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Overpopulation, immigration, multiculturalism and the White Australia policy

The article below was originally a comment on webdiary

On December 4, 2003, Australia’s population was estimated at 20 million and projected to reach about 30 million by 2050. Slightly less than 50 per cent of this growth rate resulted from net overseas immigration. By 5 November 2007, Australia’s population had ballooned by more than one twentieth of itself (or 5.66 per cent) to 21,131,216 and was projected to reach 34 million by 2050.[i] In fact, with that growth rate of 1.5 per cent per annum, it is on course to double within less than 50 years. Annual immigration has been responsible for more than half this growth, even though the birth-rate had increased in a context of misleading pronatalist propaganda.

Before British colonization in 1788 the peoples of Terra Australis managed to conserve an almost exclusively hunter-gatherer nomadic lifestyle. Art[ii] but no written history, has been found, and reconstruction of their impact relies on anthropological, archeological and ecological studies. “Australia” was transplanted and adapted from a British society which was on the cusp of industrialisation. Pre 1788, Australia’s aboriginal population averaged continent-wide less than one person per 8.5 square kilometers – possibly as few as one person per 51 square kilometers.[iii] Numerous clans inhabited the continent at different population densities, reflecting regional rainfall, soils and climate.[iv] Also patterned by climate and soils, the fossil-fuel-era population distribution is similar, but much denser.

Early attempts to establish agriculture failed with some unintensive exceptions recently uncovered.[v] The British managed to gain an agricultural foothold using ‘white’ slaves in the form of convicts drawn mostly from the ragged army of their dispossessed. Their number was later supplemented by indentured labour, displaced aboriginals, and, until Federation, ‘black-birding’ – the practice of kidnapping Pacific Islanders and bringing them to work in Australia, principally for the Colonial Sugar Refinery Company. There is thus no history or tradition of an established pre-fossil fuel agricultural society. The gold-rushes of the 1850s attracted capital, finance and economic migrants, resulting in a rapidly morphing population and economy and formation of a working class. This class made a national wage-fixing pact with capital at Federation in 1904 and also obtained the agreement of CSR to outlaw black-birding [vi] and the importation of other 'non-white' labour, widely perceived as synonymous with slaving.[vii]

The economy intensified after World War II, but much land was cleared and divided up for development by land speculators from the time of the gold rushes of the mid 19th and early 20th century. When the gold ran out, there was a massive depression, which probably assisted the formation of the above industrial laws.

After WW2 business promoted a fear of population implosion among politicians and a policy for mass immigration came in. High immigration, combined with the unforeseen baby-boom that accompanied the petroleum era, made the newly privatized housing industry very powerful and consolidated an economic addiction to population growth. Although the ‘white-Australia’ policy was dismantled, wages and conditions legislation under the 1904 constitution protected workers and made it unprofitable to import labor simply to undercut wages. However, in 2006-7, the conservative government found a way around this - (Workchoices).[viii] At the same time net immigration was encouraged to increase from an average of around 75-80,000 per annum to upwards of 160,000 per annum,[ix] at the behest of the development, housing, mining and financial lobbies. All this took place in the context of a huge increase in mining and construction, including massive engineering projects in most states which have drawn angry but useless protests from Australians. These circumstances underpin Australia’s demographic and material overshoot.

The ideology of multiculturalism has been useful for suppressing protest against this massive population growth by tarring as 'racist' any protest against immigration for whatever reason. It is ironic that the White Australia policy, which was introduced to combat the kind of slavery which the USA was built on, has been replaced with a much nicer-sounding Multiculturalism, which allows the importation of low-wage labour and the flooding of the housing market to benefit speculators, in the context of rising land prices and rising homelessness.


[i] “Australia’s Population” (Population Clock), Australian Bureau of Statistics, [5 Nov 2007]

[ii] Much of which functioned as maps of areas of land with markers for water, game, people and landmarks.

[iii] Total land stock is 770 million ha of 7,700,000 square km. Estimates of population range between 150,000 through 300,000 to 900,000.

