Goats on our roads

Goats on our roads


Seems the latest food fashion in Australian politics is Goat a la scāpé. And it’s being served at both parties.

Politicians are spruiking lowering migration, or at the very least defuse it from the big cities, as it seems foreigners are clogging up our roads. (At least they stopped stealing our sheep!)

The claim seems to follow a simple rationale:
1. Cities (e.g. Melbourne and Sydney) are getting bigger
2. The increase is mostly driven by overseas migration
3. This is putting more people on the roads
4. Hence increased traffic congestion (and insinuations of other social ills)

In short, migrants = traffic congestion. A simple, winning argument.
Except, I’m not convinced it’s true.

Points 1 and 2 are fine. Overseas migration is the largest component of population growth in Australia, particularly our largest cities. Point 3, on the other hand, seems flawed in two ways:

a. The driver: increased congestion could be caused by centralisation of workforce, and
b. Diversity: not all people are equal (in how they travel to work).

While they may appear minor oversights at first, these flaws are so fundamental that migrants may not only be a non-issue, but in fact part of the solution.


Are we jumping to conclusions?

But before we begin, is it worth questioning the conclusion in the first place? How much worse is congestion getting in our big cities? According to the Grattan Institute “the length and time of commutes barely changed in Australia’s biggest cities during the exceptionally rapid population growth between 2011 and 2016. In Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, commute distances in 2016 were almost indistinguishable from 2011″¹.


Let’s focus on Melbourne city to examine this further.

The number of people who work in Melbourne city grew 21% in the period 2011 to 2016, from 347k to 422k². That’s way faster than Melbourne’s overall population increase of 13% in the same period. The increase in CBD jobs may also be driven by the changing make up by industry, i.e. the increase in professional, hospitality, and finance jobs which tend to be more centralised. So, it’s likely there would be more people working in the CBD even without the new migrants.

Yet, even though the number of city workers has increased by 75,000, there’s only 4,000 more people driving into town in 2016 than there were in 2011. That’s because the way in which people travel to work has changed. A smaller percentage drive, and a greater percentage catch public transport, walk/ride or work from home.


This change seems to be led by recent migrants. City workers who are long term Melbourne residents (i.e. have lived within the Melbourne Metropolitan area for at least 5 years) are 2.5 times more likely to drive to work than recent migrants. While recent migrants are almost 2.5 times more likely to walk or ride to work. Workers who moved to Melbourne from elsewhere in Australia (including country Victoria or interstate), fall somewhere in between.



If the percentage of people driving into town had not changed since 2011, Melbourne would have had an extra 14,000 cars on the road in 2016, not the 4,000 increase which occurred.

This of course is also overly simplifying. Congestion would also have changed the choices of the long-term Melbourne residents if they needed to take on city jobs. But I doubt it would have changed them enough as to resemble the choices of recent migrants. This would include large social changes, an increased acceptance of inner-city apartment living, and waving goodbye to the American Australian home-owning dream.

Similarly, Melbourne could move away from its current thriving tech, financial, educational and hospitality industries which centralise the workforce in town. Specially as without the recent migrants Melbourne would struggle to fill those jobs, as the skills may not be available locally.

But in the current world, the fact that such a large percentage of city workers are recent migrants seems to be the main reasons our roads are not at a stand-still.





  1. Terrill, Marion, Batrouney, Hugh, Ha, James, and Hourani,Diana (2018). Remarkably adaptive: Australian cities in a time of growth. Grattan Institute.
  2. All travel to work data sourced form the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census 2011 and 2016.

No cause for celebration

No cause for celebration

With the end of year festivities behind us, those of us fortunate enough to have a job have one thing on our minds… the next public holiday.

Unfortunately our next public holiday is one which comes with mixed feelings. Sure, it’s a day off in the Australian Summer, perfectly timed to enjoy the world’s biggest music democracy, but it is also a reminder that Australia (like many countries) has not faced up to its horrific past.

