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Population explosion called health threat

Population growth is placing pressure on Australia’s public health, a peak body has warned.

On February 16, the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced the nation’s population reached 24 million. Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) chief executive Michael Moore said: “As a nation, we are not prepared for the impacts on our health and wellbeing that continued population growth brings.”

Moore said that although some say Australia should turn to decreasing the number of migrants and stopping refugees, that’s not the answer. “Where the answer lies is in terms of our assistance to our region, and particularly with regard to AusAID work and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. What we can do there is make sure that women have control over their own fertility.

"The most important thing worldwide in terms of controlling population is giving women control over their own fertility, making sure that contraception is available in its range of forms, and also that termination is available if contraception fails."

It will take only 66 years for Australia to double its population, Moore said. He questioned how Australia could keep up with the growing, ageing population if the statistics are not considered from a health perspective.

He added Australia’s capacity to sustain and manage the environment and resources are fundamental for a healthy population.

Dr Peter Tait, convener of the Ecology and Environment Special Interest Group at PHAA, said despite the size, Australia’s land mass does not have the resources to sustain a huge population.

“We are already struggling with the impact of climate change on our already ecologically challenged landscape, as industry continues to degrade it,” Tait added. “We need to maintain a healthy and safe Australia and to consider the pressures a rising population can put on our environment and resources.”

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