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Was the Victorian State Election A Poll on Population Growth?

By Julianne Bell, Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc. and Jill Quirk, Sustainable Population Australia Inc. (Victorian Branch)
Planning issues dogged the Victorian ALP Government, although the ex-Planning Minister seemed remarkably unconcerned about community angst over high rise, high density development. Probably millions of dollars of the community's money and thousands of hours have been spent opposing unwanted, inappropriate developments especially in the established suburbs of Melbourne.

State ALP lost right to govern over population growth

From a quick analysis of the results of the Victorian State election it seems that the ALP lost its right to govern as a result of the direct and indirect effects of extremely rapid population growth in recent years in our State. Former Premier Brumby and his Cabinet failed to recognise the elephant in the living room - population growth. This was confirmed by Daniel Andrews, newly elected Opposition Leader, who attributed Labor's defeat to their having "not kept pace with growth" nor having "stayed ahead of the unprecedented (population) growth in the last few years." (3AW and ABC Stateline 3 December 2010.)

Unrealistic state policy

We submit that, as recent projections indicate Melbourne's population will almost double and reach at least 7 million by 2050, there is no way that the Brumby Government could have kept pace with provision of adequate services and affordable housing for Victorians. The same will be the case for the Baillieu Government if the present population intakes to Victoria continue. Any Government would simply be playing "catch up" and so it is inevitable that the community's living standards will fall further and further behind.

A rough overview of the demise of the Brumby Government follows.

Pipeline another cost of population overgrowth

The ALP was able to hold onto most of its non-metropolitan seats with the exception of South Barwon and Seymour. Constituents of the seat of Seymour were extremely disaffected by construction of the North South Pipeline (also known as the Sugarloaf Pipeline.) This piece of infrastructure was hurriedly installed to provide water for Melbourne's growing population. As it has turned out, it has not been needed as the drought has broken, but the intention was to siphon water away from the northern rivers of Victoria as required to supply Melbourne and hence the community in the seat of Seymour were the losers from population growth. The seat has gone to the Coalition with the help of preferences from independent candidate and Plug the Pipe member, Jan Beer.

Overpopulation-related erosion of living standards

Moving in towards the vortex of Melbourne, the outer suburbs suffered from an erosion of their living standards and financial stress from increases in council rates due to the rising cost of land and cost of infrastructure required by a rapidly growing population and so the ALP seats of Gembrook, Mt Waverley, Mitcham and Forest Hill were lost.

Public transport fiasco another cost of overpopulation

Turning our attention to the sand belt electorates; the seat of Carrum was unexpectedly lost to Labor, then Frankston, Mordialloc and finally Bentleigh became the last ALP domino to fall in the State Election. Constituents reported that they have suffered, amongst other things, from unreliable, unsafe and crowded train services which, in our view, were primarily due to increased pressure of population and failure of the Government to fund public transport. It was particularly aggravating that the Government splashed out on the Peninsula Link freeway which, reputedly, will soak up $2.8 billion of taxpayers' funds by the time it is completed.

Traffic congestion another cost of overpopulation

Focusing right in, the clearway issue due to traffic congestion from increased population and inability for our local streets to cope with traffic volumes even outside normal "Peak Hour" was a very sore point in inner southern suburbs of Melbourne, especially Malvern, Richmond and Prahran. The anger over this was expressed at a rally "Make Brumby History" on Parliament House steps, just before the election. The rally expressed a multitude of citizens' concerns but the impetus came from those opposing clearways.

Planning problems & protests caused by overpopulation

Planning issues also dogged the ALP Government, although the ex-Planning Minister seemed remarkably unconcerned about community angst over high rise, high density development. Regular rallies were held at Parliament and in the inner city, for instance, over the extension of the urban growth boundary; the destruction of the Windsor Hotel with the addition of a 92 metre tower block; loss of other iconic heritage properties in Melbourne; and his ALP fundraising ("cash-for-chat") lunch with developers. Probably millions of dollars of the community's money and thousands of hours have been spent opposing unwanted, inappropriate developments especially in the established suburbs of Melbourne.

