Melbourne grinds to a halt on population ponzi

By Leith van Onselen

The most recent ABS demographic statistics for the March quarter of 2017 revealed break-neck population growth for both Victoria (read Melbourne) and New South Wales (read Sydney):

Driven primarily by rampant immigration:

This time last year, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) released a report that used Uber driver information to measure “road network performance” in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to drill down into average travel times at different hours of the day. This research found that “efficiency” pretty much followed the level of population growth:

ScreenHunter_15371 Oct. 11 07.21

In Melbourne, which is the population ponzi king, travel times worsened materially, followed by Sydney, which has also experienced manic population growth.

Brisbane only experienced a minor worsening in travel times. Whereas in Perth, where population growth has cratered, travel times have actually improved.

Yesterday, the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Mobility Index 2017 was released, which found that Melbourne has ranked poorly on its transport efficiency in a global survey of cities. From The Herald-Sun:

Melbourne was ranked number 55 out of 100 urban centres surveyed…

Hong Kong was rated number one, followed by Zurich, Paris, Seoul, Prague, Vienna and London, said the index compiled by global design consultancy Arcadis.

Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra performed better than Melbourne…

The Arcadis report said that Melbourne’s rapid population growth was affecting its mobility but the Metro Tunnel project would help free up the train network.

Arcadis city executive Melbourne Pru Sanderson said that the city was still paying for decades of urban sprawl driven by car use…

Ms Sanderson, a former CEO of state development agency VicUrban, said that policies like Plan Melbourne were addressing the density issue but the problem would take decades to turn around.

“We need to get smart buses better on the agenda, we need to get better bicycle routes better on the agenda and safer pedestrian routes in certain neighbourhoods too,” she said.

Ms Sanderson said that a car congestion tax for the inner city should be considered, but only as part of a suite of congestion-busting measures.

A Herald Sun analysis of 2016 census data on how people get to work has revealed that car use is rising in the outer suburbs.

In the City of Casey, which includes Narre Warren, Berwick and Cranbourne, 79.2 per cent of workers went to work by car in 2016, up from 76.5 per cent in 2011, while the corresponding figures for the City of Frankston were 71.9 per and 69.2 per cent.

As usual, Ms Sanderson has ignored the simplest solution to Melbourne’s traffic woes: slashing the federal government’s mass immigration program, which is the primary driver of Australia’s (and by extension Melbourne’s) strong population growth. The federal government raised Australia’s permanent migrant intake from around 80,000 at the turn of the century (and a historical average of 70,000) to 200,000 currently:

And the lion’s share of these migrants have flooded Sydney and Melbourne, as confirmed by the latest Census, creating the population pressures in the first place.

As shown in the next chart, which comes from the Productivity Commission, Australia’s population will reach more than 40 million mid-century under current mass immigration settings, at least 13 million more than would occur under zero net overseas migration (NOM):

That’s a heck of a lot of extra people to build infrastructure and housing for versus a lower or zero NOM policy.

The fact remains that it is a direct policy choice how ‘big’ Australia becomes, not a fait accompli. So why aren’t these so-called ‘experts’, as well as the Victorian and New South Wales Governments, lobbying the federal government to slash the immigration program and relieve the intense population pressures afflicting Melbourne and Sydney, thereby lowering the living standards of incumbent residents?

The ‘solution’ is staring Ms Sanderson in the face, if only she dared to open her eyes.

[email protected]

Unconventional Economist


  1. Leith, I admire your staunch standing by rational discourse.
    However, in this game, the only thing that matters is how people feel.

    To whit, there’s only one rational course of action. Bring the feelings to the powerful.

    Run a campaign to re-zone the wealthy areas of the capitals to “High rise residential”.

    No amount of logic. No amount of statistics. Nothing will expose the fraudulent to the masses as much as their hypocrisy when they stand there, in front of the camera and detail at great length why their backyard is special.

    It’s like Judo. Use their own inertia to their downfall.

    The backlash to that campaign would be incredible.

    • Surprised more don’t push for it, people can complain all they want but until it affects the upper crust I doubt the bipartisan population policy settings will change.

