Hodg­man 650,000 tar­get way off with­out plan, says ex­pert

Sunday Tasmanian - - Front Page - DAVID BENIUK [email protected]

DRAS­TIC ac­tion is needed to put Tas­ma­nia on course to meet a key elec­tion prom­ise of Will Hodg­man’s Lib­er­als – a 650,000 pop­u­la­tion by 2050.

Re­searchers say a plan is needed ur­gently to ad­dress pre­dic­tions Tas­ma­nia’s pop­u­la­tion will rise only slightly be­fore begin­ning a fur­ther de­cline in 2047.

The Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics projects a pop­u­la­tion peak of 565,700 in 2061.

That’s nearly 100,000 fewer than the Hodg­man tar­get, to be reached a decade ear­lier.

“The Govern­ment needs to proac­tively in­flu­ence and change past trends,” de­mo­graphic con­sul­tant Lisa Denny said.

Ms Denny says the present pop­u­la­tion mix is wrong be­cause there are not enough child-pro­duc­ing adults be­tween the ages of 20 and 40.

An in­flux of re­tir­ing baby­boomers on the hunt for cheaper hous­ing and a Tas­ma­nian life­style was likely to ac­cel­er­ate the state’s age­ing pop­u­la­tion.

“We’re at risk in the short term of ac­tu­ally not be­ing able to pro­vide the life­style which Tas­ma­ni­ans are now used to,” Ms Denny said.

“We’re see­ing that now in our de­liv­ery of health, and it’s only go­ing to get worse if we don’t do some­thing about al­ter­ing our age struc­ture.”

Re­search by the Sun­day Tas­ma­nian last month found that over the past five years, Tas­ma­nia had gained more than 2000 res­i­dents aged from 50 and 64 but lost more than 6000 aged 20 to 34 to in­ter­state mi­gra­tion.

Tas­ma­nia’s pop­u­la­tion in­creased by a slug­gish 0.3 per cent – or 1541 peo­ple – to 513,955 in the year to De­cem­ber 2013, the low­est rate in the coun­try and well below the na­tional in­crease of 1.73 per cent.

Ms Denny said a dou­bling of the growth rate to 0.6 per cent was needed to reach the Govern­ment’s tar­get, and pol­icy moves in the next five years would be cru­cial.

Pop­u­la­tion re­searcher Amina Key­gan said net gains of about 2500 in­ter­state mi­grants a year, achieved dur­ing the boom years of 2004-05, would help im­prove the mix.

“While Tas­ma­nian women and cou­ples are still hav­ing rel­a­tively large fam­i­lies, there are fewer of them to have chil­dren,” Ms Key­gan said.

The State Bud­get due later this month is ex­pected to in- clude $500,000 to bol­ster skilled mi­gra­tion.

Bank of Amer­ica Mer­rill Lynch chief econ­o­mist Saul Es­lake said that strat­egy was good in prin­ci­ple but mi­grants needed com­pelling rea­sons to move to Tas­ma­nia.

“They aren’t go­ing to come or they won’t stay if there aren’t re­ward­ing jobs,” he said.

The State Govern­ment said its new De­part­ment of State Growth was de­vel­op­ing pop­u­la­tion and skilled mi­gra­tion plans.

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