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An Australian population policy?

By Max Rawnsley - posted Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Where is the national, state and local ‘population’ policy coordination?

 At present and recent rates of immigration we need the equivalent of sizeable city created every year. There is an argument that infrastructure may absorb part of this demand.  However, we seem wedded to the cargo cult mentality based on hope and guesstimates.

There seems to be a reluctance to undertake an optimum population assessment despite, even in recent times, representations from demographers and others outlining why a population policy is important, stressing the need for it to be integrated into policy formation generally. It seems that the 1991 National Population Council conclusion ’It is inappropriate to enumerate an optimum population level or carrying capacity for Australia” has carried the day, thus far.


There is no apparent serious nationwide planning with well-considered input from Regional Development following Warwick Smith’s work and the Government response tothe Independent review of the Regional Development Australia program September 2016. Under Federal Minister Paul Fletcherthere has been a substantial focus on roads and an airport much of which deserves credit, but where is the population policy underpinning this work?

Ian Harper suggested we accept the big cities as a fact, an economic necessity. Let’s test that perspective.

The point of the above recitals is that we have more than a few Government sources of forward ‘population’ estimates. And some private perspectives well worth putting into the assessment of the optimum number.

Former Productivity Commission chair Gary Banks tells us, “Any policy not informed by evidence is guesswork.” He is correct; his assessment is a basis for concern. In this instance, at the lack of an Australian Population Policy based on a cohesive plan that serves the wider community.

The Productivity Commission is well placed to undertake population coping capacity assessment and to monitor progress of a population policy and the coping capacity development at Federal, State, Local Government and non-government investment level.

A first step is to wind back immigration until we have a plan that relates population to coping capacity. Then get the assessment underway by calling for submissions and co-opting government resources.

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About the Author

Max Rawnsley has an active interest in political economy. He has a commercial background as a CFO and COO in a listed US corporation as well as managerial and advisory experience in private education with a major interest in governance, legal and financial management. He has served as a local government councillor.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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