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Biased Presentation of the Problems of Population Growth Without Questioning It in 'The Age'

Jason Dowling and Clay Lucas' article in The Age (17/7/2009) 'Suburban sprawl costs billions more', presents the problems of population growth as creating urban sprawl that will cost $40 billion. It then highlighting as a "solution", the idea that the density of the existing suburbs should be increased so Victoria can save itself $40 billion. At no point is current population policy questioned or examined. It is simply accepted that population growth will be unstoppable. The article purpose appears to justify the need for increasing density as a "cheaper" solution for Melbourne's growth crisis, without of course calculating the cost, both direct economic cost and the loss of amenity for people already living in Melbourne.

A series of academics are quoted bemoaning the cost of building new suburbs, all of them universally recommending to

"Redirect development from Melbourne's fringe into established suburbs."

As usual the Property Council wants it both ways. In one part of the article it says:

"[The Government] doesn't want to take on the outer-urban property industry."


Once again Property Council - a band of property speculators - accorded guru status by press

Presumably the academic means the Property Council. It then quotes the chief executive of the Property Council Jennifer Cunich

"Anecdotal evidence to us tells that infill development is quite difficult to achieve."

Which I take to mean that it is cheaper for the Property Council members to develop new suburbs, then Cunich says:

"While Melbourne's urban growth boundary should be expanded to accommodate the city's booming population, development in existing suburbs should also be made easier."


So the Property councils wants more growth beyond Melbourne's urban growth boundary and reducing of restrictions for development in existing suburbs, what a surprise!

A sad state of affairs when the only 'serious' newspaper ...

It's a sad state of affairs when the only serious broadsheet newspaper in Victoria is unable to examine such a significant issue beyond one dimension. The article conveys population growth as being inevitable and beyond question. There is no fostering of debate on the issue, only it's consequences in a way that presents the reader with 2 options, one of which has a cost (suburban sprawl) and the other with only benefits (densification of existing suburbs). The problem here is growth per se. Paving over backyards and building multi-story towers is not a solution to a future of climate change, peak oil and water shortages. Building new suburbs is also not a solution to those problems. Stopping growth is the solution, the sooner it is done the more sustainable the future will be for the citizens of Melbourne.

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Premier Brumby says that the rising violence in Melbourne is "un-Victorian". This impotent and feeble protest is a way of objecting but doing nothing!

Australia's cities are becoming more and more violent. We are living in pressure-cooker conditions, due to human densities without a culture to unify people. Diversity is celebrated and encouraged, but the reality is that we are not a conforming culture like in Japan or China. We are not a monolith! We lack leadership in Australia, and without a unifying and adhesive "glue", such as a faith or some ideals, violence and discord will continue. Add alcohol and drugs to this mix, and organised crime, there is mayhem! We have secularism, materialism, ramped population growth, greed and diversions of all kinds, each of us with selfish aims and directions. We can't have police everywhere, and this would offend the supporters of civil libertarians! Our cities are centres of violence and vice, but without leadership and ideals, our society will decline into further anarchy and crime.

"So the Property councils wants more growth beyond Melbourne's urban growth boundary and reducing of restrictions for development in existing suburbs, what a surprise!"

This is typical tactic used by the housing and real estate industries. They lobby the government for higher immigration levels and then turn around and moan and complain that not enough land for housing is available to accommodate the resultant population explosion. Benefiting from the housing crisis they helped create, they cry crocodile tears for all those adversely affected by the housing shortage, pressuring governments to open up more land on the urban fringe for extra houses.

And, amazingly, nobody ever bothers to point out that it was these same vested interest groups who created this pressure-cooker situation in the first place.

Plenty of people are shouting, but they do not get reported by the Murdoch and Fairfax Press. Why? Because the Murdoch and Fairfax Press are heavily involved in promoting the very problems they then bemoan. Why? Because they have a direct interest in marketing real-estate globally via and and, as corporate press, represent a host of other commercial interests which more and more rely on subsidy by taxpayers. If you want the government to use taxes to bail out banks and other corporations, with funds for more 'development', it doesn't do to report that the whole thing is a scam. A similar set up prevails in the tv stations with their lifestyle programs - marketing, marketing - and the ABC seems to be quite hamstrung in its ability to criticise these trends as well - perhaps because of political pressure, perhaps because of the interests that sit on its boards. (Okay, there are some good programs, such as 4Corners). There is, as has been pointed out elsewhere on this site, a growing trend to draw ABC journos from the Murdoch stable. And the corporations and their lobby groups supply a lot of articles to the mainstream, and even supply writers - e.g. Bernard Salt.

