Finally, a state government minister has pushed-back against the federal government’s blind march towards a ‘Big Australia’. From The SMH:
A NSW cabinet minister has called on the Turnbull government to devise a clear population policy, saying states were left to plan cities “in the dark” due to a lack of national narrative on the country’s population growth.
Education Minister Rob Stokes said the state government was left trying to retrofit the NSW’s infrastructure and services to an expanding population, without a clear, transparent trajectory of NSW’s future population.
“It’s impossible to plan if you don’t know what you are planning for,” Mr Stokes said. “There’s no overarching narrative of where we are going.”
A former planning minister, Mr Stokes said states were at the mercy of the federal government’s migration policies while bearing the bulk of the infrastructure costs associated with adapting to a growing population.
“Whether it’s planning for patient beds, medical services, the number of new schools and where they are located, housing affordability, or transport routes, ultimately we are planning in the dark if we don’t know what the population is going to do.
“Why are we frightened about having a policy on this? We have policies on everything else.”
The Turnbull government needed to lead on the issue by putting it on the national agenda, he said, and bringing states on board to devise a long-term strategy.
“If we don’t do it, the shape of our country will not change. Development will continue to hug the coast, our major cities will continue to increase in size and the imbalance in our population will continue to accelerate.”
It is the federal government’s mass immigration program that is primarily responsible for the 87,000 people per year projected growth in Sydney’s population to 6.4 million over the next 20-years, which would effectively add another Perth to the city’s population:
And it is this mass immigration program that is causing huge strain on the state governments, who are struggling to fund the economic and social infrastructure necessary to cope with the population influx – basic things like expanding the road and public transport systems, as well as expanding schools and hospitals.
The situation is made worse by the vertical fiscal imbalances embedded in the system, whereby the Commonwealth raises 82% of total tax revenue, the states and territories 15%, and local government just 3%.
This has left the states – who are the primary providers of public services – to being heavily reliant on the Commonwealth for funding to cope with the population influx bestowed on them by the federal government’s mass immigration program.
At no time have Australian’s views been sought over how big they want Australia to become. For this reason, Australians deserve to have a plebiscite seeking their views about the nation’s future population size, the answers of which would then be used to formulate Australia’s immigration intake to meet the said target.
Here is an example of the type of question that could be taken to the Australian people:
Australia’s population is currently 24.5 million. Under zero net overseas migration (NOM), it is projected to reach 27 million by 2060.
By 2060, do you believe Australia’s population should be:
- 27 million;
- 30 million;
- 35 million;
- 40 million;
- 45 million?
Obviously, there is room to move on the language and the chart should be updated to show the level of NOM corresponding to the choices, but you get the idea. The important thing is that Australian’s views are sought and this consensus is then used to formulate a national population policy.
In it’s recent Migrant Intake Australia report, the Productivity Commission also explicitly called for a national population strategy, rather than flying blindly.
It’s high time our federal politicians adhered this advice and took a population plebiscite to the Australian people. It’s the democratic thing to do.