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Sustainable growth is pure fiction

35 Million Australians by 2050?

The Age September 19th

Start preparing now:

Treasurer Wayne Swan is quite resigned to the fact that we will have “over 36 million” people by the year 2050! This is a dishonest understatement. According to our present growth rate, we will have doubled our present population of nearly 22 million by 2046. He clearly is being evasive or is showing a lack of understanding of arithmetic despite being our Treasurer. We will be facing more than 44 million by 2046, and the numbers will keep escalating.

At the present rate Australia will have a population of about 50 million by mid century and 100 million by the end of the century. If this sounds implausible, consider that at the end of World War II, just 64 years ago, Australia’s population was only 7.5 million, i.e. it has almost tripled in that time.

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The Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2008 models show Australia’s population on course 42 million by 2050, and Sydney and Melbourne's population each surpassing 7 million, on current trends.

Our Treasurer has released update population forecasts that confirm that now is the time to start "reshaping the way we live”. This means that despite our diminishing and threatened natural resources, climate change, loss of biodiversity, impending threats from diseases, starvation, famine, water shortages, ocean destruction, ecological collapse and atmospheric pollution, he is willing to risk all and keep adding more people for the great idol of “economic growth”!

“Reshaping the way we live” is an euphemism for higher density living, few private backyards, more concrete or living in outer urban sprawl areas with more travelling time, for higher costs for fuel and water, and for congestion and poverty.

“Sustainable” growth is pure fiction!

The “shift upwards” trend to create higher density living has been the goal of urban planners for some time, but this has been “stymied” by NIMBY-ism! Why should our lifestyles and our suburbs be a resource for developers and a growth phenomenon that is contrary to our interests? Why should our children be denied back yards and safe places to explore and play? Why should we be denied the right to grow our own vegetables, have pets and gardens? Already our democratic rights to justice are being threatened to speed up development approvals.

Mr Swan’s speech was delivered at the launch of a Sydney-based institute on population ageing, which he said was “arguably one of two of our greatest challenges along with climate change”! Really, older people are a threat, equal to climate change? On the contrary, older people usually consume less and are more conservative in their needs. Perhaps he would like a voluntary extermination program so that the ageing aren’t a financial burden to the growth industries!

Another major think-tank is Melbourne’s Grattan Institute to “promote vital debate about the city of the 21st century”. However, it will depend on the public being “engaged and persuaded”. Does that mean the public will be able to input into the debate on “why” or just add to the “how”? The Age newspaper is intending to play a leading role in this process. With Fairfax’s interest in land developments and the real estate industries, just how detached and objective will this input be?

The article conceded that many Australians will respond to all this with the “deceptively simple question - why not cap the population”? This question is not “deceptively simple” but IS simple! According to the article, the main reason that it is not a good solution is a “demographic one” – migrants are significantly younger on average than the general population. Only young people are considered desirable! This is not a demographic reason, but an economic one. Once our “baby boomers” from the post war baby boom finally expire (and I am one of them), without immigration, we should reach equilibrium and have either population stability or even decline. Our leaders worship growth, and youth, but neither can go on forever! They strive and worship economic GROWTH, and with their limited and short-sighted model for growth, it requires population growth.

Adding young migrants, no matter how educated they are, will not avoid them ageing! Immigration will never be able to keep our population young. Adding people to “compensate” or “replace” older people means our numbers will keep blowing out, and the following generation will have even more older people.

Fact Sheet, Australia's ageing population problem

The proportion of older people has been revised to be 22% by 2049, which is even higher than our present 13%! Where’s the logic?

According to World Book figures for 2008, a rising population is not necessary for economic growth. Sweden, Cuba, Norway, Russia and Italy all enjoy small population growth rates, and all have viable, if not growing, economies and healthy GDPs. However, many of our industries have been swamped and eradicated by globalisation. Maybe these countries will prove the sensible ones that survive better in the long-term.

Treasurer Wayne Swan, and our PM Kevin Rudd who is “excited” about population growth (link) because it will raise the “tax base”, are willing to sacrifice Australia’s landscape, native animals, heritage, culture, vegetation, lifestyles, gardens and green wedges, coastlines to developments and desalination plants, and destroy all that is good about Australia, all in the name of economic growth! This formula for growth will inevitably increase the base of customers for gigantic corporations and global industries but will increase poverty in Australia! Growth at all costs is malignant and will eventually diminish human rights and dignity, and disempower the majority.

Kevin Rudd, who professes to be a Christian, has sold his soul for the god of Mammon and materialism. God and Mammon

His masters are the corporations and business who shape these warped policies, not patriotism and love for our country Australia.

