Australian cities will be plastered with high-rise slums


In a detailed interview with David Flint at ADH TV, I discussed the future of Australian cities.

Edited Extract:

The Victorian and NSW governments are doing exactly the same thing. They want to build high-rise shoe boxes in the middle ring suburbs and everywhere else to accommodate all the extra people that are coming into the country via net overseas migration.

I’ve argued ad nauseum that this is an absolutely disastrous policy. We know it’s a disastrous policy because we did the same thing in the latter half of last decade.

Australian apartment approvals

If you are a resident of Sydney or Melbourne, you will remember that we had a massive high-rise apartment construction boom between 2015 up until the pandemic.

We literally saw tens of thousands of high-rise apartments go up across both cities. And it turned out that a lot of them were highly defective and very poorly built.


They had flammable cladding, balcony defects, water leaks, and poor foundations. We saw several buildings that actually had to be evacuated, like the Opal and Mascot Towers in Sydney.

It has created a massive problem whereby owners are now facing huge bills.

The NSW building commissioner actually estimated that around 60% of apartment complexes that were built post 2015 had serious defects.


The way I see it, if we are going to import so many people so quickly, and we have to build homes for them very quickly, then builders are obviously going to cut corners, just like they did last decade.

You cannot have a quality housing system and a quality construction system if you have to slap up apartment buildings incredibly quickly to accommodate this mass population growth.

NOM projection

All it is going to end up doing is creating these ticky tacky high-rise towers across our major cities that are going to have defects. They are going to be very poor quality and they are going to end up having to be pulled down in 20 or 30 years.

It is going to cost a lot of money and lead to a lot of waste.

Is this really the future we want for our cities? Is this really a step up in our living standards?


There were projections from the development lobby, the Urban Taskforce, that Sydney’s dwelling composition would go from 55% detached houses at the time of the 2016 Census to just 25% detached houses by 2057:

Sydney dwelling composition

So, in a relatively short period of time—just 31 years—Sydney’s housing composition is going to go from more than half being detached houses to only a quarter being detached houses and one half of Sydney’s housing stock being apartments.


I would say that’s a pretty diabolical future for our children and grandchildren. Detached houses are going to only be the purview of the rich and everyone else is going to have to rent high-rise apartments.

That is effectively the plan under this ridiculous Big Australia policy that we are running.

I will also remind viewers that the latest Intergenerational Report that was released in 2023 tipped that Australia’s population is going to grow from its current size of 27 million by 13.5 million people in just 39 years to 40.5 million people.

Resident population

I Know that sounds like a lot. But I just want to put that into perspective. 13.5 million people in 39 years is the equivalent of like adding a current Sydney, a current Melbourne, and a current Brisbane worth of people in just 39 years.

Can you imagine what that means? Adding a Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane to Australia’s population in just 39 years?


There is no way we can build enough houses to accommodate those people. Certainly not good-quality houses. There is no way that we can build enough infrastructure.

That implies that if we continue with the mass immigration madness that the Australian government and Australian Treasury have forced upon us, Australian living standards will drastically decline.

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.