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Your comments on Bernard Salt vs Dick Smith on Jon Faine Conversation Hour: Oz Population

Jon Faine's Conversation Hour featured a debate between growthist Bernard Salt of KPMG and Australian businessman and author, Dick Smith, who argues against growth. The only possibility of commenting was by SMS. There was no phone-in. My own experience of debating population growth on the conversation hour with ex-Premier Steve Bracks was that people later tried to make comments on the internet page associated with that debate, but the page was dysfunctional and quickly fell into total disrepair. I am therefore creating this page in the hope of getting some representation of public opinion on this matter. Comments on these mens' respective books are also welcome.
You can access the debate here, immediately, and here on ABC, eventually.

Hear Dick Smith talk about his book on the Allen Jones show, NSW.
Buy the book, Population Crisis, The Dangers of Unsustainable Growth
for $19.99 here.

Population growth increases costs of retirement - Sheila Newman, Population Sociologist

This is what I wanted to say, and which I finished up emailing to the station under a general heading "Jon Faine Conversation Hour with Salt and Smith."

Bernard Salt's main argument is that we will need more young workers to pay for the retirement of elderly baby boomers. He overlooks the fact that population growth makes us uncompetitive because most of our labour goes into paying for the rising cost of land in the form of high rents and huge mortgages. Without these rising costs people would need very little money in retirement and young people would not have to work so hard and would be easily able to purchase or inherit housing. I think that Bernard Salt's policies are dangerously anti-social, anti-democratic and promote an unsustainable economy.

Here, by the way, is the link for the debate I had in April 2010 with Steve Bracks, when the phones went absolutely wild - as Jon Faine commented excitedly - yet the web-site for comments was not viable. (I retested it recently and it was still not working. Potentially thousands of comments were prevented.) In this most recent debate on a subject marketed with pro-growth bias by all the mainstream media, phone-ins were simply not possible. Will there be a page for comments?

Salt misrepresents himself as small target - debating tactics - From Ilan G.

I thought Bernard Salt successfully presented himself as a small target by agreeing with Dick Smith too often, but as far as I am concerned this is a rhetorical device for hiding his extremist views. I felt he (Salt) misrepresented his real personal views.

What I am trying to say is that someone sitting on the fence of the population issue would have probably been reassured by Salt and seen Smith as more alarmist. Salt used a platitude about business people being concerned about the future which was total rubbish and not at all a reflection on the way they behave. If you have no concept of peak oil and want to think that climate change is not an issue, the things Salt was saying sounded reasonable.

This was illustrated when they talked about population targets for 2050. He made out that Smith's target based on 80,000 NOM (I think) would reach 29M and his (Salt's) higher immigration for this decade before coming down to Smith's level would end up at 32M. So his point was we are talking a difference of only 3 Million or around 10%, which Salt suggested was a marginal difference that will hardly be felt in 2050. But Salt uses every other opportunity to promote population growth and economic growth in general, he never presents any arguments about needing to slow down in the future. If we still have "business as usual" in 2020 and Salt is still around I am sure he will still be advocating increased immigration.

I would like to see Kelvin Thomson debate Salt. Thomson is quicker on his feet and always seems to have the statistics at his fingertips. I witnessed the debate between Thomson and the Committee for Melbourne (CFM) CEO Andrew MacLeod. Like Salt, the MacLeod guy agreed to much with Thomson and said things that he would never otherwise say to any other forum, but Thomson always had really good answers.

So the conclusion is that the growthists are taking note of our arguments and are now using "small target" tactic by agreeing with many things the other side of the debate says, but this only happens in direct confrontations. When they are speaking at a business breakfast or any other corporate talk-fest, they repeat the same mantras that have long been refuted


I agree with the above writer that Salt minimized the differences between himself and Smith. They are actually poles apart and on opposite sides. Faine interrupted a lot and rushed through as though his agenda was more important than Smith in particular expressing his viewpoint. The environment was underplayed as essential to our survival as well as essential to our quality of life.

