With a POD after it's date of settlement (1788), what's the largest possible population for Australia? Bonus points if you can get it significantly increase it without annexation of other territories (New Guinea, New Zealand, etc). More bonus points if you don't drastically change OTL.
 
IOTL Victoria was settled in 1834-45 in Portland and Melbourne and the gold rush and population boom occurred about 15-16 years later. However an attempt to settle Victoria at sorrento occurred in 1802 that failed after about 8 months due to a poor choice of settlement site, despite good spots being visible from sorrento.

If the 1802 settlement was set up in a better spot, perhaps on the Bellerine peninsula across The Rip from Sorrento , it should have survived. Following on a similar timeline gold would be discovered 15-20 years later in about 1820 and presumably a population boom would occur 30 years earlier, a lot in a country settled as late as Australia.

Where that gets us today I have no idea.
 
IOTL Victoria was settled in 1834-45 in Portland and Melbourne and the gold rush and population boom occurred about 15-16 years later. However an attempt to settle Victoria at sorrento occurred in 1802 that failed after about 8 months due to a poor choice of settlement site, despite good spots being visible from sorrento.

If the 1802 settlement was set up in a better spot, perhaps on the Bellerine peninsula across The Rip from Sorrento , it should have survived. Following on a similar timeline gold would be discovered 15-20 years later in about 1820 and presumably a population boom would occur 30 years earlier, a lot in a country settled as late as Australia.

Where that gets us today I have no idea.

Gold was found lots of times prior to 1851 in OTL, but the GR didn't start till after California for a few reasons. Early Vic still does make a big impact though, politically changes the nation and quite possibly attracts a few more free settlers due to greater amounts of good land being available.
 
According to the Australian government, because of water demands and climate agriculturally they have more in common with Chad than any Western nation. That the max is 55 million people, beyond that water stress and desertification becomes a major threat to the long term sustainability of Australia
 
According to the Australian government, because of water demands and climate agriculturally they have more in common with Chad than any Western nation. That the max is 55 million people, beyond that water stress and desertification becomes a major threat to the long term sustainability of Australia

That seems like a reasonable estimate to me. But does it take into account how much the government is willing to sacrifice the environment for extra population? Extra water is easy to obtain through desalination, assuming one has the energy for it--Australia has much coal to produce energy, and for renewable energy, has bountiful solar potential. There's also uranium mining, since Australia has massive uranium reserves.

The biggest thing is that with extra population, Australia's food exports will decline because of the need to feed its own population.
 
That seems like a reasonable estimate to me. But does it take into account how much the government is willing to sacrifice the environment for extra population? Extra water is easy to obtain through desalination, assuming one has the energy for it--Australia has much coal to produce energy, and for renewable energy, has bountiful solar potential. There's also uranium mining, since Australia has massive uranium reserves.

The biggest thing is that with extra population, Australia's food exports will decline because of the need to feed its own population.
if you are going that way
129.57 million unemployed, immobile, probably homeless and generally unhappy people.

There are lots of factors which need to be considered in asking a question like this, but I’m assuming that the question means to ask about the maximum population Australia could sustain on its own resources.

If that’s the case, then Australia's sustainability runs into trouble immediately, as the country is nearly completely dependent on imported fuel. The report in that linked article estimated that 91 percent of Australia's oil comes from foreign sources. Australia produces in the neighborhood of 330,000 barrels of oil per day on its own, while it consumes about 1,080,000 barrels of oil per day. About three-fourths of that consumption is used for transportation.

Without doing a lot of number crunching, it's pretty easy to see that constraining Australia's economy to run on the energy it produces on its own - even when accounting for alternative sources of energy - would severely restrict Australia's ability to sustain a large, interconnected population.

Before we explore that in more detail, let's look at what energy restrictions would mean for the most vital component of population sustainability: food. Despite 94 percent of Australia's land area being, well, shit for farming† (and about 10.5 percent of it is protected from development of any kind), the country does have a significant agricultural sector.

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Source: Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, "Feeding the Future."

As a percentage of GDP, Australia's agricultural sector contributes about twice as much to its economy as the US' sector (although nowhere near as much in terms of volume). Most of this revenue comes from exports, as 60 percent of food grown in Australia is sent overseas. On paper, then, Australia could more than double the amount of food available to its population based on current production.

But let's go back to the oil problem.

