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Poor planning causes overcrowding

Population Minister Alan Tudge has suggested that Melbourne and Sydney are experiencing significant pressure from excessive population growth. He’s probably got a point, but his ‘solution’ — forcing immigrants to live in areas with less population pressure for at least five years after permanent residency is granted — demonstrates Tudge’s complete lack of knowledge of the subject matter he is responsible for implementing on behalf of the Australian Government.

That’s not to suggest for a minute that there are not any other places worth living in across Australia — there are thousands of them. Small towns do generally have a greater sense of community, and clearly if immigrants move into regional communities with lower levels of population growth, there is an increase in demand for goods and services in those communities. That’s not a bad thing, but according to former Border Force Commissioner Quaedvilieg, the proposal to link residency visas with residential locations is difficult to enforce, even if it is theoretically legal.

The Department of Home Affairs and Border Security produced a report in January 2014 that concluded

The migration program has been one tool with which governments have attempted to support regional development by helping to meet the skills needs of regional employers and of adding to the stock of residents living in regional areas. However, one of the key challenges in utilising the migration program to assist in regional development outcomes has been in ensuring that migrants who do settle in regional areas stay there over the long-term. But the extent to which migration-based interventions actually facilitate long-term regional retention remains unclear. In order to develop more effective policies and programs in this area, the academic literature suggests that it is therefore important to develop an understanding of the factors that contribute to regional retention.

Loosely translated — there is more work to be done than to just tell people they have to stay in an area for five years which isn’t necessarily the person’s first choice.

Tudge, like a lot of coalition politicians is taking population growth, in part caused by migration, and comparing it with the infrastructure difficulties that are encountered in Sydney and Melbourne (as well as other areas of Australia such as South East Queensland). The connection is to a large extent nonsensical.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened in 1932 and photos of the bridge in the ‘good ole days’ show rail lines where they are now, tram lines on the other extremity and six traffic lanes in between. While the tram lines were converted to traffic lanes, the Harbour Bridge was constructed with plenty of room for future expansion. It’s the same with the Storey Bridge in Brisbane, opened in the 1940’s with six traffic lanes.

Fast forward a few decades and the Harbour Tunnel was constructed to relive pressure on the Harbour Bridge. It opened in 1992 and has two lanes in each direction. By 2008, the tunnel was being used by up to 90,000 vehicles a day. Brisbane’s ‘Clem7’ tunnelwhich runs close to the Storey Bridge is also a two lane each way tunnel and has never met the traffic expectations of the proponents since it opened in 2010, probably because the ‘time savings’ do not justify the toll charge. Brisbane’s Clem7 could have been constructed with three lanes each way for another $20million on the $3.2billion construction cost, but the decision was made not to do so.

And there is the problem in a sentence. If you are buying clothes for your 2-year-old child, there is always the temptation to buy the next size up, even if it costs a little more upfront as the child will grow into the item of clothing and your dollar will go further. The alternative is going back to the store of your choice within a few weeks because of a growth spurt. Likewise, we know that (in this case) South East Queensland is growing rapidly. While a road tunnel with two lanes in each direction comfortably handled the traffic flows at the time it was opened and probably will for some for some years to come, it will reach capacity quicker than the three-lane tunnel proposal. Back in the first half of the last century they knew that cities, like children, would grow and built accordingly.

There was no need to build the Harbour Bridge, the Storey Bridge, St Kilda Road or any number of other pieces of infrastructure constructed in the first half of the last century to the scale they did, but they did it anyway. However as these structures that were designed with room for growth do eventually reach their capacity, there is frequently a decade or so of political infighting and sledging before the solution commences construction so we are stuck in a perpetual cycle of catching up to current demand.

In Melbourne, clearly the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne is at capacity — they are building a companion tunnel only 40 or so years after the bridge opened as poor planning has made it the only direct connection between Melbourne’s CBD and the western suburbs. The tunnel to act as a companion to the Westgate Bridge was first mooted in 2006 — it will apparently open in 2022.

While it seems that a lot of recent immigrants have settled in Sydney and Melbourne, it is disingenuous at best to suggest that infrastructure capacity problems are solely caused by immigration — it’s more to do with politicians lacking the vision that their predecessors from a century ago obviously had. After all, it’s not only recent immigrants that live in Sydney, Melbourne and other parts of Australia that are growing faster than the average.

The Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government has a long history of dog whistling to turn opinions against those who don’t look like them (generally middle-aged to elderly white men). First we had ‘stop the boats’, then the ‘gangs of African youths terrorising Melbourne’ and now the same people are being blamed for failures of politicians over the past 40 years to argue the case for additional capacity when expensive infrastructure is built. Because in the long term it’s cheaper to build it once with some growing room — just like the 2-year old’s new t-shirt.

It’s time to call Tudge’s thought bubble out for what it is — racism.

What do you think?

This article by 2353NM was originally published on The Political Sword.

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  1. helvityni

    It’s the usual Oz punishment, we’ll punish the possible new migrants by banishing them to some half-dead country towns…

    Why does Tudge think that the immigrants would be happy to pick berries or start yet another fruit shop…no customers..

    The young people of those towns have left because there are no jobs for them…

  2. New England Cocky

    Perhaps the optimal solution to asymmetrical population growth is the re-distribution and decentralisation of government jobs into regional urban centres.

    With high speed Internet connections it is quicker to send a email across the world than have a messenger person, 19th century style, hand deliver to the office across the road, or even between floors in the same building.