It is usually stated that we can cope and benefit from population growth if we have planning! "Planning" costs an exorbitant amount of public money. It's population growth itself that prohibits and stifles planning. We don't know how many people our cities will have in a certain year, and where the people will flow to.
Our growth is blowing out our economies of scale, and living costs keep rising. We depend primarily on not man-made resources, but natural resources. They are finite and depleting.
What about food, water, weather, biodiversity, living conditions, peak oil, and sustainability? The Property Council and Committee for Melbourne have vested interests in pushing for population growth. They are being feted at a time smaller populations are much better for the majority of peoples. The most wealthy countries invest in intellectual growth and assets, not depend on gross numbers of people!
The biggest problem in the world is now overpopulation.
Why do we have to have absorb global problems?
As for the big threat of an "ageing population", it is actually the result of a population boom after the post war period and high immigration numbers. The perceived problem of the number of older people can't be solved by boosting our population any further. A problem and the solution can't be the same thing! Immigration can't keep our population young as every person ages one year per year, and how then will future generations manage their "ageing population"? Higher rates of growth? This is a destructive and misanthropic pyramid scheme, and totally illogical on a closed system.

Contrary to ABC radio 2GB's promotion, the debate was only for half an hour and not one hour. The second half hour was given over to a businessman[1]. Even though, Dick Smith and Bernard Salt remained in the studio, the second half hour was taken up with the businessman's pet topics including the claim that many very wealthy people are philanthropic. Some of the second half hour was given to the claim that Australia was becoming a smarter country because of high immigration, but none of the second half hour was given to the case against immigration. So, if we take away the time taken up by the 10.00AM news and the formalities of starting the program, probably only 20 minutes was given to any actual debate of which only about 10 minutes would have been taken up by Dick Smith arguing against population -- nowhere near enough time for Dick Smith to put his case and to shoot down Salt's spurious pro-population-growth arguments.

Unsurprisingly, the debate was not conclusive. The full fifty minutes may have been just enough time to give some justice to this critical issue. Had this been done, the arguments put by Salt, which he is given so much other air time to put elsewhere, could have been easily shown up to be as illogical as they were.


1. I have forgotten the businessman's name and it is not currently listed on the web site.

I think it is very interesting the way that Jon Faine sort of lets the underdog express themselves but always manages to bolster the corporate business view. Is this because he is so middle-class and therefore so much inside the paradigm that he cannot see it from the outside or because it is his job?

I heard that Bernard Salt had another good go on ABC radio the night before last or early yesterday morning - this time without an opponent.

I think it would be only fair for Tony Delroy (host) to give someone from the other side an equal opportunity. Tony used to be quite good and original - but now appears to be toeing the line.

I don't know how these journalists can look at themselves in the mirror each day. They have to realise that Salt is plying a fraud and its a dangerous fraud for Australia.

It is instructive that Bernard Salt did not attempt to respond to Dick Smith's point that since the 1950's when his parents were able to buy a free standing suburban home in Sydney, with only his father having paid employment, that housing has since become five times less affordable.

With the cost of a basic commodity as shelter having risen five times in real terms, is it any wonder that, in so many households, both parents have to work? Is it any wonder that often each or both partners often have to work for considerably more than the 40 hours that Dick Smith's father would have had to work back in the 1950's?

How could anyone but an 'economist' seriously maintain that living standards have risen, when very many ordinary people, even on what would be considered middle class incomes, must now work so hard to service the debt necessary to be able to pay for the secure shelter that could be bought by Dick Smith's father on only one income in the 1950's?

'Economists' maintain the fiction that living standards have risen in Australia because of population growth with claimed measures of wealth such as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Unfortunately, many critics of modern economists, apparently including Dick Smith, aren't aware of just how flawed the GDP is. Dick Smith also alluded to the GDP when he showed how GDP in the United States, contrary to Australia's experience thus far, had fallen massively during the recent period of population growth. If Dick Smith had understood the serious shortcomings of the GDP then he would have realised that the fall in average real wealth in the US during the period of population growth would have been even greater than that indicated by the the amount by which the US per capita GDP has fallen.

