Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday Forum - time to stop immigration to Australia?

This will be the last Monday Forum post for 2016. The next Monday Forum will be on Monday 9 January. So this post provides an opportunity to revisit things that we have talked about, to get new things off your chest.

To start with a photo from Gordon Smith (lookANDSee) of the country that our colleagues from the APVMA (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority) are trying to avoid relocation too. I hope to complete my analysis this week before I leave the country.

Staying with Canberra, the ACT and NSW Governments have negotiated a new MOU that, among other things, progresses discussions on a border shift to accommodate Canberra's growth.

It is hard to believe that when I started work in Canberra the Australian Capital Territory's population was less than 80,000 people. Now it is over 350,000. It's not just the ACT of course, but the population spreads into surrounding areas in NSW. When I moved across the border to live in Queanbeyan, that town's population was about 12,000. It's now around 38,000.

I have always supported an open migration policy. I now wonder.

On the latest population projections, Canberra's population is projected to reach 750,000 people by 2061. That's the ACT. You also have to add the people in the surrounding areas.

Canberra is only 296 k, a bit over 3 hours by road, from Sydney. Sydney is project to reach 8 million people by 2061.With the fast rail that will come, you are going to have an urban block of ten million people that extends from Newcastle to Wollongong, from Sydney to Canberra.

I don't think that's a good thing. The apartment sprawl that's now spreading to Canberra, the multiple new developments bringing metro living to the city,has its advantages but it's creating a totally different lifestyle different from elsewhere in the country. Our metro cities are becoming city states.

I used to think that if we could add extra population more broadly all Australians would benefit. Is that dream possible anymore or have we got to the point that the numbers dwarf anything we might hope to achieve?

You could double the population of the New England Tablelands within the existing infrastructure. But that's only 55,000 people, a blink in current population growth. Even then, the opposition of the move of APVMA to Armidale shows how hard it is.

So I am driven back to this point. If, as seems to be the case, we cannot achieve decentralisation and balanced growth,. let's stop immigration.

I have come to this view reluctantly. However, I just don't want what is happening now to go on. .


2 tanners said...

I too used to think of immigration as an unvarnished good but it may be time for a revision in thinking. But what drives your stance that zero is the best number? I'm thinking of the problems of an aging Australia here as an example that some migration is still needed.

Jim Belshaw said...

I don't think that zero is feasible, 2t. We need options for refugees and family reunion at least. We need to be able to fill specific skill gaps. But beyond that?

Anonymous said...

One hopes this new zero immigration policy is not implemented during your trip Jim.

Safe travels and safe return - and unfortunately for you I shall still be here, perhaps a little more querulous - tho' a little less well-informed due to your absence.

"unvarnished good" "unvarnished truth" etc. Dunno if that's more interesting than the word "rife" - which seems to be popping up pretty much everywhere :)


Anonymous said...

I mean, after years of such abuse, I no longer bat an eye at such as "The next Monday Forum will be on Saturday 9 January".

Because, what would be the point?


Jim Belshaw said...

Good morning, kvd. Snorts. Corrected. Hopefully will still be one or two posts before I go. querulous - never! One might be tempted to use the word rife, but in the interests of the unvarnished good. I wonder what a varnished good would look like?

2 tanners said...

I was pointed at this link which argues that the gains for a destination country such as Australia are large and the impact on workers are small for having a free flow in labour (i.e. no restrictions on economic immigration).

Caveats: I do not buy some of the underlying assumptions without further examination, and I am simply taking his word on the maths rather than tediously working my way through it.

It is an interesting theoretical exercise. Of course it fails the test "Is this poltically feasible?", but it is meant to provoke slightly more informed discussion. I am very much reminded of the simplistic Crusoe/Friday illustration of comparative advantage, but I thought readers might at least find it interesting.

Anonymous said...

The fast rail is a good idea, so of course the government will never build it.

Jim Belshaw said...

Good morning 2t. At least its morning here! I hope that you had a happy Christmas. It seems an interesting paper, although I just skimmed it and did not address the maths in detail. Intuitively, you would expect an equivalent Mexican worker to earn more in the US than Mexico in part because wages are higher in the US, in part because the US supporting infrastructure is more developed. The second is a productivity factor. I\m not sure how much further to go than that. I will have to read the paper again!