    So why have government departments stacked one on top of the other for the benefit of now redundant messenger persons?

    Better to have 100 government jobs decentralised to a regional urban centre and create a localised “economic boom” by the subsequent growth caused by supplying all human needs and services.

    Even government job creates a further about 3.5 private sector jobs in the local community.

    So, if each government job supports Mum, Dad & two kids, decentralising 100 government jobs moves 100 x 4 = 400 persons out of a metropolitan area, reducing housing demand in an inflating market.

    Now, the private sector benefits by 350 x 4 = 1400 persons moving out, for a total 1800 persons moving to fresh air, wide open spaces and free-flowing traffic to nearby jobs.

    These 1800 persons require say, 400 new residential premises, 700 students need 35 new teachers, 1new doctor, 1 dentist etc, etc, etc. The spiral winds up to benefit everybody ….. except city developers.

    For far too long the National$ have been content to export your kids to metropolitan cities rather than encourage decentralisation of government jobs because ….. the workers would likely vote ALP and upset the financially rewarding sinecures reserved for squattocracy unsuited to any real work.

  3. Diannaart

    Usual brain fart from the Libs.

    Make a decree, do zilch to provide support, infrastructure and incentive to enable “idea”.

  4. DrakeN

    Not neccessarily.
    Political expediency?
    Covering up the fact that the government has failed to properly plan and provide for the known requirements of a dramatically increasing population.
    “We will decide who comes into our country…” (but we will pass on the problems associated with our decisisons onto the States’ and Cities’ governments.)
    NeoLiberals who want more people from whom to profit, but who want to pay as little as possible for the priviledge, are ruining the country.

  5. guest

    We can see the lack of Coalition imagination in almost every policy they introduce – and in the lack of all the ones they fail to produce.

    When there are problems, for them it is someone else’s fault. That is when they start exerting top-down authority measures that affect everyone in the long run.

    They talk about individuals (as opposed to society or community); individual choice (opposed to government decree); free trade and market forces (opposed to central control); entrepreneurial initiative (opposed to bureaucratic muddle), etc.

    What we see is their inability to implement policies because they believe in small government; which means they do nothing except to shift the furniture to make it look as if they are doing something – or they blame the Opposition.

    The latest non-policy is to give large tax cuts to suggest to industry that they do something, but industry has other plans for the money.

    And yet, you know, people actually voted them into government and then wonder why the feeble government fails to fulfill expectations. The same government which does not want people to make decisions for themselves, such as where to live.

  6. DrakeN

    “And yet, you know, people actually voted them into government…”

    Which is exactly why there needs to be a requirement for “truth in reporting” in the media.

    Conditions on commercial and political publications, similar to those imposed by its charter onto the ABC, would suffice.

  7. paul walter

    Perhaps the most extreme of the IPA types within this right wing government is this creature, chiefly remembered for the brutal robodebt scammed imposed on the poorest members of our community.

    But as guest points out, long has big business “had other plans” for the money expropriated from the needy, stolen llke wheat from a blind fowl by Tudge and his brutal playmates, the same people who want to see little children on Nauru die a slow and agonising death to the extent even of preventing a charitable organisation, MSF, assuming our responsibilities for free.

  8. Pete R

    Poor planning causes overcrowding. What planning?
    Australia does not yet have a Population Policy.

    In 2017 a city the size of Geelong or Woolongong (300k) was effectively added to the continent.
    What would it cost to build a city of that size from scratch, the public infrastructure and services?
    A lot more than State or Fed govt are throwing at it for sure.
    The result of the population ponzi is what?
    Urban sprawl-concrete jungles, congested roads-transport- schools-hospitals, inflated land costs etc.

    The main two problems are:
    1) childish political environment and,
    2) a childish mainstream media

  9. David Stakes

    One should see the new under city tunnel in Singapore, 4 lanes each way and a 2 lane exit tunnel halfway along in either direction for city access. Gives fast access from the airport to the western side of Singapore. Biult in 2 years apparently. We would be still thinking about it, and paying vast amounts of money too consultants. But Singapore is like that, they just get on and build it. All done 24/7

  10. Andrew Smith

    One commonality amongst these political narratives blaming ‘immigrants’ or ‘population growth’ for any issue is the lack of attention paid to fossil fuels or related e.g. vehicle usage, roads, car parks, emissions etc., let alone discouraging use.

    Melbourne and Sydney suffered the oil and auto powered transformations like LA and many American cities, the Standard Oil and related template, ripping up electric street cars etc. in favour of petrol driven vehicles, roads and low density suburbs.

    We have become well conditioned to vent and complain about 2nd hand cigarette smoke e.g. banned outside cafes, while no one bats an eyelid at breathing in exhaust fumes?

  11. Lloyd

    There should be incentives for ALL people to stop contributing to the population for a bit. It’s out of hand. No one wants to talk about it but there are too many people and it’s only going to get worse.

  12. king1394

    Many country towns also lack the infrastructure to cope with a sudden population increase. Railway lines have been closed, as have schools, banks and post offices. Rural roads are narrow and in poor repair. Doctors and medical facilities are limited. Many of the rural jobs that have disappeared are related to the closures listed as well.

  13. Glenn Barry

    Tudge the human smudge, I’ve learnt from watching his press conferences and any other associated media appearance that basically everything that the man says is garbage.

    The infrastructure debacle is across both Federal and State Govts. of all persuasions, but the Libs are an order of magnitude worse than everyone else.

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