The GDP, as computed by 'economists' fails to recognise many cost of living increases. If it did it would be a far more useful measure. However much of what is shown by the GDP as increased real wealth must be spent on expenses that people did not have to meet in the past.

If a proper measure of prosperity could be used, there is no way that Salt could put over so much of the Australian public the lie that population growth somehow adds to their prosperity.

Jon Faine seems to assume that 80% of Australians need to change their opposition to population growth, rather than that he should change his attitude and listen to and represent those wise Australians. What presumption these ABC announcers have! With a public media like that, what do we need enemies for? They've been romanced by the bankers.

Can anyone tell me why this is happening?

Why doesn't any party stand up against these growthers?

Why don't the people insist that the media stop reporting them?

Isn't this a no brainer? The report on climate change comes out. We are heading to 2 degrees or more average climate change in the world with its disastrous consequences.

I am personally very conscious of this, yet I use up the world's resources at an alarming rate. (Just look at your garbage, folks). So every person we bring into the world makes the position worse. One would think that every rational being could see this.

And I object to Salt's contention that we need more young workers to pay for the likes of me. I am 73, yet I did not semi-retire until I was 69. I still do at least two days a week of work, much of which is voluntary for the community. Most retired people I know are still contributing something. My GP friend, Dr Raoul Tunbridge, is 84 and is still working three days a week - bringing a lifetime of experience to his patients. The attitude to retirement is changing. Doing nothing leads to an early death, Bernard. Kelvin Thomson, Mark O'Connor, and Dick Smith should be society's heroes - perhaps they are.

Dally Messenger reminds us of the productivity of retired people. This is never mentioned by those using the ageing argument to keep increasing the population through high immigration intakes of people due also to be "old" in 30 or 40 years ! It was good to hear mentioend on the program the fact that only a minority of people in Australia end their lives in aged care faclities. The growthist rhetoric with regard to ageing gives the impression that people go from being productive members of the community (or should I say economy?) to being being a burden as they move from full time work to retirement. I would say there are people who are "working" and might descibe themselves as productive who are actually a burden on the rest of us: those who are make profits from growth at the expense of most of us who are not.

Salt's moderated position in this discussion was transparently disingenuous to anyone abreast of the issue. The notion of growing for 'just another 10-15 years' is obviously an oily smokescreen. It seeks to maintain the momentum of the status quo by diverting attention from, and marginalising as 'extreme', the action that is immediately necessary. Given similar politics in 10-15 years time, Mr Salt or his regenerative industry clones will be maintaining the same notional horizon for delay.

A rejoinder to Salt's pretense is to ask him to define the process by which building trades jobs will transitioned to enable his envisioned growth slowdown in 10-15 years time. If he has or knows of such a plan, then why not apply it now? If he hasn't one, or any clue where one will come from, then quite obviously he is going to chant the same reasons for extending growth rates at that future time.

It is true that employment patterns and collateral-based debt (hinged upon property price increases) within the current economy are huge structural problems. However these problems only get worse by propping them up via ongoing population growth.

I've recently come across the following stark illumination:

"The earth isn't dying, people are killing it. These people have names and addresses."

I understand that Mr Salt's address is Camberwell, a leafy Melbourne suburb largely unaffected by the negative conditions pursuant to Mr Salt's advocacy. B.S. and his ilk are able to protect their own amenity with the considerable wealth they garner from activity that commits many others to hell. He should perhaps plan on building himself higher walls if he intends to continue touting the growth of hell on earth around him.

Speaking of immigration and population growth, it appears that Julia Gillard's undeclared mass immigration programme is pushing us toward an even Bigger Australia than the 36 million supported by Rudd.

"... according to the Treasury assumptions behind the plan to get the budget back in surplus in 2012/13, she is planning over the next three years to increase population by 1.5% pa, greater than the 1.2% pa which leads to a forecast 36 million by 2030 in the Intergenerational Report."


I've only two questions, how old is bernard salt and why does he dislike baby boomers so much. There is no official baby boomer era, but it is generally known as being from 1946 to 1964, not 1961 as he is saying. Makes me wonder how old he is. I don't think I needed to ask the second question as the answer is of course money, some of which will come from the books he writes.