The 2015 Intergenerational Report released this week offers a view of Australia in 2055.
The Federal Treasurer wants his Intergenerational Report projecting Australia in 2055 to begin a conversation with the Australian people. Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen says the document is too politicised to be taken seriously. Greens leader Christine Milne says the report is a ridiculous document.(SBS News)
Such divided views suggest that the Report may be worth reading to see what the fuss is about.
Getting older and working longer
An aging demographic profile and its economic consequences have occupied much of the media’s coverage. For example: Intergenerational report: Grey army marches to our rescue, in the Sydney Morning Herald.
The Rising numbers of Australians living over 100 has been a topic of media interest.
The report assumes that Australia’s population will increase by 1.3% per year which is “slightly below” the average growth rate over the past 40 years (from 1975 to 2015). This assumption leads to a conclusion that by 2055 Australia will have nearly 40 million people.
This is a projected increase of 66% on Australia’s current population of 24 million. If this growth were to be distributed evenly across the country, Redland City’s population would increase from 147,000 (2013) to 245,000 in 2055.
The report explains that:
Net overseas migration has a significant impact on population projections. Net overseas migration is mainly comprised of permanent migration (including skilled and family) and temporary migration (including temporary skilled and students). The central assumption of this report is that net overseas migration will be 215,000 people a year beyond the current forward estimates, which is based on current permanent migration intake settings.
The permanent migration intake, which was increased significantly during the mining boom, is reviewed each year in the context of the budget to reflect evolving economic and social circumstances. Temporary migration (including temporary skilled and students) has also been an important driver of increases in net overseas migration over the past decade. (Executive summary , page vii)
The report does not explain why Australia would continue with current migration intakes in the absence of a mining boom. It does provide a country by country comparison of population growth rates which shows that Australia’s growth rate over the past five years has been much higher than most industrialized counties. (Box 1.3 Page 9 – see image above).
Section 1.5 of the 2015 Intergenerational Report is titled “Managing the Environment”. It includes statements like:
Achieving strong economic growth and strong environmental outcomes are complementary objectives. Policies that create strong economic growth and a sustainable budget will mean that government is better placed to invest in environmental protection. More broadly, domestic and international experience shows that as real per capita incomes rise people are more willing not only to devote more resources to environmental improvement, but actually a growing share of their higher incomes. (page 35)
Conversely, protecting the environment can also contribute to economic growth, particularly in certain sectors. For example, an improved environment can boost opportunities for tourism, while appropriate and sustainable management of fisheries can enhance the long-term health of the fishing industry. (page 37)
As Australia’s population grows, careful land management planning and strategies will be required to mitigate the risk of biodiversity loss. Greater links between conservation and protected areas, national parks and private lands could provide corridors through which native flora and fauna can travel in response to changing habitats. (Page 38).
The Report appears to suggest the the current Government’s environmental policies such as a single National Landcare Programme, the Green Army and One Stop Shops for environmental approvals are sufficient to see Australia through the next 40 years.
The 2015 Intergenerational Report has very little to say about how climate change issues will impact Australia over the next 40 years. Peter Chistoff says in Climate is an intergenerational issue, but the report ducked it: that the Report:
mainly spends its time reassuring us that current policy is sufficient for the task and that Australia’s emissions targets will be met courtesy of the government’s A$2.5 billion Emissions Reduction Fund. It offers no critical comment about the adequacy of current targets or about additional demands for mitigation or adaptation that might arise in future.
A similar commentary is provided by WWF’s Kellie Caught in Intergenerational Report goes backwards on climate change.
Read it yourself
Here is a link to the 2015 Intergenerational Report.
Read it for yourself and then you can make a meaningful contribution to the national conversation that Joe Hockey wants us to have at every town hall, every street corner, over every barbecue.