Recently I have ridiculed the new found push by some politicians towards decentralisation, noting that this is a pipe dream based on the settlement pattern of new migrants, which have overwhelmingly chosen to flood Sydney and Melbourne.
My view was based primarily on data from the Productivity Commission’s recent Migrant Intake into Australia report, which revealed that 86% of immigrants lived in the major cities of Australia in 2011 (mostly Sydney and Melbourne), whereas only 65% of the Australian-born population did:
It seems the settlement pattern of new migrants into the two major cities has become even more extreme over the past five years, according to analysis of the 2016 Census by Inside Story’s Tim Colebatch:
It is striking how what we are seeing now differs from the first wave of postwar migration in the 1940s and early 50s. That wave was led by the British, the Dutch and the Germans, who spread right across the country and put down roots wherever they settled. Even now, the 2016 census finds that in New South Wales, 34 per cent of the British-born live outside Sydney, as do 37 per cent of Germans and 44 per cent of Dutch. Stunningly, so do 44 per cent of the Australian-born. In Victoria, the numbers are lower, but the pattern is similar.
But the second wave of migrants that followed, dominated by the Italians and Greeks, were more likely to form urban enclaves in the big cities. In Victoria, which attracted the largest share, only 10 per cent of Italian migrants and 3.4 per cent of Greeks now live outside Melbourne, much the same as a generation ago.
And the third wave of migration we are seeing now is almost completely city-centric. In Sydney on census night, the 224,685 Chinese migrants clearly outnumbered the 178,411 British – probably the first time in Australian history that British migrants have ever been outnumbered by another race in any capital city. But in the rest of New South Wales, with its 2.65 million people, the census found just 9578 Chinese migrants. Only 4.2 per cent of those in New South Wales live outside Sydney.
Sydney is also home to 96.3 per cent of the state’s Vietnamese-born population, 97.4 per cent of its Iraqi migrants, and 97.6 per cent of its Lebanese. That’s so different from the first wave of Lebanese migration a century or more ago, which spread out all over Australia, with some enterprising migrants buying horse and cart, fitting them out, and riding from station to station as the general stores of the outback.
Migrants to Victoria are similarly concentrated in Melbourne. The few square kilometres ruled by the Melbourne City Council houses four and a half times as many Chinese-born residents as the 210,000 square kilometres of regional Victoria, which includes cities like Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. Melbourne is home to 97.2 per cent of Victoria’s Chinese migrants, 96.8 per cent of its Sri Lankans, 94.9 per cent of its booming Indian-born population, and 98.0 per cent of its Vietnamese…
Migrants usually flock to the cities. It’s natural that newcomers go where they have friends or family. But what we are seeing now is that natural tendency carried to extreme lengths. The difference between the racial makeup of electorates such as Melbourne and Wannon is like a difference between countries, rather than between parts of one region. Their human makeups have little in common. It’s not surprising that their political views also have little in common.
This data should put to rest, once and for all, the mis-guided notion that Australia could maintain a mass immigration policy but somehow spread settlement throughout Australia, thereby taking pressure off Sydney and Melbourne.
The reality is that maintaining a mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ policy means that Sydney and Melbourne will continue to be crush-loaded as their populations swell by the millions, placing extreme further pressure on infrastructure and housing, and destroying living standards for incumbent residents.