Population and Migration: Understanding the Numbers
Australia is largely a nation of immigrants. From the First Fleet to the post-war wave of assisted passages, to the present day, migration has always been at the centre of this country’s development. As time has passed, however, and our population has grown and spread, it is natural that the consensus that we must ‘populate or perish’ would give way to more diverse and nuanced perspectives about migration and population growth, and the policy implications. Debate has ebbed and flowed over the years and flared up again in the lead-up to the federal election. However, that debate arguably was not as well informed by the facts as the topic deserves. Many numbers were cited, drawing on various demographic concepts, but these often appeared contradictory or based on only part of the story. As a consequence, the public is likely to have been left confused, bemused or misled on what is a key public policy issue. In this Research Paper, the Commission has sought to improve the information base for public discussion by describing the main demographic trends and what lies behind them. That said, it does not seek to be exhaustive, but rather to focus on those features that seem most important.
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