[iv] Joseph B. Birdsell, “Australia: Ecology, spacing mechanisms and adaptive behaviour in aboriginal land tenure”, in Ron Crocombe, (Ed.), Land Tenure in the Pacific, OUP/MUP 1971, pp.334-361

[v] Jennifer Macey, “Vic bushfires uncover ancient Aboriginal stone houses”, The World Today, 3 Feb. 2006 12:45:00,

[vi] “With Federation, the Commonwealth Parliament became dominated by spokesmen for ‘White Australia’. In October 1901 legislation was passed prohibiting the introduction of Pacific Islanders after 31 March 1904.”, McKillop, R.F., referring to Bolton, G.C., A Thousand miles away: A History of North Queensland to 1920, ANU Press, 1972, p. 239, in “Australia’s Sugar Industry” on the Light Railway Research Society of Australia site,

[vii] The Colonial Sugar Company aroused similar responses among indigenous Fijians who also objected to black-birding as well as to the importing of Indian indentured labour. “The Indian Connection”, Frontline, Volume 17 - Issue 12, June 10 - 23, 2000,

[viii] “How low can you go?”, Colin Fenwick, Economic and Labour Relations Review,5; (2006) 16(2)

[ix] “Largest population increase ever: ABS,” Media Release, September 24, 2007,, “Net overseas migration contributed 54% (162,600 people) to this growth, which was more than the natural increase of 46% (138,100 people or 273,500 births minus 135,400 deaths).” This occurred with confusing changes to statistical methods plus new ease of transfer from temporary to permanent migrant (largely equivalent to European citizenship).


I think that in the public mind, the issues of population, race and of multiculturalism have become confused to the point where they're inseparable.

Try this simple exercise at home. There's a striking but crude bumper sticker going 'round that consists of an outline of Australia with the words "F*ck off - We're full". No question, it's an offensive sort of thing. Its emphatic use of the F word guarantees this (as well as it's popularity in some circles, no doubt).
It's existence has excited much commentary on blogs around the web. Google these and what you find is that there's precious little discussion of whether Australia's actually 'full' or not. The overwhelming reaction - delivered in smug tones of moral superiority - is that the sticker is an example of redneck racism and that it's to be deplored. Not just because it's crude or offensive, mind you, but because it's fundamentally wrong. Most writers feel that its wrongness is evident simply because of the socio-economic status of those sporting it on their vehicles. Or from the class of vehicle on which the sticker appears. One blogger, having ripped into the bogans across the road for decorating their Falcon with the offending sticker, goes on to cite population/land area statistics to 'prove' how underpopulated Australia is compared to China and India (those paragons of sustainability). A sympathetic reader, gushing over this vapid analysis, says;

"I especially like how you backed up your argument with real evidence- like, if you got into a verbal spat with the neighbour you could actually quote statistics and make him/her feel even more ignorant." (

Deary me. One wonders what a similar analysis of Antarctica's population to land area would reveal. To be fair, later commentators question the relevance of the simple land area/population analysis and of course the blogger provides no response.

Aside from being just plain wrong, the blogosphere is unanimous in its view that the sticker is racist. How so? My own analysis of its limited content is that all comers are being asked to F*ck off, not just those of a particular ethnic origin. But as Sheila's article implies, the 'racist' brush has been used to tar so many for such a diversity of reasons that it no longer matters. If you oppose mass immigration - you're racist.

Crude stickers are probably no help in getting the message about population sustainablity more widely accepted. But the common notion that opposition to mass immigration = racism is a bigger challenge. And with vested interests benefiting from this misconception, changing it will be hard.

I lay no claim, what-so-ever to being an intellectual, however, one doesn't need to be, to see that Australia is leaning toward an unsustainable population; water, arable land, real jobs to support expensive houses and cost of living.

But what I want to know, is why - successive governments, at both State & Federal levels, are behaving in such a contrary way? If it's obvious to half wits like me (and perhaps to quarter-wits and even eighth-wits...) that we are beyond sustainability, why are we allowing it to happen?

What drives the push for more people?

Agent Provocateur: you provoked me! Denial is a common human behaviour. We have holocaust deniers, climate change deniers, and we also have population overload deniers, to name just a few. Uninformed denial of science as it relates to one subject, while actively promoting a favoured subject, places a (temporary) barrier (and double standard) between the crux of a troubling issue and the remedy for it.

I have been looking through Mark O'Connor's writings on Australia's population overload, and couldn't agree more with you, Agent Provocateur, and Mr O'Connor.

Yet some Australian politicians continue to turn their denial eye to Australia's population over-growth. They will not acknowledge Australia's human over-growth as the detrimental thing that it is repidly becoming. Mr O'Connor's projected population growth figures are much more concerning than anything I have yet seen.

