Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 12:30 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 12:30 | SYDNEY

A bigger Australia? Speculation and polls


Fergus Hanson


8 April 2010 08:41

Last week Dick Smith wrote under the headline, 'The people have spoken, halt population growth':

For the past three months I’ve been traveling all over the country talking to people about plans to rapidly increase our population. Nine out of 10 people I talk to oppose the idea.

Others read the mood in a similar way. Before opinion polls were widely used, President Roosevelt apparently used to dip his arm into a barrel of letters and choose one at random in an effort to try and gauge public sentiment.

And that is the problem with the less rigorous ways of guessing what the public in general want — it's pretty hard to get right. It's in these knowledge gaps that polling can serve a useful function. In March, the Lowy Institute asked a nationally representative sample of 1,001 Australians what they thought was the best population size for Australia by 2050:

  • Almost three quarters (72%) of Australians supported a bigger Australia. But 69% preferred a population smaller than the 36 million predicted in the government’s Intergenerational Report
  • Forty-three percent of Australians said the best population size for Australia in 2050 was 30 million; 23% chose 40 million, and 6% chose 50 million people or more.
  • Twenty-two per cent were happy with the current level and only 4% wanted a smaller population than Australia has now.

Photo by Flickr user Christopher Chan, used under a Creative Commons license.