Creighton: Mass immigration is squeezing our cities

By Leith van Onselen

In the wake of yesterday’s stunning figures showing the blow-off of population growth into our two major states:

Aust State Population Change

The Australian’s Adam Creighton has penned a good piece today on the population “squeeze” afflicting Melbourne and Sydney:

“Such [population] growth means we need five new hospitals, 31 new schools and 35 new childcare centres every three months”, said Rob Tyson, an economist at Price­waterhouseCoopers, noting the growth was concentrated in Victoria and NSW.

“Their big cities are already ­experiencing the challenges of ­accommodating a rapidly growing population such as strongly and persistently rising house prices, more congestion and strained infrastructure’’…

Meanwhile, Victoria’s population is booming, increasing 127,000, or more than 2.1 per cent, over the year… “That’s adding a city larger than Ballarat or Bendigo every year,” Mr Tyson said.

Matt and Jo Luscombe, of the Mornington Peninsula, said they feared Victoria’s rapid population growth would have adverse consequences for their one-year- old son Jack.

“With the prices of housing now, it’s a bit crazy if you’re a first-home buyer. So when he grows up, it’s going to be a lot harder for him to buy a house,” Ms Luscombe said.

Jack’s parents agreed immigration needed to be kept to a sustainable level. “If everyone keeps coming in, there is not going to be enough infrastructure for all these extra people,” Ms Luscombe said…

Gareth Aird, a Commonwealth Bank economist, said strong population growth was giving a misleading indication of Australia’s economic performance. “The economy doesn’t look as strong on a per capita basis as it appears on an aggregate GDP growth basis,” he said.

It’s all commonsense stuff, isn’t it? Ramming 80,000 to 100,000 extra people into Sydney and Melbourne each year creates immense pressures on housing, infrastructure, congestion, and overall livability – who would have thought! And yet our federal politicians – living in the least densely populated city in Australia (Canberra) and insulated from the effects – continue to run a mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ program without a thought given to the deleterious impacts on incumbent residents’ living in these two cities.

The fact of the matter is that there is no way that Australia can provide enough infrastructure to keep up with the immigration deluge.

The Productivity Commission’s (PC) final report on An Ageing Australia: Preparing for the Future projected that Australia’s population would balloon to 38 million people by 2060 (since revised up to 40 million) and warned that total private and public investment requirements over the 50 year period are estimated to be more than 5 times the cumulative investment made over the last half century:

ScreenHunter_15679 Oct. 25 14.39

Then in its recent Migrant Intake into Australia report, the PC warned that:

Governments have not demonstrated a high degree of competence in infrastructure planning and investment. Funding will inevitably be borne by the Australian community either through user-pays fees or general taxation.

Anyone with half a brain can see that running one of the world’s biggest immigration programs requires massive investment and costs a lot. Australia’s governments have failed dismally on this front, preferring to take the sugar hit from added demand while leaving the problems to be solved down the track on somebody else’s watch (i.e. never).

Reducing immigration back to the long-run average of 70,000 people annually, as advocated by the Sustainable Australia party, is becoming critical. This would see Australia’s population stablise at around 32 million mid-century, rather than the current projection of around 40 million.

Because as it stands, Australia cannot possibly hope to build enough infrastructure to supply a Canberra-worth of new residents each and every year for decades to come, which is what we are facing under current immigration settings.

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  1. Anytime I see this kind of headline written by or to do with a bloke with the name Chreighton, the zombie apocalypse springs to mind.

    Can’t imagine why. How is Melbourne these day btw?

    • The decline in Melbourne over the past decade has been frightening. I live in the ‘leafy east’ and the traffic congestion has gotten hideously bad over the past few years, even on the weekends. Both the morning and afternoon peaks now run for hours.

      I’m just grateful that I work from home. I’d hate to see what it is like in the city’s north and west.

      • Yeah great, especially when some fruitcake decides to undertake major works on two of our most important arterials ( Western Ring Road and Tulla Fwy) concurrently.

      • I walk 40mins to work from west melb to south melb because either the trams don’t stop or they’re too full. getting a view of the apartment build down spencer street and city road everyday is intense.

        At least melb is the worlds most livable city.

  2. Shorten said that “political extremists” are telling Australians “that cutting migration will clear-up traffic and make housing cheaper”.

    “It will make our internet faster, our schools better and our weather sunnier,” he said. “And citizens who feel like they’re not getting a fair go are told to blame minorities, to demonise difference.”