No winners in this endless catch-up game

Unless the Baillieu government recognises that it is impossible to make life better for Victorians if population growth continues, as in the last decade, it too will fail to deliver as Victorians suffer anew. With continual rapid population growth, any state government will spend most of its energy just trying to cope with ever increasing demand for all services and housing and fighting escalating costs.

Dire environmental costs of overpopulation

The most serious long term problem that has been brought about by population pressures is the effect on the environment. The areas of concern - waterways and wetlands, water supplies, biodiversity, coasts, estuaries and the sea - detailed in the 2008 State of the Environment Report show our precious and fragile environment to be in a parlous state and this report should be a warning to any government taking the reins in Victoria.

Baillieu government faces same destiny if does not change course

Unless the Baillieu government faces the limitations firstly of our environment and secondly of the capacity of our society to provide requisite infrastructure, it will have little hope of outperforming the last government. The rate of population growth is, to a large extent, a choice made by the Federal Government which holds the actual keys to the immigration gates. We consider, however, that the Baillieu Government should create state history by establishing a joint Parliamentary committee of enquiry to examine just what is a sustainable population for Victoria, in order that our standards of living can be maintained and our environment rehabilitated and protected for future generations.

Jill Quirk is the President of Sustainable Population Australia Inc. (Victorian Branch)
P.O. Box 1173 Frankston 3199.

Julianne Bell is the Secretary Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc.
PO Box 197 Parkville 3052

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Comments

This article makes its points very well. The mainstream media apparently avoided printing it, probably because it contradicts their own fairytales.

Pushing Australia's population above natural limits will inevitably create "NIMBYs", as this is when the rubber hits the dirt and people are actually impacted by government growth policies. Kevin Rudd's "big Australia" gaffe headed his downfall, and Gillard's renouncing of his "big Australia" as her first act in power. The Brumby government's downfall also was his pushing towards constant growth, against the grain of social and political resistance.

There are limits to growth. An infant will usually triple his or her birth weight by the first year and grow 1.5 times longer than his or her birth length, but this rate cannot continue. Bones and flesh cannot withstand the weight and pressures, and bodily organs start to stall. Oversized bodies generally suffer from early decline, and death. Chickens artificially forced to grow fast in factory farms are "processed" long before their maturity. This analogy is quite appropriate too to the size of herds, or collections, of any species.

What we're doing is what all other creatures have ever done to survive by expanding into whatever territory is available and using up whatever resources are available. Epidemiologist Warren Hern of the University of Colorado at Boulder even likened the expansion of human cities to the growth and spread of cancer, predicting "death" of the Earth in about 2025. Like the accelerated growth of a cancer, the human population has quadrupled in the past 100 years, and at this rate will reach a size in 2025 that leads to global collapse and catastrophe.

"Biologists have shown that it's a natural tendency of living creatures to fill up all available habitat and use up all available resources," says William Rees of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. "That's what underlies Darwinian evolution, and species that do it best are the ones that survive, but we do it better than any other species. Humans have been overly successful on our planet, to our own detriment, and other living creatures.

A four year study by academics in Europe and the United States has quantified the contribution of population growth to carbon dioxide emissions. Presented at an occasion put on by The United Nations Foundation at the climate change summit in Cancun, it concluded that moderating population growth could save emissions of 1.4 to 2.5 gigatonnes of carbon a year, effecting 16-29 per cent of the reductions needed to keep world average temperatures from rising more than two degrees above preindustrial levels, which is widely seen as the tipping point for dangerous climate change. Here in Australia, our leaders are under pressure from industry groups to import "skilled" labour and continue our economic migration program, and to support our property/housing boom.

While we are supposed to become more "sustainable" and miserly in our use of resources, our State and Federal leaders are driving onward growth and consumption levels, and making any efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions even harder to minimize.

