Because as others have said, under current conditions, only 30% of Australia is not classified as arid or desert. With modern technology, it would be theoretically possible to bring water to many of the arid areas but this would still not overcome many of the problems.
In the arid areas, most of the soil is extremely infertile, so in addition to supplying water to these areas, in order for them to be useful for agriculture the soil would have to be artificially enriched. To achieve both of these requirements would be prohibitively expensive.
The only practical way to do it would be in very small increments. This would eventually allow the country to increase population tremendously, but it would still be a very slow process.
The interior of the USA has a much better water supply, which supported more vegetation and allowed more animals to thrive, and this was largely undisturbed for millennia. With a lot of vegetation holding down the soil and preventing massive erosion it was far more fertile.
Australia has no significant mountain ranges apart from the Great Dividing Range which runs down the east coast of Australia, and even that is dwarfed by the mountain ranges in the USA. As a result, powerful westerly winds eventually denuded much of the areas west of the Great Dividing Range of the more fertile topsoil.
The only major inland river system in Australia is the Murray-Darling basin which mainly covers a portion of the south east quarter of Australia. The water supply, particularly from the Darling River, is already inadequate, and frequently becomes a series of waterholes in drought conditions. It would never be a practical endeavour to siphon off any of this water and run pipelines from it to other areas.
So in order to make much larger areas of Australia suitable for much larger populations, we would need to supply enormous amounts of water, build infrastructure where there is currently none, build cities and towns where there are none, build industries and provide work where there is nothing, and above all, convince people to move to those areas, when the present meccas for recent immigrants are the large established cities, specially Sydney and Melbourne.
This may indeed happen in the future, but at the moment, although by most world standards Australia is a rich country, it is not rich enough to do all this without risking total bankruptcy.
Australia has 24.5 Million people currently. Australia is also growing very fast. In fact in some ways, Australia is a developed country that is growing at developing country rates.
No, it is not that odd. The Americas was discovered by Europeans a long time ago, some say 1492, some say even earlier. There were large waves of migration out of Europe in the 1600’s and 1700’s. The US was quite close to Europe, so tickets were cheap, and travelling distance was small.
Wow, it only took half a year to get to Australia.
Compared to how long it took to get to Canada, it is surprising that anyone actually made it to Australia.
Also North America is right next to central America and South America, who had very large indigenous populations compared to Australia. Australia pre-industralisation, was a tough place for humans to live. Even when Europeans arrived early colonies struggled. It wasn’t particularly attractive for agriculture until industrisation arrived with machines to assist with agriculture.
However, Australia is likely to continue to grow for a long time.
It is highly likely that Australia will grow between medium growth and high growth.
Think of Australia as like the US, in the 1850’s.
4k Views · 22 Upvotes · Answer requested by David Schrader
It is true that most of the Australian continent is desert and have scarcity of water. However, the arid weather, desert or lack of rivers has never been an excuse for lack of occupancy to mankind. Deserts like Sahara (Africa), North West India, Gobi (China, Mangolia) have seen mankind settled and spread for thousand years.
Australian continent has been separated from the main land or the ‘old’ world for thousands of years. The aboriginals or natives of Australia have their partial origins in ASEAN islands and Indian subcontinent. However they have been isolated from the main land for a significant era of time. Had the aboriginal been in touch with the main stream world, Australia would have been a populous country even before British fleets landed on its shores. The reason why population of Australian natives never grew significant was not because the weather was harsh. The native tribes are found all over Australia, even in extreme weather conditions.
However not having any touch with the old world such as India and Middle East, from where the new trends of knowledge, science, agriculture and herbal medicine could have flown, was a crucial bottleneck for the natives. Not having upgraded their medical and agricultural knowledge, their rate of population growth was never significant to occupy the continent. Survival was the only strategy for these tribes for centuries.
The population of Australia started growing only after 19th century, mainly because of NSW and Victorian Gold Rush for the prospects of gold, business and agriculture. Most of the population migrated mainly from from Great Britain and some from other parts of Europe.
The next major migration started a few decades ago, when Australian Economy modernised and started being called ‘USA in Making’. The technology boom attracted skilled professionals and students from from all over the world especially from Europe, China and India. The Australian Government realised that the key to grow economy and services is to allow controlled immigration of different diversity groups from over the world. Australia has also opened its gates from time to time to refugees of wars and calamities including Vietnam, Syria, Sri Lanka etc.
The rate of population growth of Australia has been quite high in last two decades. The only problem currently is that the population growth is concentrated only in bigger cities and most of the growth is through migration which may not be sustainable for long time.
Primary as Australia’s Government is keeping its population just below the lands carrying capacity (maximum sustainable population), and so is not overpopulated in the way the USA is. It’s 23 million residents on average require 7.7 hectares of productive land to sustain their lifestyles (171 million ha total), which given its 46 million ha of agricultural land, 125 of forest, 7 million of mining, … it has a small surplus, and so afford to set aside several million ha of forests for wildlife, and still offer a sustainable lifestyle, for its current population. Though water scarcity is an issue in some regions, due to the uneven population distribution. Similiarly the 36 million in Canada, with their 7.83 ha / per capita (281 million ha total) lifestyle, is sustainable, with their 46 million ha of arable, 346 forest, …. land. Now if you take the population of California, it’s 39 million, with a per capita requirement of 8.6 ha / per capita (337 million ha total), is not, as they only have 67.5 million ha of agricultural, 10.6 million ha of forest, … essentially 20% of what’s required to meet the populations needs/wants. The shortfall has to be made up by importing resources from elsewhere, funded through their ability to add value to what they do have. Ditto for most of the rest of the US. The US population, or to be more specific the lifestyle is only sustainable through it’s ability to import resources from elsewhere, via a combination adding value, and by foreign entities loaning it trillions, to fund a defecit.
Arable land (hectares) in Australia
Indicator: HS-74 Australia’s ecological footprint
Water scarcity – Wikipedia
577 Views · 3 Upvotes
Joakim Welde, lives in Stavanger, Norway
Answered May 2
It was discovered by Europeans much later than America was, and mass immigration from Europe started later than for the US, and was more difficult due to the much greater travel distance.