We cannot let an internationally famous Australian icon become extinct in its natural habitat. South East Queensland has entered the final phase of the extinction of its biodiversity, with mega-developments gone mad and the loss of Koalas mounting as Koalageddon increases exponentially. Eastern Australia was a recognised international hotspot for biodiversity and unfortunately is now part of an internationally recognised de-forestation hotspot ! The only one in the "developed" world. How could this happen in Australia??? This is simply not acceptable to many people.
"As Sustainable Population Australia is an environmentally focused organization, we advocate policies that encourage human activity that is sustainable within finite natural limits and question the ongoing growth paradigm. Growth in the capital cities is reaching limits, whilst coastline development impacts fragile ecosystems. However, inland Australia is more subject to temperature extremes, water shortages and a lack of locational comparative advantage to sustain livelihoods. Within the context of an increasing climate emergency and peak fossil fuel energy, investment will be better spent on resilient communities and foreign aid rather than growth for growth's sake."
House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities
SPAVicTas Submission to the Inquiry into the Australian Government’s role in the development of cities.
Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) is an Australian, member-driven environmental charity which advocates to establish an ecologically sustainable human population. It works on many fronts to encourage informed public debate about how Australia and the world can achieve an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable population.
SPA advocates for a generous humanitarian program for refugees whilst addressing the causes of displacement abroad. SPA questions policies that encourage high population growth rates, particularly when motivated by narrow economic goals (e.g. we advocate for lower non-humanitarian immigration). We work with international colleagues to promote rights-based voluntary family planning programs in high fertility countries, and to elevate the rights of women and girls everywhere.
Our main response to the inquiry is for an amendment to Australia’s population policy. Currently, Australia has one of the highest population growth rate in the OECD. According to Australian demographic statistics, Australia grew by 1.6% pa. to the end of 2016, or by 373 000 people:
(1). This is high by world standards. Some states are growing disproportionately faster, e.g. Victoria grows at 2.4%. Most of this growth occurs in the capital cities which absorb around 80% of total growth. Melbourne expands by 92 000 thousand per annum and is Australia’s fastest growing city
(2). This rapid population growth contributes significantly to the difficulty in town planning systems to maintain or improve the functionality of our capital cities.
However, this population growth is not inevitable. Australia could maintain a broadly stable population and maintain humanitarian obligations without any changes to the current birth rate or the humanitarian program. Non-humanitarian (including skilled) migration is the largest driving force behind Australia’s growing population, which is motivated by economic ideology. SPA argues that it is difficult to meet town planning objectives with this rate of population growth, and that an amendment to population policies, in accordance with former MP Kelvin Thomson’s’ 14 point plan would assist in many of the town planning issues impacting our major cities (3).
As Sustainable Population Australia is an environmentally focused organization, we advocate policies that encourage human activity that is sustainable within finite natural limits and question the ongoing growth paradigm. Growth in the capital cities is reaching limits, whilst coastline development impacts fragile ecosystems. However, inland Australia is more subject to temperature extremes, water shortages and a lack of locational comparative advantage to sustain livelihoods. Within the context of an increasing climate emergency and peak fossil fuel energy, investment will be better spent on resilient communities and foreign aid rather than growth for growth's sake.
The submission shall now address the below criteria directly:
1) Sustainability transitions in existing cities2>
• Identifying how the trajectories of existing cities can be directed towards a more sustainable urban form that enhances urban liveability and quality of life and reduces energy, water, and resource consumption;
By virtue of our increasing infrastructure deficit and indicators that our capital cities are struggling to keep up with growth (4), we are becoming increasingly limited in our ability to reduce our per-capita footprint. This is because suburban sprawl requires longer commutes, increased biodiversity loss, loss of agricultural land and all round higher carbon living. Higher density increases the urban heat island effect, and is requiring increasingly costly and high-environmental-impact infrastructure, particularly for transport tunnels. This is where the dichotomy of population versus consumption starts to break down when discussing sustainability. The two are interconnected.
Melbourne and Sydney are both expected to double their population to over 8 million by 2050 by current trajectories. Therefore the impact of energy, water and resource consumption will also double unless drastic measures are implemented quickly to mitigate per capita consumption of these resources. Without amending our current population policy, this means reducing our per capita consumption of energy, water and resources by 50% in 35 years to maintain current levels of total consumption. Furthermore, there is no plan to stop at 8 million – following this path would lock in further subsequent growth. There is a limit to how far per person demand for water and energy can be diminished. Therefore, vast changes to the way we live, requiring sacrifices of amenity, will have little benefit for sustainability in the long run if population growth remains high.
The State of the Environment report in Victoria 2008 (5) refers to population growth and settlement patterns as contributors to degenerating environmental factors in the state. Academic Rachel Carey in Footprint from Melbourne (6) warns of the impacts of urban sprawl on Melbourne’s food bowl. Continued urban sprawl will reduce the city’s food bowl capacity significantly, from 40% currently to around 18% by 2050. The suburban sprawl model is increasingly viewed as an unsustainable way of living. In the documentary ‘The End Of Suburbia’, James Howard Kunstler refers to suburbia as the ‘greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world’ whereas Richard Heinberg states that ‘suburbs wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for cheap oil’.
The current town planning response to suburban sprawl is to (a) develop on brownfield sites and (b) increase density in the inner and middle suburbs. There is however a limit to which brownfield sites can address rapid population growth. To provide an example in Melbourne, the Fishermans Bend urban renewal project in Melbourne will take decades from inception to completion, yet it will only absorb 10 months worth of Melbourne’s population growth. Meanwhile, town planning academics such as Bob Birrell and Michael Buxton criticise the current high rise paradigm. Reasons include that most new apartments are being built to accommodate specific demographic groups (e.g. too small to house families) and that they are geared towards investors. A downside of this is that new apartments are rarely built to last. Melbourne City Council planner Leanne Hodyl released a 2015 report that said high-rise developments were being built at a rate four times higher than that of some of the world’s highest density cities, and the current Victoria state Planning Minister has admitted that many Melbourne apartments are too small, too dark and badly ventilated. The business model driving their construction is clearly not one intended to enhance urban liveability and quality of life. It is one which aims to force residents to accept the style of housing most profitable to developers.
Regardless of the method in which we continue to grow cities, the costs on infrastructure must be considered. A higher population growth rate means a greater proportion of total economic activity has to be dedicated to expanding infrastructure. The public cost (across all levels of government) per extra person for Gross Fixed Capital Formation (largely infrastructure) is at least $100 000 with some estimates much higher. Dr Jane O’Sullivan has explored the correlation of infrastructure costs and population growth in depth:
“These analyses show that acquiring the durable assets to support population growth has historically cost around 6.5-7% of GDP per one percent population growth rate. Thus, if Australia’s growth is 1.5% p.a., around 11-12% of GDP is diverted to the task of acquiring infrastructure and other durable assets, merely to extend to the additional people the level of service already available to the existing population.” (6)
This long-term average cost has been compounded in the last decade by the much higher cost of retrofitting already built-up areas, and the dis-economies of scale of high rise construction. For example, the East west link tunnel was costed at $1 billion per kilometre, around twenty times higher than above-ground roads and rail.
In its 2013 report “An Ageing Australia: preparing for the future”, the Productivity Commission warned that, due to elevated population growth, total private and public investment requirements over the next 50 years are estimated to be more than 5 times the cumulative investment made over the last half century. They noted that failure to finance this infrastructure would reduce total factor productivity.
Infrastructure has a considerable financial cost but also an environmental impact as all infrastructure requires the use of scarce resources and energy to make and operate. We are not making our cities more environmentally resilient by concreting over them.
• Considering what regulation and barriers exist that the Commonwealth could influence, and opportunities to cut red tape; and
We advise that many of the issues listed above could be mitigated if the Commonwealth government modified its policy on economically driven population growth so that population growth occurs at a slower rate, and tapers off at an anticipatable level. This will make town planning outcomes such as urban form and environmental objectives much easier to manage. National tax reforms such as negative gearing and capital gains concessions, selling the right to develop rezoned land (to capture the windfall gain in property values from rezoning) and reforms to political donations, may assist in mitigating the lobbying power of property developers and private interests over state and local council town planning decisions.
We reject the claim that housing and infrastructure stress is merely a supply problem and attributable to “regulation, barriers and red tape”. It is mostly a demand “problem”, where demand has been deliberately elevated to the advantage of developers, against the interests of existing residents.
• Examining the national benefits of being a global 'best practice' leader in sustainable urban development.
This would enable our conurbations to be in the best position to adapt to a low carbon economy with the knock-on effect of having far reaching economic benefits. However, if population growth continues at the current rate, we will lose the small window of opportunity we currently have to adapt our conurbations to a low carbon way of living. We must preserve the food bowls around our cities and it is imperative that infrastructure and affordable housing is in sync with population growth. (The lack of public transport infrastructure delivery on the urban fringes for example is very disheartening.) Otherwise we will continue to see an acceleration of car dependent sprawl on the urban fringe as well as a poor standard of urban intensification in the inner and middle suburbs (which instead of helping to reduce sprawl is contributing to it due to the spatial inequality that is apparent when there is a severe lack of social housing in new developments). This will also have huge implications for incoming migrants who will be forced further into non-walkable communities on the urban fringe.
Population growth rate itself diminishes prospects for good urban design. It is impossible to design for perpetual growth. All designs have a carrying capacity, beyond which they become congested and inefficient. If our population growth were slowing toward a predictable stable population level, urban design could optimise the functionality and amenity for that population. A perpetually growing population makes all designs ephemeral fixes. Our major infrastructure must spend half its life inefficiently under-utilised and the other half inefficiently congested. Australians who visit Japan or continental Europe often remark on the quality and efficiency of infrastructure. This has been achieved because their populations have been near stable.
Some growth advocates such as Bernard Salt and Lucy Turnbull advocate modular cities, composed of multiple adjoining “20-minute communities” around their own business centre. This is a fantasy which no real city has achieved. Attempts generally resort to secondary centres remaining dormitories with long commutes. The same can largely be said of regionalisation. The only centres to achieve growth at or above the rate of growth of the capital city are those which have become, through improvement in transport and diminishing expectations of commuters, viable for commuting to the capital.
2) Growing new and transitioning existing sustainable regional cities and towns
• Promoting the development of regional centres, including promoting master planning of regional communities;
• Promoting private investment in regional centres and regional infrastructure;
• Promoting the competitive advantages of regional location for businesses;
• Examining ways urbanisation can be re-directed to achieve more balanced regional development; and
• Identifying the infrastructure requirements for reliable and affordable transport, clean energy, water and waste in a new settlement of reasonable size, located away from existing infrastructure.
According to the Productivity Commission (7), regional Australia is generally not attractive for skilled migrants to settle long term. However, there is sufficient intrastate movement from capital cities to regional Australia (particularly from younger urban families) to assist prosperity in regional areas, if there is indeed demand for growth in those areas. For example, According to recent market research, approximately 450,000 people are planning to move to regional Victoria from Melbourne in the next three years. Increasing Australia’ population through the skilled migration program is not therefore an effective method in increasing population in the regions if current settlement patterns persist.
In the past five years (up until August 2016) Victoria's population has grown by five hundred thousand. Twenty six thousand of this was in Victoria's three main regional cities (8). That translates to just fifteen weeks of Victoria's overall population growth in the years since 2011. The potential for increasing the population of even smaller towns (especially those that are not in commutable distance from Melbourne) is considerably less and in the long term you would only be looking at perhaps a few thousand here and there (which is negligible in face of our current rate of population growth).
Previous attempts to decentralise people and jobs from the cities to the regions in Australia have largely been unsuccessful, though politicians still like to cite this as something that we should do. Most of the growth in regional areas currently occur in the peri-urban areas of capital cities (e.g. Newcastle and Wollongong in NSW, Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat in Victoria). Many of these town are becoming effectively dormitory suburbs for the capital cities, and people are still dependent on capital cities for work and services. There is a limit however to how large these urban centres can grow before they start to have infrastructure and urban sprawl problems of their own. For example, if most of Victoria's population increase of 100,000 a year were to be directed away from Melbourne, the question remains how large regional Victoria could grow before we need to return to growing Melbourne? (Large regional cities in Victoria such as Geelong are already starting to be impacted with urban sprawl issues of their own.) Within a couple of decades we would be back to where we are now.
In terms of establishing new, self-sufficient urban centres, it is very hard to create a critical mass of economic activity, if there isn't a natural "attractant", and if there is one, you don't need to intervene - a centre will create itself. The problem is not caused by a shortage of people in that location and can't be solved by adding more. It can be argued that we don't have a shortage of people willing to live in rural areas, we have an erosion of livelihoods that rural areas can support (and this has a lot to do with the increasing share of the value of rural products that is captured up-stream in the supply chain). We don't have a skills shortage, we have a situation where employers are not willing to train and pay people enough to do the job. We don't have a shortage of working-age people to build the workforce, we have a shortage of spending, due to too much of people's income being siphoned off to "capital" (housing costs, and profits or interest payments going to overseas investors, or going to Australian investors who reinvest it in ventures that don't employ Australians, like paying ever more for the same piece of land, or gaming the stock market). It is spending that creates demand for workers, and it is lack of demand, not lack of supply, that limits the workforce.
There have been proposals for new cities, including the CLARA smart city scheme, which would include about 8 new cities along the main transport routes between Melbourne and Sydney, housing around 250,000 people each. However, the investment cost seems formidable, which would require around $200b worth of infrastructure over the next 40 years. Even then, this would still only accommodate six years’ worth of population growth.
We note that these new cities would be within the catchment of the Murray River, whose water is already over-allocated. Water could only be provided by withdrawing it from irrigated agriculture, stripping livelihoods from the rural communities throughout the system. Far from revitalising regions, they would directly undermine small communities. The livelihoods within these cities could only be generated by ongoing government intervention, to locate activities there despite lack of natural advantage. Such subsidies can only withdraw more resource away from addressing the intensifying social issues of our capital cities.
Most Australians also prefer the relatively less extreme temperature variations of living near the coast, which is one reason why we are ultimately a nation of urban-conurbations rather than boundless plains. It is hard to conceive that much of inland Australia, with higher temperature extremes, a drier climate and less access to water would be attractive places to settle for many people. To force people to accept these options, in order to mitigate a purely self-inflicted problem of major city congestion, is in no way improving liveability.
For the above reasons, Sustainable Population Australia does not see regional development as a viable solution to solving population growth issues in our capital cities without amendments to national population growth policies.
The concept of regionalisation is used to give the impression that we can enjoy the supposed benefits of population growth while directing the disbenefits elsewhere. Neither the claimed benefits, nor the proposed regionalisation, have foundations in reality. In contrast, reducing Australia’s population growth is very easily achieved, by the Federal government reducing non-humanitarian immigration quotas, just as it was doubled 13 years ago by increasing them. Instead of discussing the multifaceted benefits of reducing population growth, false “solutions” are offered. These range from regionalisation to densifying middle suburbs, massive government spending (and debt) for infrastructure such as schools, public transport and public housing, building smaller homes, and putting tolls on a range of trunk roads in peak periods (9). These options might mitigate some of the loss of liveability that unmanaged population growth would impose, but deliver no improvement on previous conditions. They provide residents with “less for more”, with severely constrained lifestyles and higher costs of living, rather than “enhancing urban liveability and quality of life”.
In conclusion, there are no solutions to the stresses of population growth, without reducing the population growth itself. Individual projects may provide improvement in the short term, but will soon be overtaken by further growth. While good planning can reduce the erosion of living standards, only ending population growth will allow environmental outcomes and liveability to be improved in a sustained manner.
1. Australian Bureau of Statistics: Population http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/[email protected]/mf/3101.0
2. The Conversation - Three charts on Australia’s population shift and the big city squeeze https://theconversation.com/three-charts-on-australias-population-shift-and-the-big-city-squeeze-75544
3. Kelvin Thomson’s 14 Point Plan For Population Reform http://dicksmithpopulation.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Kelvin-Thomson-MPs-14-Point-Plan-November-2009.pdf
4. The Age. Melbourne now as clogged as Sydney, and the city's north-east has worst traffic http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/melbourne-now-as-clogged-as-sydney-and-the-citys-northeast-has-worst-traffic-20170702-gx2zup.html
5. Comissioner for Environmental Sustainably Victoria: State Of The Environment Report 2008. http://www.ces.vic.gov.au/publications/state-environment-report-2008
6. O’Sullivan, J.N. 2012. The burden of durable asset acquisition in growing populations. Economic Affairs 32(1), 31-37. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-0270.2011.02125.x/pdf ; O’Sullivan J.N. 2014. Submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Infrastructure provision and funding in Australia. http://www.pc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/135517/subdr156-infrastructure.pdf
7. Productivity Commission 2016 – Inquiry Report: Migrant Intake into Australia http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/migrant-intake/report/migrant-intake-report.pdf
8. Networked Rural Councils Program: Rural Migration Trends and Drivers 2012. http://www.ruralcouncilsvictoria.org.au/wp-content/uploads/FINAL-Rural-Migration-Trends-and-Drivers_NRCP-5-2_14-December-2012.pdf
9. Millar R. and Cuthbertson M. 2017-Crammed: Ten ideas for dealing with Melbourne’s population growth. The Age, 8 July 2017. http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/crammed-ideas-for-dealing-with-melbournes-booming-population-growth-20170707-gx6rw1.html
SPA Branch President, Victoria and Tasmania
On behalf of Sustainable Population Australia
During a recent conversation with a rather misguided friend, he remarked on the pleasure he claimed to experience at a glimpse via the window of a magpie feeding its young in his backyard. I have never actually seen his house but he described it as a wide bungalow running east-west along his outer suburban property, designed to catch the north sun. He also admitted to owning vacant bush land with wildlife on either side of his house.
During a recent conversation with a rather misguided friend, he remarked on the pleasure he claimed to experience at a glimpse via the window of a magpie feeding its young in his backyard. I have never actually seen his house but he described it as a wide bungalow running east-west along his outer suburban property, designed to catch the north sun. He also admitted to owning vacant bush land with wildlife on either side of his house.
He went on to say regretfully that when he and his wife move on to eternal life, the blocks where they now live will be filled with units and the bush land setting will be gone.
I did not have the heart to tell him that I think the sooner his current selfishly uneconomical situation is remedied, the better. Goodness, he is occupying land that could be filled with people and contribute to economic growth! In terms of bird life, admittedly there would be virtually no room for much more than a sparrow when the land is fully utilized, but one must be practical about land around Melbourne. There is still a zoo and people can always watch the nature channel.
A sun-catching urban bungalow
Let's face it, gone are the Alistair Knox (http://alistairknox.org/) days of windows to the floor catching sunshine unimpeded by nearby buildings and people living amongst Australian wildlife. No, this piece of nationalistic iconery needs to be put resolutely in the nostalgia basket. Thank goodness the artist colony on acres surrounded by orchards with 5 Alistair Knox designed houses that I used to visit in Templestowe has made way for a denser but more opulently material suburb packed with modern draftsman designed mansions amid properly paved streets.
My rueful friend is an anachronism, facing extinction, a proper target for developers, if I do say myself. He should make a clean break and just "get over it!" He must realise that the way to live is in modern units adjoining each other fitting in together, maximizing space like a sophisticated Lego set. It's very practical and people soon get used to the density, especially when they realise they don't have a choice. You will notice an allusion to vegetation in the foreground of the illustrated example so we know nature is not forgotten but it takes up very little space and may not even be real or need watering!
Now I must add, in all honesty that this type of medium density living has its drawbacks from the point of view of the individual and for sustainability but we must go through this to come out the other side! What I mean is that, although we must eventfully rediscover and return to optimizing energy availability in our living arrangements, if we don't get away from it and go through the "urban density transition", how can we rediscover and return to what we once enjoyed and expected?
For a few diehards, like my friend and his wife who claim to dread the disruption, it can be what you might call a painful process. Once the bush is gone though, no-one will be able to imagine the dead quiet that once reigned , let alone regret it. So many more people will be accommodated in more vibrant human circumstances! Perhaps 60 people will be able to live on my friend's land, without the same space, but with far more action. Are these 60 people going to be 30 times less happy than the current occupants? I doubt it. John Stuart Mill (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism_(book)) would commend me for my reasoning . Furthermore, happiness will be increased on the numeric level as people are brought in from more overcrowded places, so that by comparison, the medium density living that replaces the bush block actually increases their happiness although it makes my friends miserable.
High rise apartments in Jangandong, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Enough of individual happiness! The other downside is that whilst the low slung bungalow on the bush block took advantage of winter sun with the longest wall and windows facing north, this will no longer be possible with medium density living. Some units will capture north sun but obviously the majority will have to take what they get and in the interests of maximum number of units, some of them will have to be satisfied with "borrowed light". This won't matter too much because the occupants will be at work all day and won't be able to enjoy it, anyway. The unit will also require more artificial heating because it will be very cold in winter without direct sunlight. There will be a similar requirement for more lighting as "borrowed light" is not very ...er light.
On a very domestic note, every unit will require an electric clothes dryer as there will not be room for the residents to festoon their washing on lines outside. This is a small inconvenience but I have to admit is a greenhouse gas emitter. In any case the people who live in the units may have come from even higher density living where they would have been emitting like crazy to dry clothes in an even more cramped situation.
I've put a lot of thought into this and I think my friend can make a killing out of population growth in a once in a lifetime opportunity. He can live in one of the units, even pick the best. Although he won't have the months long winter sun streaming through and he will have to bid adieu to the bird life, but it's about time he grew up anyway.
It's all for a greater good.
What might put the wind up him and get him moving would be a land tax. He tells me his house is now valued at $0.00 but what about the land?
A high-rise apartment building in Chile, which collapsed
on 27 Feb 2010 as a result of an earthquake ...
Labor MP David Bradbury must correct error riddled conservation funding announcement (NSW), says Geoff Brown, Stable Population Party candidate. Mr Brown, who is a New South Wales natural conservation activist, has long fought to retain Cumberland plain woodland against attempts by governments to allow it to be destroyed for massive suburban developments. He believes now that the ALP has tried to take credit for his concept of the Cumberland Conservation Corridor. Geoff is running as a candidate for the Stable Population Party.
Mark Butler, the Federal Environment Minister, and David Bradbury, Labor member for Lindsay and the Assistant Treasurer, have been called on by Geoff Brown, the Stable Population Party candidate for Lindsay, to set the voters of Lindsay straight, after Lindsay's leading local newspaper, the Penrith Press, printed a half page story riddled with errors and misinformation about Labors 2010 federal election commitment of $7.5 million towards the establishment of the Cumberland Conservation Corridor.
Geoff Brown, also the President of the Western Sydney Conservation Alliance, developed the concept for the Cumberland Conservation Corridor in 2005, and at the 2010 election ran as an Independent using preference negotiations with Labor and Liberal to extract the $7.5 million deal from Labor. So he is on top of this issue. Several articles published by candobetter.net show his record on this matter. See Cumberland plain woodland and Geoff Brown.
Brown described himself as "livid" when he read the Penrith Press article which erroneously stated that Labor had announced $7.5m towards establishing the Cumberland Conservation Corridor. He said the article made it look as if Labor had just made some new 2013 committment. He said the voters of Linsay would be confused.
"The story should have been about why it took 3 years to fulfill their 2010 commitment. The article was littered with errors based on the dubious media release put out by David Bradbury and Mark Butler. If not corrected it will let Labor off the hook in Lindsay from announcing any new local conservation funding outcomes for the 2013 election. Labor may try to fudge their way out of it”.
Geoff Brown called on David Bradbury and Mark Butler to front the voters of Lindsay and tell them:
" - That neither Labor nor Liberals have yet promised any new conservation money in Lindsay for the 2013 election
- The announcement cited by the Penrith Press was from the 2010 election and it took 3 years to cobble together an outcome
- The Mulgoa biobanking site stays in private ownership so will not become part of the publicly owned Mulgoa Nature Reserve. So no net public benefit or use for education
- The Mulgoa site was never at threat of development and was already protected under Penrith Councils LEP which zones it E2 Environmental Conservation (I argued that money be better spent trying to conserve bushland in Penriths north at risk of development)
- That nearly half of the $7.5 million was spent on land care projects that are outside the Lindsay electorate and nowhere near the proposed Cumberland Conservation Corridor. Projects such as those in the Blue Mountains and the Cranebrook wetland project are not anywhere near the CCC
- That $3.4 million funding for weed removal and the planting trees is exactly what Tony Abbott proposes with his Green Army and Direct Action policy. This outcome condones the Liberals policy
- That 2000 ha of local bush land has not been protected (David’s MR and his letterbox propaganda claims he has saved 2000 ha of local bush land. He is claiming to have protected the 558 ha Airservices Australia land at Shanes Park and 1300 ha of bush at the Orchard Hillls Defence Establishment. These sites are not formally protected. Shanes Park has the proposed Castlereagh Freeway running through it)
- That biobanking is a scheme whereby there is a net loss of habitat. Bushland gets bulldozed with developers offsetting that clearing by funding the management of bushland elsewhere. In this case the State funding came from the clearing of critically endangered bushland in the Sydney Growth Centres. It is a highly dubious method of conserving nature.
- That the land owner is not raising his income from selling the biobanking credits. He gets a guaranteed $6.6 million as the joint Federal and State funding has already purchased the credits."
Labor caught out moving the fence posts
Geoff Brown added that Labor has been caught out trying to change the location of the Cumberland Conservation Corridor. As an example he cited the wetlands at Cranebrook near the Waterside housing estate as being 'nowhere near' the CCC.”
Mr Brown says that Lindsay voters need to be aware that Labor has not yet committed any new money towards conserving bushland within the Cumberland Conservation Corridor.
Mr Brown met last week with Mark Butler and David Bradbury calling on them to fund the protection of 1500 ha of Priority Conservation Land north of the ADI Site that is threatened. He says that the 50 ha of Mulgoa land was already zoned for protection but this 1500 ha of bushland has no such conservation zoning.
In his opinion, the only way it will be zoned for conservation by Penrith Council is if there is money on the table to buy it.
"The voters of Lindsay need to join with the Stable Population Party in calling on Labor and Liberal to commit to protecting this land.”
A better, not a bigger Australia
Mr Brown concluded by saying that to his knowledge, the Stable Population Party is the only minor political party in Lindsay actively lobbying Labor and Liberal about protecting the environment and limiting more urban sprawl and traffic congestion. He said that voters could rest assured that the Stable Population Party stands for a better not a bigger Australia.
Alan Thornett, an ecosocialist, amazes positively in this thoughtful review of yet another pseudo-environmental book. Simon Butler and Ian Angus's Too Many People predictably attempts to stifle linking population numbers to ecological survival. (Simon Butler is co-editor of the Australian publication Green Left Weekly.) "Unfortunately it is the authors themselves who continue to draw false lessons from the past: i.e. that the left should leave this subject alone, keep out of the debates, and insist that there is nothing to discuss. The problem with this is that it is not just wrong but dangerous. If socialists have nothing to say about the population of the planet the field is left open to the reactionaries, and they will be very pleased to fill it. And one thing the authors are certainly right about is that there are plenty of such people out there with some very nasty solutions indeed." Even more surprisingly, this article was first published by a British Trotskyist organisation.
Introduction to this review:
Candobetter Editor: Candobetter.net wants to believe that there is a socialist organisation out there that is in favour of free speech, science, and rich ecology. One of our tests for this is sound environmental thinking on human population numbers and ecology. The review below, published by Socialist Resistance, demonstrates sound thinking, in our view on ecology and on democracy. Socialist Resistance describes itself as "the ecosocialist magazine in Britain, has relaunched itself as the British section of the Fourth International, the worldwide socialist organisation. A national conference on July 4 completed a regroupment process begun a year earlier." But, one swallow does not a summer make, and Trotskyist organisations (i.e. socialist organisations aligned with the Fourth International) have notoriously been infiltrated by the establishment, and push growth by aggressively opposing the anti-growth lobby, thereby defending the growth lobby and the kinds of planners, developers and governments, who are destroying democracy, abrogating land-rights, and placing whole populations in precarity all over the world. We are therefore keeping our fingers crossed about the Socialist Resistance, but not holding our breaths.
Too many people? A review
First published here: http://socialistresistance.org/3013/too-many-people-a-review
As a long-time comrade of Ian Angus, a fellow ecosocialist, and an admirer of his work on Marxism and ecology, I am disappointed by the tone he has adopted in his new book on population Too Many People?—which he has authored jointly with Simon Butler, co-editor of the Australian publication Green Left Weekly.
The thesis they advance is that the population of the planet is irrelevant to its ecology, and that even discussing it is a dangerous or even reactionary diversion—a taboo subject. They even argue that such discussion is divisive and detrimental environmental campaigning. [page 97]
The book appears to be a response to Laurie Mazur’s very useful book published last year A Pivotal Moment— Population, Justice and the environmental challenge. This was reviewed by Sheila Malone in SR (July 2010), as part of a debate on the issue.
Mazur argues that it is not a matter of choosing between reactionary policies from the past but that “we can fight for population policies that are firmly grounded in human rights and social justice”. I agree with her on this point, though not with everything in her book.
I didn’t expect to agree with Ian’s book as such, since I have differed with him on this issue for some time. I did expect, however, an objective presentation of the debates without the ideas of fellow ecosocialists being lumped together with those of reactionaries and despots.
What we have is the branding (in heavy polemical tones) of anyone with a contrary view to the authors as ‘Malthusianist’—i.e. supporters of the 18th century population theorist the Reverend Thomas Malthus who advocated starving the poor to stop them breeding—or more precisely as ‘populationist’, by which the authors mean neo-Malthusianist.
They explain it this way: “Throughout the book we use the term ‘populationism‘ to refer to ideologies that attribute social and ecological ills to human numbers and ‘populationist’ to people who support such ideas.” They go on: “We prefer those terms to the more traditional Malthusianism and Malthusian, for two reasons”. The first is because not everyone is familiar with Malthus and the second is because most of their protagonists don’t actually agree with what he wrote. The “more traditional term”, however, never goes away. [page XX1]
This leaves the book stuck in the past, more concerned with rehashing the polarised conflicts of the last 200 years than engaging with the contemporary debates.
The authors are right to say that population is not the root cause of the environmental problems of the planet. It is capitalism. They are also right to say that stabilising the population would not in itself resolve them. But they are wrong to say that it is irrelevant. The fact is that current rate of increase is unsustainable were it to continue—and whether it will continue or for how long no one knows. What we do know it that it has almost tripled in just over 60 years—from 2.5bn in 1950 to the recently reached figure of 7bn.
According to UN figures it will reach between 8bn and 11bn (with 9.5bn as the median figure) by 2050. After that it could begin to stabilise—possibly doing so by the end of the 21st century. Even this, however, is highly speculative. Long-term population predictions, as the authors themselves acknowledge, are notoriously inaccurate. Meanwhile nearly half the current world population is under 25—which is a huge base for further growth.
Yet throughout the book the charge of ‘Malthusianism’ or ‘populationism’ is aggressively leveled against anyone who suggests that rising population is a legitimate, let alone important, subject for discussion. These range from those who do indeed see population as the primary cause of the ecological crisis to those who blame capitalism for it but see population as an important issue to be addressed within that.
This is reinforced by a sleight of hand by the authors over the term population ‘control’. They refuse to draw any distinction between control and empowerment and then brand those they polemicise against—including fellow ecosocialists who advocate empowerment—as being in favour of population ‘control’. This allows them to create a highly objectionable amalgam between every reactionary advocate of population control they can find—and there is no shortage of them including Malthusians—and those who are opposed to such control. This is then referred to throughout the book as “the populationist establishment”.
My own views would certainly fall within this so-called establishment. Yet I am opposed to population control and support policies based on empowerment—policies based on human rights and social justice, socially progressive in and of themselves, which can at the same time start to stabilise the population of the planet.
Such policies involve lifting people out of poverty in the poorest parts of the globe. They involve enabling women to control their own fertility through the provision of contraception and abortion services. It means challenging the influence of religion and other conservative influences such as patriarchal pressure. They involve giving women in impoverished communities access to education.
These are major strategic objectives in their own right, with the issue of rising population giving them an additional urgency. Yet the book dismisses them as secondary, as issues already dealt with! This reflects the fact that the book has nothing at all to say on the substantive (and huge) issue of women and population.
Some important progress towards empowerment policies was made at the UN conference on population and development held in Cairo in 1994. This, for the first time, pointed to the stabilisation of the global population through the elimination of poverty, the empowerment of women, and the effective implementation of basic human rights. That its proposals were sidelined by a vicious pro-life backlash and the arrival of George W Bush on the world stage does not invalidate the contribution it made.
The above approach, however, along with the Cairo Conference, is heavily slapped down in the book. In fact this is one of the author’s principal preoccupations. Empowerment is presented as the slippery slope to not only population control but “at its most extreme” to programs, human rights abuses, enforced or coercive sterilization, sex-selective abortion, female infanticide, and even to ethnic cleansing! [page 94]
The authors put it this way:
“Most supporters of population control today say that it is meant as a kindness — a benevolent measure that can empower women, help climate change, and lift people out of poverty, hunger, and underdevelopment. But population control has a dark past that must be taken into account by anyone seeking solutions to the ecological crisis.”(page 83) They go on: “…At its most extreme, this logic has led to sterilisation of the ‘unfit’ or ethnic cleansing. But even family planning could be a form of population control when the proponents aim to plan other people’s families.” [page 84]
The term population ‘control’ is again perversely attributed to anyone with contrary views and we are again warned of the ‘dark past’ of population debates and the dangers of engaging in them—and anything can be abused, of course, including family planning. But only enforced contraception, which we all oppose, could rationally be seen population control—not the extension to women of the ability to control their own fertility.
Equally mistaken is the crass assertion that to raise the issue of population under conditions where fertility levels are highest in the global south and declining in the north is in some way to target the women of the south and to blame them for the situation. For Fred Pearce, who endorses the book, makes advocates of empowerment into “people haters”: “How did apparently progressive greens and defenders of the underprivileged turn into people-haters, convinced of the evils of overbreeding amongst the world’s poor”.
What the empowerment approach actually targets, of course, is the appalling conditions under which women of the global south are forced to live and the denial basic human rights to which they are subjected. It demands that they have the same opportunities and resources as the women of the global north.
Even more confused is the allegation that the provision of contraception to women in the global south is in some way an attack on their reproductive rights; an attempt to stop them having the family size they would otherwise want — a view which appears to be endorsed in the Socialist Review review of the book. If that were the case, of course, it would not be the right to choose but enforced contraception.
In any case the proposition that most women in the global south, given genuine choice, would choose to have the large families of today is not supported by the evidence. Over 200m women in the global south are currently denied such services and there are between 70m and 80m unintended pregnancies a year—of which 46m end in abortions. 74,000 women die every year as a result of failed back-street abortions—a disproportionate number of these in the global south.
After attacking empowerment from every conceivable angle the authors then appear to accept at least the possibility that not all of us who think population is an important issue to discuss support enforced sterilisation and human rights abuses:
“We are not suggesting that everyone who thinks population growth is an ecological issue would support compulsory sterilisation or human rights abuses. Most modern-day populationists reject the coercive programmes of the 20th century, but that does not mean that they have drawn the necessary lessons from those experiences.” [page 95]
Unfortunately it is the authors themselves who continue to draw false lessons from the past: i.e. that the left should leave this subject alone, keep out of the debates, and insist that there is nothing to discuss.
The problem with this is that it is not just wrong but dangerous. If socialists have nothing to say about the population of the planet the field is left open to the reactionaries, and they will be very pleased to fill it. And one thing the authors are certainly right about is that there are plenty of such people out there with some very nasty solutions indeed.
Paul Cleary’s book Too Much Luck: The Mining Boom and Australia’s Future, is a timely appraisal of the dramatic economic and social impacts, as well as the political ramifications of the current resource boom.
Paul Cleary’s book Too Much Luck: The Mining Boom and Australia’s Future, is a timely appraisal of the dramatic economic and social impacts, as well as the political ramifications of the current resource boom.
(The reviewed work covers much of the same ground as Dirty Money of 2011 by Matthew Benns, which I am currently reading and can also recommend.) This review of Paul Cleary's book by Professor Kerry Carrington, Head of School of Justice at Queensland University of Technology was originally published on theconversation.edu.au on 25 November. It is being reprinted here with her kind permission. Professor Carrington asked that this review be republished as widely as possible.
Paul Cleary’s book Too Much Luck: The Mining Boom and Australia’s Future, is a timely appraisal of the dramatic economic and social impacts, as well as the political ramifications of the current resource boom.
Cleary argues that the resource investment stampede is squandering Australia’s precious non-renewable fossil fuels, leading to a high dollar, inflation and interest rates, at the expense of manufacturing, education and tourism industries.
There is, he argues, a strong case for a more measured approach to harvesting these resources in the long-term interests of all Australians through better taxation, saving and regulation of the resource sector. This book is not anti-mining and does not argue that resources should be left in the ground, as Stephen Kirchner would have us believe.
Cleary coins the phrase “investment stampede” to capture the seismic shifts at work. The sector is growing fast – too fast – at 15% per annum, with a pipeline investment of $174 billion. Global demand especially from Asia has fuelled this boom. Current economic returns for the mining corporations and their shareholders are staggering.
Cleary coins the phrase “investment stampede” to capture the seismic shifts at work. The sector is growing fast – too fast – at 15% per annum, with a pipeline investment of $174 billion. Global demand especially from Asia has fuelled this boom. Current economic returns for the mining corporations and their shareholders are staggering.
In August 2011 BHP announced an annual net profit of $23.5 billion, while earlier in the year Rio Tinto had announced an annual profit of $14.3 billion.
Cleary’s book analyses an array of adverse impacts resulting from an investment stampede, including the growth of fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workforces. Until the 1970s, mining leases tended to be issued by governments subject to conditions that companies build or substantially finance local community infrastructure, including housing, streets, transport, schools, hospitals and recreation facilities. Townships and communities went hand in hand with mining development.
Not any more. The haste of this extraction process has become increasingly reliant on a continuous production cycle of 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, and one increasingly reliant on fly-in, fly-out or drive-in, drive-out (non-resident) workers who typically work block rosters, and reside in work camps adjacent to existing rural communities.
There are estimated to be around 150,000 non-resident workers directly employed by the resources sector, anticipated to rise to around 200,000 by 2015, but no government body appears to be counting and projected growth is equally elusive.
This is an odd oversight given the rapid growth of reliance on non-resident workers in the resources sector carries significant impacts for individual workers and their families and host communities, as evidenced by the many submissions to the Australian Parliament House inquiry into FIFO/DIDO work practices, chaired by the Independent MP Tony Windsor. Some of the significant impacts include:
- A sudden influx in high risk populations (young single males with large disposable incomes) exacerbating crime and alcohol-related social disorder problems
- The creation of new lucrative unregulated drug markets and markets in commercial sex work.
- Rises in traffic congestion and road accidents.
- Stretch on infrastructure.
- The erosion of community wellbeing.
- Heightened risk of protracted social protest over coal-seam gas extraction.
- Ongoing widespread social protest against the erection of camps in close proximity to established rural communities.
- Increasing burden on local services.
- Soaring housing costs and other local costs of living
- “Fly over effects” on the local economy, and an ever-decreasing permanent resident workforce
- Increasing rates of staff turnover,
- Reversal of the trend of women entering the mining industry (down from 15.7 to 12.6% according to the most recent ABS statistics)
- Increases in the average hours worked each week exacerbating fatigue related car accidents and work injury as they commute either end of work cycles than in the workplace (an average of hours 45 hours as at August 2011, with 1 in 3 working over 60 hours per week).
These impacts undermine the long-term sustainable community development of rural Australia. It is troubling therefore that dramatic socio-demographic processes have been unleashed by this boom without concerted attempts to accurately research, measure or account for the numbers of non-resident workers involved and their nation-changing impact on the Australian society and economy.
Just as the number of non-resident workers is not being researched or counted, Cleary draws our attention to how the rapid depletion of natural non-renewable resources is not being counted either. Again, the long term social and environmental costs, including the time value of Australia’s natural resources and the opportunity costs of squandering them through an investment stampede are not being measured.
Instead, the gaze of most state politicians in particular has been transfixed on the short-term economic benefits shared by so few. Cleary draws attention to the dominance of a short-term economic view which frames the current resources boom – a view to which Kirchner appears wedded.
The real challenge for a government of and for the people – and not just a government at the beck and call and in the pocket of the powerful mining industry lobby – is to recalibrate the frame of reference for assessing and responding to the social and ecological impacts of the mining boom in the long term interests of the nation.
The corporate power of the mining industry, especially to lobby governments, state and commonwealth to influence policy making in Australia is alarming. As Cleary points out, “Not only did the miners change the prime minister and change government policy, they went on to brag about how their coup had stopped similar schemes from spreading around the world.”
State governments who grant mining licenses and regulate the industry also earn a share of the minerals extracted through royalties. Last year Queensland and Western Australian governments collected around $6 billion.
The Queensland government’s endorsement of the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance proposal at Moranbah to allow up 100% of workers to be non-resident is a more recent example of Cleary’s complaint about the impact of corporate power. It even contradicts Queensland’s own resource sector housing policy that workers should be allowed the choice where the live and work industry. The Moranbah mining community, with its long history of communal solidarity, is now destined to become surrounded by thousands of non-resident workers housed in dongas.
While the Queensland government introduced social impact assessment processes as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment approval process in Sept 2010 in part to address these concerns, it has failed to regulate the long term cumulative impacts of resource development. Why? State governments have a fundamental conflict of interest in setting themselves up as the arbiters in disputes over access to agricultural land, the granters of exploration licenses and the approvers of environmental and social impact statements, precursors to project development consent from which royalty payment to the state flow
Cleary’s book offers a much needed critique of the collision of self-interest between state governments and mining companies which both profit handsomely from the speedy extraction of resources.
Given the state governments’ conflict of interest and susceptibility to being courted by corporate power, the need for a commonwealth power to over-ride state powers in the interests of the more effective long-term regulation of the mining industry is long overdue. This week, Australia got one thanks the insistence of independent MPs Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, who supported the Mineral Resources Rent Tax (MRRT) in return for the overhaul of the environmental approval processes and legislation.
Given the state governments’ conflict of interest and susceptibility to being courted by corporate power, the need for a commonwealth power to over-ride state powers in the interests of the more effective long-term regulation of the mining industry is long overdue. This week, Australia got one thanks the insistence of independent MPs Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, who supported the Mineral Resources Rent Tax (MRRT) in return for the overhaul of the environmental approval processes and legislation.
Too Much Luck can be credited for fanning the shift in public opinion and political climate in support of the MRRT. We are at a critical moment in the boom, when strong, not weak, Australian Government leadership through the policy-making processes of federalism are absolutely vital, if, to use one of Cleary’s metaphors, Australia is not to look like Nauru, “but on a continental scale”.
"Despite this grim picture, unlike global population growth, our own population future is very much under our control and we need not be overwhelmed. Stability of population numbers is within our reach this century. We owe it to Victorians who will be born 50 years from now to take control so that those who come after us can enjoy what we have enjoyed – clean air and water and reliable food and housing supplies. To do nothing is the real crime against humanity." Jill Quirk, President, Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) Victoria.
Today, 28 October 2011, Jill Quirk, President of the Victorian Branch of Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) spoke about the frightening trends in human population growth world-wide and in Victoria and Australia. Her message was that, despite the fact that Victoria and Australia are part of the overpopulation problem, it is still possible to stop before we are overwhelmed. Politicians and the commercial interests they serve by fanning local population growth here need to be made instead to serve the public good by stabilising our population.
"On October 31st the world’s population will zoom past the 7 billion mark just 12 years after reaching 6 billion. Despite taking all of human history up to 1800 to reach 1 billion, many seem to think the phenomenon of ever increasing human numbers is inevitable and normal!" said President Quirk.
"Globally we are growing at the expense of the environment on which we depend, threatening our water, air and food security. Our numbers are impacting on all the other creatures with whom we share the planet."
Ms Quirk said that, to many, the global human population “explosion” seems so vast that it is difficult to see how we might ever exert control over it.
"No one can be sure when this staggering increase might reach its zenith. We do know however that growth, even slower growth cannot continue forever."
Despite the impression we are given that "For those who've come across the seas, we've boundless plains to share,"  we are running out of pure fresh freely accessible water, our few good soils are being impoverished and built over in Victoria, or threatened by extreme mining technologies like gas-fracking. Yes, our population is growing much too rapidly and is already too big. But this is not because of natural growth, it is because of government policy for extreme immigration numbers.
"Sadly, Victoria’s population also grows very rapidly cheered on by vested interests, lobbyists and the government. This growth and associated development is destructive to coastal areas, waterways and biodiversity, all of which also struggle with a changing climate," says Jill Quirk.
On a more optimistic note, however, she adds, "Despite this grim picture, unlike global population growth, our own population future is very much under our control and we need not be overwhelmed. Stability of population numbers is within our reach this century."
She says, "We owe it to Victorians who will be born 50 years from now to take control so that those who come after us can enjoy what we have enjoyed – clean air and water and reliable food and housing supplies.
To do nothing is the real crime against humanity."
We are often given the impression and even schoolchildren receive this propaganda that Australia is nearly empty and should therefore take on as many people as wish to come here, as if this arid continent could somehow act as a relief valve for the rest of this enormous planet. In fact Australia is already very densely populated on the thin green fringes around its southern and Eastern coasts, but very sparsely populated in the interior. There is a reason for this settlement pattern. Climate, rainfall and soil fertility make much of Australia almost uninhabitable for industrial society. Quite a bit of Australia is dry hot desert, similar to the Gobi Desert in China, which is also sparsely populated. Contiguous to Australia's deserts are rangelands. Those parts contain some mines and rangeland grazing, but little else. Even when only Aboriginal peoples lived here they only occupied the rangelands in very low numbers, which they kept low with very strict marriage laws that limited fertility opportunity for clan members.
Sustainable Population Australia (Victorian branch)
Patrons: Hon Bob Carr, Dr Paul Collins, Prof Tim Flannery, Prof Ian Lowe, Dr Mary E White
 From "Advance Australia Fair," Australia's National Anthem.
First published 2011-10-10 10:02:39 +1000. Republished on 21-October 2011 at 11:37: There is a new protest movement for democratic occupation of cities all over the world, demonstrating against the financial system and its insults to most of us. We support the principles the movement espouses and urge others to do so. Days later we have unanswered questions about this movement in Melbourne, which we are hoping to elucidate. Please join in with comments.
Statement on Occupy Melbourne website from candobetter.net
This statement was posted on October 9, 2011 at 11:38 pm and was in moderation at time of this article:
"http://candobetter.net writers cover these concerns and candobetter.net supports your platform in solidarity. We will be there on Saturday. We criticise the growth lobby http://candobetter.net/GrowthLobby and show how it subverts Australia’s remaining democracy. We consider the amount of money that goes on land and rent costs ruins small business, causes homelessness, enslaves most of us and creates a tiny layer of profiteers that runs this country. That’s not an economic success.The assault on wages in this country is shameful. See this cartoon: http://candobetter.net/node/2601
We are gathering a political movement of radical community candidates for the next federal election. Please keep watching our pages too.
I personally would support the adoption of the roman law and civil code in Australia. The British, US, Oz and NZ system is a democratic sham."
signed Sheila Newman
Vigilance needed against forces that will try to take over and destroy this movement in Australia
Please put principles before personalities. To this effect, please watch out for efforts to intimidate people who try to talk about the problems we have with overpopulation and the growth lobby in this country.
Often occupying positions in the Socialist Alliance - but not real socialists - the people subverting movements for democracy are identifiable because they try to stop you from expressing your opposition to undemocratic development and population growth in Australia. They have long been interfering in the Green Movement, the Climate Change movement, have taken over NGOs and have succeeded to date in fragmenting protest, to the advantage of the ruling cliques here. Sometimes they pretend to be anarchists and that anarchism supports violence. They are not anarchists. As Joe Toscano says at Anarchist Weekly, which is a very solid democratic forum, beware of anyone who talks up violence, they are almost certainly working for the authorities.
We urge our readers to be positive forces in this movement.
Original Occupy Wall Street statement
OCCUPY WALL ST FIRST DECLARATION
On Thursday night, Occupy Wall Street participants voted on and approved the first official “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City.” It it reprinted in its entirety below.
As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.
As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.
They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.
They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.
They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.
They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*
To the people of the world,
We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.
Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.
To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.
Join us and make your voices heard!
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Participants were shocked recently to hear Ms Prue Digby, Deputy Secretary, Planning and Local Government, Department of Planning and Community Development include in her paper on "housing a growing population" a section on "eliminating the NIMBY culture" at the Informa Australia "Population Australia - 2050 Summit." Article by Julianne Bell.
By Julianne Bell
On Monday and Tuesday 26 and 27 September 2011 I I - representing Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc., I attended the second annual Conference organised by Informa Australia Pty Ltd entitled, “Population Australia - 2050 Summit”. This was a national conference and included public servants from Government (State, Federal and Local); eminent academics; and representatives of the business world and the housing industry plus a smattering of representatives of community groups. (Several of us were able to attend only because a benefactor provided us with the admission tickets or Conference fees.)
Ms Prue Digby, Deputy Secretary, Planning and Local Government, Department of Planning and Community Development included in her paper on "housing a growing population" a section on "eliminating the NIMBY culture". Participants were shocked as we considered that this was confrontational and indicated a contemptuous view of the community by a member of a Government Department. We were additionally shocked when she presented a solution stating that 30% of future population growth could be accommodated in "infill" housing in established suburbs. (Dr Bob Birrell of Monash University labels this "opportunistic infill" by developers.)
I - Julianne Bell - asked a question at the end of Ms Digby’s speech as follows: “Your Minister. Matthew Guy, advised us after the election that future density of development would be directed to the inner city, for example in developments such as E-Gate and Fisherman’s Bend and not in the suburbs. Yet after the election we are seeing high rise or high density (housing) proposals in Bayside, Banyule and Boroondara City Councils. Can you clarify what are your policy directions (concerning infill housing)?
Ms Digby refused to answer the question and said “You had better ask him yourself” and with that she left the podium. Unfortunately, we cannot give you a tape of her statement as Ms Digby insisted that Informa and Sustainable Population Australia Inc., who chaired Day One of the Conference, delete their recordings.
Mark O'Connor (Professional Poet and Author of "Overloading Australia") spoke at the Conference on "Environmental and social implications of a 'Big Australia' . He commented to me on Prue Digby's statement about "infill" in suburbs. He said: " Densification cheats residents out of quality of life" and that "it indicates the constant decline of our living standards".
We are seeking clarification from the Minister for Planning about increased density in established suburbs using infill and on promoting high rise along transports routes (tram, bus and rail) and around stations as this is contrary to his stated policies after the election. The questions are topical ones in Banyule, Boroondara and Bayside to name a few suburbs.
Julianne Bell Secretary Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc.
Why doesn't the government cut land costs? High costs of land, and the resources it carries - energy and water - are responsible for our failing economy. The greatest costs to small and medium-sized businesses are the rents they pay for their shops, warehouses, and factories. The greatest costs to workers are the rents they pay for personal accommodation. Small and medium-sized businesses pay both for their business premises and for their personal accommodation. Manufacturing in Australia is losing out to high rents and housing costs. Wages must go up to satisfy the malignant effect of land-speculation, which government continues to encourage against our common welfare. But, why don't they just cut the land-costs? Stop pushing up property prices by reducing immigration and you won't have to put wages up. Business will become competitive on the world market again, because most of its profits won't go on rent of premises. Let's get rid of the property developers. Let's outlaw land speculation. [Title changed from "Cut land-costs, not wages. Down with property developers, Up with workers!" on 9 Oct 2011.]
We hear that over 90% of small businesses quickly go broke. Some of you may assume that this is because they are all incompetent. That would mean that you have a low opinion of your fellow Australian and that you haven't considered the costs that operate in our society and are causing our factories to close.
The greatest costs to small and medium-sized businesses are the rents they pay for their shops, warehouses, and factories.
Do we ever hear the Liberal Party or the Labor Party say anything about this?
But land costs and rent costs erode profit margins and drive everyone except the major corporations out of business.
The major corporations (which include newspapers, banks and developers) invest in land and are responsible for high rents and mortgages. They constantly lobby against ordinary Australians for more immigrants to keep those costs high. They are in the business of putting the rest of us out of business.
Why is the government ignoring that land cost factors completely dwarf all the other factors causing Australian manufacturing and most other small business to founder?
The public service is bringing in contractors in order to keep wages down. Once they did not have the right to do this. Once they had to negotiate fairly.
We are losing our rights to decent wages and conditions at the same time that big business is forcing up rents and housing costs.
The mass media is full of nonsense about how the economy cannot afford for wage rises. The mass media has nothing to say about the huge iceberg our economy is running up against in rising land prices. It only talks about how a tiny minority of people who have invested in second properties are able to sell their houses for more money. It says nothing about how business fails and people become homeless due to these rising costs.
Now I hear of how state governments are talking about bringing in contractors to undercut cleaners' wages. Cleaners are arguably among the most poorly paid workers in Australian industry. They work very hard and have little status.
The same thing is happening to drivers, with local governments considering colluding to introduce strike-breakers in order to stop industrial action to negotiate small wage rises in another ill-paid industry.
Why is it always those who can least afford it who must bear the brunt of our ill-run economy, whilst the CEOs and head-kickers get huge wages for simply being mean and greedy?
Please send this cartoon to Julia and Wayne and your local politicians and ask them, "Why don't you just cut the land costs?"
Should environmental organisations concerned about overpopulation enjoin Australians to have no more than two children each, for the good of the planet? Or, since our average fertility rate is below 2 children per person, should we instead congratulate Australians and ask them to keep it that way?
Where the average measure matters most
I have reservations about promoting small families in Australia. It is the average within a society that matters rather than individual cases. It could be off -putting for environmentalists who might already have 3 children but who may have a sister with none.
I think asking people to undertake this would be somewhat arbitrary, unnecessary, simplified and rigid. Given our fertility rate is less than 2 why would we make a point that the fertility rate needs this?
We could just as well campaign for large celibate communities which would also have the effect of reducing fertility.
The way our society is now structured with high housing/land prices, people can’t afford large families. I think we should make our vision for the country an attractive one that shows up the nastiness of the regime. Why should we be using this “stick” when governments and big business are using it for us with all the negative effects of ever-rising population – increased regulation, increased cost of land, overcrowding, loss of contact with nature, high power costs, declining wage-gains and workers' conditions etc. etc.)
Why don’t environmentalists concerned with population growth commend the fertility rate as OK? - but let’s keep it that way!
There’s a slogan:
Fertility rate is OK. Let’s keep it that way! That’s positive and affirming - not rigid. It’s a carrot- rather than a stick! We can associate it with the good things about our life in Australia. We can present it to immigrants as a way of preserving and caring for the society they have chosen to adopt.
Growth lobby highjacked ideal society and made life hard for all
In reality our freedoms are being taken from us. That is unattractive I can’t see that asking people to take pledges on their future will make ecological sustainability and keeping natural environments safe attractive. The post 1970s period could have been fabulous for us without the push for more and more productivity, profits and population growth. The problem articulated in the 70s and the early 80s was, "How will we deal with our leisure in the future of the 3 and 4 day week?” It never happened- but it could have. If this brief glimpse of what was possible had played out with maybe lower productivity, lower impact, lower population growth, less work, greater leisure time, less development we would possibly have had an almost ideal society. This is what we need to latch onto, rather than pledges that would surely cause some cognitive dissonance and that people will not really want to make. This is a sacrifice. Who knows what one’s personal future holds? We should emphasize freedom not sacrifice.
Environmentalists need to find more agreement and cooperate in presenting an inspiring vision of what Australia’s our future could look like without the growth lobby dominating.
Our fertility rate is OK. Let's keep it that way!
Our immigration rate is too rapid. Let's cap it.
On Wednesday night in icy cold Woodend, it was standing room only as 200 - 250 people filled St. Ambrose's Hall for a public meeting on Settlement Strategy organised by Macedon Ranges Shire Council, where the Mayor tells public 'you can't speak, can't ask questions', but an emphatic community message gets through in the end. "This meeting supports low growth, no rezoning and no expansion of the town boundary at Woodend, and expects Council to support and respect the community’s wishes by rejecting the higher growth scenario and re-instating the exhibited low growth scenario for Woodend."
When's A Public Meeting Not A Public Meeting? When It's In Macedon Ranges Shire...
At a public meeting last Wednesday on the Settlement Strategy, Mayor tells public 'you can't speak, can't ask questions', but an emphatic community message gets through in the end. On Wednesday night in icy cold Woodend, it was standing room only as 200 - 250 people filled St. Ambrose's Hall for a public meeting, organised by Macedon Ranges Shire Council.
The meeting flowed from Cr. Neil Manning's 25th May motion, that Council report back to the community at a public meeting on July 13 after its own meeting with Planning Minister Matthew Guy on June 22.
Mayor Henry McLaughlin addressed the crowd, and announced Council's format for the meeting: people were not allowed to speak or ask questions, nor would Councillors speak or take questions. This stunning announcement was met with instant protests, but despite clear community expectations of a dialogue, the Mayor held firm.
Through the Mayor and the Director of Planning and Environment, Sophie Segafredo, Council voiced its views amidst various comments made in defiance of Council's 'cone of silence', then the Mayor announced the meeting was over and everyone could mingle.
A woman in the crowd said "nobody move!"
A woman in the crowd said "nobody move", and they didn't.
Local resident John Shaw then stood and put a motion from the floor, even though Council had apparently indicated it couldn't be
That motion was:
[MOTION:] "This meeting supports low growth, no rezoning and no expansion of the town boundary at Woodend, and expects Council to support and respect the community’s wishes by rejecting the higher growth scenario and re-instating the exhibited
low growth scenario for Woodend."
While acknowledging that responses would indicate the mood of the meeting only, Mr. Shaw's call for a show of hands saw an estimated 97% for the motion, and about 6 people against it.
People then wanted to know if Council would take notice of the 97%, and were told Council had a copy of the motion.
All nine Councillors attended. Representatives of Villawood Properties P/L were also present.
Ms. Segafredo advised that the Settlement Strategy has been revised yet again, removing the lately included recommendations that Clarkefield become a metropolitan growth centre, which she said had not been supported by the Minister for Planning.
As for Woodend, she said the lately-included higher growth figure of 5,000 within the existing town was about right [it also corresponds with the Department of Planning and Community Development's 'suggested' growth figure]. It wasn't explained why
someone thinks Woodend will grow twice as fast over the next 30 years as it has over the past 15 years.
The higher 5,000 growth figure is apparently considered appropriate because it responds to about 9 submissions Council received supporting higher growth (3) or Villawood (6). On the other hand, hundreds of submissions supporting the exhibited low growth scenario (4,400 people in 2036) were received by Council.
You can now access the re-revised (110714) version of the Settlement Strategy by going to Council's website (#FF5757">www.mrsc.vic.gov.au) and clicking on Draft Settlement Strategy. This is the document Council will consider for approval at its 27 July meeting.
What a public relations disaster!
MRRA says, "What a public relations disaster! Especially for a Council that has already taken a tumble on Community Engagement in the recent 2011 Community Satisfaction Survey.
The meeting was referred to as a public meeting or worse, a community meeting (we note Council calls it a 'public' meeting on its updated draft Settlement Strategy website page). That raises expectations, as someone pointed out, that there would actually be a
conversation between Council and community. The meeting instead had the characteristics of a lecture, with Council taking no prisoners in telling people what they would have. Arrogance came across, as if Council is interpreting the Minister's advice - that Council (and community) would make the decisions on the Settlement Strategy - as 'Council can do whatever it likes'. It can't.
Council's attitude was offensive and disenfranchising, and many left saying Council didn't want to hear, wasn't listening. Others asked when the next election was due.
The day before the meeting, MRRA met (at Council's invitation) with the Chief Executive Officer and Director of Planning and Environment and was advised the meeting would consist of tables with a Councillor at each where people could express their views individually to the individual councillors. This was seen as allowing people to 'have their say'.
Not buying it
Eyebrows aloft, we said we didn't think people would go for it, that there was an obvious expectation of a public meeting, public questions and answers, and interaction with Council. Although the originally-proposed tables were dispensed with on the night, Council ploughed on with a meeting format that was always doomed to fail. As for the latest Settlement Strategy iteration for Woodend, if democracy and hard evidence counts there is surely something wrong when Council says there are 'mixed' views
in the town. All the vast majority of residents want is for Woodend to continue to grow as it has for the past 15 years within its existing boundaries.
There are some 520 - 1,230 potential lots available in existing residential zones, and no-one except those who appear to have a vested interest wants any more created, particularly not the despised 'Villawood' proposal. The Woodend community is not saying no growth, it's saying protect the character and community feel of the town we love and let us hand that on to future generations. Not rocket science by any stretch. Why does Council seem to have so much difficulty understanding that?
Villawood Properties P/L and Davies Hill P/L continued their moronic fear and awe tactics by sending a flyer around to households immediately before the meeting misleadingly depicting landmark sites in the town as victims of infill development if their 550 acres of rural land outside the town boundary isn't transformed into suburban utopia. We hear the companies see Wednesday's
meeting as Council missing the opportunity to put aside everyone's fears about 'Villawood', as if 'Villawood' is the centre of the universe. They patently don't understand Woodend.
Two events after the motion from the floor was put and staunchly supported left an impression.
- Russell Yardley's attempt to address the meeting about growth figures was greeted with groans, and cut short. It seems his earlier attempts to bring 'both sides' together, by trying to convince people they should talk with 'Villawood', have made him an unpopular figure.
A resident who drove 10 hours from Sydney to get to the meeting "because that's how important having a low growth scenario for the town is to him and his family." He won strong applause when he disagreed with Mr. Yardley's view that more consultation on numbers was needed, and said the 97% support for the motion meant something, the people of Woodend were intelligent enough to understand the Settlement Strategy, and Council needed to recognise and respect all of this.
Time to get back on the same bus as the community, Council!
Some Councillors have referred to the Settlement Strategy as a 'document of excellence'. It should be, but isn't near that yet. A
document of excellence is owned by the broad community, (has strong community support), and never responds to - or
even appears to respond to - unjustified agendas and vested interests. A Settlement Strategy is about a collective, agreed, long-term vision, and excellence is when people look back in 25 years and still applaud the objectivity, wisdom and far-sightedness of decision-makers of the day.
If Council thinks being in step with the community it represents is as important as the community thinks it is, there is no doubt that Council now has some huge bridges to mend.
First, have the courage to eat some humble pie: acknowledge the major short-comings of Wednesday's meeting, and pledge to not go there again. Even a large mea culpa may not be enough wash away the anger, cynicism and loss of confidence, but it would signal that Council recognizes the offence, and may recoup some respect for being big enough to admit the mistake. Second, take the 'unjustifieds' that are making so many people unhappy out of the Settlement Strategy - for example, the out-of-the-blue doubling of population at Riddells Creek; the surreptitious and inappropriate support for increased Rural Living zone opportunities* in advance of undertaking a Rural Living Strategy; the extra 1,300 people in Rural Living zones slid into Gisborne on top of the
Gisborne Outline Development Plan's thumping population increase; higher growth in Woodend and anything that can be interpreted as doing Villawood Properties P/L a favour; and rezoning Rural Conservation to commercial at Mt. Macedon.
And be mindful that with Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 about to become State policy again, the Settlement Strategy - and growth levels - must be compatible with that policy's objectives of protecting this place from over-development.
There is still an opportunity for Council to make amends and get back on track with the community and the Settlement strategy. Will Council take up the challenge?
MRRA has been told these opportunities are justified by the Gisborne and Romsey Outline Development Plans. All we can say is they weren't in the ODPs we read."
An unusual thing about Dick Smith's book, "Population Crisis," is that it is written by a wealthy man who points out the failings of rich people. He says that most rich people give nothing away and describes them as very selfish. "Our economic system comes equipped with only one forward gear: foot to the floor growth. The poor want to be rich, and the rich want to be richer. It's an endless treadmill, and none of our leaders appears to know how to get off." Also inside article: Win $1m if you are under 30 by solving the population puzzle.
Dick Smith's book, Population Crisis reminds me of the proverb that "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven," except that here we are talking about the kingdom of Earth.
The fascinating thing is that the camel may just fit through the eye of that needle in Smith's remarkable attempt to save the earth despite his millionaire wealth.
Books like Tolkien's Lord of the Rings are full of rich and powerful noble creatures standing up for truth and justice and the good of the earth in political systems that rely on the kindness and enlightenment of the powerful and their concern for lesser beings, like hobbits. The reality, however, is quite different, particularly in our global capitalist world, where rich people own or invest in corporations which perpetrate global injustices and manipulate public opinion against democracy and against our own nurturing planet.
Nazis and the business lobby - Déjà vu?
Smith looks into the future and sees a looming darkness which no good citizen can ignore, but he recognises that the fight against the vested interests of the growth lobby will not be easy.
"I'm not so idealistic as to believe the necessary changes will come quickly, or that the arguments over climate change will end soon. It seems to me that we are like the generation that existed in the late 1930s in Great Britain. Some predicted that there would be a catastrophe if Hitler was allowed to keep breaking treaties. Others - particularly the business community - said that it was unlikely anything would eventuate and that 'business as usual' was the way to go. That error alone resulted in more than 60 million people being killed. If we make a similar error now, the lives lost and related trauma could be far higher."
A risk taker
Australians with ecological bones and a sense of danger can only hope that Dick Smith's intervention on the subject of population numbers, democracy and ecological impact in Australia will survive the deadening blanket of growthist propaganda, even though Dick Smith himself has predicted that the Murdoch press will destroy him for coming out against population growth in Australia.
His unexpected success with other hard problems caused by powerful forces, offers some hope, however.
Smith's ability to remain an independent thinker and so surprise, straddle and surmount the political wedges created by the mainstream media and the political parties between terrorism, refugee rights and population numbers, makes him stand out in stature above high profile groups and individuals on both sides. It makes his ability and leadership so much more powerful.
When amorphous notions of terrorism and Afghanistan stigmatised David Hicks as untouchable for many, discarding prisoners of war conventions, Dick Smith funded Hicks's civilian defense in Guantánamo Bay - not, Smith precises, because he actually agreed with Hicks's politics, but so that Hicks could get a fair trial.
Smith also became involved in helping to extract hostages in Somalia and with refugee-asylum seeker Peter Qasim. Qasim was detained for nearly seven years by the Australian department of immigration due in part to inconsistencies in his story which others have explained as caused by his dispensing with an interpreter in the mistaken belief that his English was adequate for him to conduct his own defense. The main reason that he was kept imprisoned, rather than deported, was that he was stateless - and therefore had nowhere to go. After Dick Smith's intervention and with pressure from a small group of parliamentarians, Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone invited Peter to apply for a new class of bridging visa that would allow him to live in the community while his situation was resolved. On 16 July 2005, the visa was granted.
Now Smith has written a book about population numbers in Australia. Smith makes an effort to get on top of this wide and difficult subject in a readable book that addresses the growing and reasonable concerns of both the poor and the aspirational classes of Australia and asks those who benefit from their growing insecurity to reconsider.
"Our economic system comes equipped with only one forward gear: foot to the floor growth. The poor want to be rich, and the rich want to be richer. It's an endless treadmill, and none of our leaders appears to know how to get off."
Smith wants Australians to realise how they cannot rely on the mainstream press to inform them on population politics and gives the example of the Murdoch Press.
He says that he knows politicians are afraid of being attacked by the Murdoch media, but that should not stop them from speaking out against population growth. Despite his own (probably well-founded) belief that the Murdoch media will retaliate and destroy him for criticising growth, Smith actually took out a full page advertisement in the Australian telling Australians of the Murdoch media's investment in population growth.
It is indeed a major irony of Australia's predicament that it has a system that forces all major communications through a biased commercial press which inevitably drowns out any single original initiative with its own ubiquitous and repetitious propaganda.
The Electronics Wizard
Smith's intelligence is however uncontestably demonstrated by the fact that at age 38 he had the good sense, self-confidence and self-control to sell the business that made him a millionaire so that he could enjoy his life. That's a bit like Golem (continuing the Tolkein metaphor) ditching the magic ring before it saps his strength.
"I was a relatively young man when I sold my Dick Smith Electronics business. When I could no longer see all the weekly figures in one quick look, I felt it was growing too large. [...] For me it seemed the right time to sell the business to Woolworths. They have built it into a billion-dollar business, and many people have told me I was crazy to sell such a growing concern, but I haven't regretted it for a moment. It was the best thing I ever did, because it allowed me to have the freedom to do worthwhile things - to go adventuring, fly around the world and enjoy my life. "(p.129)
That's the kind of intelligence that can see through growthism. It seems that it is rare in the rich.
He goes on:
"I have successful friends, some of them billionaires, and they often say to me that they wish they could do what I did and get out before the business takes over their lives. I tell them they can, but they just shake their heads as if to say, 'Dick, you don't understand. There are all these pressures that make it impossible to just walk away.' Like most of us, rich or poor, they are trapped inside the delusion that we must forever keep growing."
Maybe the Baden Powell Scout award deserves to be taken more seriously. Smith described to Margaret Throsby how being a cub, then a scout, then a rover was formative. The scout movement allowed him "to be an individual, to organise himself, and get into risk taking."
Smith's parents went through bad luck and poverty. At one stage, Smith's father took to his bed for 12 months causing his mother to go out and get a job for the very first time in her life, in a hat factory. Somehow Smith has missed out on that common rich man's delusion that he deserves to be rich because he is special. He sees himself as having drawn good results in life's lottery, but he has demonstrably retained a feeling of solidarity with ordinary Australians.
Wilberforce Million Dollar Prize to a young person who can solve the population puzzle
An example of this fellow-feeling is Smith's Wilberforce Award.
The Wilberforce award is designed to give a one million dollar prize to anyone under 30 who can impress Dick by becoming famous through his or her ability to show leadership in communicating an alternative to our population and consumption growth-obsessed economy.
How the few that benefit financially from growth do it
I can think of one other thing I would have included in the book, had I been Dick Smith. I would have given a detailed account of how, for some very rich people with control over assets, population growth improves the chances of making money. As Smith implies, what makes the rich richer past what he refers to as the "sweet point" tends to make ordinary people poorer. (The "sweet point" is where the cost of growth is less than the gains to be made from it.) I would have liked to have read more detail on how population growth helped Smith make his fortune. It is important to educate Australians on the how and why of this, so that they can see where the corporate growth spruikers are coming from and what they may have to gain from population growth. It would also educate Australians about how difficult having a few people and corporations controlling most of the assets and means of production in this country and elsewhere makes it for everyone else.
A follow-up book?
One senses that Smith tried to keep things simple in this book. Perhaps he could write another book, to follow up, giving some details on how growth economics and population growth work in favour of the rich and against the rest?
Australia's population is now rising by a million every three years. It used to grow by only 200,000 a year. The increase has not been driven by natural increase, refugees or family reunions. It has been driven by an increase in skilled migration from 24,000 in 1996 to over 100,000 now. (Kelvin Thomson - Member for Wills electorate, Victoria, Australia)
The source of this article is a Speech by Kelvin Thomson, delivered to the House of Representatives on 24 May, 2011, in response to the Government's Budget. You may find the original source here: House of Representatives Bills, Appropriation Bill 2011-2012, Second Reading, Speech, Tuesday, 24 May 2011, House of Representatives Chamber Speech, Mr KELVIN THOMSON (Wills) (19:48): Note that we have included several paragraphs which time constraints engineered by the [Liberal] opposition caused to be cut off the end of the speech.
"I do not agree with raising the skilled migration target to a record level"
I do not [...] agree with raising the skilled migration target for the 2011-12 financial year to 125,850-a record level.
I have seven objections to increasing skilled migration.
First objection: Immigration drives rapid population growth
The first is that it is the principal driver of Australia's rapid population growth. Only recently our population used to grow by 200,000 a year; now it is rising by a million every three years. The increase has not been driven by natural increase, refugees or family reunions. It has been driven by an increase in skilled migration from 24,000 in 1996 to over 100,000 now. This is the main reason net overseas migration is now 180,000 per annum and the main reason Treasury is using net overseas migration of 180,000 per annum to project that Australia's population will rise to 36 million by 2050. That is, it is giving us big Australia.
I have set out in numerous speeches in the parliament and at public meetings my objections to big Australia: cost of living pressures and pressures on food,water,land and energy supplies, carbon emissions, housing affordability, traffic congestion, species extinction, loss of open space et cetera.
Second objection: Australian unemployed should have priority
My second objection to increasing labour force migration is that there are people in Australia who want work and we should be getting them jobs. There are 500,000 people on Newstart allowance and 800,000 on disability support pension. These people should be our first priority. In the last decade the numberofpeople receiving disability support pension grew around six per cent per annum in real terms.
As Budget Paper No.1 outlines: Past growth … reflects increases in the number of beneficiaries arising from population growth and changing composition of the population … Population growth will continue to contribute to sustained real growth in the cost of this program.
As I mentioned earlier, I support the steps that seek to move people from these benefits to employment, but there needs to be jobs for them to go to. Cutting back workforce migration numbers will ensure there are jobs for them to go to.
Third Objection: Many skilled immigrants unemployed or working as unskilled labour
Included among the people who are out of work and are deserving of our attention are quite a few skilled migrants already in Australia who are either not working at all or not employed in areas for which they are qualified. As reported by Michael Quin in the Melbourne Times Weekly, a local newspaper which circulates in my electorate, four out of five skilled migrants in Melbourne are unemployed or underemployed, according to a recent survey. The article outlined the case of Preston skilled migrant Natalia Garcia, who has applied for 17 engineering jobs in the past four months without getting an interview or feedback, despite speaking advanced English and holding an engineering degree and seven years industry experience in Colombia.
Ms Garcia said: We were told Australia was desperate for engineers and that we would find a job in a maximum of two months, Ms Garcia is working as an office cleaner, and said most skilled migrants she knew were doing the same.
It is highly revealing that a qualified engineer with seven years industry experience should be working in Australia as a cleaner. I suspect that quite a few of the business leaders who bang the drum incessantly about skilled migration know about this kind of outcome perfectly well. They are not so much interested in the skills of migrants as their potential to provide cheap labour in occupations such as cleaners and taxi drivers and in providing personal services like house cleaning and chauffeuring at cut price rates. So my third objection to the skilled migration increase is the treatment of, and outcomes for, many skilled migrants.
Fourth Objection: Skills shortage overstated and abused to undermine wages and conditions
My fourth objection is that the skills shortage is overstated and is abused in ways which undermine the wages and conditions of Australian workers. National Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Dave Oliver, believes the skills shortage issue is overstated and that successive federal governments have failed to deliver an adequate labour market testing system, which means employers can exploit the system. The AMWU has launched a skills register to give skilled workers and young people seeking apprenticeships the opportunity to register for work before employers are allowed tobring inworkers on 457 visas.
As Dave Oliver has said: "We do not deny that skills shortages exist in some areas, but they are being exaggerated by employers seeking to use 457 visas to undermine local wages and conditions and avoid the cost of investing in apprenticeships."
With apprenticeship completion rates below 50%, the long term answer to our skills problems cannot be importing workers from other countries on a temporarybasis. Employers can't complain about skills shortages while they are dropping their investment in training.
I encourage people who have skills which are not being made use of to make contact with the AMWU to get their details put on the skills register.
Fifth Objection: Australian economy overdependent on immigration
The fifth objection I have to increasing skilled migration is that we have become addicted to it.
We need to do more to educate and train our own young people. Going back two or three decades, governments and employers dropped the ball on training.Governments closed technical schools and cut back on technical education. Private employers lost interest in taking on apprentices. We started outsourcing our requirement for training. This has been an addictive, self-fulfilling circle and we need to break the habit. Those countries which do not run a big migration program put more effort into educating and training their young people, and they have better participation rates as a consequence.
The Sixth Objection: High immigration feeds vulnerable overstoked commodity economy
The sixth objection I have to increasing skilled migration goes to the claim that this is necessary to avoid capacity constraints and bottlenecks in the resources industry.
The truth is that running the resources boom as fast as possible has a number of economic consequences, not all of which are positive. Using the resources boom as a reason to ramp up skilled migration and staking a lot of our economic prosperity on Australia's high terms of trade overlooks some of the negative ramifications of the two-speed or multispeed economy. For example, as reported in the Australian in early May, hundreds of fruit processing workers face the sack if Coca-Cola Amatil goes ahead with plans to close parts of its SPC Ardmona division and capitalise on the strong Australian dollar by importing food from Indonesia.
CCA chief executive Terry Davis has said one or two of SPC's three plants in central Victoria could be closed due to the strong Australian dollar putting pressure on the business. He said that the current strength of the dollar severely limits the potential for SPC Ardmona's export business, which produces some of the country's best-known canned fruit brands.
The strong dollar has been cited by the Reserve Bank as impacting adversely on manufacturing and tourism.
A report in 2006 by the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance on the previous mining boom used modelling to determine its impact on non-mining states and found that there were adverse consequences for Victorian exporting and import-competing firms.
Their modelling results showed that the Victorian and New South Wales gross state products were about half a per cent lower. Most industries in these states contracted, apart from the mining industries.
Australia needs to ensure it doesn't become a 'one trick' economy
I believe the relentless rise of the Australian dollar as a result of the resources boom presents a real challenge to the Australian economy. The current mining boom mark 2 represents the highest terms of trade in 140 years, so the pressure on manufacturing and other trade exposed industries not directly benefiting from higher commodity prices is severe. Retail, manufacturing, building and tourism are labouring under the weight of subdued sales, weak profits and low orders. We need to ensure that we do not become a one-trick economy and that the structural changes that occur as a result of this boom do not leave ordinary people behind.
If the resources boom generates growth levels that cause the Reserve Bank to lift interest rates, then many Australian households and small businesses will suffer.
As a nation, we need to be more sophisticated than simply trying to run the resources boom full throttle.
The Seventh Objection: Immorality of Skilled immigration
The seventh and final objection I have goes to the question of the morality of skilled migration. Last week I participated in a debate on Sky News TV Channel on the program known as The Nation, with the Member for Mayo, the former Member for Cook, and Geoff Gallop, the former Western Australian Premier. We were talking about migration, and Geoff said he thought it was a moral issue, that Australia had a moral obligation to take large numbers of migrants from poor countries. Now Geoff is a great guy, a fine Australian who has made a very valuable contribution to this country. But skilled migration is not a moral duty.
It is not about Australia being unselfish. It is about us being utterly selfish, taking the best and brightest from poor countries and denuding them of the people most likely to lift them from conditions of poverty. When we take a poor country's doctors or nurses, we damage their health system. When we take a poor country's engineers, we damage their capacity to build infrastructure. It is a moral question alright, but there is nothing moral about what we are doing.
In closing I welcome the measures in the budget on improving workplace participation but I am concerned that the government has bowed to industry calls for higher migration.
We need to ensure that the right policy settings are in place that will not leave behind those industries, individuals and households who are not benefiting from the mining boom mark II, and avoid short-term policy 'fixes' that cater to the vested interests who shout the loudest.
Kelvin Thomson MP Federal Member for Wills
 In order to focus quickly on Kelvin's incisive contribution to critical analysis of Australian economic policy, this article has left out the beginning of the speech as delivered to the House of Representatives. Here is the text we left out:
"I wish to commend the Australian government on this budget, which continues our tradition of sound economic management. It stands in stark contrast to the opposition's troubling lack of insight on this core issue.
Peter Costello is on the record as saying that an opposition leader's responsibility consists of going through the budget saying what the opposition agrees with and what it does not agree with; putting forward alternative tax proposals and saying when they would start and how they would be paid for; and saying what the opposition would do if it were bringing down a budget. Peter Costello was scathing of any budget reply speech that was short on detail or full of motherhood statements and cliches, which he believed let the Australian public down. What, then, are we to make of the opposition's budget reply?
The opposition say they would bring the budget to surplus sooner than Labor, yet they oppose and run interference on all of our savings measures, they produce no savings measures of their own and they even come up with more spending measures. They are not serious. Family payments is a classic example. The government will maintain higher income thresholds for certain family payments at their current levels. When the government announced similar measures two years ago, the opposition leader said they were soft and wanted the government to go harder. Now he wants to talk about the 'forgotten families' on $150,000 or more!
Analysis by Commonwealth Securities suggests that, on an Australia-wide basis, families with incomes above $150,000 are among the better-off families in the country. The average male income is currently around $57,500, with the average female income just over $38,000. Only three per cent of all taxpayers have an income above $150,000. In 2012-13, the number of people who will cease to be eligible for family payments will be less than two per cent. You would think, based on the scare campaign of the Leader of the Opposition and shadow Treasurer, that the government is running an assault on all families' standard of living.
As Tom Dusevic identified in his article of 14 May in the Weekend Australian on the coalition's position:
Abbott and Hockey have lost the plot on the basic tenet of Liberalism. Unlike Menzies, who saw government handouts as helping hands to the destitute, the Liberals became the chief advocates for unsustainable middleclass welfare, which grew out of the revenue boost from the first phase of the mining boom.
I would like to acknowledge the measures in the budget to boost workplace participation and expand the economy's productive capacity. I agree with the Prime Minister that we do not want to see a situation where the economy is booming but where we still have long-term unemployed people who do not have a job and people on the disability support pension who want to work, who do not have the opportunity of a job.
And the Treasurer is right when he says, 'Our economy can't afford to waste a single pair of capable hands.'
In my electorate of Wills there are at present 1,397 very long-term unemployed people who have been without work for two years or more.
To help them prepare for and find work, the Labor government has provided in the budget an additional $2.7 million over the period 2012 to 2015 to support local employment services in Wills. This will provide them with training and work experience. Additional funds have also been provided for a wage subsidy to support employers who give the very-long-term unemployed a job.
An investment of over $1.6 million for Australian Disability Enterprises in Wills is also welcome. It will support the work of the Brunswick Industries Association, North West Employment Group, the Trustee for The Salvation Army Victoria Property Trust, and Yooralla.
The budget initiative establishing the $558 million National Workforce Development Fund will assist in responding to the most critical emerging skills needs facing Australian industry. This will deliver 130,000 new training places over four years. The fund will be supported by the establishment of a new National Workforce and Productivity Agency, from 1 July next year, which will work closely with industry to identify critical skill needs and build a more skilled and capable workforce. The Labor government is improving support for Australians with a disability to help them into work where possible. I support these significant reforms to address the issue of workplace participation and skills shortages."
 The very first line of this paragraph as delivered in the House of Representatives ran, "I do not, however, agree with raising the skilled migration target for the 2011-12 financial year to 125,850-a record level."
 - The rest of this speech is the text which Kelvin intended to deliver, but which was abuptly cut off in the House of Representatives because the Opposition called a quorum and time ran out.
The media is so full of the ghastly propaganda for population growth by our government, its ministers and the same old academics who play to big business, that we thought we would bring you some exerpts from The World Today, but edited to highlight the anti-growth lobby's contribution. Enjoy.
For the full transcript go to Interview with Mark O'Connor, environmentalist and co-author of the book Overloading Australia - how governments, the media dither on denying population and professional population growth-booster, Peter McDonald, from the Australia National Universities Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute. If you want to read what Peter McDonald said, you can go to the site and do so, but we aren't repeating it here, because it's not news; it's propaganda of the kind that saturates the mainstream media. Or you can go to our Peter McDonald pages and read about his views.
Do we need a firm population target?
EMILY BOURKE: The most recent Treasury modelling projects that Australia will reach a population level of 36 million by the year 2050. So how will Australia deal with more people, where will people live and work and crucially how will we live?
EMILY BOURKE: Mark O'Connor do you think we need to set a firm population target?
MARK O'CONNOR: Yes of course we do. I mean it's people who want population growth to go on who like to pooh pooh looking far into the future because it's easier to think that you can go on the way you are going for another 10 or 20 years.
It's when you look at figures like Treasury's projection of 36 million and then of course you continue at that rate. If you did you would have about 100 million totally unfeedable by the end of the century.
And people who want growth don't like to look that far down the track. But we should. And we should also be seeing the damage that's being done now, particularly the high cost of infrastructure is killing some regions of Australia already.
Do we need population growth to preserve standard of living?
EMILY BOURKE: Well Mark O'Connor I'll bring you in here. How do you counter that argument that we need population growth to preserve and even improve our living standards? Is that achievable without bringing in more people?
MARK O'CONNOR: Of course it is. I mean what worries me about Peter is not so much his demography as the way he incorporates the assumptions of the big business lobby which obviously has a vested interest in growth.
I mean if you're counting your success as a company by the number of shopping centres you build each year then of course you want more suburbs and more people.
But in small business the extra congestion and the increased costs in real estate and rent may be killing you.
And for ordinary people of course infrastructure costs are deadly because basically every extra person we bring into the country costs between $200,000 and $400,000 in infrastructure...
Do we need population growth to deal with skills shortage and aging?
EMILY BOURKE: Well Mark I'll bring you in. You said the words rubbish there. How do we deal with our current and future skills shortage? There are labour demands and how do we indeed offset the needs of an ageing, retired population?
MARK O'CONNOR: Okay first you realise that it's most unusual to be growing at this rate. I mean we are growing at about four times the rate of advanced countries. I mean we are growing faster than Indonesia which only has 1.1 per cent growth, a third world country and it's trying to reduce it.
So you know Peter's whole assumption that it's inevitable, it's natural and it's being caused as he claims by the need for labour I think is highly dubious. I think it's caused by governments giving in to the immigration lobbies.
The Australia Institute which had a look as to whether we are actually short of labour found that we have something like 20 per cent of Australians either can't find work or are trapped in part-time but want full-time.
What you're getting is you know the ambit claims of employers who would love to have a large surplus of unemployed workers because that as they say prevents wage inflation or in plain English, puts them in a strong bargaining position.
But where is the evidence that we are short of workers? You talk to any young person who is trying to get into the job market or even any older person who is trying to get back into it. Jobs are scarce in Australia. And employers are very reluctant to train people because so often they can bring in a pre-trained person who will often work for less and be un-unionised.
Selective fatalism and free will in population policy
EMILY BOURKE: Mark O'Connor if it's inevitable that our population will sharply rise, how do we deal with the concerns about property prices, urban design, congestion and the like?
MARK O'CONNOR: Well we'd be in a terrible pickle wouldn't we particularly with peak oil coming on.
But Peter's line which I call selective fatalism - you know assume that what you want is what's going to happen - isn't true.
I mean most European countries have already stabilised their populations. It's normal for developed countries to be reaching stabilised populations around now. Some are even slightly declining and they are not necessarily the worse for that.
We've got to remember that the age of cheap oil is over and with that an awful lot of business plans are going to be invalidated.
These assumptions that there is going to be vast growth and we are going to go on selling off our minerals at a crazy rate and impoverishing our grandchildren - these are not inevitable. These are foolish choices being made under the influence of powerful lobbies, vested interests and a very large amounts of political donation that keep the politicians listening to often what is not in the interests of the people.
Kelvin Thomson is the Labor MP who continually calls his party to issues of democracy and environment. You can also comment on Mr Thomson’s Blog, "Response to the Government’s Population Strategy (have your say)"
The video linked to below records Thomson's reaction in an ABC interview to Minister Burke's shameless exercise in using public money and social capital for a pretend inquiry. Thomson's words are relatively restrained. Others think that Burke has no right to remain in parliament for selling the Australian public out so badly.
This article was adapted from a radio program I hosted on 3RPP with Jenny Warfe as my guest, called "Women in Politics, Why don't more participate?" The program found that participation rates depend on definition. Indeed, we found that women dominate politics in Victoria, Australia - they just don't draw salaries. Inside we look at three classical theories for why women participate less in politics than men; argue that the Real Politics are outside Parliament, (Indian theory); give examples of Victorian women in politics outside Melbourne's parliament; analyse these women's political roles as more reactive and militant than planned-for and careerist. We also note that women led the French Revolution and we ask, "Are Female environmental activists in Victoria leading a new political movement?"
Illustration: "Boadicea Haranguing the Britons,"
by H.C. Selous (c. 1840) (her ill-fated daughters at her feet)
Women in politics in Australia and Melbourne
I was recently criticised (by new male management) for talking about the environment and interviewing female environmentalists on the Feminist radio show, Freewaves, 3RPP.
My defense is that the environment is the main game in politics and activism down here on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, in the rest of Australia, and everywhere, actually. The other side calls it “Planning,” but it involves the same living envelope that surrounds all our senses and keeps us alive, well and happy.
Corporate Commerce vs Democracy
It boils down to corporate commerce versus democracy. Symptomatically in Australia, corporate commerce increasingly mislabels 'democracy' as 'populism.'
An example of this tendency is to be found in The Australian Industry group's "wish-list" to "Reject populism and overhaul the public sector."
Official political voices in parliament mostly represent corporate lobby groups which make money out of doing stuff to our environment, which many of us do not want, but for which we pay in impacts, charges, tolls and taxes. In fact women, who own much less property and financial wealth than men are far more immediately dependent on the ‘common wealth’ of public amenity, natural environment and public services. For this reason, women are naturally on the front-line in suffering the effects of privatisation, annexation of parkland, commercialization of public swimming pools, destruction of forests and wild green spaces, loss of backyards, cruelty and destruction of wildlife at the suburban interface, and the commercial co-option of natural and vital resources, like water and food.
Although there are a few more women at the official "top" (i.e. in parliament - see the graph) going by the mainstream media, male parliamentarians still hog the limelight with aggressive activities in infrastructure and land-use planning, using a moot justification of a need to accommodate population growth in order to ram through massive infrastructure projects. Women who get the limelight in official politics mostly engage in similar professional lobbying behaviour for such interests, like Anna Bligh and Christine Keneally.
Perhaps a lot of women don't join in official politics because they are taught to have childlike faith in a fatherly authority and simply assume that the 'government' is doing its job. On the other hand, most women's political activities are under-reported or not reported at all in the mainstream media, which markets an official view of reality which hardly reflects women's existence beyond their function as consumers, producers of children, and wage-hands. It is therefore perhaps not so surprising that it takes some women a long time to realise that most of what they worry about is actually political. Some women become involved in politics, especially later in life, when they realise that, after all, important things are not being taken care of by the people who are being paid by taxes to look after everyone.
Before we cite some interesting examples and look at where they may be taking us, let us look at some useful theory on the matter of female participation in politics.
Three classical theories for why women participate less in politics than men
Theory 1: The political socialization process discourages women from playing an active political role (Socialisation) (mooted above);
Theory 2: Family responsibilities keep some women at home and out of the work force (Situational);
Theory 3: Women are overrepresented in demographic groups that have low participation levels (structural). For instance, more women have less wealth and less education.
In Susan Welch’s “Women as political animals? A test of some Explanations for Male-female political participation differences,” American journal of political science, the researcher found that, once situational and structural variables were controlled there were no systematic differences in levels of male-female participation. In light of these findings, she questioned the validity of the political socialization explanation.
The Real Politics are outside Parliament, (Indian theory)
Ashok Kumar, “Political Participation of Women,”  suggests that we do need to broaden our definition of the political process in order to better detect women's participation:
“The concept of political participation of women is broader than the one covering women’s participation only in the electoral and administration processes. It includes the gamut of voluntary activities with a bearing on the political processes, including voting, support of political groups, communication with legislator, dissemination of political views and opinions among the electorate, and other related activites. However, political participation can be considered to include an involvement in any from of organized activity that effects, or seeks to effect, these power relationships. It refers broadly also to ‘activities by those not formally empowered to make decisions, these activities being mainly intended to influence the attitudes and behaviour of those who have powers for decision-making.’
New perspectives on old processes may highlight latent political conflict.
“Minimally, a political perspective requires that some activity called ‘politics’ be differentiated from other activities, relationships, and patterns of action. If all conceptual boundaries are blurred and all distinction between public and private are eliminated, no politics can exist by definition. The relatively open-textured quality of politics means that innovative and revolutionary thinkers are those who declare politics to exist where politics was not thought to exist before, should their reclassifications stick over time and meaning of politics – indeed of human life itself may be transformed. Altered social conditions may also provoke a reassessment of old, and recognition of new, ‘political’ realities. However, the theme of political participation of women has raised a major dilemma. On the one hand, it is the fundamental right of every citizen to contribute to the decision-making process. It is, in fact, the citizen’s duty as well as in based on the presumption that each member has adequate means and conditions to achieve a full realization of his personality as an entity in society. On the other hand, from a feminist perspective, an analysis of women’s participation in political process has questioned the narrow definition of political participation as accepted by mainstream of political scientists and policy-makers.
Politics involves power relationships and reactions to these:
“Political participation can be considered to include an involvement in any form of organized activity that affects, or seeks to affect, these power relationships. It refers broadly also to ‘activities by those not formally empowered to make decisions, these activities being mainly intended to influence the attitudes and behaviour of those who have powers for decision-making.’ In fact, protests and demonstrations against those in power also form part of political participation. Women’s participation has covered a range of activities including movements, protest and support meetings on all issues connected with labour, dowry, rape, domestic violence, pressurize, food adulteration and deforestation, as also movements for the promotion of peace.
Some examples of women in politics outside parliament
Here is a list of women who are strongly engaged in politics in Victoria, Australia. It is not exhaustive and is simply what I came up with in a couple of minutes from memory. (I would welcome similar lists of politically engaged women in other states and countries.)
Mary Drost, Planning Backlash
Julianne Bell, Protectors of Public Lands
Jenny Warfe of Blue Wedges, who ran as a Radical Independent in 2010 Federal elections.
Jill Quirk - a connection in many groups and leader of Sustainable Population Victoria
Sheila Newman (myself) through her writing on population, land-use planning and democracy, at candobetter.net
Jan Beer, Plug the Pipe - a farmer who ran against Brumby’s North South Pipeline
Jill Redwood - Long-running leader of Environment East Gippsland, recently led the first prosecution of VicForests and the Victorian government in the Brown Mountain case.
Janice Rossiter Militated against the sale of Footscray pool and other undemocratic and unwise privatisations (Became a councilor)
Gloria O'Connor - swimming pools and rate payers in Packenham
Maryland Wilson - President of The Australian Wildlife Protection Council
#10; <a href=" http:="">Vivienne Ortega - leads (through her writing on candobetter.net) on wildlife and wilderness activism in Christianity
Elida Radig who started the Rye women's group over 30 years ago. It is the oldest and almost the only surviving independent women’s group and safety house in Victoria.
Catherine Manning – Hastings infrastructure project activist and child pornography activist (joined the Greens).
Gillian Collins – The Pines Protectors (joined the Greens)
Christine Pruneau, planning activist for Massedon Ranges Residents Association
Marilyn Canet, activist extraordinaire who exposed corruption in Brimbank Council
The women on the list started up lobby groups or emerged as leaders in spontaneous processes to change laws or behaviour or protests by community groups seeking recognition of natural or legal rights.
Few or none are predominantly known for their activity in official political parties, only through their alternative creations and activities.
What's happened in Victoria is that these women have come together because their concerns converged due to the fact that they were all about the treatment of public land, and its non-commercial occupants, such as flora, fauna, women and children. The mainstream parties, however, were about exploiting these or were not helping to stop this exploitation, or only dealing with peripheral issues.
For this reason these women emerged as significant leaders in spontaneous new groups.
Men can be concerned about these things but they are more likely to become professionalised in politics, like Charles Berger of the ACF, or Serge Thomann, who headed a council activist group then became a councillor in St Kilda. Men often become involved in politics because it enhances their professional opportunity or because they are defending or seizing mainstream political opportunity and activity in such groups can boost their profile. You get quite a few planning, construction and conveyancing professionals as dilettants in local activist groups.
Are Women in Victorian politics reactive rather than careerists?
Not reactionary, but REACTIVE to injustices and dangers rather than choosing establishment politics as a career. That is, they don't plan to have political careers; they become politicised, radicalised in response to injustice and bullying. Most are natural leaders rather than followers. This is a reflection of their need to foray into uncharted waters as outsiders in conflict with the official system. Thus they take on the political responsibility of being a leader. They step into vacuums created by our commercially dominated society. Very few men will spend most waking moments defending something they don't hope ultimately to get paid for.  Also, these women tend not to be employed in the area in which they are activists, or they are retired, or 'home-makers' so they can speak out without much fear of being sacked for going against in house policies. It seems that men are less inclined to be politically active outside their professional areas of expertise. Why is this?
Men perhaps would tend to join political parties because they have more chance of getting somewhere in them. Retired men are often active in groups, but rarely lead them, perhaps because so very much unpaid work is required to make a group function. A woman might form a group where none existed before and in which there was no chance of making money; a man is less likely to. Or men might belong to traditional alternative political groups, such as the Marxist ones, which are strong on rhetoric and short on practical representation. One man who stands out as an exception is Joe Toscano, a geriatrician who has been a strong and committed activist in the anarchist movement for many years in Victoria and who is particularly concerned with the abrogration of public space by private enterprise and the community's loss of political assembly rights in these places.
Women don't own major mainstream media
Women don't own mainstream newspapers or television channels or radio stations, so how could they influence public perception in a powerful way? They don't own nearly as much property as men, therefore value public land more and are less likely to profit from things like urban densification and privatisation of public lands and other assets. They tend to benefit from laws for public protection, public access and basic standards. Perhaps, just as men are less likely to take good care of their health than women, they are less likely to take care of their civil rights.
Women led the French Revolution
5 October 1789: The Women’s march on the Palace of Versailles
Armed with stakes, sticks and forks, something like 7000 women from Paris – where people were starving – walked from Paris to the palace at Versailles – a distance of 16km as the crow flies or around 20km by road today. They were reacting in part to news that, during a banquet in honour of the Flemish Regiment, members of the king’s personal guard had trampled the tricolour rosette, which was the symbol of the revolution and the bill of rights. But they were also marching on the palace to demand food, since they and their families were starving.
The women were joined later at the rear by men and the National Guard. At the palace, the women demanded to see the Queen, a woman loathed as a foreigner who influenced the king against listening to his people. During the night palace guards were killed. Eventually the people returned to Paris with the king and his family, preceded by a cart full of flour and followed by cartloads of grain. The royal family was then put under house arrest in the Tuilleries, a large palace which had been built in the 16th century. They remained under arrest until they were executed some time later. Shortly after this mass uprising, the king signed the 4th of August abolition of feudal privileges.
Are Female environmental activists in Victoria leading a new political movement?
Insofar as no-one else is defending the rights of citizens to retain the quality of their built and natural environment, groups of women in Victoria seem to be leading the only effective action against a growth lobby which seems to have taken over government and to have emptied much of our normal political processes of effectiveness, in the service of a commercial agenda which demands the overturn of democracy.
Candobetter.net would like to hear from any similar activists and groups in other states.
 Increasingly in Australia, commerce mislabels 'democracy' as 'populism', as in The Australian Industry group's "wish-list" to "Reject populism and overhaul the public sector." See, "O'Farrell will have his hands full," Australian Financial Review, 10 March 2011, p.5. (Note that small business tends to be in favour of democracy and to complain of being unrepresented.)
 "Composition of Australian parliaments by Party and Gender as at 5 January 2011", Politics and Public Administration group, Parliamentary Library, www.aph.gov.au/library/intguide/pol/currentwomen.pdf.
As the traditional custodians of home and gardens, women are more likely than men to notice when the magpies stop singing and the wattlebirds stop doing their displays, and the possums no longer come out with the moon and the wallabies and kangaroos simply disappear. Often they take care of wounded wildlife and grieve intensely, as do their children. Men, the traditional cooptees to the salaried workforce in the industrial system often have less time at home, although this is also changing for the worse as our system demands increasing hours of toil away from our homes and real lives, in the service of the appetite of commerce.
[5 Ashok Kumar, “Political Participation of Women,” in Sunit Gupta, Mukta Gupta (Eds.), Role of women in the twenty-first century, Anmol Publications, Daryaganj, New Delhi, 1996.
 Someone reminded me of Victoria’s first woman Premier’s origins in parents' groups at schools: Joan Kirner became the first woman Premier of Victoria -1988 to 1990. After leaving paid politics she helped with the LandCare movement then focused on the creation of Emily’s List Australia, based on a U.S. originating list which aims to fund pro-choice women in politics all over the world. Disappointingly for Victoria's independent candidates, the Australian list only seems to fund Labor candidates.
 This reluctance of men to work for nothing is in part due to their greater traditional responsibility as breadwinners and the regimented nature of their salaried lives.
On Tuesday 25 May Mark O'Connor and Bernard Salt debated Australia’s population options at the “Future Summit”, run by the Australian DAVOS Connection (ADC) at the Hyatt in Melbourne. It was a one-hour debate, moderated by Jane-Frances Kelly of the Grattan Institute, before an audience mainly of business people. Organizers were surprised by the numbers this session attracted.
On Tuesday 25 May Mark O'Connor and Bernard Salt debated Australia’s population options at the “Future Summit”, run by the Australian DAVOS Connection (ADC) at the Hyatt in Melbourne. It was a one-hour debate, moderated by Jane-Frances Kelly of the Grattan Institute, before an audience mainly of business people. Organizers were surprised by the numbers this session attracted. The session was recorded.
Australian DAVOS Connection Future summit
Originally there were to have been four panellists, but professors Roger Short and Hugh White (Strategic Studies ANU) cancelled at the last moment, leaving an hour’s debate between environmental writer, O'Connor and growth marketer, Bernard Salt. Moderated by Jane-Frances Kelly of the Grattan Institute, this parallel session surprised the organizers by attracting more than its share of the mainly business-person audience. The room was packed with more than one hundred people.
Recently a letter appeared in The Canberra Times questioning Bernard Salt's status as a demographer and this time he was introduced as some kind of 'urban investigator'. Salt nevertheless quickly took the debate into the demography area, by running a version of the ageing population scare.
O'Connor said something about Salt and himself being good 'amateur demographers' and implied that they should both defer to the real experts. Salt explained that he was "not a demographer at all but an historian” and described himself as having an MA in urban history. He added that he wished journalists would not describe him as a demographer. A Google search will, indeed, find him repeatedly described as one.
Bernard Salt comes across as a “true believer” in population growth, conceding few if any downsides to it. He appears to have trouble understanding where the other side is coming from, and tends to caricature environmental and resource arguments against growth.
In this debate, he began with an exaggerated account of the costs of paying the old age pension for an aging population. He claimed that, even by raising the retirement age to 69 years, that would only buy us “a year or two”.
He based his positive case for growth on the value of 'optimism', concluding with a virtual paean to optimism, describing his belief that our cities will become marvelous, exciting places to live, with superlative transport systems made possible by density.
Blind optimism or tunnel vision?
Indeed, the optimism of growth economists and neo-liberals lies not just their failure to foresee economic crises but in their apparent belief that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse went out in the medieval era, or at least with WWII. Like Francis Fukuyama's End of History, they seem to believe that the establishment of Western [pro-business] liberal democracy is the ultimate and final form of human government.
Bernard Salt characterised the recent leap in immigration figures as temporary, pending the return home of overseas students. He also did not seem to make a difference between gross and net immigration figures. Peter McDonald of the ANU, who is a 'professional' demographer and a fellow growth lobbyist, seems less confident that the students will go home, and suggests that recent projections of an Australian population of 36 million projection in 2050 would need immigration to come down to 220,000 a year. Mark O'Connor thinks that the numbers would have to come down to 180,000 net.
In reply to a statement from mining executive, Hugh Morgan, in the audience, Mark O'Connor observed how little China or India would gain by invading Australia. Salt said that he had never held out the prospect of Australia being invaded by more populous nations. Only a short time later, however, he had come full-circle, sternly warning that the USA would not come to our aid if this happened. Dismissing an argument by O'Connor that Australia was not a large fertile and empty country, Salt said that what mattered was Australia's failure to convince its Asian neighbor nations of this.
He often sounds, however, as if he actually believes this myth, and is not averse to trying to spread it. In this debate he seemed to avoid making any firm call on whether Australia was in fact a semi-desert continent with limited carrying capacity. In fact, such an admission would pin him down to a factual argument and impede much of his pro-population growth rhetoric.
Multicultural Cart before Sustainable Horse
Salt seems to have a bizarre view of the world we live in and what should be our priorities. One got the impression that introducing an even mix of the world’s races into Australia was more important than keeping our population sustainable. The rationale he manufactures is that otherwise other nations will mistaken Green Australia policies for the old White Australia policies. Aided apparently by his ignorance about Australia's environment, Salt conveys a right-wing-business attitude, dismissing people who object to environmental destruction as hysterical exaggeraters.
The Grattan Institute moderator often failed to refer illogical claims for countering by the opposing debater. She seemed more concerned with moving through a variety of subjects, and getting audience response. Many of these responses from big business people showed how little some people in the commercial world understand threats to environments, or limits to natural resources. One man from Geraldton in West Australia, for instance, claimed that Geraldton had about twice as much renewable wind-energy generation as they could use, and a vast resource of underground fresh water inside the sands. There was no chance to ask if the water was renewable, or if these wind plants were real or projected.
So far the only account of this debate we have seen in the mainstream media was one strongly biased towards the pro-growth side in Alan Kohler's in Business Spectator, Entitled, “Rolling up the drawbridge” it began with Bernard Salt's ludicrous premise, “Australia risks becoming an international pariah if it relies the environment as an excuse to resist further migration, the Future Summit heard today." Kohler then gave eight paragraphs to summarizing Salt’s remarks, and two paragraphs on Mark O'Connor's.
Later this item, by Dally Messenger, appeared in the Business Spectator. It improves coverage of the debate.
Dear interested parties
Re: Stable Population Party of Australia
You may have heard that a new political party is being formed to help stabilise Australia’s population at around 23 million through until 2050.
