealth than larger, growing populations. According to the International Monetary Fund, seven out of the top ten per capita GDP countries have populations under 10 million.

MYTH: Australia’s rapid population growth is inevitable.

FACT: Politicians can greatly slow Australia’s population growth with the stroke of a pen, mainly via lowering immigration back to a sustainable level.

MYTH: Population growth can be solved simply by planning more infrastructure.

FACT: Australia’s major cities have already been planned and built on certain densities. Population growth now leads to increasingly complex and unaffordable infrastructure 'retro-fitting' requirements such as desalination plants and road and rail tunnels, and land buy backs to build schools, hospitals, etc, which have far greater per capita costs than traditional infrastructure like dams and normal roads. We have reached diseconomies of scale, meaning new complex infrastructure is increasingly unaffordable for state governments.

MYTH: We can simply move people to the regions.

FACT: 'Decentralisation' schemes have cost governments billions over the years, for slim returns. Why? There are more than enough people in our over-crowded major cities to re-populate the regions, if only there were the jobs, water and infrastructure. No credible policy will stop 90 per cent of migrants initially or eventually settling in the capital cities, for these reasons and family reunion preferences. Over 60 per cent of migrants move to our big cities in the first five years.


Footnotes:

Sustainable_Australia_Versus_Big_Australia-Immigration.jpg

  1. Source for average twentieth century immigration level is The Australian Population Research Institute
      • If the major parties don't introduce this policy, Australia should hold a stand-alone national 'population plebiscite' asking:

    "Australia should lower its annual permanent immigration program from the current record of over 200,000 back to around 70,000, being its average annual permanent intake level during the twentieth century" - or similar, to offer the choice to stabilise Australia's population at around 26-30 million people by 2050.

  2. This intake is one of the top three per capita UN-facilitated permanent resettlements of refugees in the world, and would be counted within Australia’s total annual permanent immigration program.
  3. This would only apply to children born 9 months after it was passed into legislation. Studies show that the greatest impact individuals can have in decreasing their ecological footprint is to have one fewer child.
  4. The UN works to return displaced peoples where safe to do so, such as to the former Yugoslavia (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina).
  5. World Vision CEO Reverend Tim Costello says “the [refugee] intake is the pimple on the hippopotamus” and “not really the main game.” More on this in our 2015 media release: Refugee posturing morally misguided
  6. Within the context of a future government adopting Sustainable Australia Party’s targeted foreign aid policies (also see Sustainable Population (Global) policy) designed to tackle root causes of refugee migration such as poverty and rapid population growth, we would likely provide support for that government's specific policies designed to stop asylum seeker boats. We maintain an open mind about whether asylum seekers should be processed onshore or offshore and would consult with experts on this matter where appropriate, if elected.

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