So, people are shouting, but the press is not reporting them properly.
That is why exists - to report the shouting!

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
home page

The following, while not all strictly 'independent', offer some alternative reading and analysis of current affairs issues in Australia. I am sure there are others. Notably, the fact that Fairfax is about to launch a dedicated online political analysis magazine 'The National Times' in August 2009 indicates corporate recognition of the healthy growth in Australian online journalism and blogging. The media landscape is changing. Feedback welcome.

The Monthly
'The Monthly (is) a national magazine of politics, society and the arts, arrived in 2005. It is published by the people who bring you Black Inc. books and the Quarterly Essay. It is unlike any Australian publication that has come and gone before.
The Monthly is intelligent and inquisitive, witty and wise. It doesn’t dumb down or suck up. The Monthly is rooted in simple but powerful storytelling. It doesn’t moan, or earbash, or take itself too seriously. The Monthly gives space to long essays and thoughtful reviews, to investigative journalism and zingy reportage, to bold photography and a brash design. It doesn’t get bogged down in bloated columns by boring hacks. The Monthly is human.

Only Australia’s best writers light up The Monthly’s stage: Helen Garner, Don Watson, John Birmingham, Mungo MacCallum, Shane Maloney, Ashley Hay, Drusilla Modjeska, Clive James, Gideon Haigh, Amanda Lohrey, Chloe Hooper, Malcolm Knox, Robert Manne. The Monthly dares them to get mud on their laptops. If Australia’s existing magazines are stuck in a rut, growing fatter yet thinner, then The Monthly is like a free-spirited friend who comes to visit, full of stories, insight, wit and surprise.'

'Crikey is Australian for independent journalism.
There are two arms to Crikey: our website and the Crikey Daily Mail, a daily subscription email service.

The website: This is where we??present a selection of Crikey’s original content along with links to stories from all corners of the web. Crikey editors are across thousands of online sources, from the most earnest to the most eclectic. If it’s interesting and newsworthy, chances are it’ll be on

Crikey Daily Mail: Around lunchtime every weekday, the Crikey Daily Mail hits the inboxes of thousands of subscribers. This email edition of 25 or more original stories is crammed with news, analysis, insider gossip, reviews and prescient tips about politics, media, business, the law, culture and national and international affairs.

Crikey’s aim is to bring its readers the inside word on what’s really going on in politics, government, media, business, the arts, sport and other aspects of public life in Australia. Crikey reveals how the powerful operate behind the scenes, and it tackles the stories insiders are talking about but other media can’t or won’t cover.

Crikey sees its role as part of the so-called fourth estate that acts as a vital check and balance on the activities of government, the political system and the judiciary. In addition, Crikey believes the performance and activities of business, the media, PR and other important sectors are worthy of public scrutiny.'

New Matilda
'Launched in August 2004, is an independent Australian website of news, analysis and satire. Believing that robust media is fundamental to a healthy democracy, aims to provide non-partisan information ? it has no association with any political party or media organisation. provides intelligent coverage of Australian politics, business, consumerism, civil society, international affairs, media and culture for a global audience. As well as offering an understanding of current events against a broad historical and political backdrop, it features issues and ideas often left untouched by the mainstream media. publishes the work of writers from a wide range of backgrounds. They are journalists, current and former politicians, lawyers, critical and creative thinkers, bloggers, policy-wonks and satirists. Unsolicited submissions are welcome.

Registered readers (free) can choose to receive notice of the latest content by favourite writers or of topics of interest. They are also encouraged to participate in debates on the issues we cover through the comments section that follows each article.'

The National Times
['the Age', 13th June, 2009] 'FAIRFAX Media is set to relaunch one of Australia's historic newspaper brands, The National Times, as an opinion and editorial website covering the nation's political and national affairs debates.

