Australia’s population is currently growing at twice the rate of the rest of the world.

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On Friday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released an update on the nation’s population, which reached 22,066,000 on September 30, 2009.  66 per cent of population growth was due to overseas migration. 34 per cent was due to there being more births than deaths.

Like Prime Minister Rudd’s speech yesterday, political discussions about population growth are usually couched in terms such as liveability, innovation, sustainability and planning. Others are more blunt –“Growth doesn’t have to be a dirty word,” Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said yesterday ahead of the Growth Management Summit she’s hosting this week.

But the fact is, population growth isn’t a very popular notion.

Take this polling from Essential Research from just over a fortnight ago. When asked the question: “It has been estimated that Australia will have a population of 36 million by 2050. Do you think this will be good or bad for Australia?” — this is how people responded:


Drill down deeper and it gets more complicated. Take this set of questions from Essential Research posed in late February:


Pretty politically unpalatable stuff.

According to Essential, Labor voters were more likely to agree that having a larger population will help our economy (42%) and disagree that we don’t have the infrastructure and services to manage more population growth (23%). Coalition voters were more likely to agree that we don’t have the infrastructure and services to manage more population growth (82%) and agree that immigration should be slowed as it causes too much change to our society (74%).

And Greens voters were more likely to agree that Australia has a fragile environment that cannot cope with a much larger population (66%).

This week we’ll be exploring the subject as it relates to areas such as housing, infrastructure, climate change and immigration. Today Bernard Keane weighs in on housing supply, Chinese investors and xenophobia, and Charles Berger expands on the Australian Conservation Foundation’s campaign around population growth and the threat to biodiversity.

We also want to know what you think — populate our inbox with your thoughts by emailing [email protected] with ‘Population Growth’ in the subject line.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey