“Melting pot set for population boom”, ABC News, 19/11; “South East Queensland: beautiful one day, now a building site”, The Age, 20/11. Queensland, long a popular destination for immigrants from other states, is full to bursting, and long-time residents are understandably fed-up with the influx, continuing construction projects and community tensions that ensue. But Queensland Premier Anna Bligh seems paralyzed with apathy towards the problem, saying all her government can do is try to accomodate the population surge. A government could halt such growth if it really wanted to (immigration border and quota controls, scrap the baby bonus, etc.) but none seem to.
Bligh acknowledged this week that south-east Queenslanders are beginning to think the lifestyle costs of population growth outweigh the economic benefits. “But population growth is a fact of life in Queensland. We cannot put up the barbed wire fence at the border, we can’t stop people having babies, so we have to find a way of coping,” she said.
More articles from The Age:
“Salad days under threat as sprawling city comes knocking”, 15/11. Housing development will cover much of the fertile farmlands (originally volcanic plains) surrounding Melbourne, threatening the city’s future ability to feed itself.
“How to feed the 7 million”, 17/11. Yet another opinion that regards the growth toward 7 million as inevitable, rather than something that should be prevented.
“World population growth slowing”, 18/11. Good news – but the momentum of growth means that it will continue climbing for decades yet. Also the VECCI chairman proves how addicted to continuing growth business is:
VECCI chief executive Wayne Kayler-Thomson said the average Victorian now retired at 60, and federal and state governments should aim to lift this to 65 by using sticks and carrots to make people put off their retirement, and get retired people to return to work part-time. But with Melbourne’s population expected to swell by 60 per cent in 40 years, he backed population growth, warning the alternative was to go backwards like Detroit and other cities in the US mid-west. “Can we afford to shut the gate strategically, economically or morally?” he proposed to the VECCI summit. “Sydney has also stumbled since the 2000 Olympics as it makes up its mind about the desirability of a larger population.”
If you want to keep Melbourne liveable, then we most certainly can afford to “shut the gate”!
“Perish the thought that we can handle a bigger population”, 19/11. Opinion piece by former NSW PM Bob Carr.
Tanner suggested people in high-density countries would consider strange our reservations about high immigration. The implication is that every last place on this battered planet should cheerfully sign on for the population explosion. I think other countries can understand that Australia has a narrow fertile coastal strip and the rest is arid and semi-arid. We resemble North Africa more than North America. Curious as we are, I think Australians don’t want to be packed tight, and remain attached to space, air, the natural world. And instead of more coastal suburbs they may even prefer the glimpse of waves breaking on golden sand through the branches of a eucalypt. Funny that.
The Age letters roundup: 14/11:
Waiting in vain for water projects
Lindsay Tanner (“Population fear is nonsense: Tanner”, The Age, 13/11) scoffs at fears of population increase but admits that one major barrier to sustaining a bigger population is the availability of water. But he is confident that “it could be overcome through desalination, water recycling and storm water harvesting projects”.
Victorians have been waiting in vain for water sourcing projects other than the desal plant. If it’s not a PPP (public private partnership) project with profits going to private operators, it seems the Government does not want to know about it.
In 2005, the City of Melbourne proposed a “sewer mining” project in Princes Park, which would have supplied recycled water for inner city parks, Melbourne University and the Zoo. It was to be funded jointly by the state and federal governments, with contributions from the City of Melbourne and City West Water.
Water Minister Thwaites refused to contribute Victoria’s share (from memory a miserly $13 million) and the project lapsed. The excellent proposals made by Monash University for stormwater harvesting at a 2008 parliamentary inquiry also do not appear to have been adopted.
– Julianne Bell, Protectors of Public Lands Victoria, Parkville
Counted like cattle
How can Australia be compared with Bangladesh? Lindsay Tanner is measuring the validity of a country in people per square kilometre, as if they were livestock!
