19 October 2010

Bigger Australia as Certain as Death and Taxes

*sniff, sniff* I smell a self-fulfilling prophecy! We get what we PLAN for!

Reposted in full from Sydney Morning Herald, 7 October 2010

'Australia's population will get bigger no matter what politicians do and it's wrong of them to pretend they can stop the growth, a new study says.

Even if migration is drastically cut, the population could be almost 30 million by 2050, and older than it is today.

''Politicians should stop pretending that they can control what Australia's future population will look like. Instead they should turn their attention to the real policy issues … housing, roads, pensions and our natural environment,'' it says.

The report, by the Centre for Independent Studies, tested 36 scenarios using different combinations of migration levels, fertility rates and life expectancy. Population would grow under every scenario except in the unlikely event where migration was cut to zero, the birth rate plummeted and life expectancy stagnated.

''Our future is a bigger Australia and we must start preparing for it,'' said Oliver Marc Hartwich, a research fellow and co-author of the study with Jessica Brown, a policy analyst. ''Big'' Australia became an election issue after then prime minister Kevin Rudd enthusiastically embraced Treasury projections of a population of 36 million by 2050. The two main parties later campaigned on promises to curb growth.

The report, Populate and Perish?, says advocates of a ''small'' Australia want net migration cut by more than half to 70,000 a year. But if the birth rate stayed the same, the population would still reach 29.1 million by 2050.

''It is wrong to think we can control Australia's population size by simply cutting migration,'' the report says. Changes in the birth rate could have a bigger impact. But it was debatable whether governments could influence fertility rates.

Under the study's six most realistic scenarios, the population could vary from 25.3 million to 34.6 million, with it ageing in each case. The lower population assumed low migration of 70,000 a year, low fertility of 1.5 births a woman, which is the current average in Europe, and medium life expectancy; the higher population assumed medium migration of 143,000, high fertility of 2.1 births, and medium life expectancy. Another combination - of medium migration and medium fertility of 1.9 births, the current rate in Australia - would see population rise to 33.4 million.

Clive Hamilton, the author of Requiem for a Species, said Australia could choose between a small or large population increase. ''We can have a 3 million increase or a 14 million increase and that makes a huge difference to everything,'' he said. ''It's rubbish to say 'we can't do anything, get used to it'.''

Net migration could be cut to 50,000 a year, and pro-natalist policies such as the baby bonus ended, to achieve 26 million by 2050. Dr Hamilton agreed this would hasten the ageing of the population but ''we have to have an ageing population sooner or later and the Treasury's Intergenerational Report shows we are in a better position than most countries to deal with it.''

He said Australia had to cut greenhouse gas emissions sharply by mid-century and the bigger the population, the bigger the cut each of us would have to make.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave your comment here. Please note these stories are posted for information rather than for debate; if you wish to disagree with something posted, no problem, but since I post both things that I do and don't support, it would be appreciated if the criticism was about the issue.