Regions can be part of Australia's population growth solution

CONCERNS: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has put population growth on the agenda. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett
CONCERNS: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has put population growth on the agenda. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett

A woman from the city was driving through the country, admiring the beauty of the rolling meadows she never saw from her inner-city flat.

Suddenly, she saw a three-legged chicken by the side of the road.

The chicken took off at high speed down the highway, with the city slicker in hot pursuit. She found herself travelling at 100km/h just to keep up with the chicken. Eventually, the three-legged chicken turned down a dirt track and ran into a barn.

The woman from the city knocked on the door of the house to inform the farmer: “Excuse me, and you’re not going to believe this, but I just saw a three-legged chicken run into your barn!”

The farmer responded casually: “Yeah, I know. I breed them.”

“But how?” asked the city woman. “Genetic engineering. A little dabble here, a little dabble there ... before you know they’ve got three legs instead of two.” 

“But why?” she asked. “Well,” said the farmer, “you know how everybody loves chicken and everybody wants the drumstick? Well now you’ve got three drumsticks for the price of two.” 

“So what do they taste like?” asked the woman from the city.

The farmer looked at her a little embarrassed and responded: “I don’t know. I’ve never been able to catch one.”

Hearing Prime Minister Scott Morrison telegraphing his intentions to lower migration left me with mixed musings.

The PM said he’s concerned by the rate of population growth, even putting the rising populations of Sydney and Melbourne down to being a “victim of our own success”.

The birth rate in Australia is currently 1.81 per woman, which means couples are not even replacing themselves.

Even so, if you encourage families to have more children these days, you are written off as either a religious nut or, ironically, a misogynist.

The government has tried to remedy the situation through migration, and now Australia has one of the highest migration rates in the world.

However, this hasn’t helped states like Tasmania or South Australia, which still desperately need skilled workers.

Two years ago, it was revealed that only 10.45 per cent of Australia’s population were living in rural areas.

For most in Australia, it’s just a given they will always live in the city. I’m one of that rare breed who grew up in the city, went to the country for a visit in their youth and never went back.

I’m currently working in Sydney for a month, and already my astute intellect is noticing differences between the country and the city.

I’m discovering there’s more people here in the city than in the country. They’re better drivers in the city than me. Well, that’s true in the country too so...

But here’s an annoying difference: in the country, a 20-minute commute is always a 20-minute commute.

In the city, a 20-minute commute is NEVER a 20-minute commute! It’s 50 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes in the day and an hour in the rat race home.

Of course, if you do the same trip late at night it’s five minutes if you get the traffic lights, but the traffic lights are EVERYWHERE! OK, slight exaggeration.

Living back in the city, I can certainly see the advantages.

However, we rarely extol the wonderful advantages of living in rural Australia. 

And if more people did, it would be to everybody’s advantage.

It’s cheaper to live in the country and people renting a shoebox in the city could afford a house in the country – maybe even some land.

It sounds “out there”, but if the government would at least make a start on high-speed rail it would provide employment for rural Australians and, eventually, make living in the country an option even for those who have to work in the city.

There’s more votes in the city than in the country, I know.

But if politicians could put a little more focus on the needs of rural Australians, especially struggling farmers – without whom there is no economy – our entire population would be better off.

Twitter: @fatherbrendanelee

Living back in the city, I can certainly see the advantages. However, we rarely extol the wonderful advantages of living in rural Australia and if more people did, it would be to everybody’s advantage.