    The party for the working man has become the party for the university-educated because they’re terrified of the Greens eating their lunch. They live in gentrified suburbs and think multiculturalism means Portuguese chicken in Petersham and Japanese restaurants in Artarmon. Their studies and positions in the machine mean that they know better. That they’re building a better world. See Taleb, see Frank.

    The only thing they are managing to do is being “useful idiots” for the neoliberal agenda of privatisation of profits, socialisation of losses, unrestricted movement of capital and people and concentration of wealth for the 1%.

    • Hear, hear Tony!

      Shorten is on record as saying that Australia can handle more people. He is not alone, Abbott said that Australia should have “as many people as possible”, which at least has some nuance, while former Greens leader Milne said that Australia has “boundless plains to share”.

      Seriously, with these geniuses leading, we are completely stuffed.

      • What would Milne know? – I doubt she has ever seen those ‘boundless plains (with no bloody water) except when flying over them.
        Great post Tony – brilliant summary of what is happening politically.

      • What would Milne know? – I doubt she has ever seen those ‘boundless plains (with no bloody water) except when flying over them.

        Yeah. I mean, I doubt the daughter of dairy farmers has ever even seen real grass !

      • At the top of politics, wanting a larger country to represent is probably a natural response. Whether that is in the national interest is another matter.

        Personally couldn’t care less about a big/small Australia, governments need to release enough land and build enough infrastructure for the number of people that are here, that’s their duty, same with energy security, a fact somehow forgotten in all the petty shit.

        There needs to be a mandatory budget cost for population growth. The current system of externalising the costs and blaming other levels of govt isnt sustainable nor productive.

        – GST per capita, make all other transfers transparent
        – Mandatory infrastructure spend for changes in population, priorities decided by independent agency, not politicians
        – Energy demand-side measures, building a new powerstation for 5 annual days of extreme peak usage isnt feasible policy. Consumers need to bear the cost of peak demand as occurs in every other sector of society, all current solutions are absurdly expensive and will only push up costs further.

      • Hey Rocksteady you are correct. Politicians are involved in a pissing competition regarding the number of people they represent, which has little to do with how happily they live. Hence the crooks that run South Africa or Nigeria get to put their feet under the table, just because they (are meant to) govern a lot of people.

        Relying on Guv’ment to do stuff is unrealistic. Australia already has at least a $1,000 billion backlog of social infrastructure that needs to be built. Meanwhile, the existing portfolio of infrastructure assets wears out, gets broken or becomes obsolete so effectively, about 2% of the total needs to be replaced every year, even when population is stable. However, if you are “enjoying” a population growth rate of 2% pa, the notional spend on infrastructure has just risen by 100% pa just to meet this new demand while repairing and maintaining the built environment, while the tax revenue base has risen by 2% at best.

        This equation explains why governments of all jurisdictions are going broke. The exception to this might be Victoria, where the population ponzi and resulting property market bubble, feeds taxes from land transactions into the public purse.

  3. “And yet our federal politicians – living in the least densely populated city in Australia (Canberra) and insulated from the effects – continue to run a mass immigration”.

    No. Only 4 of our 150 or so MPs live in Canberra. The rest come from elsewhere with dozens living in Sydney and Melbourne, flying in and out of Canberra for parliament. Their position on immigration has nothing to do with the city of canberra. Please stop saying this.

    • Would have thought it was plainly obvious and infuriating to anyone who’s recently driven a car in either Melbourne or Sydney as to what the problem is. Maybe our Ministers are out of touch being chauffeured around in their Com cars? Certainly the two I’ve worked for had similar habits and procedures. Their Chiefs of Staff would pack their bags full of briefings, weekly issues papers etc, for them to read on the drive to wherever. Our country has been effectively choked by a bunch of front bench workaholics, who’ve completely missed the growing network calamity thanks to the quagmire of bullshit paperwork written by their position justifying, empire building bureaucrats. But I’m not cynical or anything like that.

    • Beat me to it. But even in sparsely populated Canberra things are becoming much worse. My 20km drive to work takes about 20 minutes off-peak, and 45 minutes or even an hour during peak times. I schedule my commute to avoid the peak by arriving early and leaving early or late, but if I can’t do that for some reason I’m stuffed.

      This might sound like bliss to people who are pissing their lives away parked for hours in traffic jams on arterial roads in Sydney and Melbourne, but it’s the same problem as everywhere else…ie increasing population without the political will or the capital to enhance the infrastructure accordingly. And even if we had the will and the money, bolting new infrastructure on to accommodate rapid change is hideously expensive.