This is in contrast to current projections of at least 36 million.
Australia’s high population growth rate leads to a doubling of our population every 30-35 years, and causes or exacerbates many of our major economic, environmental and social problems.
The results of high population growth have been near-permanent water shortages, increasing pollution, dying river systems, a surge in imports and skyrocketing foreign debt, reduced per capita value of our mineral wealth and exports, unaffordable housing, expensive rebuilding of our cities and infrastructure, impoverished government budgets, loss of limited arable farmland to housing, traffic gridlock, crowding of our coastal towns and resorts, loss of native species and wildlife like the koala, urban congestion, local suburb planning conflict, loss of personal security and open spaces for our children to play, just to name a few. What is all this in aid of?
According to the Australian Academy of Science and leading demographers, a stable population is now both necessary and possible.
Here are two recent media reports concerning the formation of the party:
As the founder, I have also recently promoted the new party in media interviews on Today Tonight, ABC Radio, etc.
In summary, our major policies to help stabilise Australia’s and the world’s population are as follows:
Adopt a formal national ‘population policy’ to stabilise Australia’s population at around 23 million until 2050.
Adopt a balanced and sustainable migration program, with annual immigration at around 50-80,000, being equivalent to total annual emigration.
Maintain Australia’s current refugee and humanitarian intake within this broader immigration quota.
Abolish the Baby Bonus and re-direct funds to needy families, as well as to education and training of our own workforce.
Tie foreign aid wherever possible to the improvement of governance and economic and environmental sustainability, with a particular focus on women’s rights and on opportunities for couples to access family planning services.
The abovementioned article links will give you further background information.
We need 500 ‘Founding Members’ ASAP in order to apply to the Australian Electoral Commission for official registration in early March. The AEC registration process then takes up to 12 weeks. We need official registration by mid-year to stand candidates in most States and Territories in the 2010 Federal Election.
Australia’s population growth isn’t inevitable. It is a choice and we are entitled to make it.
At the next Federal election we will finally have the choice between a stable, sustainable Australia, and a future Australia we won’t recognise. We can decide what we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren.
I am pleased to say that Stable Population Party of Australia already has the support and encouragement of a range of thoughtful and high profile Australians, including Mark O’Connor and William lines, co-authors of Overloading Australia.
Please ensure you read this book! See: http://www.australianpoet.com/overloading.html
Please post your completed Stable Population Party of Australia membership application ASAP to:
PO Box 601
Neutral Bay NSW 2089
Note that we are currently a ‘lean and mean’ organisation with a committee of volunteers. We will do our best to get back to you ASAP if you have any enquiries. A website will also be up and running by early March 2010 at www.populationparty.com for you to view.
Stable Population Party of Australia
Ed. William Bourke is a Sydney businessman
Nicolas Howe has been watching how the Fairfax, Murdoch and ABC media are treating alternatives to the population growth scenario of 35m plus. He finds that they are not giving them due representation and therefore biasing the debate. Letters not published. Rights of reply not balanced. His article confirms others on candobetter.org which have found this to be a consistent pattern with Australia's commercial mainstream media. They publish material to normalise population growth. They belong to the growth lobby. They have vested interest in population growth. As for the public media, the ABC - as has been pointed out before, it employs a number of ex-Murdoch journalists and allows professional property developers and other members of the growth lobby to dominate debate.
Article by Nicolas Howe
I have concerns about the commitment The Age has made to engage in the population debate. There were no letters published in response to Kevin Andrews call to reduce immigration. 
On the same day that the article was published there was an opinion piece written by Julie Szego condemning the call by Kevin Andrews. Julie Szego also criticised Kelvin Thomson's position on population. Kelvin's right of reply was limited to 200 words in the general letters section of today's Age.
If The Age were truly serious about engaging in the debate they should have allocated at least as much space to Kelvin Thomson (federal politician with well thought out platform on population) as Julie Szego had been allocated to express her strange opinion on the issue.
I get the impression that The Age is going through a process of "manufacturing consent" or having the Australian public accept that an increase in population, despite the policy options available, cannot be avoided.
The last time The Age spoke seriously on this subject was in an editorial on 11/11/2009. That editorial expressed an opinion of acceptance of 35 million by 2050. It belittled Tim Flannery's call for an independent authority to administer population policy. The editorial suggested that the authority would determine immigration levels on "the whim of technocrats".
I responded to the editorial of 11/11/2009, as I guess so did many others. However no letters were published. The Age has closed down the debate despite a commitment expressed in the editorial of 19/9/2009.
I am witnessing a pattern here. It looks like the mainstream media are purposely not talking about population. During one episode of ABC TV's program Q & A, two of the panelists started discussing a topic in the context of population growth. The host of the program, Tony Jones (who normally I consider a tough and intelligent journalist), quickly changed the topic. I felt that I sensed some anxiety in his behaviour, as if discussion on population was off limits.
The Australian newspaper is particularly biased. They regularly run a column written by Angela Shanahan who is dismissive of any calls to reduce population. The logic of these opinion piece's does not stand up to scrutiny. Angela Shanahan is a mother of nine children. I imagine it is almost impossible for her to express a reasoned view on population growth given her fecundity and religious conviction. Angela Shanahan is also a regular panelist on ABC's Q & A.
I think there is a determined effort being made by a group (or groups) of people with influence who are determined not to see democratic debate exploring small population options in the mainstream media.
Notes and comment provided by Candobetter Editor
 Misha Schubert, "Andrews call for debate on slashing immigration," The Age, December 11, 2009.
This article was based on a telephone conversation that Schubert had with Kevin Andrews, ex Minister for Immigration with the Howard Government, currently Shadow Minister for Families, Housing and Human Services. It reported that Andrews had "called for a debate on slashing Australia's immigration from 180,000 people a year to a ''starting point'' of just 35,000." Andrews reportedly pointed out that 60% of our growth is via immigration which could be reduced. Andrews reportedly disapproved of Kevin Rudd's 'Big Australia' and described or agreed with the description of immigration levels as 'plucked out of thin air'.
''If you look at the 2008 data, you would need about 35,000 immigrants on top of births to replace the population (for that year). So I say the starting point should be replacement levels of population, then ask what additional population we need so the country can be economically and otherwise sustainable and growing,'' he said.
The current Australian immigration minister, Chris Evans, reportedly accused Kevin Andrews of hypocrisy since, when in Government Andrews and Howard had authorised a jump to 158,800 planned immigrant intake for 2007-08. Evans claimed to have long term policies on numbers.
This article also appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald as, "Wake-up to the opportunities in population growth", December 11.
In this article Szego talks about the Scanlon Foundation, which is linked to the commercial growth lobby uncritically as a philanthropic organisation, and cites one of its surveys in support of high immigration.
"A social cohesion survey by the philanthropic Scanlon Foundation released this month showed only one in 10 Australians held strongly negative views about immigration, while 37 per cent of the 3800 respondents thought our immigration intake was too high - a result that tallies with similar polls and is pretty encouraging given it was taken in the aftermath of an economic downturn."
To cite this source as a valid comment is naive.
Szego also writes, with remarkable puerility, "Policy should instead amount to a pep-talk on how more people are simply a wake-up-call and an opportunity, not a problem."
Although there was only one letter in the hardcopy Age the day after Szego's article, there were many e-comments of which the great majority lambasted her. Of the one or two who thought her article was okay, this one caught my eye due to its organically egocentric focus and mad overvaluing of a single remote concern:
" Djinn | Sydney - December 11, 2009, 9:36AM
Thanks Julie for telling it how it is. Arguing against immigration is usually a fig leaf for xenophobia and selfishness. Every person in Australia is an immigrant. Besides, there is one simple question that none of the critics of immigration can answer - "Who is going to wipe your bum when you're old?". Answer: Nobody, if the likes of Kevin Andrews have their way."
Ban Developer Donations Now!
Send to: drostmary[AT]gmail.com
NSW former Premier Nathan Rees told the ALP State Conference in Sydney last month that 'a clean slate' ban on all donations from developers would apply to all levels of the party in NSW.
[Hmm, is that why he was replaced?]
The challenge for Victoria, other States, and the Commonwealth to follow NSW's example and reform their own political funding models without further delay is now clear.
Political campaign reform here in Victoria is long overdue. The public has had enough of the stench brought about by large political donations that appear to be closely linked to contentious property developments and favourable planning decisions.
Political donation disclosure is a joke. The next Victorian State election is expected to be held on 27th November 2010, but loopholes in election campaign disclosure law mean that political donations made between now and June 2010 will not even be disclosed to the public by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) until 2011, and donations made between June 2010 and Election Day will not be disclosed to the public until a year later in 2012 !
This lack of transparency is undemocratic, and must not be allowed to continue.
A Victorian Parliamentary Report earlier this year recommended the 'Harmonisation of Victorian and Commonwealth electoral law' including funding and disclosure obligations.
So Brumby has no time to lose. The Premier must act swiftly to ensure bans on developer donations and other changes necessary are all firmly in place for the next election in November 2010.
SIGNED ON BEHALF OF THE MEMBERS OF
Fill in your organisation or just your name.
Jill Quirk, of the Victorian Branch of Sustainable Population Australia, did a cracking job on this meeting that has given people another opportunity to hear and talk with Kelvin Thomson, Federal MP. Wills, Victoria. It would be a good start if all the other SPA branches in Australia also invited Kelvin to enlighten their cities and regions.
Why do I make such a fuss of Jill's part in this? Well, without people like Jill, persevering on population politics in Victoria - for years now - we would be in an even worse position vis a vis the tsunami the growth lobby wants to unleash. Credit, of course, has also been given to Julianne Bell, of Protectors of Public Lands and Royal Park Protection Group who convened an earlier speaker-meeting with Thomson. We should also be aware of Mary Drost, of Planning Backlash, and a number of other activists, such as Christine Pruneau of MRRA and Maryland Wilson of AWPC - almost all of them women - in Victoria - who have chosen not to remain silent and, self-funded, have stood up to be counted on population matters.
Kelvin Thomson's speech has been recorded in six parts on You-tube by film-maker, Andrew Melville Smith: see below
There is no doubt that if anyone can save Australia's democracy, environment and quality of life, it may be Kelvin Thomson. It is such a relief to hear someone speak up clearly over the constant dull roar of the growth merchants, from our Prime Minister, through every Australian state premier and treasurer, and all the bankers and property developers.
It seems that nearly everyone in big business has become completely craven, and, like King Midas, fascinated by gold, deaf to every birdsong. Official Australian values seem to have become as crass as those of the Egyptian pyramid commissioners, who wanted to take it all with them, and had their slaves killed so they would join them in death.
Yes, many Australians feel as if they are being enslaved by the growth lobby.
It would be wonderful if other politicians began to see through the growth merchants and got behind Kelvin. That would change Australia's outlook from one of anxiety to hope.
Part 4 - Questions and discussion
Part 5 - More discussion
Part 6 - More discussion and closure
Meeting 29 November - details end of story
Overpopulation will worsen if government has its way
Australia's population is now rising at about 2% per annum. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced that our population could rise to 35 million by the middle of the century. Other experts estimate that 35 million is a conservative figure and it could be more like 40 million. It is certain that If the current growth rate continues, the population will double in 35 years. That means our population would be 44 million by 2045.
Natural and Vital resources becoming rare and unaffordable
Australia's environment is under stress already with 22 million people. Not enough water reaches the mouth of the Murray River to keep the lakes of the Coorong alive. In Victoria water restrictions prevail and a desalination plant is being built. This means there is not enough fresh water in the state for people's current needs.
Who do our leaders represent?
Why are our political leaders so pleased about the level of population growth when it causes so many logistical and environmental problems?
A handful of politicians voice an opposing view to the prevailing glee about growth.
The Hon.Kelvin Thomson MHR for Wills is notable amongst these.
Come and hear Kelvin Thomson speak on:
- "Population reform- Political challenges"
3.00p.m. Sunday November 29th 2009
Meeting Room 1 North Melbourne Library (upstairs) 66 Errol Street, North Melbourne
(next to the Town Hall and Post Office near the corner of Errol and Queensberry St. (Parking usually available in surrounding streets.) Tram No 57 from Elizabeth St. travels along Errol St.
All welcome ! This is a public meeting held by
Sustainable Population Australia (Victorian branch)
Please join us for afternoon tea and meet Kelvin Thomson afterwards.
Jill Quirk President: Sustainable Population Australia (Victorian branch)
[email protected] (If that doesn't work messages will be forwarded from astridnova[AT]gmail.com)
This is a dramatic turn of events
First it was Kelvin Thomson MP and now Bob Carr former Premier of NSW speaking out strongly about the increase of population being forced on us by Federal and State. Will this strike a chord and open Pandora's box for the government?. Will the silent majority finally speak out?
Population numbers is the factor behind our planning and development woes and also helping to wreck our environment.
"In March the Australian Bureau of Statistics projected that one scenario, with ramped-up immigration, could mean a population as high as 42.5 million by 2056. Its mid-range scenario comes in at 35.5 million.
I need only summarise the indictments of such high-end population growth. It assumes rainfall reliability not reflected in any known data. It ignores evidence that high immigration has only a marginal impact on age distribution over the long term. It glides over the proof marshalled by Ross Gittins that high immigration worsens, not relieves, skill shortages. It also spikes the cost of land and cruels housing affordability."
Bob Carr has spoken out strongly this morning in a truly major article in the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, but it did not get printed in the Age, though it is on their website, only printed in the Sydney Morning Herald.
In his article, Carr makes clear just how irresponsible the behavior of bureaucrats and governments has been. For instance he says,
"Yet none of the Canberra bureaucrats who ticked off high immigration were required to link rising population numbers to water. Not to the fragility of the Murray and Adelaide's reliance on it for 90 per cent of its drinking water; to the unpredictability of south-east Queensland's rainfall; or to the unknowns about Perth's Yarragadee aquifer. ... Letting annual arrivals blow out to 500,000 a year required not even a one-page summary of environmental implications.",/blockquote>
As he puts it, there is now a deepening "rift valley between 90 per cent of Australians and their political and business leadership over population policy, or rather the absence of any policy except "more".
Below is the link to the article.
Perish the thought that we can handle a bigger population
by Bob Carr,
November 19, 2009
What a coup for long-time environment and democracy activist, Julianne Bell! Last night in Melbourne at the AGM of the Royal Park Protection Group, federal ALP Member for Wills, Hon Kelvin Thomson announced and detailed his 14 point plan for population reform, which is reproduced at the end of this article.
The plan was well received by an audience composed of the Royal Park Protection Group [RPPG] members of members of other Victorian community groups.
Questions from the audience indicated a high degree of engagement with the topic both on the local and global level.
Lifelong concern for Australia's native animals
After delivering his plan , Kelvin Thomson spoke of his lifelong interest in Australia's unique native fauna, and his concern that it can very easily be extinguished mainly through through loss of habitat and that our compassion should extend to living creatures other than humans. He said that many small species will disappear and not even be noticed by most people however be a loss to bio-diversity all the same.
Thomson also referred to the more iconic example of the koala whose perilous survival has been most recently in the news. He pointed out that there are only as many koalas remaining in the wild as there are additional humans in Australia every few weeks!
Kelvin Thomson expressed his concern that Australians need to leave our continent in as good condition as it was when we found it.
A motion at the end of the meeting was passed unanimously and in support of Kelvin's position which also called for a population summit.
Royal Park Protection Group an appropriate host
It was very appropriate that RPPG host this ground-breaking speech because RPPG was formed to defend 20 ha of Royal Park, in the heart of Melbourne, from being sold off by the Bracks government to Australand (Singapore majority owned) developers for a housing estate which was advertised worldwide to prospective immigrants. After this extraordinary gift of the peoples' land, the Bracks government even gave Australand $80m of tax payers money, purportedly in exchange for 10 days use of the land for the Commonwealth Games. Unable to win against the might of corporations and government, and with little help from Victorian unions, RPPG members went on to form Protectors of Public Land (Vic) and have now led Victorians in organising against the destruction of democracy and public land for commercial interests profiting from politically engineered population growth.
Where to from here? Population Reform - Political Challenges!
Kelvin Thomson will be the guest speaker at a Public meeting run by
Sustainable Population Australia (Victorian branch)
on Sunday November 29th at 3.00pm.
Topic: Population reform- Political challenges
At: Meeting Room 1 North Melbourne Library 66 Errol St. North Melbourne.
Enquiries to jillq[AT]optusnet.com.au
THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE TO RUNAWAY POPULATION
- KELVIN THOMSON’S 14 POINT PLAN FOR POPULATION REFORM
Tonight I am releasing for discussion a 14 point plan for population reform.
The first 11 points go to how we can stabilise Australia’s population.
1. Stabilise Australia’s population at 26 million by cutting the net overseas migration program to 70,000 per annum.
2. Cut the skilled migration program to 25,000 per annum.
3. Hold the family reunion program at 50,000 per annum.
4. Increase the refugee program from 13,750 to 20,000 per annum.
5. Alter the refugee criteria to include provision for genuine climate refugees.
6. The revised number of annual permanent arrivals from these programs would be 95,000 - 50,000 family reunion plus 25,000 skilled plus 20,000 refugees. Two more factors need to be considered: the number of people departing permanently from Australia, and the number of people arriving permanently from New Zealand. To reach a net overseas annual migration target of 70,000, the number of automatic places available for New Zealanders needs to be restricted to the number of departures from Australia over and above 25,000. The Trans Tasman Travel Arrangement would be renegotiated to achieve this, splitting available places for New Zealanders equally between skilled migrants and family reunion, and allowing New Zealanders to also apply and compete with other applicants under these normal migration programs.
7. Reduce temporary migration to Australia by restricting sub-class 457 temporary entry visas to medical and health related and professional engineering occupations.
