Small is better
The most consistently prosperous and stable countries with the best quality of life have been the smaller nations of Europe – Switzerland and the Scandinavian states. A big population does not automatically lead to national wealth and it certainly doesn’t enhance quality of life. People in the over-populated regions of the world are fleeing not just to escape poverty but to escape the many horrors that accompany over-crowding.
The call by Lindsay Fox (“Go forth and populate, urges billionaire”, 26/5) is mischievous because he assumes that more people will make this country richer. The measure of the worth of government policies should be quality of life, not GDP. One of the glories of this country so far is that, compared with most other nations, it is relatively uncrowded, yet governments seem determined to make Australia more congested.
The only people who seem to be demanding population growth are property developers and businessmen who want to sell more of their stuff.
– Christopher Nance, Fullarton, SA
5/5, The Age:
The fringe element
Some 63,000 economic migrants a year pouring into Victoria equates to more than 1000 new home seekers each week (“Home construction on urban fringe ‘excessive’ ”, The Age, 2/5). Existing Victorians are being squeezed out of home ownership.
Houses in Melbourne’s far-flung outer suburbs are being built in the hope that economic immigrants from (mainly) developing countries will be lured here to buy into them, as well as those who can’t afford to live nearer to facilities. It doesn’t matter that they will be abandoned by rising petrol prices, and the lack of public transport or essential infrastructure.
They are being considered as economic units, to be used to gain from. Such growth will benefit the privileged in established suburbs.
Our state government should be making policies for the benefit of Victorians, not outsiders and opportunist new arrivals. It’s not about being racist, but about priorities, and standing up for our sovereignty.
– Jenny Warfe, Dromana
Will to avert tragedy
If humans don’t succeed in controlling population and dangerous climate change, these two forces will eventually cancel each other out. Once the fossil fuel-burning humans are gone, the climate will begin to revert to stability. Surely we humans have the intelligence and heart to prevent such a tragedy.
– Barbara Fraser, Burwood
Limits are needed
Taking the proposition that “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution” (Letters, 12/5) to its logical conclusion would mean that Australia should allow the entry of any refugee claimant.
It is apparently churlish of Australians to want to control their borders; we should be willingly sharing all our resources with anybody who decides they want to turn up on our doorstep claiming refugee status.
There are probably several tens of millions of potential refugees who would like to make a new home in Australia, so such a position is untenable.
Most rational Australians understand this and are concerned about the impact on housing, education and social welfare systems. At some point a practical limit must be imposed.
– Greg Angelo, Balwyn North
Population limit is vital, not optional
A population strategy that sets no “maximum carrying capacity” for Australia is worth less than the paper it is written on (“Growth strategy derided”, The Saturday Age, 14/5).
Clearly Australia can only carry a certain maximum number of people.
If we wish to maintain a reasonably liveable environment and remedy degradations throughout the country, we simply must determine the ratios of housing, supporting infrastructure, arable land and open spaces. Consideration must also be given to preserving the natural environment and maintaining species diversification across the nation.
Once the nation’s maximum carrying capacity has been determined, it is then a question of how quickly or slowly we are prepared to reach that maximum and by what means. It may well be argued that we have already reached, or are rapidly approaching, the maximum carrying capacity. All other decisions must flow from this.
Our politicians are irresponsible, if not grossly negligent, in not dealing with this fundamental and vital question.
– David Allan, Prahran
Bigger is not better
In a brilliant feat of political smoke screen, Population Minister Tony Bourke’s “do nothing” population strategy has been billed as a dramatic move away from Kevin Rudd’s “big Australia”.
The lack of a target is promoted as implying we will not grow big. This is after a budget that increased all immigration quotas to levels higher than the big Australia projection and allocated extra funding to speed up immigration.
The Gillard government has caved in to self-interested growth lobbies and abandoned the two-thirds of the electorate who don’t want a bigger Australia.
– Jane O’Sullivan, Chelmer, Qld
Sneaking the numbers up
Julia Gillard has merely moved to try to diffuse the confronting reality of the Treasury prediction of at least 35 million people in Australia by 2050, hoping that a sham consultation process on a sustainable population strategy would appease or help people to forget such a looming outcome.
Population will now increase by stealth, as it has in the past decade or so, at the whim of big business and the government, with no input from constituents.
When polls show that two-thirds or more Australians do not support a big Australia, then it is high time there was a referendum.
– Tony Smith, Burwood
A couple of other letters disagree, including this one:
Why sustainable is a dirty word
Julia Gillard and Tony Burke are right to resist simplistic calls for caps on immigration.
