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‘Big Australia’ means an inordinate appeal to high population growth in order to boost growth in aggregate GDP, and in so doing, devaluing the environmental and social consequences. Why so, asks this report, and must it remain so?

The 2011 ‘Sustainable’ Population Strategy normalised John Howard’s post-2000 migration push. Our 21st Century population growth, well above world or OECD norms, is now passed off as inevitable or ‘normal’.

In a 27-year GDP growth ‘miracle’, our population plan has exited the political contest and has been reduced to mechanical budget parameters. A pervasive growth lobby aligns ‘progressive’ voices with the three main political parties, Treasury, the Reserve Bank, states, and industry. The increasingly evident environmental and electoral concerns are brushed aside.

Big Australia boosts aggregate GDP, but the states routinely under-do the infrastructure and service requirements. Congested Sydney and Melbourne are absorbing the bulk of migrants and suffering severe housing unaffordability. Nonetheless they eagerly ‘plan’ for eight million apiece at the mid-century.

But Big Australia isn’t batting for wages and equality. Gains to the few (or older) look more assured than gains for the many (or younger). Nor is mass migration the ideal way to update our resources economy for an innovation economy.

We’ve disconnected from our carrying and servicing capacities. Our annual migration intake should revert to 80,000-90,000, aiming for a population growth rate under 1 per cent a year. This would reset us more towards a 30m population at 2050. To achieve this we might need an authentic, central, population ministry.

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