8. Require overseas students to return to their country of origin and complete a two-year cooling off period before being eligible to apply for permanent residence.
9. Abolish the Baby Bonus.
10. Restrict Large Family Supplement and Family Tax Benefit A for third and subsequent children to those presently receiving them.
11. Dedicate the savings from abolishing the Baby Bonus and reduced expenditure on Family Payments for third and subsequent children towards increased investment in domestic skills and training through Universities and TAFEs.
The final three points go to how we can play a role in helping stabilise global population.
12. Increase Australia’s aid to meet the United Nations target of 0.7% of Gross National Income with money saved by abolishing Fringe Benefits Tax concessions for company cars, and greater use of off-the-shelf purchases in defence equipment purchases.
13. Use more of Australia’s aid budget for educating girls and women, and for better access to family planning and maternal child health, and advocate in the United Nations and international fora for other countries to do likewise.
14. Put overpopulation on the Agenda for the Copenhagen Climate Change talks.
How have I arrived at this plan?
STABILISE THE WORLD’S POPULATION
I have set out the reasons why I believe the world’s projected population levels are too high and unsustainable – global warming, food crisis, water shortages, housing affordability, overcrowded cities, transport congestion, fisheries collapse, species extinctions, increasing prices, waste, war and terrorism – in detail in a speech to Parliament on 17 August. [Candobetter.net Editor: This link is broken, but the contents are reproduced below. The broken link was http://www.kelvinthomson.com.au/speeches.php.]
If we are going to achieve this outcome, everyone has a role to play. Every country has both the right and the duty to stabilise its own population at a level compatible with its own resources and environment. In equity terms, this is an easier issue to deal with than carbon emissions, where the poorer countries have a legitimate anger that the wealthy countries have had all the fun; wrecked the neighbourhood, and the police have been called in to shut the party down just as poorer countries were starting to arrive.
The equitable approach is for each country to pull its own weight and stabilise its own numbers. Countries should not be asked to do more, or less, than this.
The two most promising ways of achieving population stability around the world are educating girls and women, and the provision of better health services, particularly reproductive health services. These two measures lower the fertility rate. According to the World Vision chief executive Tim Costello, for every extra year a girl stays in school, her fertility decreases. “She has fewer children and more optimism and power”, says Tim Costello. Professor Roger Short says that removing the barriers that separate women from the knowledge and technologies they need to manage the size of their family will cause family size to fall, even in poor, illiterate communities. He says conversely, as a result of lost attention to family planning since the 1990s, the population projection for several countries in 2050 has been raised, e.g. Kenya, up from 54 million to 83 million.
There are four things Australia can do to promote this international responsibility. First, in international fora such as the United Nations,
we should promote population stabilisation, better education for girls and women, and improved health services.
Second, we should increase our overseas aid program to meet the United Nations target of 0.7% of Gross National Income. This would involve an increase of $350 million in 2010-11 and a bit over $1 billion in 2011-12. The Government is committed to returning the Budget to surplus, so clearly such an increase would involve finding savings from elsewhere in the Budget – the money has to come from somewhere. One option which has merit in my view is scrapping the $1.5 billion fringe benefit tax concession for company cars, a subsidy from taxpayers which has been criticized by the Australian Conservation Foundation and other groups as damaging to the environment. Another is to trim fat from the defence budget by buying off-the-shelf military equipment rather than engaging in incredibly expensive modification. For example the Air Warfare Destroyer project cost double the initial estimate of $3.5 to $4.5 billion, to be $7.5 billion. So too did the Amphibious Vessel project, initially estimated at $1.5 to $2 billion, and finishing at $3 billion.
This additional money could be channelled into three critical areas – improving education levels, improving health outcomes and reproductive health services, including contraception, and developing renewable energy-based economies which have a path to prosperity that is not linked to increasing greenhouse emissions.
Third, we should put the issue of population stabilisation on the Agenda for the Copenhagen Climate Change talks. Al Gore has listed population increase as one of the three key drivers of climate change, and he is right. It is hard to see how any serious carbon reduction targets can be met while the world’s population continues to escalate. Until we address the issue of population, we are fighting global warming with at least one arm tied behind our back. Whilst it is unreasonable to ask developing countries to remain impoverished, it is not unreasonable to ask them to adopt a goal of population stabilisation.
Fourth, we can lead by example, and stabilise our own population.
STABILISE AUSTRALIA’S POPULATION
The reasons why I believe Australia’s population needs to be stabilised are also set out in detail in my speech to Parliament on 17 August, which can be accessed at [candobetter.net editor: Link no longer functional, due to Kelvin's retirement"http://www.kelvinthomson.com.au/speeches.php">http://www.kelvinthomson.com.au/speeches.php.]
Population is a function of birth rates, death rates, and migration rates. I am in favour of everyone living as long as possible. That leaves the migration rate and the birth/fertility rate.
Australian population increase over time is set out in the following graph:
Population policy cannot be a long-term side effect of ad-hoc immigration practice (Barry Jones Report, 1994). Immigration policy should be based on population policy.
Australia’s population has been skyrocketing in recent years, and the principal reason for this is the dramatic increase in our migration rate. This increase is due to the record high levels of Australia’s permanent entry program in recent years and to a surplus of long-term temporary arrivals, notably students and workers, over departures.
The increased migration rate has made all the previous projections about our population quite inaccurate understatements. Australia is now officially projected to have 35 million people by 2049. Just 2 years ago the Intergenerational Report predicted we would have 28 million.
Previous predictions and projections about Australia’s population have been gross underestimates. Back in 1984 the World Bank’s population projection for the year 2100 was 21 million. We reached that in 2007! A decade ago, forecasters were predicting we would not hit the 22 million mark until 2040. We’re there already!
The idea that the population is going to take care of itself is just wrong. Not only does it never happen, population is now a runaway train.
To bring the train back under control we need to return to a net overseas migration number more in keeping with previous practice. Net overseas migration in 2007-08 was 213,461. I believe this should be reduced to 70,000. If we cut net overseas migration to 70,000, and the fertility rate was maintained at 1.8, according to Professor Bob Birrell, of Monash University’s Centre for Urban and Social Research, the population would reach 26 million by the year 2050 and stabilize at about this level for the rest of the century.
The age profile of the population would also remain relatively constant.
A net overseas migration figure of 70,000 is not unachievable or without precedent. There were several years in the 1980s when the net overseas migration figure was in the 70,000s, or less. There were three years in the 1990s when the net overseas migration figure was less than 70,000. As recently as 1998 the net overseas migration figure was less than 80,000. In 1994 the Australian Academy of Science advised the Federal Government that it would be prudent to keep net migration below 50,000.
A net overseas migration rate of 70,000 is not inconsistent with Australia’s obligation to be a compassionate international citizen, nor is it inconsistent with a humanitarian approach to allowing family reunion for present Australian citizens. The present number of refugees and asylum seekers taken by Australia is 13,750. It has been at the 12,000 – 13,000 level for many years. It could be increased to 20,000, an increase of over 45%, within the context of a large cut to the overall migration program.
If we increase the refugee program we would also be better prepared for the possibility of climate refugees. There is a distinct prospect that in future low lying islands in the Pacific will be rendered uninhabitable by sea level rise and storm surges. I think our refugee criteria should be altered to enable us to accept people from the Pacific Islands provided they can demonstrate that their former homes are genuinely uninhabitable as a consequence of climate change, and provided that Australia is not being used as an overflow by countries which have failed to address their own population capacity and allowed themselves to become overpopulated.
Nor is a generous family reunion program inconsistent with population stabilisation. The family reunion program stood at 49,870 in 2007-08 and 56,366 in 2008-09. A figure of 50,000 could be retained.
What is incompatible with population reform is our skilled migration program. In 1995-96 it was 24,100. It had risen to 114,777 by 2008-09 – four to five times what it used to be. It should be cut back to 25,000.
To those who object that we need these workers, I ask, why is it that the catch cry for just about every Government project, and every private sector project, is that it will provide jobs for our workforce. If we are already short of workers, why do we need to find them these jobs? Why is it that 100,000 young Australians aged between 15-24 dropped out of the labour force last year?
Ambit claims about the need for a vastly increased workforce or an imminent lack of labour, also underpin much of the ageing population scare (See Overloading Australia, pp 98 ff).
And workforce participation by older Australians is rising, not falling, and could rise further. For 2008-09 average participation in the workforce was 81 per cent for 50-54 year olds, 69 per cent for 55-59 year olds and 49 per cent for 60-64 year olds. These participation rates have gone up during the last decade. Further improvement is possible. Why have our Disability Support Pension numbers risen? Its annual growth rate in the last 10 years has been 3.16 per cent, and it continues to rise despite Government efforts to reduce it. Skilled migration also undermines the need for a concerted effort to lift aboriginal employment.
Employers who claim they will need a huge labour force in the future usually mean that they would like a large pool of job seekers to select from, to suppress wages. In reality no managing director will employ more staff than necessary. Automation and robotisation are often preferred.
To those who say, these workers are needed for the skills they bring to Australia, I disagree. Only a minority of Non-English Speaking Background migrants use professional qualifications in the work they find once admitted to Australia. This applies to former overseas students and those with qualifications from overseas. And bringing in 3485 cooks and 1082 hairdressers under skilled program visas in 2007-08 is an indictment of our own education and training system. The present arrangement is suppressing market signals that would improve our education and training system. We have become addicted to skilled migration. It is time we broke the habit.
Our Universities and TAFES have had their funding slashed and have been told to make ends meet by bringing in overseas students. It would be better if young Australians who are presently missing out on a place at a University or TAFE were given a place. 18,500 eligible applicants missed out on a university place this year, up from 12,600 last year. Professor Bob Birrell says that the real number of students missing out may be much larger. He says eligible applications amount to 227,000, compared with actual acceptances of 161,000- a difference of more than 66,000. The proportion of resident young people enrolled in higher education is relatively low by European standards. This reflects the period since 1996 when there has been very little increase in the number of domestic subsidized places. There should be a large increase in domestic enrolments in higher education so we can match the demands of the job market, where at least half of net job growth requires degree credentials. This requires an increase in funding, and the money has to come from somewhere.
This is where the birth rate issue comes in.
Australia’s fertility rate has moved between 2004 and 2007 from 1.76 to 1.93 children per women. This does not mean that births are less than deaths. Births per year in Australia are twice deaths, and have been so for many years.
In 2004 the Howard Government introduced the ‘baby bonus’ to encourage women to have more children. This payment is contradictory to the objective of stabilising Australia’s population. Furthermore if it has any effect, it encourages women to have children for the wrong reasons. Children should be loved and wanted, not seen as a potential source of income. If it has no effect, it is a waste of taxpayers’ money which could be better used elsewhere. Its present cost to the revenue is $1.4 billion in 2009-10.
Recently the total fertility rate has been increasing. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the Australian total fertility rate was 1.93 babies per woman (2007), up from 1.81 in 2006 and the highest since 1981.
I have no problem with ongoing Family Payments for the first and second child, but payments for third and subsequent children fly in the face of efforts to achieve population stabilisation.
The Large Family Supplement is paid for the third and each subsequent child at a little over $280 per annum. Its cost to revenue in 2009-10 is estimated at $208 million. It should be phased out – while it would be unfair to remove this payment from those presently receiving it, it should be grandfathered, and third and subsequent children born from now on would not be eligible for it.
The Family Payments Budget for 2009-10 is $17.4 billion. It is one of the Federal Government’s largest and most complex expenditure programs.
The STINMOD micro simulation model produced by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) indicates that around 375,000 children are third or subsequent children.
Assuming that the distribution of rates of payment for these children is similar to that for Family Tax Benefit A recipients generally, it can be assumed that about 33% would be on the maximum rate, about 30% on less than maximum rate but more than base rate, about 30% on base rate, and about 7% on less than base rate.
Using 2009 rates for 0-12 year olds adjusted up a little to take account of higher rates for 13 – 15 years, the cost is estimated to be approximately $1.3 billion in 2009-10.
As with Large Family Supplement, I would propose that Family Tax Benefit A for third and subsequent children be restricted to those presently receiving it.
The combined savings from cutting out the Baby Bonus, Large Family Supplement, and Family Tax Benefit A for third and subsequent children would be approximately $1.4 billion plus $200 million plus $1.3 billion, ie nearly $3 billion.
While this saving would not all become available immediately, it is very significant and could greatly boost the levels of university and vocational education in Australia. It could be used to boost the number of places being offered by Universities so that eligible students do not miss out on a place, it could be used to boost funding for TAFE, and used to boost funding for apprenticeships.
The Bradley Review of Australian Higher Education said we could achieve a demand driven entitlement system for domestic higher education students, where public funding will be provided for each undergraduate student eligible for a university place, at a cost of $1,130 million over 4 years. The Budget Papers have allowed $491 million from 2009-10 to 2012-13 towards this objective. Finding the extra $639 million and funding the extra places would be money well spent.
In relation to the TAFE sector the Australian Education Union has called for increased funding to meet projected needs in vocational education and training of $1,125 million. Key areas for spending include:
• Projected growth in enrolments, the economy’s anticipated need for higher level qualifications, investment in retraining the workforce and strategies to engage those in society who are under or un-employed.
• Workforce transition and renewal and professional development.
• Building and technology improvements.
• Student services and support programs.
I would also like to put money into reducing HECS debts, which I think are too high, and into increasing payments to apprentices and Youth Allowance, which I think are too low. I acknowledge, however, that these are expensive items, so improvements in these areas would be subject to getting in the full $3 billion in family payments savings, and therefore would be some time off. I think it needs to be, regrettably, a second order priority to creating the extra places for young people, and some not so young people, who are presently neither studying or working.
Temporary entry permits have skyrocketed in Australia. In 1995-96 they were 3.1 million. By 2007-08 they had reached 4.2 million.
This number is made up of:
• 110,570 subclass 457 visas;
• 278,180 student visas;
• 3,808,610 other visa classes.
There are no caps on student visas, 457 visas, or Working Holiday visas. Nor are there caps on numbers taking up bridging visas or 485 visas after completing courses here.
It is said that this doesn’t matter because the temporary residents all return to their country of origin. This is not true. At least half of former overseas students are staying on either by gaining permanent residence visas or temporary bridging or 485 visas. Maybe around a third of 457 visa holders gain permanent residence, mainly via Employment Nomination visas. Furthermore, while they are here, they add to Australia’s population pressures.
In 2008, on average nearly one million temporary residents, including tourists, were here at any one time.
Temporary entry work visas are a tool for undermining the wages and conditions of Australian workers, and a recipe for exploiting overseas ones.
The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union has uncovered dreadful examples of the use of sham contractors who are underpaid or not paid at all, and threatened with deportation if they complain or seek to enforce their rights. Subclass 457 work visas have no worthwhile role to play, except in very limited situations. They should be restricted to areas of clear need, that is to say the medical and health related and professional engineering occupations. If we really are short of workers, how come political and business leaders are forever promoting proposals with the catchcry, “jobs, jobs, jobs?”
Overseas students should be required to return to their country of origin once they have completed their course. They should be subject to a 2 year cooling off period before being eligible to apply for permanent residence in Australia. Since the Howard Government changed the rules in 2001 to allow students to apply for permanent residence, onshore, overseas student numbers have skyrocketed from 204,000 to over 467,000 in just seven years. Rorts and scams have crept into the program and damaged Australia’s international education reputation. Decoupling the link with permanent residence will put the focus back on education where it belongs, restore Australia’s international education reputation, and probably also reduce temporary entry numbers.
At present we also have uncapped migration from New Zealand. The number of New Zealand citizens stating that they are settling permanently in Australia has increased from 16,364 in 2002-03 to 34,491 in 2007-08 and 47,780 in 2008-09. About 7,000 of the 34,491 were third country migrants who have migrated to New Zealand, then got citizenship, then come to Australia. This open-ended, uncapped program makes it impossible for Australia or New Zealand to implement a population policy and it needs to be reformed.
The Trans Tasman Travel Arrangement with New Zealand would need to be re-negotiated to do away with the open door. The present arrangement has no formal legal status. In any event, we need to stabilise population globally. Hence getting other countries such as New Zealand to address their population capacity, rather than simply acting as an overflow for surplus population, is important.
What we should do is monitor annual departures, and renegotiate the Trans Tasman Travel Arrangement with New Zealand to close off automatic entry for New Zealanders, while allowing the places made available by annual departures from Australia above 25,000 to be filled by New Zealanders, splitting available places equally between skilled migrants and family reunion. Otherwise New Zealanders would be eligible to come to Australia under the normal programs, applying and being assessed in the same way as everyone else.
This would give Australia control over our net migration number which we presently don’t have. We can set a target for permanent skilled migrants, family reunion, and refugees, but we have no idea how many people are going to come in from New Zealand, and no idea how many people are going to leave Australia. These numbers are too important to be left to chance, and we should set a net target figure. The approach I have adopted is based on a net overseas migration target figure of 70,000: 95,000 in from skilled, family reunion and refugee categories, expecting at least 25,000 to leave, and allowing New Zealanders to fill the places made available through this process. The number of departures in recent years has been far higher than 25,000, and even when permanent arrivals numbered around 90,000 it was still well above 25,000.
In combination these measures would do great things for Australia. First and foremost they would stop us wrecking our environment. Second they would get us to focus on higher education and training for young Australians. They would open up job opportunities for younger and older workers who are presently missing out. They would help us meet carbon reduction targets. They would make housing more affordable. They would put a halt to the creeping inflation and price rises for food, water, and energy. They would address the declining quality of life in our cities, the traffic congestion and the disappearing backyards and open spaces. They would enable us to be compassionate, decent international citizens, taking more refugees and lifting our overseas aid. Above all else they would discharge our obligation to pass on to our children and grandchildren a world, and an Australian way of life, in as good a condition as the one our parents and grandparents gave us.