All countries are part of a global system, despite those limited to a narrow, nationalistic view who think in the terms of the parish pump. Protectionism is the age-old device of keeping the outside at arm’s length and analysing our own capacity to fill our bellies and our cradles with our own products. Hence our growing use of such absurd terms as sustainability.
The idea that each nation should provide all its own goods and services is rooted in protectionism. Sustainability sounds as comforting as apple pie and motherhood, but it is a siren call with no future.
Take Singapore, the second most-densely populated country in the world. From swamps and fishing villages, it has risen, through modern efficiency, to be one of the world’s wealthiest centres, with an educated populace and life expectancies of about 82 years. How could that possibly be “sustainable”? Think immigration. Think imports and exports, which make balanced progress possible.
Australia’s population is not limited to so-called sustainable levels proposed by experts. Sustainable is a word better expunged from our vocabularies. Along with the parish pump.
– Malcolm Ronan, Balwyn North
Singapore has wrecked its environment with overdevelopment, and its authoritarian-style government is perhaps what keeps such an overcrowded island from erupting into chaos (though this can only be effective for so long – refer to the current unrest in the Middle East). Not a model to emulate! I have no desire to live like a caged battery hen, crammed into high-rise towers. Relying on imports and exports, rather than being self-sufficient, is a precarious way of living – if supplies should be cut, you’re in deep trouble. I would suggest the writer’s model is instead one with no future.
Bigger ain’t better
Chris Berg is right. Of course both sides of politics want our population to continue to grow, despite PM Julia Gillard’s dismissal of a “big Australia” (“Charade must end, and both sides of politics know it”, 15/5).
It was all a charade to gain voter confidence after Kevin Rudd’s gaffe. Politicians deal only with short-term political gains and quantitative figures. The real world is a closed system with limitations.
That Australia needs more migrants because “our economy is begging for them” is based on the anthropocentric assumption that Australia is a bottomless pit with an infinite “carrying capacity”.
There are limits to growth. We are living on borrowed time with many vital natural resources.
Economic theories are infinite, but not the real world. Human communities are multi-dimensional and depend on nature’s provisions, environmental stability and sustainability. Basing population growth on the one dimension of economics is shallow policy and ignores human infrastructure and basic life-supporting needs, and the fact that even our resources boom will not last forever.
– Jennie Epstein, Little River
Chris Berg refers to the “misanthropic views” of “stable population types”.
This is a bit like graziers being accused of cruelty to animals because they do not keep increasing stock numbers beyond the carrying capacity of their land; that anybody objects to industrial-scale battery farming is motivated by a hatred of chickens; or that the only people who do not hate cats are “cat ladies” who surround themselves with scores or even hundreds of increasingly emaciated, starving, disease-ridden and dying moggies.
– Ken Duxbury, East Kew
Bye bye, boomers
Dick Smith (Comment, 30/5) makes some salient points about growth in Australia but misses one of the most important issues, boomers like him.
There is a demographic bulge in the population of taxpayers beginning to leave the workforce. Unlike millionaire Smith, they will need help (particularly with medical costs) from the increasingly smaller percentage of the population who will be income-earning and contributing.
There are several solutions: eliminate these burdens on the economy (unacceptable), decrease their entitlements (forcing the poorest into poverty and pain), increase taxation to maintain levels of care, turn our economy into a high-tech one where fewer workers have higher salaries to pay the needed taxes, import overseas workers to fill the gaps left by retirees and help pay for their deserved support.
– Lance Fishman, Upwey
Share the wealth
Thanks, Dick Smith, for daring to say aloud what we all knew, but were too embarrassed to admit. Of course overpopulation is the basic problem. The question is: what do we do about it? A one-child policy on the Chinese model? A global nuclear war? Perhaps we need an even more virulent form of the plague.
Apparently birthrates are highest where people are poorest. It might help to share the available wealth more equitably than we do. If only.
– Miles Maxwell, Newtown
The Committee for Melbourne highlighted why population growth is impoverishing us all. It is not a deficit in planning, but a lack of funds to build the planned infrastructure upgrades. It implies private investors will line up to pay, if it is planned.
They will only do so for a good return, which means citizens pay dearly in future instalments for what they have already paid for in past taxes: roads and rail to commute on, hospitals, schools and sewers.
While they’re still paying off today’s projects, citizens will be committing to more debt for the next phase of expansion, while commuting further and servicing even bigger mortgages. There is no happy ending, except for those in whose pockets the payments land – ably represented by the Committee for (the developers of) Melbourne.
– Jane O’Sullivan, Chelmer, Qld