Tag Archives: infrastructure costs

Immigration debate: the menagerie in the living room

 

Many assertions are being made about Australia’s rates of immigration and population growth, but it’s hard to find a coherent discussion of the issue. There’s not just an elephant but a menagerie of ignored creatures lurking around the living room.

The elephant in the middle of the room is the cost to society of ‘durable assets’ for each new person, imported or home-grown. Durable assets include not just infrastructure like roads, trains, water and electricity but houses, shops and schools. That cost is sensibly estimated by sustainability researcher Jane O’Sullivan to be around $500,000 per person. Some of that cost is public, borne by governments, and some is borne by the private sector.

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Immigration is a Big Drag on the Economy, and Our Lifestyle

[Now on Independent Australia, 15 Mar]

Australia can choose not to be ‘big’ if it wants. Both our material income and our quality of life would benefit.

It’s good that the ABC’s Four Corners has provoked a debate on immigration, and it’s good that it avoided racist, xenophobic or xenophilic claims, but still so many of the arguments presented are ill-informed or self-serving.

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The Enormous Hidden Cost of Population Growth

[Published in the Canberra Times, 22 Feb 2016.]

CityWorkers Australia’s population just passed 24 million and former Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, unusually for a very public figure, reckons we’re growing too fast.

He cites the pressure on the housing market, clogged infrastructure, and the greater difficulty of limiting greenhouse gas emissions. At some point we will exceed the carrying capacity of the continent, and perhaps we already have. Those are all sound reasons, but they tend to be brushed aside by the growth lobby, partly because the numbers are hard to pin down.

But what if we knew that cutting immigration in half would save us $50 billion or more per year? According to some little-noticed papers by development economist Jane O’Sullivan, population growth costs us over $500,000 per person added.

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