In 2012-2013, Australia's agricultural sector used 90.4 PJ of energy from refined petroleum products‡. That is just shy of 15.4 million barrels of oil equivalent, or 42,500 barrels of oil equivalent per day. Of course, those are refined products' barrel equivalent, which means the actual deficiency is even greater (ie, it doesn't account for the energy needed to convert the crude product into refined gasoline). Still, it's well below the average daily oil production in Australia.

Keep in mind, though, the operation of farms is dependent on the energy sector; and while Australia's energy sector is 98 percent dependent on coal and natural gas (77 and 21 percent, respectfully), the mining sector which provides the coal for power plants gets just less than half of its energy needs from oil products, and it consumes more than twice as much oil equivalent as agriculture at just under 100,000 boe per day.

Saving the mining industry would keep Australia's power plants running, as 75 percent of electricity in Australia is generated from coal, which would allow farms to continue operating. The issue becomes figuring out how much fuel is left to transport food to the Australian people.

Taking out mining and agriculture, Australia is down to producing 187,500 barrels of oil per day. This is a problem, because Australia consumes an average of 530,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day for transportation - almost three times as much as what we've made available.

In this scenario, the Australian government would almost certainly have to restrict fuel consumption to commercial vehicles. But would that be enough?

The restrictions would go a long way, but there would still be problems. Passenger vehicles account for approximately 58 percent of vehicle fuel consumption in Australia, but that means commercial vehicles consume about 220,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day - still more than what would be available.

Of course, not all freight they carry is food-related. According to a 2002 study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, just shy of 30 percent of road freight in 2000 was for the transportation of food and beverage. If that level has remained constant, then that gives us about 66,000 boe used for the transporting of food. As a result, Australia would have a surplus of 121,500 barrels of oil daily production to use in other sectors. 20,000 of those barrels (equivalent), however, would have to be used to keep trains running (which, not incidentally, carry just shy of 14 percent of Australians' food), leaving a grand total of 101,500 boe/day left for general economic use.

That wouldn't be nearly enough to sustain Australia's current economy, much less one to support a population that approached the maximum "sustainable" level, but we're not focused on that for this question.

If 40 percent of Australia's agricultural products are going towards feeding 23.71 million people, then the entirety of Australia's food production could feed 59.28 million (which jives with data from the National Farmers Federation of Australia, which states that Australia produces enough food to feed 60 million people).

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the average Australian consumes about 3,276 calories per day. Let's say for this hypothetical, though, that on top of severely rationing fuel, the Australian government also rations people's food consumption to the bare minimum (1,200 calories for women, 1800 for men, which comes out to a population-wide average caloric intake of 1,500/person), then the amount of food produced in Australia could feed 129.57 million people.

I have no idea how any of them would be able to afford to eat, what with unemployment through the roof due to the decimated economy, or how they'd get to food centers with the abolishing of most modes of personal transportation, but the food would be there for them if they could manage it.

Fortunately, finding room for all these people would not be a problem. Australia, at about the size of the continental US (population: 310 million), would have plenty of room to grow if Australians decided that land preservation was no longer a thing they wanted to care about.

However, if Australia's urban planners took a look at the uselessness of urban sprawl in a country where nobody can travel and decided to compact everyone into mega-dense cities, that also might not be a problem.

89 percent of Australians already live in urban areas (see: a lot of the land, while beautiful, is shit for living), making it one of the most highly urbanized populations on the planet. So while it's often cited that Australia, on the whole, is one of the least most densely populated countries on the planet, when it comes to the cities, it has an average population density of 1,097 people/km2'>km 2 km2 , which is about the population density of Phoenix, Arizona.

If on top of the food and fuel rationing, the Australian government also froze the amount of land available for urban development into which it crammed all non-farm laborers (eg, effectively everyone), then the final, average urban population density would be about 6,737 people/km2'>km 2 km2 , or somewhere between the population densities of Kyoto and Rio de Janeiro.

Again, I have no idea how people would afford to live in these cities, as housing prices would skyrocket - assuming the homes were even built, what with a dramatically reduced construction and manufacturing sector - but the point is that they'd all (uncomfortably) fit.

† Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, "Australia's environment at a glance":
Only six per cent of the Australian landmass is arable. Large volumes of water are required from both surface and groundwater supplies. Australian soils are highly dependent upon vegetation cover to generate nutrients and for stability. Land clearing, water extraction and poor soil conservation are all causes of a decline in the quality of Australia’s soils.
Australian Bureau of Energy and Tourism, Office of the Chief Economist, "2014 Australian energy statistics data" Table F.
https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-highest-possible-population-that-Australia-could-sustain
Basically even technology its the land that is shit for farming, food will be a major issue
 
That sounds like the maximum, and a very useful description of Australia's capacities, but realistically, external trade can make up the difference in both food and especially energy to make that less awful living conditions. Australia's coal production/usage is very disproportionate to its population, and Australia has huge coal reservers. Conspicuous there is no reference to non-fossil fuel resources, despite Australia's uranium reserves and the solar power potential. Australian soils are mostly pretty bad, but with fertiliser can be improved (and what makes the fertiliser is a whole different matter--hence why trade is so essential).
 
Wtw, that is a superbly broken down summary, the best I've ever seen. :extremelyhappy:

That sounds like the maximum, and a very useful description of Australia's capacities, but realistically, external trade can make up the difference in both food and especially energy to make that less awful living conditions. Australia's coal production/usage is very disproportionate to its population, and Australia has huge coal reservers. Conspicuous there is no reference to non-fossil fuel resources, despite Australia's uranium reserves and the solar power potential. Australian soils are mostly pretty bad, but with fertiliser can be improved (and what makes the fertiliser is a whole different matter--hence why trade is so essential).

If Australia is populated like an anthill, using its resources to sustainable subsistence economy, what is it going to trade with? I agree about the energy, this sector is overlaid with political constraints which skew the economic conditions and thus distort the energy mix. However I doubt there are fundamental, game-changing opportunities in that area: for example we could generate more electricity but would still be constrained by limited oil, but if we made oil from coal we would be denied the electricity.
 
In the modern world Australia doesn't need to grow any food, tap any water from rivers or lakes, or have any energy resources. All of these can be imported from overseas or in the sea. Modern Australia could have as many people as China if it wanted to via open borders. They would just need to abandon e idea of growing their own food, build desalination plants, and extract and purchase whatever they need. It would require enormous amounts of money, but with a billion+ people it would be doable provided they have good institutions.
 
In the modern world Australia doesn't need to grow any food, tap any water from rivers or lakes, or have any energy resources. All of these can be imported from overseas or in the sea. Modern Australia could have as many people as China if it wanted to via open borders. They would just need to abandon e idea of growing their own food, build desalination plants, and extract and purchase whatever they need. It would require enormous amounts of money, but with a billion+ people it would be doable provided they have good institutions.

How would it pay for the imports?

How would the imported water used for irrigation be transported?
 
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If Australia is populated like an anthill, using its resources to sustainable subsistence economy, what is it going to trade with? I agree about the energy, this sector is overlaid with political constraints which skew the economic conditions and thus distort the energy mix. However I doubt there are fundamental, game-changing opportunities in that area: for example we could generate more electricity but would still be constrained by limited oil, but if we made oil from coal we would be denied the electricity.

Get more oil from the Middle East for food, as well as minerals? Coal can be phased out (in the very long term) for solar power and nuclear power. That's just the most hopeful option, not necessarily the most likely or plausible.

In the modern world Australia doesn't need to grow any food, tap any water from rivers or lakes, or have any energy resources. All of these can be imported from overseas or in the sea. Modern Australia could have as many people as China if it wanted to via open borders. They would just need to abandon e idea of growing their own food, build desalination plants, and extract and purchase whatever they need. It would require enormous amounts of money, but with a billion+ people it would be doable provided they have good institutions.

And then if anything goes wrong (Australia is prone to severe drought), millions die. And 1788 - 2038 (250 years) is not enough to get China-level of population.
 
This sort of question always begs the "when does the larger number of people arrive". If they appeared overnight of course millions would die, but if it were just from a somewhat higher growth rate spaced out over a century then presumably the economy would develop in line with this, as it did in say Canada with 35 million people. A more heavily populated Australia over a long period of time is probably a more industrialised Australia, one which in the long run would have a competitive advantage over other Western countries in trading with Asia in high tech/high quality industrial products thanks to proximity. Even 60 million people by 2017 would not stress non-agricultural resources in any measurable sense, there's still a huge amount of mineral wealth per capita. A different demographic evolution also implies a different urban development with probably more Adelaide sized cities as opposed to Melbourne/Sydney being London sized. Wollongong/Newcastle with a million each for instance.
 
No need to irrigate land for farming, just import food.

Sounds like a setup for disaster the same way Stalin's famines or Mao's economics were for whatever good intention they might've had.

