A Population Policy or a Pre-Election Mirage?

Since our 2017 AGM when Dick Smith spoke of the need for a Population Policy and limits to what our cities can absorb each year, the concerns have only increased and are peaking in the pre-election promises of both our State and Federal leaders.

In October, Premier Berejiklian has called for a halving of NSW’s migrant intake, with the debate on population policy now resting on congestion, liveability, housing affordability and infrastructure.

Premier Berejiklian has now appointed an expert panel to develop a population policy for NSW. “It is becoming increasingly clear that the current high rates of population growth are putting even more pressure on our infrastructure. It is now time for us to take stock and get ahead.” The Premier renewed her call for net overseas migration levels to return to more sustainable Howard-era rates when NSW net overseas migration was steady at around 45,000 a year, rather than the current 100,000.

With both Victoria and NSW lobbying for a review of immigration levels, Premier Morrison is expected to cut the number of migrants coming to Australia by up to 30,000.

However, this debate cannot ignore more than 1 million temporary working visas and 350,000 international student visa holders currently requiring a home while in Australia. A population policy without a reduction in the number of future visa holders will not assist in addressing the congestion, liveability and housing needs of residents.

It is time for a constructive debate over immigration policy in the lead-up to the State and Federal elections. What is required is not just promises, but a coherent set of proposals and timetable of how this will occur. Promises, without concrete plans, will be futile. We have been there before on this issue.

Sydney’s Empty Buildings In 2017 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that “a quarter of Chinese buying property overseas leave their apartments vacant and the majority pay for their purchase with cash, a survey of mainland Chinese customers by investment bank UBS shows.Another 25 per cent of overseas property owners use their homes on a temporary basis, suggesting about half of the overseas properties owned by mainland Chinese were not fully utilised.” Our suburbs are being bulldozed and radically altered so that non-residents can invest their capital while it does nothing to ease rental pressure, accommodate existing residents, or reduce prices for people looking to purchase their first home.

The need for a more sustainable population policy is required to improve the prospects for the next generations. Higher population does not equate to a higher standard of living. In fact, In the year to December 2017, real GDP grew by 2.36% in seasonally adjusted terms, however per capita GDP increased by only 0.8%. The Government is relying on population, rather than improved productivity, to maintain GDP. This implies that we, as individuals, are not benefitting from our current high levels of population growth. Click on the link for a more detailed perspective on Population and Housing.