Does Australia really need 45 million more people?

The great Australian population debate has been reignited this week with experts at loggerheads over just how big Australia should be.

The nation is currently growing at more than twice the rate of America, the United Kingdom, and even China.

Some politicians argue a booming population fuelled by immigration will guarantee our future prosperity.

‘Growing pains’ airs tonight at 8.30pm on Channel 9 after Married at First Sight. For more on 60 Minutes, visit the official website.

But it’s an argument that’s hard to cop for many everyday Aussies crushed by endless development, congestion and overcrowding.

This week the Morrison government announced a proposed cap of 160,000 new immigrants entering Australia each year to ease pressure on current infrastructure in major cities.

The number of annually available places for permanent residency is being reduced by 30,000, down from 190,000 in 2019. But is this enough?

Tonight on 60 Minutes, reporter Liam Bartlett canvasses both sides of the population debate and takes his questions all the way to the top: Federal Minister for Population, MP Alan Tudge.

When asked how big he wants Australia to become, the Minister is adamant.

“Australia can grow, but the question is about how we manage that growth,” he tells 60 Minutes.

But Bartlett questions whether it is sustainable to double Australia’s population; to have more than 45 million people calling this country home in just a few decades time.

Australian business icon Dick Smith tells Bartlett he wants a drastically lower number of people entering Australia. He says we need to slow down in order to keep up.

“We don’t want huge high rises, jammed roads, lack of quality of life,” Smith tells Bartlett.

“Our politicians say we need more infrastructure. Crap.”

But planning consultant Shane Geha says Australia needs to be bigger to be better. He says a city like Sydney should aspire to a population of about 10 million.

“We’ve got one of the luckiest countries in the world, and it can be a greater place with more people,” Geha tells Bartlett.

The idea of a growing population and a growing Australia is good for everyone.”

But while Australia’s major cities don’t at the present have the resources or infrastructure to cope with huge increases in population, regional Australia may offer a solution.

The Morrison government plans to introduce new special visas for skilled foreign workers. The visas will force them to live in regional Australia for three years before they can access permanent residency.

It’s a move which Morrison hopes could reinvigorate communities in regional Australia which are suffering from staff shortages or population decreases.

But in the big cities the questions remain, is there room for everyone? Or is Australia full?

© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2019

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