      The solution is not to attempt to build vast amounts of costly new infrastructure to keep up with the demand caused by the immigration flood, but rather to drastically slow or completely halt immigration until our roads, schools, hospitals, police stations and everything else catches up with the number of people we already have.

    • I was going to make sure this comment was made, Crumb, thankfully you have. Yes even polies in Comcars have to meander their way through parked out streets nowadays. They do live the life when they’re here but they are out in rest of Australia most of the time. Similarly to many public servants who still come from all over the country and who aren’t always empire builders – often give great advice that isn’t politically palatable. The boom has hit Canberra- rents shooting up, a scramble for accommodation in the inner south despite all the building infill. It’s quite strange, the APS isn’t hiring, again, I believe, what is everyone doing? Academia, construction, real-estate with all its discontents, and defence-related, I guess. as my dad said the other day, everybody wants Canberra to be how it was quite recently not what it has just become.

  4. “The economy doesn’t look as strong on a per capita basis as it appears on an aggregate GDP growth basis,” he said.

    That’s the punch line. It’s all just to fluff the GDP print. Keep calm and carry on.

  5. It is the lack of infrastructure and job insecurity that will kill this in my opinion. These are the things that will make more Australians angry and hopefully demanding change. Having so many people come in, all wanting jobs and to use existing infrastructure (which is not a bad thing on their part) puts extra strain on those already here and they will or are angry. An example, my child goes to a school that is supposed to cater for 26 classes of children. It caters for 51 classes. His year group has 10 classes alone (the most in the school). There is almost nowhere for them play without running into someone else!

  6. Leith, what are your thoughts on the ongoing conflation of population growth with racism? Labor jumped on the bandwagon this week. Even HnH did the same this morning. IMO this is now our biggest challenge.

  7. Lots of people who dont like the traffic, congestion, overcrowding, delays etc caused by immigration love the effect on share prices, super fund balances and pensions, job opportunities, business deals and real estate values of a bigger Australia. Both parties seem to think that if those favourable things are upset eg slower growth in share prices, super funds, real estate, the party that is seen to cause them will lose government at the next election. So neither will move to limit immigration until they believe it is to their undoubted advantage at the next election.
    While we all whinge about congestion and see a link to immigration, both parties are betting that we won’t be swayed at the ballot box providing most of us feel wealthier and have jobs.

  8. Matt and Jo Luscombe, of the Mornington Peninsula, said they feared Victoria’s rapid population growth would have adverse consequences for their one-year- old son Jack. “With the prices of housing now, it’s a bit crazy if you’re a first-home buyer. So when he grows up, it’s going to be a lot harder for him to buy a house,” Ms Luscombe said.

    And there it is…..the housing reference.
    They should be worried about a lot more than getting him getting into the Ponzi scheme (sorry, property ladder)
    Must buy house….must buy house…..must buy house…..note to self……must buy house…..

  9. The states can charge foreigners $35/day for a train ticket and $10k/year for car registration and charge every kid of every 457 visa worker steep fees for studying in state schools.

    That would stop a lot of low-wage immigration.

  10. As a born Melbournian, I no longer see this place as recognisable the way it once was.
    It was a beautiful place once, to grow up in.
    Now, immigration has and is destroying my birth place.
    Along with it, living standards for us have declined.
    Immigration is killing Australians here.
    But our government see new “Australians” as the ones they wish to please.
    So there we have it.

    For people like me, you can stick the Australian flag where it fits, and get the new “Australians”
    – that are taking our jobs,
    – that are placing unrelenting pressure on our healthcare systems, our infrastructures, our jobs, our streets, our crime,
    – that talk more frequently than locals about welfare
    – that pledge allegiance to a foreign land
    – that buy up our good land
    – that outbid our FHBs for property
    – that keep driving housing affordability through the roof
    – that are used to having multiple families dwell in the one abode
    – that pool money together to buy property (locals take note)
    – that dont share the same values as locals here do.
    – who predominantly think local Australians are weak (look at our pathetic legal and justic system)
    – who rort our property market

    to go and pick up an Australian army outfit and go and fight for their new place of residence.

    Good luck with that.

    The dumb phucks that Australians have become, are paralysed and just say “doh”, like the sheep we are.

    Bring on a huge bust in magnitude that shakes the very foundation of this fast-becoming shithole of a country we still mistakenly hold on to saying is the lucky country.

    Third World here we come.