The Population Debate Continues
Last night I made a presentation to members of the Pennant Hills branch of the ALP on arguments about the size of Australia’s population. I shared the platform with Jessica Brown, researcher from the Centre for Independent Studies.
Meeting on the day that BlueScope Steel retrenched 1000 workers was a reminder – a big reminder – that our economy is changing and old-fashioned notions of force-feeding growth in workforce numbers no longer apply. With manufacturing and tourism being hollowed out by a high dollar and the nation dependant on proceeds from the resources boom, why must we go for ambitious targets? I quoted the most recent work from Bob Birrell that net overseas migration of 90,000, half that of the current 180,000, is enough to sustain the resources boom mark two. The report sustaining that figure came from the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University. It challenged many of the assumptions underpinning the arguments for continued high immigration. It deserves more attention.
The business case for a bigger population reflects pressure from the construction lobby which can’t see any argument beyond the desirability of cramming more people into the nation’s capital cities, a process – incidentally – that simply exacerbates skills shortages.
I was encouraged that under the umbrella of the local Labor Party people want to turn out to hear such a big question aired. I paid tribute to Jessica Brown of the CIS for her media comments supporting the tax reforms in the last federal budget. The CIS has a consistent record of opposing middle class welfare.