Ex-Treasury Official: A ‘Big Australia’ will make us more vulnerable

Garry Bowditch, a former senior Australian Treasury Official, has warned that the shift into high density living as Australia’s population balloons will make us more vulnerable to future pandemics:

Australia is rapidly becoming more vulnerable to biological risks, because population density is rising very quickly. In the very near future, social distancing for any prolonged period will be much harder to rely upon to fight pandemics as more Australians take up medium to high-rise housing.

Less private open space inside and out will stretch community goodwill as it comes to grips with living much closer together while making it easier for pathogens to infect entire communities faster…

Australia’s optimism bias towards the benefits of more population density has contributed to blind spots to long-term risks…

Too right. But the issue goes well beyond vulnerability to pandemics. It’s about living standards.

The fact of the matter is that a ‘Big Australia’ necessarily means more time stuck in traffic or being crush-loaded onto an bus or train, smaller and more expensive housing, and reduced access to jobs, infrastructure and open space.

Infrastructure Australia made this abundantly clear in 2018 when it modelled the impacts on liveability from Sydney and Melbourne expanding to a projected 7.4 million and 7.3 million people respectively by 2046:

Every livability indicator is worse under a ‘Big Australia’.

One of the only upsides from the coronavirus outbreak is that it will dramatically lower Australia’s population growth.

Lets keep it that way.

Unconventional Economist
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  1. why we always hear stuff like this from ex-officials and never from current ones?

    it reminds me of stories told by ex-military personnel that served in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslavia, … who only after ending careers come out and tell the truth

    • Becuase as soon as they open their mouths they become ‘ex-employees’ anyway even if they weren’t prior!

    • Because they are arrogant fools who think they can twist circumstances to benefit themselves and their own agendas. Playing the game and everything is very good for the ego. Media exposure, fancy parties, glamorous surroundings, good money to sell out.

      Its only after a career of shifting incentives do they work out that they are the patsies, and their actions have buggered their fellow Australians.

      They think they are oh so smart, but unfortunately, these people are stupid.

    • Same reason most people who work for companies don’t speak against what the boss says. If you’re paycheck depends on you not speaking the truth, you aren’t likely to do it. Once you are a free man, then you can say what you like.

  2. “Mawallok Estate: Chinese business tycoon snaps up historic Stockyard Hill farm”

    One world. Big Australia. Open for business. Everything’s for sale, even our heritage. LNP and Labor. Same same.


    • I thought Josh assured us the 2 people working at FIRB will be looking at every foreign purchase to stop vultures preying?

    • ApproachingZero

      “Title documents show the largest exporter of Australian wool, Chinese business tycoon Qingnan Wen, bought the heritage-listed sheep station.”

      That sentence tells you all you need to know about the future of Australia; we can’t even export wool without assistance.

  3. I’d bet my left nut that none…not a single solitary one…of the pricks who espouse the virtues of vibrant and efficient high-density living actually live in high density places. Does Lucy Turnbull live in a 2 bedroom flat on the 32nd floor of a tower block, facing onto another tower block? Does that monstrous prick Shane Geha? Vile, rancid, putrid High Rise Harry?

    No they don’t, the miserable lying pox-ridden wormtongue deceivers. They just want the Small People to live exist far away in their barren, festering high-density sh1tholes and provide services as required, while they live comfortable lives in their big houses in tree-lined suburbs.

    Jeez they all need a good flogging.

  4. Is he saying we were lucky this time because we’re better spaced out, & it’s not due to a fast acting Scomo afterall? Lucky he’s already finished, or he’d be finished like an outspoken Fireman.

  5. The 2019 Treasury budget targeted 270K for net migration in 2020. A target which will not be met. The late-2020 budget will reveal new targets for net migration in 2021 and 2022.

    Treasury will determine these targets, in consultation with its bosses, “the market” and “the GDP.” What’s best for Australia, and what the people want, are not relevant here.

    • Given the development of a vaccine in an 18 month time frame is optimistic, 2021 NOM is going to be pretty close to 2020 NOM, and 2022 NOM might not be that different either.

  6. “… the only upsides from the coronavirus outbreak is that it will dramatically lower Australia’s population…”
    Let’s hope that isn’t by the virus itself.

  7. Here’s a relevant new paper relevant to an associated aspect of utopian urban planning:


    The Subways Seeded the Massive Coronavirus Epidemic in New York City
    Jeffrey E. Harris*
    Department of Economics
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    April 16, 2020

    Abstract. New York City’s multi-tentacled subway system was a major disseminator – if not the
    principal transmission vehicle – of coronavirus infection during the initial takeoff of the massive
    epidemic that became evident throughout the city during March 2020. The near shutoff of
    subway ridership in Manhattan – down by over 90 percent at the end of March – correlates
    strongly with the substantial increase in the doubling time of new cases in this borough. Maps of
    subway station turnstile entries, superimposed upon zip code-level maps of reported coronavirus
    incidence, are strongly consistent with subway-facilitated disease propagation. Local train lines
    appear to have a higher propensity to transmit infection than express lines. Reciprocal seeding of
    infection appears to be the best explanation for the emergence of a single hotspot in Midtown
    West in Manhattan. Bus hubs may have served as secondary transmission routes out to the
    periphery of the city.

  8. Why TF are people even talking about a vaccine for Covid-19 when no vaccine for a corona virus actually exists? And never has done.