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Letter to ABC's 7.30 Report on its (again) woeful reporting on population growth/immigration.

Dear 7.30.
The statements being made by politicians and commentators re the size and growth of the population/immigration intake are (deliberately) ignorant, seriously uninformed or deliberately politically biased. And the coverage of this issue by your program and ABC journalists more generally also lack quality research, lack of 'joining the dots', failure to question unfounded claims by the above and, in some cases, unquestioned acceptance and repeat of demonstrably untrue statements.
Please consider the following demonstrable facts and follow the inevitable conclusion.

Infrastructure, including, schools, hospitals, police stations, utilities for water and electricity, roads etc. do not last forever. It's estimated that across the broad sweep of all infrastructure, infrastructure has a life of ~50 years. Thus 2% of the total capital value of all infrastructure must be spent every year just to maintain but not to improve infrastructure for the existing population.

Recently, largely due to high immigration intakes, our population has been growing at 1.6% pa. Not long ago the rate was as high as 2%. But at 1.6% this means that 3.6% of the total capital value of all infrastructure must be spent each and every year just to maintain the level of service; that is an 80% increase in the cost of infrastructure just to maintain the same level of service.

This cost is not only ignored when it is claimed that high immigration is economically beneficial, the error is massively compounded and used to mislead by the way in which GDP is used as the criterion of economic benefit. The additional cost of the required 80% increase in infrastructure is added to GDP not subtracted. This is a function of the way GDP is calculated. It adds together all the dollars spent on goods and services whether the 'goods' are 'goods' or 'bads'. This money spent on expanding infrastructure cannot be spent on other things to improve real welfare for the existing population. Everyone seems to agree that the infrastructure required by the deliberately expanded population (through the Federal Government's immigration policy) should be built before the new intake arrives. Witness the very loud and universal applause on your QandA program when this point was made. Thus the burden falls on the existing population one way or another. If the infrastructure is not built before the new intake arrives, existing citizens suffer a decline in service, if it is built before the new intake arrives it is the existing citizens who pick up the cost. This is consistent with several Productivity Commission reports that it is not the existing population that benefits but the migrants.

Nor does the dishonesty over claimed economic benefits of high immigration stop there. As populations increase and cities expand most ordinary citizens bear increased costs: car maintenance, travel distances, petrol etc. These are real costs borne by these citizens but they add, yes add to GDP. It is this failure of GDP to measure, but to be used by many, including ABC journalists, to be a surrogate measure of quality of life that is used to mislead.

Another related matter poorly presented by the ABC. The Premier of S.A. is calling for an increase in migration to South Australia, again claiming economic benefit, yet at the same time hospital services have broken down badly: ambulances are banking up at emergency departments (ramping) and nurses and doctors are bitterly complaining about inadequate facilities to serve their patients. There are 4,794 public hospital beds in South Australia. If our population is to grow by 1.6% per year we would need an additional 77 beds this year and an exponentially increasing number in following years as populations became larger. Against this 77 extra beds the Marshall Government has pointed with some pride at reopening 20 beds in the old Repat Hospital. The hospital problem is clearly related to the issue of high population growth rate but journalists are not making the connection.

This is not in any way to blame migrants for these problems. It is the Federal Government that is responsible for the migration program, not the migrants. Nor is the above any reflection on the composition, religious background, sex or sexual orientation of migrants. This is simply about numbers and the failure of most media including the ABC and your program to do some simple maths and join the dots.
Yours sincerely,
John Coulter

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