Most of the 197 countries with a recognised ‘national day’ on Wikipedia¹ celebrate one of the following categories:

  • 143 – Independence from a foreign oppressor or colonial power
  • 22 – Drastic change of governance (e.g. a revolution, becoming a communist nation, or a republic), usually towards its current form
  • 13 – Royalty (e.g. Queen’s birthday, Coronation day)
  • 9 – Unification from previously separate nations, or a separation from a previous group
  • 4 – a religious occasion

Four countries chose a different cause for celebration:

  • Portugal commemorates the death of a famous poet, Luís de Camões (best national day ever!)
  • Spain remembers having colonised an entire continent
  • New Zealand celebrates the Treaty of Waitangi, between the British Crown and Māori chiefs; and
  • 1 country celebrates the day on which a foreign colonial power invaded its land, and started a devastation which led to the death of an estimated 90% of its native population.

Australia – the only country in the world which celebrates having been invaded/ colonised – the day in which another nation’s flag was raised on its soil, (the British Flag in Sydney Cove).

Many momentous occasions have taken place since Australia gained independence in 1901². The combination of these has led to what many of us enjoy today.

Choosing the perfect day will no doubt be a difficult decision. But avoiding one of the worst should be a no-brainer.

Celebrating the beginning of a massacre, dispossession, and centuries of legislated racial discrimination which almost destroyed the ‘oldest living cultural history in the world’³ shows an absolute lack of empathy for humanity, and seems entirely at odds with what one might expect are commonly held beliefs of “modern Australians”.

The devastation of Australia’s first peoples was so severe that over six times more Indigenous people died by Australian Federation than all Australian war casualties in all wars, ever (4).

The Indigenous population is only now reaching pre-colonisation numbers, over two centuries on (5).

Recognising that colonialists were not the national heroes we once painted them to be is not a novel idea. Countries across the American continent (6) have long been moving away from celebrating Columbus Day, which marked Spanish colonisation. Instead focusing on the impact colonisation had on indigenous peoples across the continent, and the work needed to mend interactions.

The 26th January is not a day for BBQs, beers, and country-wide sing-alongs to the year’s best music.

It’s a day of mourning.

Perhaps a day to acknowledge how far we’ve come, and reflect on how far we’ve got to go.




[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Day

[2] http://www.australia.gov.au/about-government/how-government-works/federation

[3] http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/austn-indigenous-cultural-heritage

[4] https://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/war_casualties/ – All war casualties =  102,815. Indigenous casualties is estimated by the loss of 90% of commonly agreed estimate of 750,000 people pre-invasion

[5] http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3238.0.55.001 compared to pre-colonisation estimates

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbus_Day

You son of a migrant!

You son of a migrant!

Over the course of the 20th century Australia experienced a remarkable increase in high school graduation rates.  This has been relatively stable for almost two decades at 74%, but is it evenly spread across the community?


One interesting variable impacting education attainment is immigration status.  It is not surprising that when designing an obstacle course for foreigners to jump through in order to be granted visas, the immigration department would include an education hoop.  As such, the fact that migrants have higher rates of high-school completion than the local variety is to be expected.
The extent of this effect is somewhat dependant on which corner of the globe the migrants arrive from, but all regions result in higher rates than those born in Australia*.
The data herein refers to people aged 20 to 29, to focus on the more current situation, while also reducing the impact of the change over time while also being mindful the rates have been stable since the mid 1990s.
* Regions grouped by the Standard Australian Classification of Countries( SACC)2011: http://abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/1269.0
Interestingly, however, this effect endures beyond the first generation.  According to Census 2011 data, people born in Australia to two migrant parents are 18% more likely to complete high school than Australians with non-migrant parents.  Those with one migrant parent are 8% more likely (this appears to be the case regardless of whether the migrant is the mother or father).
Unfortunately the Census does not provide information beyond the previous generation, so we can’t (from this source) examine how long the migrancy influence is felt for.  
Come November, data on tertiary education will become available, allowing for much greater analysis of such topics. More to come.
All data presented in this post was sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2011 Census: http://abs.gov.au/websitedbs/censushome.nsf/home/Census?opendocument#from-banner=GT