      • I emailed Dick Smith a while back suggesting he buy a few blocks in key locations and apply for 20 story buildings.
        No reply.

        MB’s research team however, should find it relatively easy to sell the logistical side of it. After all, most of those areas have great amenity which is arguably under-utilised.
        It’ll be hard to put together a defense against “Suburb is centrally located, well serviced by roads and rail, trains are consistently at low capacity and the rails can handle more.”
        The only thing they’ll be able to fall back on is NIMBY – which will light the fire in the eyes of those commuting 1-2 hours a day from Woop Woop.

      • There is no reason that Toorak, Kew, Hawthorn, Camberwell, Albert Park and Middle Park shouldn’t all have huge amounts of development – that should get the attention of the elite class.

      • @RaglanParade

        Been to Hawthorn lately? Apartments going up everywhere. Cranes galore. Admittedly not super highrise, but there are a lot of apartments going in.

        There might even be enough to reduce the liberal blue-bloodedness of the area. Look out Josh!

      • “I emailed Dick Smith a while back suggesting he buy a few blocks in key locations and apply for 20 story buildings.
        No reply.”

        dick smith doesnt actually have that much money. his net worth is “only” 20m.

      • Only that in reality, the Knights will happily lie as much as, if not more than anyone else because it suits and helps them gain ever more wealth and resources.

      • I think its more the joke that SMBC is always posting philosophical references so you think it’ll some twist on that

    • The problem with ‘rational’ is that rational is also racist, making it a no-go area for policy.

  2. Poor old Age tried to deal with this this morning
    no mention of the infill mentioned by myne above, nor of more PT and cycling (+ incentives)

    Seriously, anyone in the bayside corridor (usual suspects eg tradies / child care dropoffs who don’t have flexitime etc aside) could be on a bike .

  3. Interesting to hear Grahame Morris Liberal Party lobbyist on Sky News yesterday when discussing One Nations growth said words along the lines that there’s a growing feeling out there that people want their Australia back

  4. —— Original Message ——
    From: “Tony Burke”
    Sent: Tuesday, 31 Oct, 2017 At 1:33 PM
    Subject: Follow up from Overdevelopment Forum

    Thanks for coming to the Overdevelopment Forum last night. It was an important first step in building the momentum we need to stop these plans.

    As I said last night, I normally stay away from state and local government issues but this is the biggest threat I’ve seen to our local area.

    I have considered it my job to deliver improved facilities for local schools, local hospitals, open spaces, community and cultural facilities and a river that we can call a river, not a storm water drain. All this work is undermined by a state government which focuses so much of Sydney’s growth on our area, rather than sharing it around the whole city.

    Mr Jihad Dib, State Member for Lakemba, has started a petition with Ms Sophie Cotsis, Member for Canterbury, regarding the Sydenham-Bankstown mass re-zonings.

    Please download the petition here (, print, sign and collect signatures from your neighbours and friends and return to this address (no stamp needed – just write this exactly on the envelope):

    Jihad Dib MP
    Reply Paid 89352
    NSW 2196

    Alternatively, drop by my office to collect some printed petitions to take with you and collect community signatures.
    We need 10,000 signatures on paper (not digital signatures) by the 10th of November.

    This is going to be an uphill battle but our community is stronger and more united than this elitist Liberal State Government believes.

    I will send you email updates as this campaign progresses. Thank you for all the work you are doing in our community and remember, don’t waste a conversation.

    The State Government thought our community would be a pushover. Let’s show the real strength of our part of Sydney.


    Tony Burke

    PS. There was a great suggestion from the floor last night about a State Upper House inquiry. We will be in touch with more information about this soon.

    My response ……………………….

    Dear Tony,

    Thank you for your email. I too am greatly disturbed by the destruction of our communities and environment as a result of the rampant (and possibly corrupt) over development of our neighborhoods.

    Unfortunately when Australia’s population grows at 389,000 EVERY YEAR, the large majority of who flock to our two largest cities (Sydney and Melbourne), then the only alternative is mass development. I’d start with rezoning the Eastern Suburbs and Lower North Shore due to their convenience to Sydney Central.

