It’s the debate that just won’t go away and on Sunday night’s episode of 60 Minutes, planning expert Shane Geha blasted calls for Australia’s immigration numbers to be cut. Just last week, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced plans to cap the immigration intake at 160,000 – a reduction of around 30,000 people per year.
With the nation’s population is increasing by 400,000 people per year, many have claimed that the major cities simply can’t cope with the ever-growing population. Whether it’s limited housing options or congestion on busy roads, the opinion of many is that major cities can’t keep up. Geha is not one of those people and likened opponents of population growth to “whinging Poms”.
“You know something that really bothers me. When I was a child, we used to talk about the whinging Poms. Maybe this shouldn’t make TV but the whinging Poms whinged about everything,” Geha told 60 Minutes reporter Liam Bartlett.
“Everything’s a huge problem. Everything’s an issue. We’ve got one of the luckiest countries in the world, one of the nicest cities by any measure and we still can’t say, ‘Thank you, this is a great place’. It can be a greater place with more people.”
Geha claimed Australia could fund double the infrastructure with more people and that reducing immigration numbers would mean the nation would have to borrow more money or tax more.
“Growth is healthy because the alternative to growth is no growth and that’s extremely problematic,” he explained. “The idea of a growing population and a growing Australia and a growing economy is good for everyone.”
One person who didn’t agree with his comments was Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith. He said the only way to save Australia is to cut immigration numbers.
“We’ve stuffed them. Ask someone who’s sitting in a traffic jam. They just think this is ridiculous,” Smith told Bartlett. “And our politicians just say, ‘Oh, we need more infrastructure’. Crap.”
According to Smith, the government’s plan to reduce immigration levels by 30,000 people a year simply won’t cut it. Instead, he would rather numbers cut by at least half.
“If we brought our immigration down to 70,000 a year, which is the long term average, our population would level off at about 30 million,” he explained.
He said Australia has already passed the “sweet point”, adding he brought his house in Sydney at $32,000 in 1970.
“Young couples can’t afford a house with a block of land where the kids can play in a cubby house. That’s wrong.”
Australia’s population hit 25 million last August – 33 years earlier than predicted two decades ago.
Mass migration and an unexpectedly high number of births are behind the surge, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, with net overseas migration accounting for 62 per cent of it alone.
One of the biggest migrant groups was found to be Chinese – as well as British, Kiwi and Indian – with eight per cent of the growth coming from migrants moving from China. In fact, in 2016, a huge 28 per cent of Aussies were born overseas.