Planning for good growth

The population debate has come back on to the political and media agenda in the lead-up to the ‘Super Saturday’ by-elections.

Its latest manifestation is a call for a Senate inquiry into population policy from the WA Liberal, Senator Dean Smith.

The population debate is a symptom of public frustration with fast growing cities, overcrowded public transport, inadequate infrastructure, and housing affordability challenges.

Blaming population growth is an easy way out rather than squarely facing up to the critical issues which will determine whether Australia enjoys the fruits of good growth, or as we highlighted in our Creating Great Australian Cities project, is condemned to a ‘low amenity, low liveability’ future.

Australia is not alone in having to deal with a growing urban population. While our rates of growth are above the OECD-average, other cities around the world have tackled similar challenges in their development.

We shouldn’t be too worried about debating numeric targets for population.

Rather, we need better planning, more infrastructure and metropolitan governance that is fit for purpose.

There are plenty of lessons we can learn from around the world on how to deliver good growth for the economic and social benefit of all Australians.

The big risk in the population debate is a resort to apparently simple solutions, usually in the form of cutting immigration or sending people out to regional areas. We should be better than that, and capable of squaring up to the opportunities that a growing nation provides.

Australia’s story is one of growth and development. We have made remarkable strides in building a prosperous, diverse and open economy and society. Now is not the time to turn our back on those achievements for the sake of political expediency and a quick fix.

What’s needed is a resolute commitment to planning and investing in a growing Australia for the benefit of current and future generations.