Australia is deceptively large. However, it is the driest continent, with a limited “green” coastline. These areas contain fragile and unique ecosystems, and support a rich range of unique biodiversity. Australia’s spectacular coastlines, rivers, wildlife and vegetation is what we cherish.
Our carrying capacity should be assessed by independent ecologists, agriculturalists, climate change analysts, demographers and environmental scientists. Such an important issue cannot be left to ad hoc decision makers and business groups with conflicts of interests.
– Vivienne Ortega, Heidelberg Heights
The famous demographer W. D. (Mick) Borrie remarked that when growth rates are high we tend to overestimate population growth, and when they are low we underestimate it. And so now, egged on by urban transport chaos and high immigration rates, forecasters are predicting that Australia will contain 35 million people, and Melbourne 7 million, within 40 years. The history of forecasting suggests this is an overestimate, massive climate-change-induced in-migration notwithstanding.
Yet some have seized on it to advocate policies regarded as a bad idea, such as the proposal to line tram and bus routes with five-storey buildings. It is doubtful whether settlers who live there will be convinced to forgo their cars, which they will then drive through our leafy suburbs, thereby ruining their amenity along with that of one of the world’s most liveable cities.
More sober and carefully managed responses to our urban amenity problems would seem wiser than misconceived, environmental vandalism on a scale that future generations might regret.
– Dr. Ray Wyatt, University of Melbourne
Captive to business
Minister Tanner shows the extent to which government is the captive of big business, property developers and construction unions. Aspiring to the population density of either Dublin or Bangladesh is nonsense. The issue is not one of population density, but human impact on the environment. Craven supplication to vested interests in business and unions is not what we expect from elected representatives. While we cannot control world population, we can at least exercise some control over our own population to minimise further environmental degradation.
– Greg Angelo, Balwyn North
What point is Lindsay Tanner (The Age, 13/11) trying to make with his comparison of our population to that of Bangladesh? Is he also going to compare the standard of living, education and health care?
– Pauline Ashton, Maribyrnong
Lindsay Tanner argues that Australia is not overpopulated and points to Bangladesh as an example of how many more people could be squashed on to our island. There’s a compelling case.
– Graham Parton, Stanley
Why does Lindsay Tanner stop at Dublin when comparing potential population density? If more is better, we should be aiming for densities like Mexico City or Shanghai!
– Ross Tanner, Clifton Hill
It is hard to be optimistic about Australia’s future when the Liberals deny climate change and Labor cannot see the contradiction between increasing our population and reducing emissions.
– Don Garden, Kew
I can’t remember seeing any of Bangladesh’s cities mentioned in the most liveable list.
– Neville Garner, Blairgowrie
How convenient, shifting the blame on to immigrants for the unsustainable lifestyle of those of us already here.
– Akhdur Maruan, Brunswick
As Labor’S Lindsay Tanner points out, Australia could indeed house more people than Bangladesh (The Age, 13/11). All you need to do is cut our rations of food, water and space.
Doubtless our precious GDP numbers will increase as fast as our unmeasured quality of life and environment deteriorates! But who will vote for this madness? Oh I forgot, all the parties support population growth so it doesn’t matter who you vote for.
– Alan Ide, Murrumbeena
While he’s at it perhaps the Prime Minister could say “sorry” to the nation’s wildlife for its shocking rate of extinction since European settlement. Nah, let’s forget the apology and do something about it.
– Jill Barclay, Murrumbeena
Once again we see a senior Government member with his head in the sand over Australia’s population growth (“Population fear is nonsense: Tanner”, The Age, 13/11). Lindsay Tanner’s comments comparing Bangladesh with Tasmania show remarkable and worrying ignorance. Size says nothing about the population-carrying capacity of a land; Mr. Tanner is comparing one of the most arid countries on earth with one of the most fertile. This fertility has led Bangladesh, and many of its neighbours, to vast over-population that relegates many of its citizens to abject poverty.