The online revival as comes more than two decades after the paper and its short-term successor, the Times on Sunday, were forced to fold in the wake of the 1987 October share crash and Warwick Fairfax's failed takeover of the publisher.

"The National Times brand was synonymous with intelligent and thought-provoking journalism," Fairfax Media chief executive Brian McCarthy said.
"It informed and encouraged debate on the important issues of the day and that will be the commitment of our new online site."

Incurring public wrath from powerbrokers such as former NSW Premier Neville Wran, and prime ministers Paul Keating and Bob Hawke, The National Times won praise and notoriety for its independent and confronting journalism.

Under editors such as Max Suich, David Marr and Brian Toohey, several of its stories prompted the establishment of royal commissions.

The website will replace the opinion section on news sites including and will feature the best of Fairfax's opinion writing, commentary and analysis, coupled with guest commentaries from politicians, academics and other public figures, the publisher said in a statement.

Fairfax Digital chief Jack Matthews said the advertising-funded site, which had been months in the planning, would include interactive features such as blogging tools, forums and polls to engage readers in debates. The new site will go online in August.'

Another one is :
News Weekly

Fairfax Press is wed to land-speculation and the whole growth ideology. Advertising always influences content and often provides articles which pass for journalism. Look at who is on the board of Fairfax.

Not too long ago one of the editors of Fairfax press had a 'fellowship' from OzPop (APop's little cousin). OzPop was auspiced in part by Steve Vizard, Pratt, and the New America Foundation. OzPop awarded fellowships for journos who wrote about how great big populations are.

The most corrupt media sometimes allow real investigations - usually because they benefit by the downfall of one government or another, or as an exception to the rule. The best men and women are brought down by the need to obey their masters.

Perhaps the bottom line must be to uphold non-professional journalism as truly free political expression. Most of us have other jobs and know that we cannot express ourselves freely in those.

I'll consider what you say more carefully later. If you have received independent intelligence of some real independence entering the mainstream I'll be reassured, but hard to have faith in the idea of editorial freedom in these hoary old monoliths.

Usually the price of blogging on a commercial media site is giving up personal information to commercial interests. Personally I would not want to give any support or strength to the commercial media, since, to date, it runs our elections and our governments and thus seems to be the enemy of democracy.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
home page

Another independent current affairs journal:

The Independent Australian - "Socially and culturally conservative, conservationist, and above all, proud to be Australian."

If you enjoy a bit of political incorrectness, sticking a pin into the puffery of the self proclaimed intellectual elites, as well as some serious analysis of current issues which the mainstream media is too PC or scared to print, dip into this website (still under construction). It will give you an insight into the contents of The Independent Australian magazine.

We are at the forefront of questioning conventional wisdom; for example, right from the start we have opposed Multiculturalism. Now we find that commentators, even from the bleeding heart and soft left-liberal elites, are starting to question the very basis of this State sponsored religion. Similarly we have long advocated tightening up eligibility laws for citizenship.

Our Green Pages do not rabbit on endlessly about old growth forests (important as they are), rather we tackle the basic issues of reconciling population growth with sustainability, look realistically at alternative power supplies and transport modes. The establishment environmental groups, the Greens and the Australian Conservation Foundation, are more concerned with ideological social issues than sustainability.

Nowhere else will you find support for giving more power to the people via Citizen Initiated Referenda, an idea abhorrent to the Left and Right power brokers. And we are right behind those who support freedom of speech and the right to publish, including views diametrically opposed to us.

Conservative does not mean we support economic policies such as handing over natural monopolies to private enterprise and signing 'free' (but not fair) trade agreements with centrally controlled economies like China. Nor did we like some of the Coalition Industrial Relations proposals.

We hope that the website will inspire you to subscribe. If you would like to see before you buy, you can get a complimentary copy free.

Background Information
The Independent Australian magazine grew from discussions among people of independent views, especially Davydd Williams. Some must remain anonymous, because they are still in employment. The fate of the vocally politically incorrect is exclusion from employment or promotion.

The Independent Australian is published by Independent Australian Publications Pty Ltd. The editor is Peter Wilkinson. A company is the most convenient vehicle to handle the business aspects, but the venture is about dissemination of ideas, not profit-making. Any success will be ploughed back into improvement of content, presentation and circulation.