How does "Australia doesn't need to grow any food, tap any water from rivers or lakes, or have any energy resources" correspond with gaining a comparative advantage? Especially when water is very useful for mining resources and those energy resources (fossil fuels or not) are some of Australia's strength? What do you view as Australia's advantage, when OTL, a huge part of that advantage is the agriculture and energy exports, like exports of coal to China and Japan? A certain squandering of natural resources can always be worked with, due to environmental concerns (which often is just "let's be cautious with things lest they end up really bad"), but let's not waste Australia's potential. At the very least, Australia should be self-sufficient agriculturally, which it easily can, even with a couple million more people.
 
How does "Australia doesn't need to grow any food, tap any water from rivers or lakes, or have any energy resources" correspond with gaining a comparative advantage?

Just as it sounds. Australia can utilize those resources if they want, but don't have to. They can sustain a massive civilization in the modern world without any of those things. Having them just makes it easier.

At the very least, Australia should be self-sufficient agriculturally, which it easily can, even with a couple million more people

This is much closer to the kind of thing that leads to catastrophes as seen in communist countries. A strong belief that a country needs to ignore market prices and aim for self sufficiency. This thankfully can't really result in catastrophe in a country as developed as modern Australia, but obsessions with autarky and centralized planning is what caused the disasters you spoke of.
 
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Just as it sounds. Australia can utilize those resources if they want, but don't have to. They can sustain a massive civilization in the modern world without any of those things. Having them just makes it easier.



This is much closer to the kind of thing that leads to catastrophes as seen in communist countries. A strong belief that a country needs to ignore market prices and aim for self sufficiency. This thankfully can't really result in catastrophe in a country as developed as modern Australia, but obsessions with autarky and centralized planning is what caused the disasters you spoke of.

Firstly the market is highly manipulated, for example oil is the bedrock of the globalised economy but it is heavily influenced by the machinations of OPEC. What's more a lot of energy commodities are linked to this manipulated oil price for their own pricing.

Secondly the market dictates that a lot of food us grown in Australia, despite a regulatory regime in many ways hostile to Australian producers. Energy is similar in a lot of ways, so self sufficiency is getting close to a byproduct of market forces such as they are. Given that this is the case the market regulations can be altered to increase the percentages if self suffiency is a goal.
 
This is much closer to the kind of thing that leads to catastrophes as seen in communist countries. A strong belief that a country needs to ignore market prices and aim for self sufficiency. This thankfully can't really result in catastrophe in a country as developed as modern Australia, but obsessions with autarky and centralized planning is what caused the disasters you spoke of.

Certainly, but Australia is one of the major food exporters. Maybe Australia doesn't need to be self-sufficient in all agricultural goods of all types, but saying "let's import all food" instead, when agriculture is one of Australia's comparative advantages seems kind of odd. Even trimming back what's given toward agriculture would probably still result in an Australia which is exporting food, although what that might do to world food prices and associated agricultural policies in other countries would be interesting. Not really what the thread's about, however.

Although capacity as a food exporter is always useful, it isn't everything for determining theoretical maximum population of a given area, which is what this thread calls for. Subsistence farming exists, after all.
 

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This is much closer to the kind of thing that leads to catastrophes as seen in communist countries. A strong belief that a country needs to ignore market prices and aim for self sufficiency. This thankfully can't really result in catastrophe in a country as developed as modern Australia, but obsessions with autarky and centralized planning is what caused the disasters you spoke of.
Well having an obsession with autarky is bad, but being able to become an autarky in times of crisis is probably good. For example, Canada is always going to have enough food and freshwater to support its population as well as domestic sources of natural gas and plenty of mineral deposits. Meanwhile, an Australia with 900 million people is screwed if anything goes wrong.
 
Given the inability to keep the lights on in South Australia at the moment, self suffiency is a hot topic rather than some academic talking point.
 
Although I agree with @wtw's assessment from a western consumption standpoint, Can increase population of diet is less western.

The Japanese are roughly around 2,800 calorie with 1/10 arable land of Australia, less renewable water resources. The Japanese don't even have natural resources like oil enough for their population. But They are developed and roughly the same developed lifestyle as Australia. Nor is Japan is as poor as Chad.

The point being more population developed country is viable, just to have to sacrifice that western lifestyle/consumption/self reliance thinking of resources.

My rough assessment is if Australia consumed roughly around like the Japanese, Australian population could be around 130m to 250M. If want to retain the western lifestyle then wtw assesment is correct.
 
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