Is Australia’s population growth “impossible to control”?

That’s the question asked today by Marcus Roberts, co-editor of Demography is Destiny, MercatorNet’s blog on population issues:

New South Wales’ Planning Minister, Rob Stokes, has recently tried to undercut criticism of high-rise development in Sydney by arguing that population growth is inevitable and so there is no point in arguing against it, or its effects. Stokes said:

“We want to help shape growth… Even if it were a desirable outcome to restrict growth, and I am not sure it necessarily is, but even if that is what people wanted to do that is a completely quixotic quest…You can’t stop it, so the best thing you can do is work together.”

Thus complaining about population growth in Sydney (expected to amount to an extra 1.5 million people in the next 17 years – an increase of over 25 percent) is akin to King Canute standing in the shallows and ordering the tide to stop. It’s impossible to stop, so just try and enjoy the ride.

But as Leith Van Onselen writes at, this is simply not true. Population growth in Sydney is almost entirely driven by net overseas migration. Between 2017 and 2018 Sydney grew by over 93,000 people. Without net overseas migration, this figure would have been just over 16,000 people (natural growth less net internal migration). The Australian Bureau of Statistics predicts that in the next 50 years, without net external migration, Sydney’s population will actually decline, rather than increase by 4.5 million people!

Thus, if Australia’s net overseas migration were restricted to the 20th century average of 70,000 people per year (rather than the 250,000 currently), the population growth pressure on Sydney would be almost entirely eliminated. As Van Onselen argues, the State Government could try to stop Sydney’s population growth by lobbying for deep cuts to the migrant intake. Such lobbying would presumably also be politically popular: after all, a poll from earlier this year found that 80 per cent of NSW’s residents do not support increasing the current population of the state.

According to Van Onselen, these poll results are understandable:

“[The respondents to the poll] know that population growth means more over-development, crush-loaded infrastructure and services, and lower living standards.

Their views are also explicitly supported by Infrastructure Australia’s modelling, which shows projects worsening traffic congestion, longer commute times, and reduced access to jobs, schools, hospitals and green space as Sydney swells to a projected 7.4 million people by 2046 under ongoing mass immigration, regardless of whether Sydney builds up or builds out.”

So why don’t current State politicians argue for lower migrant numbers? Or, if they think that higher net overseas migration is good for Sydney, for New South Wales and for Australia, why don’t they argue for that position (perhaps taking Kevin Rudd’s line) rather than arguing that Sydney’s population growth is inevitable, something that just happens and that one can lament, but do nothing about?

Is it because they realise that such an approach is unpopular? Well, whatever happened to political leadership? Or, alternatively, representing the will of the people?

Of course Australia’s population growth is not inevitable and, over the long-run, is driven entirely by net overseas migration (NOM).

This is evidenced by the ABS’ own demographic projections, which show that Australia’s population would not rise at all over the next 48 years with zero NOM:

Whereas Sydney’s population would actually fall over the next 48 years with zero NOM:

And Melbourne’s would only rise modestly:

The data speaks for itself. Mass immigration is the driver of Australia’s manic population growth.

Leith van Onselen


  1. “We want to help shape growth………………………………………………. so the best thing you can do is work together.”

    Shaped into a sharp steep line and when the hell has anyone been asked for input into this “strategy” … Work together my arse!

    • happy valleyMEMBER

      He’s channelling Scotty from Marketing about “now’s not the time for point scoring” … and never will be.

  2. “We want to help shape growth… Even if it were a desirable outcome to restrict growth, and I am not sure it necessarily is, but even if that is what people wanted to do that is a completely quixotic quest…You can’t stop it, so the best thing you can do is work together.”
    Weak cvnt. Hey Rob, who is your puppet master?

  3. Rob’s argument is terrible. Might as well say crime is inevitable, so why talk about it? Why fund the police? Death is inevitable so why bother funding public hospitals?

  4. when a New South Wales’ Planning Minister says population growth “impossible to control” he is right. He cannot control it, and he doesn’t want really but that’s a side issue.
    immigration control is in someone else’s hands and due to chronic lack of democracy in our political system people cannot do anything about it. We have two party system and both parties want high immigration so we have two options only: learn to live with it or start a protests/revolution to change political system.

    • The protest option is wipe out Labor. Then immigration will be addressed, and not before under any imaginable scenario.

      There is one option to get our democracy back. Destroy Labor.

      • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

        The pro corporate Plutocracy parties on the right will always do their masters bidding when it comes to the endless capitalist desire for more growth.
        This means always increasing immigration.
        That the ALP leadership is also grovelling to the desires of these Plutocrats is deeply depressing and unfortunate.
        But the the only way your going to have immigration cut seriously in any of the Capitalist “liberal democracies” is to have the Working Class demand it through political parties that truly represent the interests of said working class.
        If it is not possible for the ALP to be retaken over by a Working class movement then hope of some other party arising to represent their interests is just a fantasy.
        Without the Political and economic empowerment of Working Class people through a party that aggressively represents their interests then the Corporate sector will get their 100million Australian consumers.

        • Well said.

          The ALP is only relevant if it stops the culture war it has waged on its own constituents. Let’s be honest though, those like Penny Wong hate working class values and can’t represent them. Paul Keating had an axe to grind that had more than a little bit to do with distain for his own electorate and clock polishing elitism. Bill Shorten saw himself as leading the working class whilst sleeping with the enemy. You’ve got to go back to Hawke, Whitlam and Barry Jones to find an ALP politicians who understood the nexus between working class values and ALP policy. Even the ACTU is now run by people with an axe to grind with workers – who seek to enlighten rather than represent. At best, they hold their nose and scoff while eying the revolving door.

          How much are pitchforks at Bunnings these days?

        • A vote against Labor doesn’t have to be a vote for LNP.

          Vote against Labor. Get new candidates and parties to oppose LNP’s immigration, because Labor won’t.

          Labor are the impediment. Labor are the problem.

          • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

            Yet Labor haven’t been in power for quite a while.
            And After Morrison promised to reduce immigration he now presides over the biggest number of new citizens ever!

        • You’ve been to meetings. Tell me what happens when you have suggested Labor don’t represent the wishes of most (ex) Labor voters.

          • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

            Such talk makes the careerist Apparatchiks that run the party quite nervous.
            They know more than anyone that 50 to 100,000 people could completely take over the party
            This is why they never engage in any kind of recruitment in all the time I have been with them.

  5. Keep returning to same point. Before Stokes said, endless growth, Berejiklian was saying, halve migration.

    If we had an independent Herald, in the Morning, in Sydney, they would want to know, who shut her down.

    • “if we had an independent Herald, in the Morning, in Sydney”

      Love it.

      Media are the enemy.

  6. The workers party is now an inner city elites party.

    Yes, Australia’s population growth is impossible to control until Labor is wiped out.

    • I’m not sure if you are informed but LNP, a nationalistic, right wing party that is supposed to be inward oriented is pushing immigration as high as never before. Hard to blame Labor ONLY

      • You’re kidding, right ? When Richie’s dog farts at a dinner party he blames the smell on Labor.

        • Probably with some merit. Keating deregulated the banks and also began the de-regulation and self-regulation on the quality of produce in the dog food industry. Dog food became stuffed with fart inducing soy protein. Further cutting of ‘red tape’ saw the dog food industry become a blight upon the environment. That tar-like dog poo that sticks to your boot like Kevin Rudd is stuff that dogs can’t digest properly.

          Richie is wrong just to blame the ALP though – they just started the rot. Those dog farts remind me of neoliberalism.

      • bolstroodMEMBER

        big Australia is policy of LNP, Labor, Nationals and Greens.
        LNP are it’s current practioners.
        Blind Freddy can see that we are on a course for disaster .
        Shrinking Dam levels, Raging Bushfires, massive drought .Mass immigration.
        What happens if it does not rain, or rains only a bit ?
        On top of that Miners and Gas Frackers are draining the Artesean Basin and destroying aquifers used for farming.
        Friends have written a poem based on Coleridges “The Ryme of the Ancient Mariner” .

        This link – – will take you to a new YouTube video, The Crime of the Ancient Gas Fracker:


      • Ermo

        1. I like that you have a strategy to take control of the Labor party.

        2. I don’t like you throw no responsibility on to Labor for Australia’s rate of immigration.

        • In a warped sort of way I think I get what Rich4 is saying. Some above have said various, like ALP haven’t been in power, LNP are Neo Liberals blah blah blah. But as that all may be true ALP has not actually addressed the mass immigration issue. And will not come out directly & say your wages are shyte, cities are jammed, health services are over loaded etc etc because mass NOM has been allowed to run rampant & you the punter hasn’t been told & actually haven’t knowingly (sort of?) voted for it. So in a real way if ALP hasn’t come out & acknowledged this then yes they are in part (& considerable part?) to blame .