RD, The Independent Australian looks worthy of the same genre. I like the motto: 'a politically incorrect magazine of ideas and comment outside the mainstream.'

Looking again at 'News Weekly', this publication is clearly a publication outlet for The National Civic Council (NCC) which "seeks to shape public policy on cultural, family, social, political, economic and international issues of concern to Australia." Whether one agrees or disagrees with the philosophy, policies and principles of the NCC, the concept of seeking to shape public policy takes journalism that next step from simple reporting to social and political influencing.

Actually, I personally disagree with some of the NCC's philosophies, policies and principles, but irrespective of that I consider its focus on shaping public policy quite worthy.

The reason for me highlighting these alternative online media options is to point out that CanDoBetter operates within this online political analysis journalism genre. Call it 'citizen journalism', 'participatory journalism', 'political blogging' or whatever, this online medium is evolving from an infancy phase to a growth phase.

A threat to the mainstream media
Now the mainstream media have finally become alerted to this. They are seeing their traditional readership decline away from print and to online and to these alternative online media channels. Fairfax now charges for access to some of its articles for a nominal $2 fee. The Fairfax yet to be launched online 'The National Times' threatens to be Fairfax's reactive attempt to claw back its political analytic readership. It is important that we are all aware of the market place for political comment and analysis and watch it as it changes and evolves.

Citizen Journalism
Wikipedia explains that 'citizen journalism' "(also known as "public", "participatory", "democratic"[1] or "street journalism"[2]) is the concept of members of the public "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information," according to the seminal 2003 report We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information.[3] Authors Bowman and Willis say: "The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires."

CanDoBetter: where to from here?
Noting the mission of is "to encourage ordinary people to engage themselves with the political processes that determine the course of our society," so CanDoBetter would seem to fit within this realm and has real opportunities to establish its presence and influence.

But the real value add in this genre for participating websites is being more accessible to its target readership (user-friendly/feature rich) and to take issues beyond a skin deep reporting/opinion level towards building an insightful 'think tank' influencing approach on political issues - in a sense provide influence and leadership direction rather than just opinion. Of course this is up to the owners of this website.

The traditional media criticise citizen journalism as not being objective, but in reality who is purely objective when it comes to journalistic opinion?

This new approach to journalistic analysis will leave the mainstream media for dead and instead of other independent journalistic sites being regarded as competion, competing for the same readership, these site will be complimentary to the debate and analysis. The beneficiaries will be the contributors, the readers and society as knowledge and analysis is shared. It is a consistent benefit of free exchange as that provided by the Internet itself.

This heralds a paradigm shift in journalistic analysis. A shift not suited to commercial profit making and so a real threat to traditional mainstream media, and they know it. Yet, the rise of citizen journalism (of people who omnce were the audience) it is indeed suited to developing sophisticated insights and policies to deal effectively with complex issues and so enable 'ordinary people to determine the course of our society'.

Very well said, Tigerquoll.
The mainstream media-owners currently do influence perception for political and economic ends to suit their other interests. They are therefore very anxious to get in control of the internet so that they can somehow grab back what they are losing through blogs like this. We have to be extremely vigilant. Some ways in which they could seek to do this is by marketing devices for internet access or agreements to internet access where it may cost more to go outside the provider's portal or it may simply become difficult and complicated to do so. Also, secondary software can be made to automatically stream people in particular directions or to particular languages. For instance, it is really hard and used to be harder for me to get any radio shows that were not in English, using RealPlayer. I was constantly directed to US music. And, of course, there is the government's attempt to ban certain sites without letting the public know which sites these are and what the reasons for the bans are. Basically we should never trust any 'provider' or government that says, 'Trust us' to connect you or protect you, as if they were our parents and we were little children.

As for us becoming a 'think tank', that is like articulating what is already happening. We serve at the moment to attract people of like minds and concerns to publish. In that way they become known to a wider community, who may live next door to them or may live on the other side of the world or of Australia. Once people can get in touch they can organise. So we serve to organise. I think that as a publishing community we can also do other things and I am looking forward to working with you on this.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
home page
Copyright to the author. Please contact sheila [AT] candobetter org or the editor if you wish to make substantial reproduction or republish.