I am a member of the Hornsby Kuringai Greens, NSW and a member of the Greens Population/Sustainability Working Group. On July 18 I emailed all Senate NSW pre select candidates to ask them what they would do, if elected to the Senate, about Abbott's high population growth position, with reference to immigration, 457 visas, and growth economy addiction. I received encouraging responses back from Amanda Findley and Brad Orgill. Whilst I, like many, think it would be a great loss not to have Lee Rhianon in the Senate. She was almost frightening when she hammered home the seriousness of what we are facing with Abbott: TPP, giant coal mines etc., attack on renewable energy; but she won't budge on her position regarding population and immigration. I had a chat with her and James Ryan later and her point was that we are going to be facing thousands of people from the Pacific Islands who have been washed out of their homes by sea level rise and increasing storm frequency and intensity so how can we argue against the current rate? Also she seemed to be saying that it's too complex because of global population reality etc. Below I have published the responses I received to my Population/Immigration/addicted to growth Economy concerns.
Dear Greens Senate NSW pre select candidates.
I`m about to cast my vote for NSW Greens Senate candidates pre selection.
I cannot vote for a Senate candidate who does or says nothing about Australia`s horrendous immigration rate.(and population growth rate.) Greens worthy and humanitarian policy towards environmental and political refugees/assylum seekers is contradicted by a lack of action for a reduction in immigration back to pre John Howard levels - about 50,000 pa. The current rate of 260,000 pa is totally un-sustainable, irresponsible and is resulting in downward pressure on wages, infrastructure failure, sky rocketing city house prices,traffic chaos and threats to delicate ecosystems - eg. North Coast Koala habitat. It is the fuel which fires the developers' and construction industry greed for constant building in Sydney causing excessive demolition of our heritage and increasing population density. More profits for capitalists who bribe the Liberal Party with obscene electoral donations but a down ward spiral in our quality of life and standard of living for ordinary Australians. Greens policy should be in agreement with progress to a Steady State Economy to end the Addicted-to-growth mentality which is destroying life on the planet. Stabilising Australia`s population growth rate is a necessary corollary of this goal among other goals to reduce our eco-footprint per capita and total Australian eco-footprint. Genuine refugees yes, but well off, aspirational, middle class immigrants - we don`t need 260,000 pa. Also their emmigration to Australia represents a brain drain from their own countries. Australia's so called "skills shortage" is a furphy. It's corporate-speak for cheap internationalised labour from non-unionised compliant countries. ie non-unionised - aspirational - compliant - immigrants. The former safe Labor seat of Penrith has swung to the Liberals. John Howard's quadrupling of the immigration rate is the reason. It is Liberal Party social engineering of the electorates. I look forward to your reply in terms on what you will do in the Senate to pressure the Federal Government to reduce population pressure on Australia and in particular to reduce the excessive immigration rate.
Member. Hornsby Kuringai Greens.
Member. Greens Population/Sustainability Working Group.
Responses from Greens senate NSW pre-select candidates
An encouraging response from Amanda Findley
Hi Geoff. Tough question for an economic immigrant.
I migrated to Australia in 1982 as a 12 year old with my mum, dad and brother - we were escaping poverty and the troubles ofNorthern Ireland. I didn't want to leave my country of origin or my large family, but I had no choice.
My fathers 'family application' was accepted as he did have skills in the info tech area that Australia at that time didn't have. I amvery grateful for the opportunity that I and my family have had- the migration level then was substantially lower and the processwe went through quiet vigorous even though there was still the hangovers from white Australia policy and British Citizenswere given a green light much easier than other NESB people.
So I struggle internally with the debate on immigration as I don't want to be a hypocrite who benefitted and then locked the door -so to speak. My response(Geoff) to the above - If we`re not Aboriginal then we are all part of the on going invasion of Australia.One way of compensating for the destructive impact that we and our ancestors have had on the indigenous humanpopulation and on the forests - wildlife and what was an incredible bio diversity is to stop the destruction now by reducingAustralia`s population growth which continues to cause havoc on the delicate and ancient eco systems of the continent dueto our high human foot print - total and per person.(Geoff)
That being said do I think we have issue - yes indeed. The fixation with the growth at any cost model will be the ruination of ourspecies /planet /ecosystems.