    Indeed, the Greater City Council is planning (if you can call it that) an increase in Sydney’s population from 5million to 6million in less than 15 years.

    That’s another ONE MILLION people crush loaded into our schools (demountables), hospitals, trains, roads and parklands, aided and abetted by BOTH the LNP and ALP.

    To keep up with the infrastructure requirements for Sydney’s projected population increase of 87,000 people a year for (77,000 via net overseas migration) for the next 15-years – we need to build – equivalent to 4.5 Canberra’s – and the state government will need to invest heavily in infrastructure or risk crippling congestion, as well as lower urban amenity, living standards and housing affordability. To build the infrastructure is unaffordable when you look at the cost of retrofitting facilities into our already built city – think of the $2.1b light rail fiasco, $50b West Connex, $14b Northern Beaches Tunnel, and $2.14b Northern Beaches Hospital as examples of the enormous cost it takes to build basic infrastructure in our established city.

    We cannot keep up – this infrastructure should have been built decades ago if we were to properly plan for another 1 million population increase – but yet we are not only pump priming the population ponzi, we are playing catch up to build the infrastructure for the ONE MILLION of new residents that were added in the past 15 years.

    WHO voted for this population ponzi scheme and why must it persist?

    Have a read of this ( to see why the electorate is overwhelmingly in support for curbing our population intake – and I can guarantee you that it has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with the falling living standards and the future of our city. Most would prefer 615 refugees resettled from Manus than another 389,000 arrive by airplane.

    I implore you to look at the root cause of this destruction rather than just try to push the problem elsewhere. It is time our elected representatives do their jobs.

    I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you at any time.


  5. Will an ageing population vote to increase the NOM? I do not think they will.
    Will our natural growth decline dramatically? Yes it will.
    Is the effect of increased urbanization being felt now? Yes, it is obvious


    The numbers of projected deaths in Series B and C remain similar until the middle of the century, as both series use the same mortality assumption. Initially deaths are projected to increase at rates of around 1.3% to 1.8% per year. Between 2022 and the early 2040s deaths are projected to increase more rapidly (up to 2.7% per year in 2032) as a result of the ageing of the population and in particular the progression of the large cohorts born during the post World War II ‘baby boom’, together with those former migrants born in 1947, into the older age groups. From the middle of the century onwards, the number of deaths generally increases at gradually declining rates.

    From 147,200 deaths in 2011-12, Series B and C project deaths to more than double by 2061 (to 352,100 and 344,500 respectively), and reach between 545,400 and 493,400 respectively in 2101.

    Series A assumes higher life expectancy at birth than Series B and C, therefore lower numbers of deaths are projected for the first 50 years of the projection period. The cessation of assumed improvements in life expectancy from 2062 onwards results in a rapid increase in deaths in Series A, compounded by the larger population size due to the combination of high fertility, low mortality and high net overseas migration assumptions used. Series A projects 286,000 deaths in 2061, increasing to 559,800 in 2101, the highest of all three main series.

    Natural increase
    While the number of deaths in Australia are projected to increase in all three main series, the number of births are projected to vary widely. As a result, projected natural increase (births minus deaths) differs significantly for each of the three main series.

    Natural increase in Series A is projected to initially increase, and then to remain at or above 200,000 from 2020 until 2101.

    Series B projects a gradual decline in natural increase over the projection period, reaching 110,200 in 2061 and declining to 27,000 by the end of the century.

    In Series C natural increase declines at a faster rate, reaching a state of natural decrease (where deaths outnumber births) from 2063 onwards. By 2101 Series C projects natural decrease of 104,100 per year. Despite this, Australia’s population is projected to continue to increase, as the assumed level of net overseas migration in Series C (200,000 people per year) outweighs losses in population due to natural decrease.”
    from[email protected]/Latestproducts/3222.0Main%20Features52012%20(base)%20to%202101?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=3222.0&issue=2012%20(base)%20to%202101&num=&view=