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A growing opportunity for Australia

Ideas@TheCentre – The CIS newsletter (Sydney), 30 September 2011

At The Centre for Independent Studies, we regularly have visitors from Europe – delegations from European parliaments, diplomats from European countries, government ministers from European capitals. They all tell us if they had a chance to swap their problems for ours, they would not hesitate at all.

Yet in Australia we are increasingly unhappy with the state of the nation. Instead of seeing our booming economy and growing population as a fantastic chance to make Australia even greater , we complain about what we perceive to be terrible problems.

‘Big Australia’ has become synonymous with a looming threat.

When Kevin Rudd declared his support for the idea of a ‘Big Australia,’ it became one of the final nails in the coffin of his leadership. No wonder Julia Gillard’s first announcement as Prime Minister was to distance herself from it in favour of a so-called ‘sustainable Australia,’ whatever that may be.

Those who are afraid of population growth have got it wrong.

Our population is not growing because of a scheme hatched up in the halls of Parliament House. It is growing because our economy is strong and our society is confident about the future.

The federal government’s long awaited ‘Sustainable Population Strategy,’ released in May this year, rather predictably told us nothing new about population growth. In a document full of glossy pictures and little substance, Minister Tony Burke rejected the idea that governments can control or manipulate population growth.

He concluded that better infrastructure is needed in areas of high population growth – a blinding insight that voters have been telling state governments for years.

Despite the political rhetoric, government is aware that population growth is happening. We are having more babies than in the past. Our booming economy means more people want to come to Australia than ever before. Our migration program is operating well.

Growth is the outcome we get when the government takes a hands-off laissez-faire approach.

Jessica Brown and Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich are Research Fellows at the Centre for Independent Studies. The fifth report in the Population and Growth series, Why A Growing Australia is Nothing to Fear, was released this week.

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