Last week we passed the 25 million population mark. (See the ABS media release and fact sheet.) Apparently early this century we were forecast to add an extra million every seven years. Now we are doing it every two and a half years. Earlier this century we were told we’d hit 25 million in 2051. We got there 33 years early, and are told we’ll be at 40 million by 2048.
Some people are uncomfortable with this, but defence specialist Andrew Carr says that few acts would do more to undermine our long-term national security than cutting the number of migrants we take in. ‘Populate or perish’, he says, is still a strategic imperative.
He is saying that the changing strategic order in Asia makes population growth vital for our long-term security. We have tended to have two separate conversations, one about the strategic order in Asia, the other about population. Time we saw them together.
Australia has this problem of defending a large, sparsely populated country. During WW2 we had the dilemma of putting men in uniform or manning factories. In our history we have depended on hegemonic powers, such as Britain and America. Britain has gone, and the Americans are no longer to be relied upon unless it suits their own national interest.
Our own relative power is changing. Carr says:
- By the 1970s, Australia’s economy was one-third larger than all of the ASEAN countries combined. Until 1990, Australia and China had almost equivalent GDPs and we were the 10th largest in the world. All that has changed. Australia’s economy is less than half of ASEAN’s. Our global economic ranking could slide to 28th by 2050, with neighbours like Indonesia moving into the top 10.
- We have 57,000 people in uniform compared to 247,000 for Japan, 395,000 for Indonesia, 625,000 for South Korea, and just over 2 million for China. Yet in Australia, we struggle to provide enough people to staff six submarines and modest peacetime deployments.
Cutting immigration will cut our economic power, our people power, and diminish our voice internationally.
National Party leader Michael McCormack likes 25 million and looks forward to 30 million. However, 67% of us live in capital cities now, compared with 63% in 1970 and 37% in 1901. I’m sure McCormack is not pleased with the trend towards favouring the big cities.
I’ll just point out that Tasmania has a population of 522,000 while the Gold Coast has 638,000. Seems right and proper.
Brisbane’s population at around 2.5 million, within the SEQ region of about 3.5 million, has always seemed about right to me. I don’t like to see the country chewed up by suburbs, but the extra population seems to bring more services with greater sophistication and vibrancy.
If you want to hear about the migration issue in full there is an excellent discussion at ABC RN’s The Roundtable – Is Australia’s migration system working as it should?
Often overlooked, about a million Australians decamp overseas each year.
Our fearless philosophers, Waleed Aly and Scott Stevens, had two goes at it:
- Migration: Do prosperous nations have a moral right to exclude?
- Does multiculturalism pose a threat to national identity?
One of their more important insights was that if the people already here, and their government acting on their behalf, actively selected who came in, the place would be far less interesting.
Update: The featured image at the head of the post is from the first Minefield link:
It’s not specifically identified, but I think it shows Syrian refugees up against the fence built by Hungary to keep them out.
We spent a few days at the end of our 2015 trip in Budapest. Fascinating place.
Following centuries of successive habitation by Celts, Romans, Germanic people, West Slavs, Avars, and the Huns the foundation of Hungary was laid in the late 9th century by the Hungarian grand prince Árpád in the conquest of the Carpathian Basin.
Then in the 13th century came the Mongols, and half the people in Hungary died. Then they came again.
Then in the 17th century:
- The Austrian-Habsburg government settled large groups of Serbs and other Slavs in the depopulated south, and settled Germans (called Danube Swabians) in various areas, but Hungarians were not allowed to settle or re-settle in the south of the Great Plain.
Then in July 1849, the Hungarian Parliament proclaimed and enacted the first laws of ethnic and minority rights in the world.
The main language is Hungarian (Magyar) which is a Uralic language from the east. Other than English and German, recognized minority languages in Hungary include Armenian, Bulgarian, Croatian, German, Greek, Romanian, Romani, Rusyn, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, and Ukrainian. German probably appears twice because there is probably more than one variety of German.
So it’s a highly multicultural place, but obviously now threatened by people they see as ‘other’. I think we are going to have more fences in the future, both literally and figuratively.