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Population Growth: Implications for Australia and Sydney

Population Growth: Implications for Australia and Sydney

Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Briefing Paper No. 05/2003 by Stewart Smith
In 2001 the world population was 6.1 billion. It is projected to grow by 50 percent, to 9.3 billion people, by 2050. There are two main factors which influence the size of the world’s population: fertility, which is the rate at which the population reproduces, and mortality – the rate at which people die. At December 2001, the estimated Australian resident population was 19.6 million.

Immigration is an important determinant of the size of the Australian population. Australia's permanent immigration program has two components: Skilled and Family Stream migrants (together referred to as the Migration Program); and the Humanitarian program, for refugees and others with humanitarian needs. The Humanitarian Program has been allocated 12,000 new places for the 2002-03 financial year. The current 2002-03 Migration Program is the largest in over a decade, with a planned intake in the range of 100,000 to 110,000 places.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has projected the nation’s population to 2101. Of the three scenarios, the mid-case scenario indicates: a population of 25.3 million in 2051, which peaks at 25.5 million in 2063 and then gradually declines. An almost constant population size is achieved from the middle of the projection period, with close to zero growth rates and only slight declines in population after 2063.

The linkages between population growth and its affect on the environment are keenly debated in the literature. A cross section of reports exploring this relationship is discussed. The most recent report is Future Dilemmas from the CSIRO. It found four kinds of impacts of population growth on the Australian environment. These were: primary – (or first order), these are directly linked to: individuals who require food; households that require houses, cars, televisions and refrigerators; and communities that require schools, hospitals and public transport; secondary – (or second order), these are linked to affluence, lifestyle and scale; tertiary – (or third order) these occur when the domestic requirements for imported goods and services have to be covered by revenue from the goods and services from the nation’s export industries. The rising levels of imports linked to consumption growth on a per capita household basis have to be paid for by exporting commodities such as coal and wheat, and importing international tourists; and quaternary – (or fourth order) these occur when the lagged effects of previous population growth and economic development have contributed to issues such as international debt and weakness of currencies.

Sydney is now classed as a ‘global city’, and attracting people from around Australia and from overseas. Population predictions for Sydney forecast it to grow from a population of currently 3.5 million to six million by 2050 . Measures to attract migrants away from Sydney are discussed.