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Mass immigration grinds big cities to a halt - by Leith van Onselen

Anyone that lives in Sydney or Melbourne will have experienced the crippling rise in congestion on our transport networks first hand. Morning and evening peaks now run for hours, traffic is forever thick on the weekends, and the time taken to travel from point A to point B now takes longer than ever. Article originally published at

Over the weekend, The Australian confirmed what we living in the big cities already know: commuting is fast becoming a nightmare:

The number of vehicles travelling in Australian cities
has grown almost tenfold in the past 70 years and, with exponential
population growth not being met with adequate road infrastructure
upgrades, traffic speeds are crawling to a standstill…

Last year, a report from the Committee for Economic Development of
Australia said congestion could cost the nation more than $50 billion in
lost productivity by 2031 unless addressed.

The latest congestion bill was $16.5bn in 2015.

Congestion levels on major arterial roads are at a high, with most
cities suffering much slower travel times and lower average speeds than
previously recorded…

Sydney, which last year was named the nation’s most congested city by
peak transport body Austroads, has seen significant reductions in
average speeds even since 2011. The population of Greater Sydney has
risen by almost 300,000 people during that time, reaching almost five

Melbourne is growing by 2000 new drivers each week, with more than
200,000 vehicles travelling across the West Gate Bridge between the CBD
and western suburbs each day…

Between 2006 and 2013, speeds on Melbourne’s major arterial roads
have slowed by an average of 13km/h, with speeds on the West Gate
Freeway entry ramp from Williamstown Road slowing to half the speed
limit of 100km/h during morning peak hours…

The primary culprit is pretty obvious for those that care to look:
the explosion in population growth, which has seen Melbourne add one
million people over the past 12 years (a 27% increase) and Sydney add
821,000 people (a 20% increase):

In October last year, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) released a report that used Uber driver information to measure “road network performance” in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to drill down into average travel times at different hours of the day.

The results were based on the following number of drivers in each city:

ScreenHunter_15370 Oct. 11 07.21

And found that “efficiency” pretty much followed the level of population growth:

ScreenHunter_15371 Oct. 11 07.21

In Melbourne, which is the population ponzi king, travel times have
worsened materially, followed by Sydney, which has also experienced
strong population growth. Brisbane only experienced a minor worsening in
travel times. Whereas in Perth, where population growth has cratered,
travel times have actually improved.

The Bureau of Infrastructure and Regional Economics has also forecast soaring costs of congestion, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, over the next 15 years:

ScreenHunter_15369 Oct. 11 07.21

The underlying driver of this population growth and rising congestion
is the ‘Big Australia’ mass immigration program being run by the
federal government and supported by the three major political parties –
the Coalition, Labor and The Greens.

While net overseas migration (NOM) has fluctuated as long-stay
temporary migrants have come and gone, the fact remains that Australia’s
immigration settings are set at turbo-charged levels and are projected
to remain so for decades to come, thus maintaining Australia’s
population growth at around 400,000 people a year – equivalent to adding
a Canberra to Australia’s population:

Underpinning this high NOM is Australia’s permanent migration program, which is currently 200,000 a year, comprising:

  • 128,550 Skill stream places (of which half includes skilled migrant’s family members);
  • 57,400 Family stream places;
  • 308 Special Eligibility stream places; and
  • 13,750 Humanitarian places.

This permanent migration program was ramped-up massively from the early-2000s, as shown in the next chart:

Accordingly, in the 16 years to 2016, Australia’s net overseas
migration (NOM) rocketed to an annual average of 200,000 people a year –
almost triple the historical average of around 70,000 people a year.

As shown in the next chart, which comes from the Productivity Commission’s (PC) recent Migrant Intake into Australia
report, 86% of immigrants lived in the major cities of Australia in
2011, whereas only 65% of the Australian-born population did:

ScreenHunter_17913 Mar. 13 16.00

Moreover, “of the immigrants living in capital cities in 2011, most
lived in either Sydney or Melbourne, with 1.5 million residents of
Sydney and 1.3 million residents of Melbourne born overseas”
. Thus,
immigration is having a particularly big impact in Australia’s two
largest cities, which are already suffering the worst housing
affordability and congestion in Australia.

