Australia

New approaches needed for population change management: CEDA report

A NEW Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) report released late last month is calling for changes in how Australia manages population change, to ensure smooth delivery of services and infrastructure.

CEDA, Chief Executive, Stephen Martin said the issue of population is critical to social and economic policy with significant and wide ranging implications for all Australians, yet the present debate in Australia seems focused on small isolated issues such as asylum seekers or ultimately unreliable long-term population forecasts.

"CEDA's A Greater Australia: Population, policies and governance provides analysis on population issues, including the impact of health and ageing, infrastructure, migration, climate change, defence, dispersion of population and education," Mr Martin said.

"Public unease with the population debate is often centred around government policy or planning failures, from inadequate service provision to poor infrastructure planning and that is why our nation's leaders must not shy away from a robust discussion on our future demography and its implications for public policy."

Professor Martin said CEDA's recommendations from the report, aimed at providing a starting point for action were:

  • That the Federal Government should establish an Australian Population Council (APC), to coordinate government service delivery nationally in response to population changes. The APC should be responsible for annual projections of demographic change for the purpose of ensuring smooth State and Federal Government service delivery. In particular, the focus should be on the areas of infrastructure delivery (roads and community infrastructure), education and health requirements.
  • The Federal Government should supplement the Intergenerational Report, which examines the ramifications of an ageing population, with a Future Generation Report, which examines the participation, education and training solutions that could mitigate the negative elements of Australia's current age structure. For example, proposing ways of ensuring longer workforce participation.

Professor Martin said the recommendations would allow more proactive policy responses to population changes as they emerge, rather than reactive responses that often result in a delay in the delivery of necessary infrastructure and services.

The report, under the editorship of Professors Jonathan Pincus and Graeme Hugo, draws together 17 contributions from experts across Australia and is the culmination of two years' work.

Professor Pincus said A Greater Australia aims to dispel some myths, such as that Australia's population will soon exceed its sustainable limit, and that immigration hugely benefits or hugely damages our economy.

"The report makes a valuable contribution towards a measured and considered population debate," he said.

"How we manage population change will ultimately impact on the living standards of all Australians, especially the liveability of our cities and our access to services."

Last year, the Australian Government released the nation's first ever dedicated sustainable population strategy. In 2010, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appointed Tony Burke to the new portfolio of Minister for Population, later renamed Minister for Sustainable Population by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The report, A Greater Australia: Population, policies and governance, is available from the Committee for Economic Development of Australia's (CEDA) website at <http://www.ceda.com.au/>. The report is free for members or available at a cost for members of the public.

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