Media Release: Australia’s population distribution issue

Cuts in immigration levels will harm cities like Adelaide and a shift in the national debate is needed to focus on population distribution rather than numbers, says the Committee for Adelaide.

In the wake of the most recent national report showing migrants add wealth and create jobs, Committee for Adelaide Chief Executive Officer Jodie van Deventer said Australia did not have a population growth issue but rather a population distribution issue.

“Curtailing migrant numbers to help cities like Melbourne and Sydney is ludicrous when you consider the harm it will cause to places like Adelaide and much of the nation’s regional areas where some communities are struggling to survive,” she said.

“Infrastructure Australia has already stated that more focus needs to be on cities such as Adelaide, Hobart and Darwin to ease infrastructure issues elsewhere and policy levers are needed at the Federal level to ensure this happens.”

Ms van Deventer said Australia needed a decentralisation policy as well as a Minister for Population to look at population and migration issues through a wider cultural and economic lens in addition to border protection.

She said a major overhaul of the migration system was needed while the backlog of unprocessed Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa applications, more than 18,000 in 2016/17, needed to be urgently addressed.

“A recent study by Deloitte found that doubling South Australia’s current growth levels to reach a population of 2 million people by 2027 would inject an extra $38 billion into our economy and create 59,000 extra jobs,” she said.

Ms van Deventer said Adelaide’s population, like many other places in Australia, was ageing while new opportunities were emerging in defence, space, mining and high tech.

“As well as upskilling our existing population, skilled migration will be essential to ensure the success of these industries and cuts in existing numbers would hurt,” she said.

Ms van Deventer said yesterday’s release of research by Treasury and the Department of Home Affairs, which showed Australia’s migrants added up to 1% to average GDP growth, mirrored many other studies also showing that migrants created wealth.

A recent South Australian Centre for Economic Studies report found similar results and recommended a number of policies from creating regional focussed visas with a wage rate threshold to developing occupations lists and skill level requirements that reflected local market conditions.

“This one-size-fits-all approach and the assumption that the entire country faces the same issues as Melbourne and Sydney isn’t working,” Ms van Deventer said.