I agree that the current rate of immigration is obscene considering the structural difficulties that we currently face in every cityacross the brown land and even more obscene given our Governments current position of refugees. Absolutely Amanda (Geoff)
I don't support the notion of a big Australia - as a farmer I have an understanding of carrying capacity and I don't think humans fare any better from a feed lot existence than other animals do. We have a long way to go in convincing people to live more frugal lives and that is part of the key to reducing our stress on the planet.
I am certainly interested in promoting steady state economy, but this is not my current area of expertise.
I hope this brief email gives you some insight into my thinking - I will be attending the Hornsby Kuring Gai Greens event on Sunday18th if you would like to have a chat in person.
Regards Amanda Findley
An encouraging response from Brad Orgill
Hi Geoff, I agree with you that inward immigration levels of skilled applicants (as distinct from refugees) have been unnecessarily high. I dobelieve that this has exacerbated the unemployment and underemployment rate and I wrote about this in my published book('Why Labor Should Savour its Greens'). I think the 457 visa scheme in particular has been materially overused. I enclose a scannedextract of the couple of pages from my book highlighting this.
I also believe that high immigration puts downward pressure on wages (and benefits) and increases the need for, and cost to alltaxpayers of, government spending on infrastructure and services. I think (and I also said this in my book) that the governmentfocus on GDP is simplistic (in many ways) of which one is a complete disregard for the more useful measure of GDP PerCapita. The result has been that high immigration has delivered GDP growth but depressed GDP per capita, at a cost to existingAustralians. Business and those deriving their income from invested capital derive benefits from a rapidly increasingpopulation but most Australians do not.
I think housing costs are driven by a variety of factors of which negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions are important. Sotoo is the paradigm for setting interest rates (where the RBA mandate to set rates off CPI ignores housing price inflation). Inwardimmigration and especially the ability for foreigners not immigrating to buy property and circumvent rules has also been amaterial factor. Our governments have been negligent in addressing this (and other factors) to ensure housing costs are contained.We have been notably behind the curve relative to Vancouver and HK where restrictions and explicit taxes have beenimposed.
We need to link the discussion on immigration with a more nuanced discussion on foreign investment as some types of foreigninvestment (such as direct investment in manufacturing or R&D facilities involving technology transfer are of major benefit)but buying the existing housing stock has no benefit.
I think the issues of immigration and foreign investment bring into sharp focus; the question of 'who is the Government governingfor?' and if not for the majority of Australians but rather say - business or lobby groups or relative minority groups withspecific beliefs or agendas - then democracy as currently working in Australia, is failing us.
I hope this gives you an insight into my views.
Dr. Arthur Chesterfield-Evans' Response.
Hi Geoff, You raise a lot of issues.
We need a sustainable world population and sustainable policies for the whole planet. Affluence and a decent life makes people have less children. I am not sure that forced sterilisation works. A new economic system must have a role for everyone in a cooperative rather than a competitive model. This requires a huge paradigm shift.
I am not sure we can merely halt Australia's population growth without thinking about the rest of the world. A small selfish nation will not stand up forever. We took a lot of migrants after WW2, the most in the world for our population. But all the people who came had jobs and all the kids went to the same public schools, not the poor ghettos we have now with unemployed parents.
More global thinking is needed.
Cheers Arthur Chesterfield-Evans
My response to Arhur
Greens policy correctly prioritises I believe--our humanitarian responsibility to asylum seekers and environmental refugees which we are likely to see thousands of from the Pacific as sea level rises and as weather events intensify. Abbott`s policy of prioritising well off--middle class, aspirational so called "skilled" immigrants who move into the Lend lease and Trigaboff McMansions and swing the formerly safe Labor seats in Sydney and Melbourne to the right and push up demand for Sydney houseprices should be reduced. Their emigration to Aust represents a brain drain from their own country. The dreadful high rise "developments" Sydney residents are now faced with are based on the assumption that population will rise. I believe that a Greens Senator should combine forces with the Member for Wills, Kelvin Thomson and expose the dangers of the Abbott Government's reckless high population growth economy. Use the question time debates - what ever tactics - instruments - are available to Senators. Senator Larissa Waters has expressed her opposition to Australia`s excessive population growth rate at
Regards. Geoff Dowsett
Lyn Maciver's response
Thank you, Geoff, for your strongly expressed views on Australia's current Immigration policy.
As I am sure you would realise Immigration has been a hot topic since colonial times and "policy" development has been erratic and kneejerk at worst with slogans such as "Populate or Perish" to zenophobic "the yellow peril and white Australia" policy.