Ironically, Brumby lives in a leafy suburb and owns a farm. Neither Brumby or Madden have chosen high-density apartments - what they are forcing onto the public. Those making our policies, inevitably based on the short-term benefits of economic growth at all costs, are protected from looming global trends and insulated from future climate change threats by their position, their power and wealth.

The Age, December 15th
The Age
JOHN Brumby's government lost last month's state election because it became too cosy with the big end of town and lost touch with the real-life concerns of ''ordinary'' people, says a senior federal Labor MP.

In a scathing critique of the defeated government, the member for the Melbourne seat of Wills, Kelvin Thomson, said suburban planning outcomes under former minister Justin Madden were ''a disgrace''.

The former frontbencher said people in his north suburban electorate had been ''screaming for years'' for a new high school in Coburg, but the Labor state government had not delivered.

State Labor had also failed to build train lines to Doncaster and Rowville in the rapidly growing eastern suburbs.

But the ''heart of the problem'' was that Labor had sided with business in backing excessive population growth.

''We have been cheerfully increasing Melbourne by 200 people a day, 1500 per week, 75,000 each year, standing shoulder to shoulder with property developers saying what a good thing this is for Melbourne,'' Mr Thomson said.

''It is not. Melbourne's runaway growth is the reason for the rising cost of living, the transport problems, the planning debacles and the crime.''

Mr Thomson, a critic of ''big Australia'', said: ''Taking a bow in corporate boardrooms for running their high-migration, high-population, bugger-the-environment agenda has seen the Labor Party grow out of touch with ordinary voters.''

In defiance of new state Labor leader Daniel Andrews's call for party members to keep criticisms of the election campaign in-house, Mr Thomson said the defeat required ''serious analysis''. (Does this mean we need more Wikileaks to get some transparency in government?)

''It is not enough to write this off to an 'it's time' factor, as if the voters change governments once a decade without regard to circumstances,'' he said. ''To think like this will become a self-fulfilling analysis and condemn us to the next decade in opposition.

''Nor is it enough to utter platitudes such as 'we made mistakes', 'we aren't perfect', and 'we need to do better', without any tangible sign of a change in direction or approach.

''Such platitudes mask a defiance, which voters will sense and question our sincerity.'' (They are paid to be in government for our benefit, on our behalf, not for a few elites)

Mr Thomson said Labor had ''grown out of touch with the reality of life for ordinary people'' during its decade in power.

In that time electricity prices and council rates had doubled and gas and water bills had increased by more than the inflation rate. (Also rising crime rates and council rates. Once population goes over ecological and social "overshoot", the costs start to spiral).

To win back support, Labor should pledge to peg household electricity prices and council rates to pension rises, he said.

''If the pension goes up by 2 per cent then household electricity prices should not be allowed to rise by more than 2 per cent,'' he said.

''If electricity companies need to build more infrastructure, they should recover the cost of that from the businesses and property developers who are the beneficiaries of that infrastructure, not from ordinary households and certainly not from pensioners.'' (Most of the costs for water and power are not from what we use, but from the fixed costs, to pay for increasing populations, and the maintenance and upgrades required)

The slogan for Labor was "keep the jobs coming". Some jobs we don't want to keep coming, like building and property development and desalination plants!
Well done to The Age, and for Kelvin Thomson, a refreshing voice of logic!

"Unless the Baillieu government recognises that it is impossible to make life better for Victorians if population growth continues, as in the last decade, it too will fail to deliver as Victorians suffer anew." The Baillieu government have move the deckchairs on the Titanic by not allowing high rise developments along rail roads and freeways in the new growth boundary, but there is a real sameness about them. They also believe in a "big Victoria" and Melbourne @ 5 million. There are limited way of softening the impacts of population growth against the swell of public opinion, environmental and sustainability concerns. Any problem is excacerbated by more people. The poverty, homelessness, rising costs, rising trade deficit will continue if our economy is reliant on property development - requiring a constant flow of people to fill them! Without a sustainable economy for Victoria, with limited manufacturing, relying on the shot in the arm of population growth to fuel economic growth is based on shaky grounds.
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