SUSTAINABLE POPULATION & IMMIGRATION - AUSTRALIA
Population is a local and global issue. Like climate change, population requires local action in order to achieve global outcomes.
Current 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 extreme growth.
- Rapid population growth is unsustainable and undesirable, 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 (pro) immigration, at a 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 high immigration-driven rapid population growth.
- Our immigration intake should be lowered back to the more sustainable long-term average level (see below) of 70,000 to allow for more intensive screening of, and support for, all prospective immigrants (including skilled and family reunion migrants) than is currently the case. There are serious dangers 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 skills and genuine family reunion outcomes and so properly manage our immigration programme.
Australia should reduce population growth pressures, aiming for a population target of around 26-30 million through to 2050.*
Policy Methods (Federal)
To help achieve this Australia should:
- 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)
- Limit government baby bonus-style birth payments to each woman’s first two children.(2)
Further Policy Detail
We propose the following supplementary population policies:
- 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 programme.
- 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.
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.
- Also see REFUGEES & ASYLUM SEEKERS policy.
- This would reduce annual permanent immigration from over 200,000, and 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 both average twentieth century immigration level and recent permanent departure numbers 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.
- This would only apply to children born 9 months after it was passed into legislation.
*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...
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 IMF, 7 of the top 10 per capita wealth nations have populations under 10 million: CLICK HERE
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 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.
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