With climate change, millions more are likely to starve to death as wells dry up and Himalayan glaciers retreat. Or, perhaps he knows this, but like most of our State and Federal Government representatives, he is also prepared to subject Australia to unsustainable population growth in the name of political self-interest.
What’s the bet that history will eventually show this stance, and the Labor and Liberal governments’ underwhelming response to climate change, to be the biggest leadership failure in Australia of all time?
– Andrew Verlei, Patterson Lakes
Plan now for a sensible limit to our population
I read that the Labor backbencher Kelvin Thompson has launched a 14-point plan to contain Australia’s runaway population (“Here’s looking at you kids: NSW leads a boom in babies”, November 12). At last someone in the Federal Government has recognised the stupidity of setting an ever-increasing population as an essential goal.
The economic benefits are far outweighed by factors such as the rapid depletion of water, food and building materials, and urban infrastructure such as transport that is already at breaking point.
The Federal Government’s population targets will make it impossible to reach any decent carbon reduction levels. Each immigrant from a non-industrialised country will, on arrival in Australia, become a carbon dioxide polluting unit at a tenfold increased level.
It will be hard for visionaries such as Thompson to convince Australians their wasteful lifestyle and hedonistic “quality of life” will need to be curtailed. But failure to do so will result in a rapid diminution of both.
– Mike Dibbs, Port Macquarie
Lindsay Tanner is a powerful voice in Government and to have him call for “substantial population growth” has to be taken seriously (“Tanner backs call for growth”, November 12).
He should travel to Wilcannia to see what our “inadequate” 21.5 million, with its demand for irrigated produce, has done to the once-navigable Darling River. There is a limit to population growth in Australia: water. Population planning should be based on our physical limits, not aspirational comparisons with Bangladesh.
– John Warren, Annandale
Lindsay Tanner shouldn’t send mixed messages about Australia’s population. Is he saying that Barry Jones, David Suzuki, Al Gore and Ken Henry are all laughable when they talk about the need to address population issues here? Does he really think we can continue to engineer our way out of overpopulation and climate-change problems such as water shortages?
I am happy for Tanner to reassure countries such as Bangladesh that we can take many more climate refugees. But we are going to have our own problems with poverty, pollution and starvation in the coming decades if we don’t urgently start planning for a slowing of our birthrate and a smaller intake of skilled migrants.
Europe’s slowing population and lead role to reduce emissions don’t appear to have had any dire economic impacts. We need smarter leaders to start planning now for an ethical slowdown in our population. It’s time to rewrite the economic textbooks and prepare for the likely millions who will be on our doorstep as climate-change refugees in the next 20 to 80 years.
– Ngaire McGaw, Seventeen Mile Rocks (Qld)
Peter Garrett deserves congratulations for rejecting the Traveston Dam (“Garrett decision to stop dam lauded as a triumph”, November 12). As a biologist, I appreciate having an Environment Minister willing to base decisions on the best available scientific information.
While headlines now shift to the controversy on locations of possible desalination plants, I suggest we first need to debate the human carrying capacity of the Australian continent.
As the science-literate Mr Garrett would be aware, the root cause of most, if not all, environmental degradation is the rapid growth in the population of our own species. We urgently need to determine how many people different parts of our country can sustainably support. Mr Garrett and his department should lead this debate.
– Tim Curran, Malanda (Qld)
Growth catastrophe waiting to happen
Bob Carr draws attention to the lack of thought behind the call by Kevin Rudd and Lindsay Tanner for greater growth, more population and, consequently, more demands on our limited resources, such as water (“Perish the thought that we can handle a bigger population”, November 19). We have introduced a new category – “catastrophic” – to warn of impending bushfire danger. Do we need a similar scale to warn of the results of unplanned and self-stimulated growth? Societies have collapsed from outgrowing their resources. Let us plan an escape route now while we are still at the danger level.
– John Warren, Annandale