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Andrew Bolt: Why add 1.5 million when Victorian infrastructure can't cope with current population?

Andrew Bolt, who works for the right-wing Murdoch-owned Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper, has political views, which, in many, ways conform well to those of his employer. He is anti-union. He supports US foreign policy including the so-called "war on terror" and he illogically holds environmentalists responsible for many of our problems. However, in contrast to the stridently pro-population-growth pro-high-immigration stance of his employer, he rightly condemns the ongoing idiocy of the policies of the federal and state governments to encourage population growth when, during the heat wave of the previous days, the infrastructure of Melbourne failed abysmally to meet the needs of Melbourne's current residents. By speaking the truth about population growth and immigration he may well be serving the public far better than many of his 'politically correct' detractors who still won't openly question population growth.

Andrew Bolt's article "Melbourne is wrecked and full" of 30 Jan 09 put the finger squarely on numbers and especially immigration numbers, in a robustly rhetorical way that will connect and generate emotion with readership. Without emotion the reader has little basis for memory let alone action.

Most writers fail to address the former. Those few who do most often fail at the latter.

Bolt has made indulgent and stupid statements about rivers and dams, as much to bash the Government as to exert his sense of macho human dominance over all things natural:

"Victoria is now paying the price for being too green, blind and thick to build basic stuff for a population we let grow far too fast."

"So incompetent are our politicians - so blinded by green ideology - that they even managed, in this vast continent, to run out of land for housing."

"It would break your heart to see where this lot scattered your money instead. On releases of precious drinking water into our rivers for 'environmental flows'. ..."

Nonetheless he has made numbers and immigration the primary focus overall:

"But now consider this: at the rate we're being growing lately, Victoria will add at least another 1.5 million to its population over the next 20 years.

"In fact, it could well be more. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last year cranked up our immigration intake to a record high - more than 330,000 a year, if you include workers on temporary visas. And that's not yet counting new births.

"A year ago, even before Rudd opened our door even wider, the Australian Bureau of Statistics noted Australia's population was now growing by 1.6 per cent a year, which means that if we don't stop this madness, there will be half as many of us again by 2050.

"And, of course, most of these new people will be trying to squeeze into our cities. Like Melbourne.

"Imagine Melbourne growing 50 per cent bigger in your children's lifetime, if not your own. That's 50 per cent more people, cars, houses, gardens, air-conditioners and train travellers. Everywhere where's there's two, imagine three by 2050.

"Forget the social stresses of simply getting on with so many more immigrants, or of trying even to find a little elbow room.

"Consider this more basic problem: how on earth are we going to give all our new neighbours power, water, roads, land and trains when we don't have enough for the people here already?"

If, within that overall view, the case for rivers and against dams can be well-argued then the numbers have to be reduced even more.

Bolt is promoting an important but nearly invisible debate placing the core matter at its apex. I dislike the man but give credit where it is due and take opportunity where it arises. It's worth responding to re-inforce the importance and point of primacy within Bolt's position. Argue the natural resource issues secondarily as a function of social security. As an utterly vital input to society, water resource exploitation must afford soundly generous buffers for direct supply (water consumption) and ecological services (fisheries, biodiversity in general). The more security wanted the less people fit into the equation. We can fill the landscape horizon to horizon with a thickening clot of citizens, but supplies of water, energy, etc become russian roulette on any given day. How lucky does everyone feel? Can we have a vote on it perhaps?

Bolt even stabs the desalination fraud in the heart when he cites its energy demand in context to the energy supply that wasn't even available to meet existing demand. So we can have desalinated water but not on really hot days? How good is that? The real point here is the inherent incapacity of this or any Govt. to assure reliable provision of increasingly complex and expensive supply systems. The public need to realise this incapacity and be rightly afraid of it.

Comments

If an anti-green lobbyist, right-wing journalist and capitalist can see the connection between many of our problems today and artificial population growth, then the most banal "man on the street" should be able to put two and two together and see the solution! This forced growth benefits few, and people will want to leave the rat-race. This puts pressure on coastal areas and rural resources. In the last three days, due to the extreme heat, we have been able to see the limitations of our infrastructures, power and water scarcity. If this topic can touch at the grass-roots level, we can have a movement to stop the greed of politicians and businesses who gain from the continual growth. So few people benefit. It has to be thrown into the public arena. Senator Bob Brown needs to be challenged to put his words into policies to reflect that we are past "sustainable" growth, and immigration will be reserved for the most needy of humanitarian cases only. He cannot afford to be ambiguous on such a wide-encompassing and pivotal topic.

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