Pre-pandemic Australia looks like hallowed ground that the contemporary economy will struggle to surpass.

For local officials who aspire to take a crack at emulating a celebrated decades-long expansion, it’s important not to downgrade a vital component that's become radioactive: immigration. The country's politicians are showing a worrying lapse in memory.

As much as any other factor, population growth contributed to the 30-year stretch without a recession that ended in 2020. The country's performance was "flattered,” in the words of former Reserve Bank of Australia Gov. Philip Lowe, by rising headcount. A mining boom fueled by China's go-go years, the dramatic economic reforms of the 1980s — and some luck — have tended to get the credit. This misses a fundamental ingredient, and it’s too bad.