SUSTAINABLE POPULATION & IMMIGRATION - AUSTRALIA

SUSTAINABLE POPULATION & IMMIGRATION - AUSTRALIA

Background
Population is first and foremost an environmental issue (see ENVIRONMENT policy under Water, Waste, Forests, Animals & Biodiversity, Climate change, etc). Like climate change, population is both a local and global issue, so requires local action to achieve global outcomes.

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

Importantly:

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

Full background at bottom of page.


Policy
Reduce population growth pressures, aiming for a population target of around 26-30 million through to 2050.*

Sustainable_Australia_Versus_Big_Australia-Population.jpg

Policy Methods (Federal)
To help achieve this Sustainable Australia Party will:

  • Lower its 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.(1)

Sustainable_Australia_Versus_Big_Australia-Immigration.jpg

  • Maintain an annual humanitarian (refugee) intake of around 14,000-20,000, according to circumstances.(2)
  • Limit government baby bonus-style birth payments to each woman’s first two children.(3)

Further Policy Detail (Federal)
We propose the following supplementary population policies:

Population and Immigration

  • Provide universal access to free contraception and reproductive health advice.
  • Abolish the open borders Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement with New Zealand, and 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’. 
  • Encourage population decentralisation and regional revitalisation into inland areas experiencing significant population decline, including through regional relocation grants and migration settlement policies. 
  • 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:
    • Temporary work visas with a view to limiting their use to tertiary-qualified applicants for specialised jobs, increasing up-front fees and more stringently testing the local market before employment.
    • Reducing working rights (hours per week) for unskilled and semi-skilled foreign students in order to increase job opportunities for Australia’s lower socio-economic demographic, including youth looking for entry level job opportunities.
    • The poaching of skilled professionals from the developing world, which robs poor communities of much-needed health and technical expertise.

Humanitarian Program (Refugees & Asylum Seekers)

  • 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 Australia should:
    • 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, resource scarcity, corruption, poverty, conflict and war. (also see foreign aid funding in SUSTAINABLE POPULATION - GLOBAL policy)
    • Remove all asylum seeker children from detention as soon as practicably possible.
    • 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 issues are complex and global. We would further consult with experts on this matter, if elected.

Policy Methods (State)
To help achieve this States should:

  • 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.

Related policies

  • Also see ENVIRONMENT and SUSTAINABLE POPULATION - GLOBAL policies.

Background
Population is first and foremost an environmental issue (see ENVIRONMENT policy under Water, Waste, Forests, Animals & Biodiversity, Climate change, etc). Like climate change, population is both a local and global issue, so requires local action in order to achieve global outcomes.

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

Current Australian growth projections, largely due to record 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.

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

  • The far left wrongly attacks SAP's criticism of Australian 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 far right attacks SAP because we are opposed to discrimination of immigrants based on race (ethnicity) or religion.

Importantly:

  • Rapid population growth is unsustainable, regardless of whether it comes from high immigration or high native fertility.
  • Sustainable Australia is opposed to restrictions on family size and coercive efforts to reduce fertility.
  • Sustainable Australia is opposed to discrimination of immigrants based on race (ethnicity) or religion.
  • Sustainable Australia is for (i.e. not against/anti) immigration, but at a lower, more sustainable cap of 70,000 permanent migrants per year. This 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.
  • 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. This unsustainable immigration is driven by the desire of large employers and their representatives for more customers and cheaper labour, as well as a larger 'aggregate' (but not per capita) GDP statistic for governments to brag about. Sustainable Australia 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(7) of, and support for(8), all prospective migrants (including skilled and family reunion migrants) than is currently the case. There are serious dangers (including sexual abuse and employer exploitation of migrants)(9), 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 70,000 level will help the Australian Government to lift both skills and genuine family reunion outcomes, and so properly manage our failing immigration program.(10)

*Why a 26-30 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...

AUS.jpg

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’s, is to stabilise Australia's population.

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.

Only Sustainable Australia has a comprehensive plan that includes a sustainable population with lower immigration - from the current record high of over 200,000 per year, back to the long term average of 70,000.


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: CLICK HERE

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: CLICK HERE

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 immigrants 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:

  1. Annual permanent immigration at 70,000 would include flexible skilled, family reunion and humanitarian (refugee and asylum seeker) components. Our humanitarian intake would be maintained at current levels, being around 14,000-20,000. 
    • Source for average twentieth century immigration level is The Australian Population Research Institute: CLICK HERE
    • 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 of around 70,000 per annum (see SUSTAINABLE POPULATION & IMMIGRATION policy).
  3. This would only apply to children born 9 months after it was passed into legislation.
  4. The UN works to return displaced peoples where safe to do so, such as to the former Yugoslavia (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina): CLICK HERE
  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’s targeted foreign aid policies (see SUSTAINABLE POPULATION – GLOBAL) 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.
  7. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-27/corruption-and-widespread-rorting-undermining-immigration/7537270
  8. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/oct/29/a-third-of-australias-foreign-workers-paid-less-than-half-minimum-wage-study
  9. https://www.sbs.com.au/news/for-female-migrant-victims-of-family-violence-their-visa-holder-can-often-be-their-abuser & https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/migrant-underclass-arriving-with-dreams-ending-up-in-chains-20191017-p531o4.html
  10. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-25/regional-immigration-program-tasmania-population/11145848

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