The situation is set to deteriorate even further, too, with
Australia’s population expected to grow to around 40 million mid-century
under current settings, driven almost exclusively by mass immigration:

And because of this mass immigration, Sydney’s population is
projected to grow by 87,000 people per year (1,650 people each week) to
6.4 million over the next 20-years – effectively adding another Perth to
the city’s population:

ScreenHunter_15562 Oct. 18 15.29

It’s even worse in Melbourne, whose population is projected to
balloon by 97,000 people per year (1,870 people each week) over the next
35 years to more than 8 million people – effectively adding 2.5
Adelaide’s to the city’s population over this time period:

ScreenHunter_15632 Oct. 23 12.16

It’s common sense that ramming 80,000 to 100,000 extra people into
Sydney and Melbourne each year will create immense pressures on housing,
infrastructure, congestion, and overall livability.

Even former Treasury secretary Ken Henry gets it, last year sounding the alarm that rapid population growth has overrun infrastructure and housing in the big cities:

“My observation in Sydney, in Melbourne, today is that
people already think – with very good reason – that the ratio of
population to infrastructure is too high,” he said.

Australia will need to construct a new city every year as big as
Canberra or Newcastle to accommodate the expanding number of people, he
said. Or, every 5 years,

Australia would need to build an entire new city from scratch for 2
million people; or an entire new city as big as Melbourne every decade.

Without such action, there will be more congestion, longer commute
times to work and increasing problems with housing affordability…

Where is the national plan to cope with this mass immigration? How
will Australia’s governments and businesses ensure that incumbent
Australians’ living standards will not be eroded by the associated
pressures on infrastructure, housing, the environment, and the dilution
of Australia’s fixed mineral endowment, which is a key driver of our
wealth and living standards?

Residents of Sydney and Melbourne, in particular, know that their
living standards will be smashed if mass immigration is allowed to
continue. Therefore, reducing immigration back to the long-run average
of 70,000 people annually, as advocated by the Sustainable Australia party,
is becoming critical. This would see Australia’s population stablise at
around 32 million mid-century, rather than the current projection of
around 40 million.

Because as it stands, Australia cannot possibly hope to build enough
infrastructure to supply a Canberra-worth of new residents each and
every year for decades to come, which is what we are facing under
Australia’s current mad immigration settings.

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Thanks for article Sheila, it's been put together really well. I have a sister Leah who lives in Pascoe Vale, a mid-northern suburb of Melbourne, and according to her the traffic slows around 1.00am but only moderately for about 4 hours.

She and another sister Liz had to take my niece Nina at the airport from Pascoe Vale and a trip that should only take 20 minutes took them best part of an hour on a Sunday evening. Personally I don't drive to or in Melbourne anymore as I prefer public transport although unreliable beats the hell out of driving and parking. Unless you're trying to get to the airport, of course!!

I live in a suburb 50km from Melbourne CBD. Sometimes I fly to Brisbane. It is actually faster and easier to fly from Brisbane to Melbourne than to get from Melbourne to my suburb, although there is a train direct from the city. Steve Bracks' name will ever be mud or worse for having promised a train to the airport. What liars these politicians are. They do not work for us. You have to take a bus to Southern Cross, then a train to Flinders, then a train to my suburb, then a taxi up the hill after 7pm because there are no buses after 7pm, although this is a 'transport hub' where they are planning on building up for hundreds of thousands. You could take the airport bus, but that can take 3 hours to make the trip, at some cost. Or you could drive, but you have to give yourself an hour or more for traffic jams and pay for a tollway or brave the heavy traffic on the ring-roads, and the cost of parking near the airport (within walking distance) is totally prohibitive, only equaled by the cost of parking when you go to visit someone in a suburban hospital these days. As for meeting someone 25k away, it takes 40 minutes. The best bet is to meet a friend half-way. Meetings of environmental or other activist groups, if they have interests that go beyond one suburb can take your whole day, much of it in traffic.

I heard on the Melb ABC today that the will be a conference of planners in Melbourne today and their main topic will be to make apartment living more appealing since people can no longer afford houses with gardens. A female participant was interviewed who made it clear that was Melbourne's destiny. Next in another segment I heard someone mention the word "community". I thought well there will be no "community for people living in clusters of large scale high rise.