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Feds create population think tank

27 August 20190 comments

A new Centre for Population has been created within the federal Department of Treasury to help all levels of government better understand population changes across Australia.

Established on July 1 with a budget of $23.4 million, the centre has been tasked with providing detailed advice and analysis on population issues and how they affect cities, towns, regions and states.

It will be headed by Treasury advisor Victoria Anderson, who will begin the role in August.

The new unit is part of the Federal Government’s population plan, introduced on July 1 which has four main pillars.

The first is to ease the population pressures on the nation’s major capital cities while supporting the growth of smaller cities and regions.

Other pillars are promises of a massive boost in infrastructure and better planning mechanism with the states and territories.

The last pillar promises to keep Australia together by building safe and connected communities.

The plan includes cutting the permanent migration rate by a cumulative 120,000 places over four years to 160,000 a year, and creating incentives for permanent migrants and international students to live outside Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

The new Centre follows the last Council of Australian Governments meeting in December 2018 of federal, state and territory leaders and ALGA’s President David O’Loughlin, who agreed to put population on the agenda of a future COAG gathering.

“We agreed to work towards the establishment of a population management national framework, which would seek greater sharing of information to inform annual migration programs, infrastructure programs, investment in services, in hospitals and schools, greater data sharing, better identification of skills needs and across the country,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said after the meeting.

“And all of that is designed to protect the quality of life that Australians have, to grow our economy and ensure we get the growth where we need to have that growth.

“In some states that is an absolute priority, but in our larger cities we are able to better manage that growth, deal with congestion issues, and to protect the quality of life of residents who live in those cities as well,” the Prime Minister said.

That agreement led to the creation of the Treasurer’s Forum on Population – whose participants included ALGA’s President – which met in February 2019 to consider different jurisdictions’ views on migration and ways to collaborate on population planning and data sharing.

“As a first step, the forum agreed to immediately establish two working groups on Regional Analysis, and Data and Forecasting,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said after the meeting.

“These working groups will consider issues including greater data sharing, population growth projections and skills requirements,” he said.

“This will provide an opportunity for all levels of government to improve the way we work together and ensure that Australia can continue to enjoy the benefits of population growth while addressing the challenges it raises,” the Treasurer said.

But business groups have warned that cutting immigration to deeply could impact the economy significantly.

A recent Committee for Economic Development of Australia report pointed out that many industries rely heavily on migrants to fill skills gaps.