There have been times of rational diplomacy and some strategic intelligence in our combination of Education and Immigration insights such as the Columbo Plan.
This resulted in having leaders of neighbouring countries educated at Australian schools and universities.
As for the laissez-faire mess we are in just now with full fee paying students and investor parents and too many wanting to have afoot in Australia and another in Asia or elsewhere!!!!.
My position is to require citizenship as basic requirement for ownership of residential property. Business "investment" needs different criteria, especially rural and agricultural land.
We have a big country and it is richly resourced but water and arable land are not at present inexhaustible.
As someone who has studied Permaculture, I am aware that even deserts in time and with careful husbandry can become arable but growth for growth's sake and just expanding into the stratosphere with multiple high rise development is not the way forward in my opinion.
I favour regional development and opportunities for residential and employment hubs networked throughout regional and ruralAustralia instead of current coastal clustering of unsustainable development.
All these alternatives require Imagination and Political Will to enable the best use of our entire land mass. Many people would love to get out of Sydney to cheaper housing, cleaner air, open spaces and less frenetic lifestyle but they need to know they have access to good ongoing educational and locally based employment opportunities and access to reliable and state of the art medical services.
Not rocket science but the emphasis will have to be on promoting life beyond the major cities.
Enormous potential for all Australians.
I do not think numbers are the main criteria. We need to slow down and plan for the future in stages. There has been too much haste and too little intelligent planning for living, sustainable communities to create happy, healthy and creative centres of population all over the nation.
Will require good positive communication to all Australians, selling decentralisation with big benefits.
We are a multicultural nation and that is not going to change. It is both a challenge and a strength in creating diversity and depth of cultural experience for us all.
Hope this gives you some idea of my thinking on the subject.
Best wishes, Geoff. If you would like to discuss with me further, just give me a call on 0457 812 653. I am free now if you want to call.
Just realise that as a Greens Senator for NSW, I would not be a lone ranger, but one of a team, whose decisions are based on stated Greens policy which is not set in concrete but which neither is it ad hoc and policy on the run.
My response to Lyn.
Thanks for your response but I don't think you are aware of the seriousness of Australia's excessive population increase. Decentralisation is not the answer due to our globally significant eco hot spots, delicate and vulnerable eco systems/wildlife habitats - aboriginal heritage and environmental impact per person that is too high in marginal areas away from cities. There would also be vast communication and transport costs. There - poor soils - drought - global warming impacts etc.
Our impact on the environment is absolutely linked to the population size---Are you familiar with Paul Ehrlich`s equation Impact=Population x Affluence x Technology ? I =PAT ? Australia's eco footprint per capita is one of the highest on the planet. We must reduce our population growth rate. Japan now has a negative growth rate. Europe and Scandinavia- no population growth. See some of Dr. Haydn Washington's slides from recent Nth Side Forum talk on Population attchd.
Australia is now in an unprecedented biodiversity crisis (see "Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment, 2002"; NHT Report). Yet instead of urgently addressing this life threatening crisis, our governments are not only ignoring it, but their policies are clearly designed to exacerbate it. They are driven by ideology and economy that is completely divorced from the natural environment and the benefits of its ecosystem services on which all life on this planet depends. Our Federal and State govts have been hijacked by sociopathic corporations that have no concern for the impact of the population growth on - Australia's threatened bio-diversity natural habitats - quality of life in our cities - meltdown of urban infrastructure - traffic chaos - sky rocketing house prices - a downward spiral in our standard of living and quality of life. Who will profit from Australia's population boom? Answer: Only the capitalist class at the expense of the environment,our quality of life as our infrastructure is stretched and delicate ancient eco systems are destroyed . This is massive corporate welfare as corporations pay no tax to support the need for up graded infrastructure and pay nothing to counteract the environmental collapse --and reap the obscene profits as population increases. Solution---Cut population growth immediately by cutting immigration and closing down Abbott's 457 Visa rort.
Cheers. Geoff Dowsett
James Ryan`s Response
Geoff I agree with you about limiting growth in the traditional economic sense and protecting our environment. As you might be aware I am currently taking Land & Environment Court action to protect the bushland nesting habitat of the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater.
I am particularly concerned about the increasing rates of consumption per capita in our society and the implications that has for our footprint on the planet.
Happy to talk to you about these issues.