Population Targets

23 Nov 2010 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Urban Development and Planning a question about the 30-year plan and population targets.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: There have been various population targets bandied around by this government—the State Strategic Plan is two million people by 2050, the Economic Development Board target is 2 million by 2027, and the 30-year plan targets an additional 560,000 people.
In evidence to the Environment, Resources and Development Committee population inquiry recently, DTED spokespeople restated that the 2014 target of 1.64 million people had been achieved, as within the strategic plan, but admitted that it does include individuals on student visas and 457 visas, which was changed by the ABS and, therefore, the states' calculations in 2007. My questions to the minister are:

1. Can the minister confirm what the government's official population target is?

2. How was the 560,000 figure within the 30-year plan arrived at?

3. Does this figure include non-permanent visa holders and students?

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY (Minister for Mineral Resources Development, Minister for Urban Development and Planning, Minister for Industrial Relations, Minister Assisting the Premier in Public Sector Management) (14:34): The population targets that were used in the 30-year plan were those that were approved by cabinet based on a range of advice that the government received from demographers that supply information to the state government, and also, of course, ABS statistics were also taken into consideration. The targets are what was considered a reasonable growth scenario.

It should be pointed out that, if one is giving population targets, if you like, for a 30-year plan for any planning review, and if you overachieve or underachieve on those targets, if there is such a thing, all it will do is simply adjust the timing of the plan. If you have greater growth than you think, rather than reaching what is required in planning terms in 30 years, you will reach within a shorter period. Similarly, if the population target does change from year to year, as it does, then obviously it will take longer to achieve that objective.

There has been some fluctuation in the previous 12 months. As the honourable member has just said, we have been very close to the sort of growth rate that is predicted by the 30-year plan. Regarding the 30-year plan, perhaps rather than just talking about targets—which suggests that you are actually aiming to get a particular figure—it might be more correct to talk about estimates of what the population will be over that 30-year period, and it is those estimates, if you like, that have been based on a range of information.

If one looks at projections based on all sorts of historical data, the further you go back, the lower that growth has been. So, one can project on a range of data, but what we believe that we have used from the 30-year plan is that which reflects the recent history and the likely growth this state will achieve. As I have said in the past, by historical standards, it is a reasonably ambitious target but, in terms of growth in other parts of the country, it is relatively modest.

The point is that, if we are to look forward, it is much better that we have a plan that can cope with a higher level of growth than a plan that does not allow for the growth that we might achieve. All it will mean is that you will bring forward, or push out, as the case might be, what is required under that 30-year plan to meet the actual population.

In relation to the specifics of it, it has been a long time since I have looked at whether that data looks at the non-permanent residents. Obviously, in planning terms, it really should not make much difference. Student populations, for example, require housing, public transport and all the other requirements, if you like, from planning. So, it would make sense to include their needs with any growth structure. Certainly, if one looks at the 30-year plan, there is recognition given to the requirements of students, as there ought to be, in relation to the requirements of the plan.

However, as to the specifics, as I said, it has been some time since those population targets were approved. It was probably a couple of years ago now; after all, the draft 30-year plan was put out nearly 18 months ago, I think. The plan itself was approved earlier this year. So, it has been some time, but we would expect that, over time, we will revise the plan in relation to what the actual population growth is. It may go up or down, depending on economic conditions.

In the current economic climate, it is probably likely that there may be some fall in population growth, but that could easily increase again rapidly if conditions change. What I think is important is that, if you are looking 30 years ahead, the target that you use should reflect the current conditions—or the conditions that are likely to take place over that 30-year plan—and put you roughly around the likely population target after that 30-year period.