And in the context of climate change, New Scientist reports that the cradle to grave eco footprint of a medium size dog is twice that of a 4.6l Toyota land cruiser! Studies have confirmed this rather surprising fact.

So it follows that necessary containment of Australia's human population, particularly if accompanied by a reduction in domestic animal numbers, would make a positive contribution to the curtailment of global warming.

In order to argue the benefits of human population curtailment, and possibly even population reduction, it would be sensible to also advocate against the population growth of domestic (and other) animals.

Whilst I agree with you about the humans, Quiet Please, I think your comments about dogs are out of proportion.
As an elderly jack russell cross, I eat very little and occupy only one chair and have no children.
In the case of native animals I think that their population needs boosting to survive the human plague and I am prepared to make a personal contribution in the form of a canine amnesty on possums.

If only all owners of domestic animals were responsible to pets, wildlife and neighbours.
But alas it's like shooters - some are responsible and others end up turning the rifle on familiy members or get like Ivan Milat.

If only the RSPCA, all domestic animal breeders and anyone selling a domestic animal were subject to ethical legal controls. Compulsory desexing, microchipping, vaccinations, worming, then there is the particular problem of dogs - barking, not walked, confined, untied on the back of utes, etc.

Perhaps an RSPCA $1000 bond for a domestic dog subject to a 12 month inspection designed and conducted by the RSPCA would prevent a lot of domestic animals not being sold to irresponsible owners. The inspection would cost $200, so the owner would get $800 back after 12 months subject to full compliance. The bond money should be invested into more rangers patrolling urban areas for stray cats and dogs and particularly barking dogs. If only more would-be dog owners took to intelligent Jack Russells, instead of larger more problematic dogs.

But what has this got to do with the article's focus on the overpopulation problem Doggone?

Quiet Tasmania's picture

Tigerquoll's suggestion of a monetary bond for every dog owner is a good idea in principle and it's actually one of a dozen or more that I've promoted (eg at ) however many recalcitrant dog owners have little or no respect for their control obligations as it is, and imposing a heavy financial burden upon them would predictably provoke widespread defiance. You could safely bet on it!

Although I greatly favour mandatory bonds as a sensible method of bringing the nation's dog plague under control, many would regard the sum of $1000 as excessive. A bond related to a person's income, and taking into account his history of good or bad ownership, would be much fairer in many instances, as would an "abuser-pays" system.

An up-front bond of say $250 would also deter many potential dog owners into deciding against keeping that particular animal. This would be very good considering that the prime cause of the excessive barking so damaging to human health is that animal's unnatural confinement in the nation's backyards. This is a ubiquitous cruelty that the RSPCA and comparable organisations remain completely oblivious to, although the RSPCA's Dr Hugh Wirth has recently suggested penalties to $12,000 for those owners who fail to excercise their dogs. This proposal is unenforceable, and is therefore doomed from the start.

As it is, all councils set dog registration fees at quite low levels and one of the reasons for this is their fear that higher levels will inhibit registration compliance. Their view is that it's better to have dogs registered at a low rate to secure SOME enforcement cost-offsetting income, than to have a higher fee that's ignored and secures none at all.

I particularly like, in principle, Tigerquoll's paragraph here: "Perhaps an RSPCA $1000 bond for a domestic dog subject to a 12 month inspection designed and conducted by the RSPCA would prevent a lot of domestic animals // being sold to irresponsible owners. The inspection would cost $200, so the owner would get $800 back after 12 months subject to full compliance. The bond money should be invested into more rangers patrolling urban areas for stray cats and dogs and particularly barking dogs."

I like the notion of reducing fees progressively for an owner's compliance with his moral and legal obligations. It provides incentives inducing good behaviour.

If the barking situation does not improve substantially, then noise-distressed neighbours will remain obliged to relocate, and some of them, driven mad, will still kill either the dog - or its owner. And yes, murders DO occur because of excessive barking!

Thankyou Tigerquoll, for your sensible comments.

Peter Bright

A key problem with Rudd's immigration policy is that he doesn't have one - not publicly anyway.

Rudd leaves the Rudd Gates open and is blind to the over-demand and dilution of quality of life this is casung Australians already here. We have undersupply in every aspect of Australian social infrastructure, let alone to stretch to support more people. It's like opening the farm gate to allow sheep to graze on a spare paddock, except the paddock is full, the grass has been eaten and yet the gate is left open so more sheep enter. All the while farmer Rudd is off to overseas markets telling other farmers how to farm.

