A new centre for population has been launched to help the federal government keep tabs on migration rates and “ensure Australia remains united and together as a people”.
Based in the Treasury, the hub of roughly 20 staff will deal with all population-related government matters and will work with academics, think tanks, and jurisdictions to share research and expertise on population.
According to Minister for Population, Cities and Urban infrastructure Alan Tudge, the centre will analyse data and policy to “achieve a more optimal settlement pattern in Australia”, support the nation’s cities and regions, and keep the people united.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison introduced a Population portfolio inside of Treasury last year, along with a population plan.
“We outlined an initial population plan which reduced our migration rate, encouraged more growth in the regions and smaller cities and boosted congestion busting infrastructure,” Tudge said in a statement on Friday.
“Importantly, it foreshadowed working more closely with the states and territories to integrate the differing responsibilities that each level of government has.”
COAG will establish a Population Planning Framework to be considered by treasurers and government leaders in the coming months, while the new centre will focus on integrating and sharing population data from across the Commonwealth and states, provided they agree.
“Even within the Australian government, there are data sets from at least eight different agencies that are not adequately coordinated and integrated,” Tudge said.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Treasury, the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Education, the Department of Health, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the Department of Social Services, and the Department of Infrastructure will be brought together.
The centre will also attempt to make accurate population projections so local and state governments can plan and will take over responsibility of forecasting net overseas migration. It will report on the nation’s population composition, distribution, and broader demographic trends in an annual National Population Statement starting next year.
Last month, Tudge spoke of the government’s hopes to settle more refugees in country towns to ease the pressure of rapidly growing populations on Australia’s major cities.
“While we don’t want, and nor would it be feasible, to have some grand master-planned Australia, we do need to take a stronger position on our settlement patterns using the policy levers at our disposal,” he said. “The risk otherwise is that in 30 or 40 years’ time, Australia will end up with two or three megacities, but relatively sparse development elsewhere.”