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Mary Drost: Immigration-boosted vs natural population increase in Melbourne - Response to Mathew Guy MP

Mary Drost of Planning Backlash and the Marvellous Melbourne website has picked up Matthew Guy's 'challenge' on population growth and comes back with the figures and this statement. We look forward to Matthew Guy's response.

Statement re Natural Population Increase of Melbourne versus the Additional Population Increase caused by Immigration

Minister Matthew Guy’s Challenge to me was that

"Figures show that Melbourne would still increase by 500 a week even if there was no immigration. So what do we do about that?"

Firstly, I understand Melbourne is actually growing by more like 1,800 a week (90,000 a year) so natural increase is less than a third of the problem.

This Challenge needed a response using figures produced by others than those representing big business, since they often present only those figures that suit their push for growth and development. Therefore I have consulted with the top names in Australia who have been studying the growth of Australia and Melbourne and below are their findings. I challenge the growth lobby on their biased stand, as evidenced by the fact that they appear to have given you only a misleading fragment of the picture.

The CPUR has prepared new projections for household growth in Melbourne. Given recent demographic developments (including the decline in overseas student enrolments in Melbourne). It is likely that Net Overseas Migration to Melbourne will average around 35,000 a year and that fertility will fall because of the record high price of entry level housing.

Given these assumptions, the number of households in Melbourne will increase by around 750,000 over the next 30 years.
Over the next decade (2011 -2021) the number of households in Melbourne will increase by around 286,000.

Less than a third of this would be needed with balanced migration (zero net migration), which is the world’s average.

There are two sources of growth in the number of households. One end is the young who want to get into the housing market. The other end is the growing older group as the baby boomers replace the currently much smaller number of retirement aged residents. But most of these older households will stay in their houses even though they become 'empty nests' and partners die.

High rise does not solve the needs of young families. They will want family oriented housing, preferably a detached house or if not possible a town house or unit in a suburban setting. Therefore the current forest of high rise apartments will be left high and dry, or will be filled with unwilling and discontented residents. Most of these younger families will have no choice but to move to the fringe because that is where affordable detached housing is likely to be located. Those who want to live in established suburbia will have to compete with immigrants for the limited dwelling units available, because most are occupied by baby boomers.

The burden on cities like Melbourne can be relieved by reducing Australia’s immigration quotas; otherwise the crisis of housing affordability young people already face will get worse. Further the burden on any government trying to solve the overloaded infrastructure problem while population grows freely is enormous.

PROJECTIONS OF AUSTRALIA’S POPULATION GROWTH to 2050 show that for the Big Australia projection (assuming net overseas migration of 180.000 a year – which is around the current outcome) will mean an increase from 22 million now to 36 million in 2050. Of this increase,
4 million by 2050 - will be from natural increase alone
10 million by 2050 - immigration plus children of migrants born in Australia

Natural increase is high at present because the baby boomer generation’s children are now in child bearing age. This is projected to decrease after a decade or so and eventually will stabilise so that births will equal deaths. So it is a short term issue. The biggest problem is the high rate of migration. State governments have a duty to point this out to Canberra. Handling even Melbourne’s current 20-25,000 a year natural increase strains its resources, so the federal government should be encouraged to reduce immigration.

Hence to claim that "growth is inevitable even without immigration" would be dishonest, unless one also mentions that the growth produced with balanced (net zero)  immigration would in fact  be temporary and fast diminishing.
Mary Drost

This information has been obtained from the current studies being undertaken by Dr Bob Birrell of Monash University and including discussions with Dr Tony Recsei of Sydney, Mark O’Connor of Canberra, author of Overloading Australia, Jill Quirk of Sustainable Population Australia and Kelvin Thomson MP.

See also Marvellous Melbourne


According to the ABS: "In Australia, successive governments have used overseas migration for economic and nation building goals".

This means that our overall GDP will increase through net population growth. However, population growth does not increase personal wealth - it just distributes it between more people. Like livestock, adding more increases the farmer's wealth, but not necessarily the welfare of the animals.

ABS: "Recent increases in immigration reflect Australia's relatively strong economic growth as well as the engagement of Australia in the wider global economy, and especially the provision of education services to large numbers of overseas students".

This means that we are part of the "wider global economy" and must, according to global trends, continue to accept population growth. The large number of overseas students allows education to be a route to residency - it's cheaper than investing in domestic education.

ABS:"Although unauthorised arrivals do not have a visa, they are counted in NOM statistics and hence may be included in the population estimates, subject to their duration of stay".

Officially we accept 13,000 humanitarian immigrants per year, but it's not clear if asylum seekers arriving here are included in this number. They are insignificant in the overall NOM- but capture all the media "immigration" attention.

ABS: "Natural increase (births minus deaths) accounted for an increase of 8,600 people in June quarter 2010. Net overseas migration contributed a similar increase (8,800) in the same quarter, and has consistently been the largest component of population growth since December quarter 2006".

To say that with or without immigration we would still have the same increase in population is simply a denial. Natural growth and immigration numbers were very similar. Also, part of our "natural" growth would be attributed to immigration.

According to a WestPac report: "Outlook for Australian Property Markets Report - 2010- 2012" August 2010, "Although annual growth in population has finally peaked, it remained a healthy (?) 114,000 people in the year to December 2009, Immigration was the key driver accounting for 70% of the growth".

Also: "The immigration is fueling a need for more dwellings and helping boost economic growth. The risk to the markets are potentially tighter immigration laws and lower numbers should there be a change in Government".

Immigration is good news for those investing in property and land speculation. It increases demand for housing, and ensures the prices remain high.

"Figures show that Melbourne would still increase by 500 a week even if there was no immigration. So what do we do about that?"

So that even is people weren't migrating from overseas, Melbourne's population would still increase by the same amount? What sort of weird logic is this? It's more than 500 per week anyway. It's more like 1500 per week.

The need for "affordable housing" is justifying Matthew Guy's job, and he isn't likely to downgrade his position. The need for housing will never find closure. While we build houses in one week, more keep arriving. The need for "affordable housing" is continuous.

To say that Melbourne would continue to grow even without increases from immigration really says very little at all as it ignores magnitude! The implication seems to be that it doesn't really matter if we double or more than double our rate of growth! It is hard to believe that a "grown up", let alone the Victorian Minister for Planning could bother making a statement that makes him appear utterly innumerate and hoping everyone else is too!