Go to the Australian Government website on immigration and try finding Australia's immigration policy for yourself. Hey let us know if you find one!

Then go to the ALP website and you find the media article 'Tackling Housing Supply & Affordability' by PM Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan dated 7-Dec-09 (i.e. yesterday) announcing:

"The Council of Australian Governments today tasked Treasurers with accelerating and expanding on work underway through COAG, making housing a priority for microeconomic reform for 2010.

Ensuring an adequate supply of housing as our population expands in coming decades is also a key economic challenge, impacting on the mobility of our labour force and our capacity for sustainable growth.

Key issues addressed by first ministers and Treasurers included:

* Utilising the land audits recently undertaken by the Commonwealth and state and territory governments to progress the release of surplus land;
* Implementing more efficient approaches to Development Assessment processes; and
*Developing a timetable for housing policy reform for consideration at the first COAG meeting in 2010.

The policy development process will build on a number of measures already in train aimed at increasing the housing supply:

* The COAG Cities Infrastructure and Planning Taskforce has developed a national objective and criteria for capital city strategic planning systems;
* Planning Ministers have developed national planning principles and code-based development approvals processes and intend to work with Housing Ministers to progress reforms; and
* The Henry Tax Review is examining tax issues as they relate to housing.

This work is consistent with COAG's agreement to national criteria for planning transport, housing, urban development and sustainability.

Today's announcement will ensure that the Federal, State and Territory Treasurers are working with Housing and Planning Ministers to ensure we are doing all we can to address housing supply and affordability issues in the interests of Australians wherever they live."

So, the Rudd Government, by encouraging record immigration into Australia has self-perpetuated this "key economic challenge" and housing shortage. Rudd is driving "the release of surplus land" aka sprawl. Rudd is setting up a sprawl taskforce called 'The COAG Cities Infrastructure and Planning Taskforce'. It is to consider a sprawl tax out of The Henry Tax Review to help pay for the sprawl.

The COAG will then try to deal with planning transport. The only thought of 'sustainability' is the use of the term in the propaganda.

Immigration Lobbyists

Then we have vested interest groups like ASA promoting maximising immigration into Australia. It has offices in Australia (Head Office), United Kingdom (England), South Africa (Pretoria), Singapore, Brazil, Malaysia & association offices in 17 countries.

The ASA website promotes the classic economic benefits of immigration:


"This growing population spends more and invests more, thus contributing to the expansion of the country's economy. Along with such essentials as housing and food, migrants help business expansion through investment which then produces extra goods and services in both the private and government sectors.

It also affects the supply side of the economy by introducing labour, skills and money into Australia; by setting up of new businesses by migrants and by their contributions to new technologies. All of these elements are important in a time of high technological growth and increasing international co-operation and competition."

Rudd's Immigration Revolution is self-perpetuating the cycle of demand, spending, consumerism, sprawl, resource depletion, excess consumption, increased greenhouse gases and immigration; that is, everything that contrary to the spirit of Copenhagen.

What makes you think howard or abbot are any less pro immigration than rudd? We should lynch the lot of them. (the politicians that is LOL)

If theres nothing wrong with a big population why don't our wonderful immigrants go back to their Third World countries?
It is not a question of racism, it is a question of compassion not colour. How many more starving, homeless people does Australia need before it joins the Third World officially.
We already have too many homeless/hungry people to take care of we don't need anymore. The kind (not colour) of people coming to Australia are not growing our economy they are bleeding it dry.
If we must accept these lazy refugees then they should be steralised first, so they can't further burden our welfare system with thier multiple off-spring.

We like people to feel that they can make frank comments on our site but I feel that as an editor of I need to point out here that the comment above about "lazy refugees" lacks rationale and generalises unfairly about a very diverse class of people who come to this country. If we let this comment pass without editorial comment, readers may think that we see refugees as fair targets. We don't. Traditionally refugees were accepted here as people in need of a refuge. It has only been recently, in the context of constantly growing population, that these people have been stigmatised. This was a political ploy to make it seem that the 'programmed migration' was under control - just not the 'unprogrammed'. In fact the programmed and economic immigration is beyond all democratic control and far outweighs the problem of inflow of refugees, stateless persons, or asylum seekers. That is not to say that global numbers of displaced and persecuted, as well as of the destitute, is not a potential problem which the world needs to deal with better than just expecting people to flee from untenable situations to uncertain destinations.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
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