Image icon WayneSwan.jpg3.18 KB


Pouring water into a bucket has an inevitable result. It fills up. When does it fill up? Well when the available capacity of the bucket is reached. Then the water spills over. Continuing to pour water into the bucket only, once full, sees the same amount being poured, spillover. How do we measure the capacity of a bucket to know how much water it can hold without spilling over?

Perhaps a balloon is a more apt metaphor. Filling a balloon with water allows the balloon to expand to take in more water. It is more accommodating than a fixed size bucket, but creates a more explosive risk than a bucket. Once capacity is reached, the balloon can fail and cause the entire contents to be lost and the balloon to be destroyed.

Perhaps a city is a more apt metaphor. Pouring more people from elsewhere into a city has an inevitable result. It fills up. But it fills up in different way that are not obvious and are somewhat more complex and insidious. Available capacity is first filled up, then when demand exceeds supply, prices rise favouring the rich and excluding the poor. No discrimination is made between those here before and those just arrived. It is called discrimination. A city can then get denser to allow more people to occupy a given land area. A ciy just becomes more crowded but it can 'absorb'. Some argue that this makes a city vibrant and bustling which are signs of being a busy economy and productivity. Others argue that denser cities dilutes lifestyle values of open space are replaced by congestion and higher prices driven by higher demand.

When does a city fill up? Well when the available capacity is reached, but unlike the bucket, the people are allowed to spill over into the surrounding countryside. Profiteers encourage this because vacant land is considered less valuable than occupied land. It is a bit like the balloon that swells to allow more water to fill it into a bigger size, but unlike a balloon that has a breaking strain, the city according to Rudd's federal government, has no braking strain. This government promise to catch up with population strains with infrastructure spending. Australia has a new federal department called Infrastructure Australia. Infrastructure Australia is about accommodating more people into cities. Governments seem to think that the growth of a city's limits is unlimited. The population spillover into the countryside grows the metropolis. Growth is perceived as good and countryside as an available resource to accommodate that growth. What is wrong wth a city like Melbourne growing denser? How do we measure the capacity of a bucket and larger than Los Angeles. If growth is good then a Los Angeles, which is really big, must be a utopic goal to Rudd's government.

Ask them if they aspire to see Melbourne exceed Los Angeles and if they don't ask them why. If they say that Los Angeles is too big, then ask them to quantify 'full'. Then ask them to qualify 'full'.

Can Australia sustain a population growth of 500,000 per year? The Age

Vote today Sept 23.

Editorial comment: Thanks for this Vivienne. The final results out of 1687 votes cast are:

Yes - 22%
No - 78%

Whilst the polls can be said to be unscientific, if a large number of polls give similar results, then we can gain increasingly confident in their results. All polls that I am aware of have returned similar results. A Sydney Morning Herald poll about immigration, held on 17 Sep 09, mentioned in another comment asked the question "Is immigration too high?". Of 1326 votes casts, the results were:

Yes - 73%
No - 27%

Another Age poll on a related topic that can still be found on the same page was:

Migration revamp : Do you support the Federal Government radically overhauling its immigration policy?

Yes - 84%
No - 16%

Total Votes: 44 Poll date: 31/08/09

Possibly the ambiguity of the question might have beenone factor which would have dissuaded more from participating in that poll. Of those who did participate, I think it seems more likely to me that they would have wanted the immigration policy to be overhauled in the direction of reducing the rate of immigration

The stark contradiction between what the public clearly wants, according to every poll of which I have been made aware, and what the politicians, supposedly acting on their behalf with their best interests at heart, is once again, stark,

Is this the sort of 'democracy' that Australian soldiers are now fighting to bring to Afghanistan? Is this the sort of 'democracy' that Australian soldiers fought to bring to Iraq?

In his defence of the Afghan war Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stated:

"My definition of success in Afghanistan is not the creation of a Jeffersonian democracy, let us be clear about that,

"I think there has been a degree of misty eyedness about that from time to time.

"Remember this country has essentially come from a feudal past and having been there a number of times myself, I understand something at least of the conditions on the ground."

I think it would also be safe to assume that Kevin Rudd has no intention of bringing Jeffersonian democracy to Australia, either.

Given the way that the wishes of the Australian public have been ignored on virtually every critical issue in recent years --- higher immigration, privatisation, public private partnerships, forced local government amalgamantions, overdevelopment, reductions in workers wages and conditions, failure to protect the environment, etc --- in favour of the corporations that his Government serves, it would seem that, instead, Rudd is taking Australia precisely back to the same feudal past that he claims he wishes to lift Afghanistan out of.

Meaning, 'of the people, by the people, for the people'?

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
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