My speech at the Lowy Institute looks at population size, immigration flows and refugee policy.
Does Size Matter? An Economic Perspective on the Population Debate*
13 March 2014
Shadow Assistant Treasurer
Federal Member for Fraser
I’ve wanted to say something about this rather controversial topic for a long time. Now that I take to the podium, I can’t help thinking of an epitaph Dorothy Parker penned for her gravestone: ‘Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.’
A great epitaph for a writer. Perhaps not so much for a politician. Nevertheless, I hope what follows shows that my belief in evidence is stronger than my desire to avoid tough questions.
If there’s one thing that’s really big in the population size debate, it’s the size of the scare campaigns made by both sides.
A big Australia, one side tells us, is a ‘catastrophe’ that ‘risks destroying our traditions and even our common language’. Immigration has ‘undermined our higher education system, [and] put intolerable pressure on an overstretched health and transport system’. Some go further, blaming ‘limp-wristed citizenship requirements’ for ‘ethnic crime waves sweeping across our nation, where samurai swords and machetes have become part of the media lexicon’.
Not to be outdone, the other side of the debate argue that: ‘Putting caps on growth would turn Australia into a stagnant, ageing and inward-looking country – a basket case to rival the declining states of Europe.’ Some have warned that if population growth is too slow, the share market would stagnate, small businesses would be unable to fund their ventures, taxes would rise, and debt would balloon.