“Dick Smith says Australia should cut population by slashing immigration and encouraging women to have only two babies”, H-S, 26/1. A businessman who is against population growth is a rarity! The well-known entrepreneur has incited controversy by his comments, but discouraging large families should be a key population policy. While banning is probably a bit strong (and would probably evoke resentment), more passive measures could be used: no government benefits after a woman’s second child (and, more drastically, no access to government services for child #3 onwards), no baby bonus after two children, making large families socially unacceptable, and so on. Those who chose to have three or more children would have to financially support those extra ones themselves.
We live in a first world country where virtually all children are guaranteed to survive to adulthood, so the redundancy argument is no excuse to justify large families here. Most people’s genes are not so special that they need multiple copies of themselves. Those who have many children are also taking more than their fair share of resources.
The ageing population is brought up again as a problem – namely, supporting them. Population increase to solve this is only a short-term solution, as those extra people will in turn need to be supported by an even larger population, until numbers reach ridiculously high levels. A line has to be drawn at some point. Perhaps euthanasia will have to be legalized as an option – it does seem preferable and more dignified in comparison to withering away in a nursing home, senile and incontinent. Developing robot helpers and exoskeletons are also another solution.
Unfortunately, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd wants a “big Australia” so no guidance can be expected from him. In his Australia Day speech he raises the usual alarm about an ageing population and states as a fact that our population will increase to 36 million (a nightmarish prospect).
In the newsprint article (which was a bit different in wording) there was criticism from “family groups”:
Football identity and father of eight Grant Thomas has joined family groups in attacking Mr. Smith’s suggestion to discourage women from having more than two babies.
Thomas, the former coach of St. Kilda, was shocked by Mr. Smith’s comments. […] He said his big family brought him much joy. “Dick’s a much better man than me. I couldn’t face going through life only having made love to my wife twice,” he said.
This ignoramus obviously hasn’t heard of contraception, judging by the ridiculously large family he has. How can anyone justify having 8 children in a First-World country?
Family Council of Victoria secretary Bill Muehlenberg said it was scaremongering. “We had Paul Ehrlich in the 1960s saying exactly the same thing, that in the ’70s and ’80s millions of people would die of famine and starvation. Really, I would take him with a grain of salt.”
There are millions dying of starvation; does he not watch the news? These family organizations tend to be conservative religious fanatics, so they should not be listened to.
“Australia ‘must plan new city’ to cope with population”, The Age, 26/1. Demographer Bernard Salt, whose opinion is of dubious value, asserts that we need another city in the north, and that we are obligated to take in more people:
By 2050, the global population is set to grow to 9 billion from about 7 billion today. As a nation of 22 million with the resources of a continent, Australia had a moral imperative to take its share of migrants, Mr Salt said. “We need to project that we are a generous nation,” he said. “You might get away with no growth for the next 10 years, but then those pressures build up. “The rest of the planet says, ‘We’re drowning in poverty and here’s Australia sitting on 22 million people, and they don’t want to accept migrants because it compromises the quality of their lifestyle’.”
Bugger that! Much of Australia is arid desert, so a large population is unsustainable – its environment is already severely damaged with the numbers we have. Other countries should take responsibility for their own problems and not expect to keep exporting their surplus people.
“Populate and pollute”, H-S, 20/1. An obvious way for Australia to cut its emissions levels is to reduce immigration levels.
The report said the Government was unlikely to meet its target of cutting year 2000 emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 if high population policies continued. “The Government is in a diabolically difficult policy situation,” the two demographers wrote. “The implication is that it regards population growth as more important than the achievement of greenhouse abatement targets.” Dr. Birrell and Dr. Healy said the Government had limited power to control fertility rates, but it could take decisive action on the migrant intake.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been unapologetic about his support for a much bigger population, branding himself a “big Australia” man. “I think it’s good…for our national security long term, it’s good in terms of what we can sustain as a nation,” he said recently.
A collection of published letters from The Age:
John Bayly (Letters, 16/1) is living in cloud cuckoo land if he thinks that Australia can sustain a population of 70 million, even if the “dead centre” can provide solar and geothermal energy to support people living on the habitable fringes of the continent.
Day-to-day life for ordinary folk in Melbourne is fast becoming intolerable due to failure by the Brumby Government to provide efficient public services, plus pressure of increased population: more than 2000 settlers are arriving here each week. We are seeing the breakdown of public transport; regular road traffic jams; water shortages; overstretched hospital accommodation; unaffordable housing; and loss of residential amenity with increased density. All this is being compounded by climate change with extremes of weather, such as record high temperatures with threats of bushfires.
Just how many people can Australia sustainably support without destroying the environment and without affecting our standard of living?
The new warning “populate and perish” should be broadcast to all state MPs.
– Lewis Prichard, Hawthorn
No road to utopia
Michael Danby (The Age, 14/1) implies perpetual population growth is the pathway to utopia, but on what planet?
Time and time again, Mother Nature has wreaked revenge on those who forget that humans are but a small part of the world’s ecosystem, wiping out whole civilisations whose leaders acted like grasshoppers rather than ants, living for today and forgetting about tomorrow.
Profligate squandering of her resources has created sterile moonscapes where once there were verdant forests.
History has shown we live beyond our means at our peril. Yet Mr Danby and his ilk want Australians to grow ever larger and richer.
Dying rivers, rising sea levels, diminishing soil fertility, intolerable traffic congestion, sprawling urban development, increasing social alienation - no problem. All we need is a bit of smart planning and a desal plant.
Money, money, money, must be funny, in a rich man’s world.
– Rosalie Counsell, Harkaway
Michael Danby, here’s a novel idea. Why don’t we better train more people who are already here so we don’t need to bring in so many extra workers?
– Lorraine Bates, Surrey Hills
Rudd warns that the ageing population will “drag” down our growth rate. How disgusting that he considers ageing to be a threat. Nobody stays young, and even the young migrants he lures here will age. Older people may not add to the gross domestic product - but if they worked most of their lives, they have contributed to the economy. Also, many retirees are self-supporting, and they often care for the elderly and children, as well as do volunteer work. The economy is supposed to serve us, not be our master to devalue people as unproductive burdens when they are no longer doing paid work.
– Vivienne Ortega, Heidelberg Heights
A simplistic view
Peter Cosgrove, there are many valid reasons for wanting to stop the population growing that have nothing to do with racial tolerance. Water, for example, or some of the world’s worst species extinction rates, or how ongoing urban sprawl is eating up farmland and green space, or the inability to reduce greenhouse gasses while increasing the population. None of these are perspectives born of racism, yet any suggestion that we should limit our population to help deal with these problems is described as racial intolerance. I look forward to the debate about our population moving beyond this simplistic level.
– Graham Parton, Stanley
Poor, poor boomers
Thanks, Kevin Rudd, for asking younger generations, particularly “working families” to work harder for the older one. Let us work harder for the baby boom generation, who had free tertiary education, had their property values explode, milked the pension system dry and left the planet’s environment on the verge of disaster. It is becoming tiring being part of a generation that is held ransom for another generation’s voting population.
– Sarah and Brett Wilson, Ashwood
Show us respect
Planning Minister Justin Madden has been charged with overseeing “the Government’s Respect Agenda, which aims to reduce alcohol-related violence” (The Age, 21/1). If Madden and John Brumby respected what Victorians value about our cities and environment and planned for future generations, young people might be inspired to follow their “respect agenda”. Protect our grasslands, forests, heritage, green wedges and streetscapes from developers who are the main objects of Government respect.
– Rosemary West, Edithvale