Page 3493 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 21 September 2005
The ACT’s net population growth to June 2004 was only one-third of what it had been for the previous six years. In looking at some of the individual factors in relation to the make-up of population growth, it is notable to look at overseas migration for the ACT in 2003, which was the latest data I was able to secure. It was only 660 people. Since 1998, net overseas migration has contributed 2,100 people to the ACT population. However, during 2003 the ACT lost a total of 2,600 people to net interstate migration. That was the second largest percentage loss, negative 0.82 per cent, of all states and territories. The ACT has experienced losses from net interstate migration since 2000.
In addition to the low overall population growth, there is a high rate of movement of people into and out of Canberra, the highest in Australia with the exception of the Northern Territory. Indeed, over the five-year period to 2001 the population turnover for the ACT was 62 per cent, indicating that the equivalent of nearly two-thirds of the total population of Canberra in 2001 had moved into or out of Canberra in the previous five years.
Among the reasons that contribute to this factor, of course, are the young age structure of our city, the presence of universities and defence services, our high educational attainment, and the ability of people in this community to find work in the national and international labour market. But the big question is: why do people leave in such large numbers and why is population growth now only one-third of what it was over the past six years? We need to look at what the reasons are and see what we can do about it.
The Treasurer says, in my view quite correctly, that we will grow and develop the ACT economy, city and region, by, to quote from his economic white paper, “being unashamedly pro-business and committed to actions that will make the ACT the premier business friendly location in Australia.” The government’s economic white paper stresses the “need to diversify the ACT economy to build a strong private sector”.
But population growth is important because it strengthens the economy by increasing aggregate demand through consumption of goods and services and through demand for government services and public infrastructure. Population growth also increases the supply of a region’s and nation’s factors of production, which are capital and labour. It contributes to the region’s potential labour supply and contributes to higher living standards by adding value through employment. It frequently adds to savings and access to capital, and potentially adds to the region’s stock of knowledge and entrepreneurial skills.
Moreover, it adds to cultural diversity and, in turn, increases the attractiveness of the region to a broader cross-section of people, which is imperative if we are to get more people to move to our city to ensure that our economic future is secure. We need to be thinking outside the square. We need to take lateral views in terms of where we can get people to come to this city. We should engage with the Australian government and tell them that we want more immigration encouraged into this city.
There are talented people in so many countries. I am not necessarily approving of everything the federal government does in this immigration area. I think we are losing opportunities in countries such as Brazil and Argentina and in Eastern Europe, which have had traditionally very high standards of education but very poor income levels,