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Government’s population policy: shifting deck-chairs on the Titanic

The government has ignored the environmental submission to the sustainable population strategy public consultation, (led by Terry Burke MP), says former senator Sandra Kanck, who is president of Sustainable Population Australia.

The results of the Government’s consultation on a population strategy for Australia show that the process was only ever for show, says environment group, Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).

SPA’s President, Sandra Kanck, says that the outcome is what Minister Burke started off saying, which was that the solution to our population problem was to move people around the countryside.

Superficial solution like shifting chairs on the deck of the Titanic

“This is nothing short of the deck-chairs on the Titanic solution: put them in clusters on one part of the deck or spread them evenly, the Titanic will still sink.

“There seems to be little understanding that every new person arriving on this continent either as a migrant or a newborn will ultimately be demanding the same standard of living as the rest of us.

The ice submerged in the future

“Just like other Australians they will need water, food, petrol for their cars, hospitals for their health needs, and more power stations, and each of them will be responsible for the release of still more greenhouse gases, regardless of whether they live in the city or the country.

“This is a huge disappointment – despite the large numbers of submissions to the inquiry which recognised the environmental implications of continued population growth, the Government has ignored them.

“This government has demonstrated that (a) it has no understanding of the environment and (b) it remains captive to the development lobby,” said Ms Kanck.

Sustainable Population Australia

SPA is a group which began around 1988 [1] (as Australians for an Ecologically Sustainable Population). It has sought to educate Australians about the fragility of their country and the limits to population growth. It has approached the political problem of population growthism by appealing to the authorities via established channels. SPA self-organises through committees, which have tended to have a top-heavy concentration in Canberra. SPA is a tax deductible environmental organisation which, under the rules of tax-deductibility, cannot be seen to be a political lobby-group.

The Stable Population Party Australia and the Animal Justice Party

Due to these characteristics, SPA cannot innovate theory or become the base of political groups. A political group, The Stable Population Party, started up last year. This group attempts to reach the public through the mainstream press. This group may suffer from an inability to attract people who are suffering from the impacts of population growth because they do not recognise the cause of the increasing social and environmental costs they are paying for, nor do they realise that they are not alone; that the entire Australian population is paying dearly for this undemocratic process. So, although a lot of people have joined the Stable Population Party, more would join if they had better understanding of how population growthism affects us all. For instance, an example of another party with an interest in stable or shrinking population is the Animal Justice Party. It is because the members of one and the members of the other respond to different cues and political paradigms that we have two parties instead of one.'s role is to promote your voice, whatever party or group you belong to or do not belong to

Candobetter tries to bring all these actors and groups together and provide them with diverse platforms to educate and reach diverse groups. We believe that a large part of our problem is Australia's political system, which is authoritarian, over-arching, and contemptuous of citizens, who have few or no rights. The mainstream media is a part of this political system. Candobetter writers tend to write for the alternative internet media because they no longer have faith that local and citizens' appeals to the establishment media and government process will work.

Please consider, whether you are in a political party or an environment group, that supporting the few voices at the top of that group will not be enough. Your own voice is very valuable but it won't find comprehensive expression in hierarchical groups and committees, nor in participating in government 'forums'. We urge you to express yourselves on candobetter. We don't censor, we don't have meetings, and we don't try to organise you, but we provide a valuable forum.

[1] This was originally written as 1998 instead of 1988. It was on 26 May 2011.

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(Original statement here:

The Government’s population strategy represents a missed opportunity to put Australia’s population on a sustainable basis and curb our rapid population growth.

The failure to set targets means we are still on our way to Big Australia, with net overseas migration tracking at 180,000 per annum, the number Treasury says will see Australia’s population rise to 36 million by 2050.

I remain concerned that the present rate of population growth – a 60% increase in our population over the next 40 years – will put upward pressure on the cost of housing, electricity, water, food, council rates, and upward pressure on interest rates.

The impact of a 60% increase in Australia’s population on our native wildlife will be catastrophic. Then there is the issue of carbon emissions. The government has promised to cut carbon emissions by 60% over the next 40 years. How are we supposed to cut emissions by 60% if our population is rising by 60% at the same time? It’s pretty hard to reduce your carbon footprint when your keep adding more feet.

I am pleased that the strategy acknowledges the challenges faced by our major cities, such as declining housing affordability and increasing traffic congestion.

I hope that all levels of government – federal, state and local – and all political parties – Labor, Liberal and Greens – will acknowledge the reality of life for people living in the big cities, and abandon plans to grow these cities still bigger. If all levels of government now work together to stabilise the populations of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, this strategy will have achieved something worthwhile.

But I continue to be convinced that another 13 million people will not give us a richer country, it will spread our mineral wealth more thinly and give us a poorer one.

Our aim to lift the participation rate and find work for people who are presently on Job Search Allowance or Disability Support Payments would be much more easily realised if we reduced skilled migration to the level of the mid 90s to give us a net overseas migration level of 70,000.

Member for Wills

The Titanic is a very apt analogy of our part - Australia - on this small blue planet Earth. It's a closed system with finite resources. A ship's captain is responsible for the welfare of the crew and passengers, and its cargo. To recklessly speed ahead and take more passengers and cram them in because it's "good for the economy" is surely irresponsible and reckless at its worst!
Shipping profits keep the system and services running, but if risks are accepted to increase profits, not only will the business eventually collapse due to lack of public confidence, but the process could be lethal! The Titanic sunk due to pressure to compete for speed. The Titanic was carrying over it's carrying capacity in relation not to space available, but to it's life support systems being inadequate. (life boats)
We are considered largely unpopulated compared to the size of our continent. However, it's not the size of our land that determines how many people it can support, but the life support systems being adequate and intact!
Modern humans have been on this planet 200,000 years, and we should be ensured of safety for the next 200,000 years at least. However, the voyage will be shortened unless we have a safe and secure system with safely checks well instituted.
A reckless ship's captain is a liability and should be dismissed!

Our future in Australia is being stolen from us every day by the process of which population growth is integral. Today, amongst a group who I met with, we were unanimously disgusted with the "Sustainable Population Strategy" . We all saw it as a way to give maximum flexibility for government to respond to business needs whether they be the need for people to buy houses , the need for labour or simply the need for a growing customer base. The catch cry is "skills" but it could be something else- "ageing" or as they used to ingenuously say "Without immigration our population would be in decline" (untrue of course as Australia's births are approximately twice deaths ) Whatever the public will believe! It all raises the question of who runs Australia? A new state government can be elected and negate a law mandating the local councils to accommodate population growth, but the councils continue with business as usual because the paid employees of the council are in a particular groove. The last people who seem to matter are the residents of the area. Whenever the newspapers conduct polls on population the overwhelming majority express the view that growth is too fast. But our concerns and wishes go unheard or unheeded- by all levels of government.