The Australian Population Research Institute pre-Covid annual survey of voters’ attitudes to population growth found that a SIGNIFICANT 72-PER CENT say Australia does not need more people and that HALF want immigration reduced. Voters who want lower immigration say it is harming quality of life in the cities, causing urban congestion and higher house prices.[1] Despite this the three major parties, the Coalition, Labor and Greens, all endorse high immigration. This new report reveals a huge disconnect between Australian public and mainstream political views on population growth and immigration.

Difference in groups which support high or low immigration

The difference in those that support more immigration was interesting. Graduate voters and Green Party supporters are much more likely to support high immigration. The dissenters are mainly non-graduates. Non-graduates also worry about immigration-fuelled population growth’s effects on the natural environment.[2]

This was an eye opener because the general public may come to the conclusion that population growth and environmental concerns are the domain of Green politics and university graduates. Not so, the new report found the Greens are just as keen on high immigration as Australia’s two main political parties.

Strong support all round to lower migration intake

The call to reduce net overseas migration to more reasonable historical levels has gained momentum from 1996 onward, with nom rising to enormous levels (see Chart 1 below). A number of polls bear this out. Essential (April 2018) recorded 64% think the level of immigration in Australia over the past decade ‘has been too high’, up from 50% recorded in 2016.[3] ANU poll (Jan 2019) revealed 69.6 per cent felt that Australia did ‘not need more people’,[4] and the annual Lowy Institute poll found 47 percent saying immigration was ‘too high’ (June 2019).[5]

The significant social and environmental impacts (of such a huge rise in nom) are undisputed. For example, the massive number of nom in 2008 reaching over 315,000 (Chart 1 below) resulting in huge demand for infrastructure, resources and energy consumption. The Federal government and the Labor opposition appear obsessively focused on maintaining a very high migration intake and not reflecting on the costs?

These uncontrollable spikes in nom levels are directly related to the Federal government implementing the temporary visa program in 1996. The program is uncapped which explains its huge growth since inception.

Look at the enormous rise in nom from 1996 onward (Chart 1). In fact the long-term nom average is just over 91,000 people (see Chart 1 below). This is a more manageable figure for long term planning of Australian cities. It would clearly alleviate social impacts on suburbs and indeed less destruction of conservation zones in city regions.

Closing comments

The solution is clearly not building higher density cities as politicians, academics and the property industry are pushing. One example of this folly is a controversial overreach development in Perth’s Northern suburbs (Ocean Reef Marina). A high density residential proposal (10 storey plus and more than 1,000 dwellings) destroying coastal flora and fauna, significant damage to the A class Marmion marine reserve, abalone reefs and limestone cliffs. 

Chart 1: Net overseas migration, Australia year ended 31 December 1925-2019

(Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2020.[6] [7])


[1] Katharine Betts and Bob Birrell, ‘A Big Australia Why It May All Be Over’, 2020 <> [accessed 28 October 2020].

[2] Katharine Betts and Bob Birrell.

[3] Katharine Murphy, ‘Australians Growing More Concerned over Immigration – Guardian Essential Poll’, The Guardian, 2018 <> [accessed 28 October 2020].

[4] Associate Professor Nicholas Biddle, ‘A N U P O L L BIG AUSTRALIA, SMALL AUSTRALIA, DIVERSE AUSTRALIA: Australia’s Views on Population’, ANU Centre for Social Research & Methods (The Australian National University) <> [accessed 28 October 2020].

[5] Natasha Kassam, ‘Lowy Institute Poll 2019’, 2019 <> [accessed 28 October 2020].

[6] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘National, State and Territory Population, March 2020’, 2020 <> [accessed 29 September 2020].

[7] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘Historical Population, 2016 | Australian Bureau of Statistics’, 2019 <> [accessed 28 October 2020].

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