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Costs of population growth going up all the time in Australia

Here is yet another example of why big business and governments want more population growth - they can always milk it for money while you and I pay for it. With the right press, this can even appear helpful, although it's really just the opposite. "To reduce congestion, imagine the government charged by the kilometre," says David Hensher of the University of Sydney. "The hip pocket must be where road pricing reform commences. The call for a congestion charge is getting louder and more frequent in many countries, as major metropolitan areas experience increasing levels…" Growth doesn't pay for itself - you do.

Roads to hell paved with bad ideas presented as good intentions

"To reduce congestion, imagine the government charged by the kilometre," says David Hensher of the University of Sydney. "The hip pocket must be where road pricing reform commences. The call for a congestion charge is getting louder and more frequent in many countries, as major metropolitan areas experience increasing levels…"

Mark O'Connor writes that this strikes him as a an ingenious idea that might make good financial sense, but not much sense in other ways.

Why can't Australia have stable cities like other people?

It's still a way of palliating (for a time) rather than solving the underlying problem. Why can't we have stable cities, like Europe does, rather than ones that are forever outgrowing their roads? and their parks, sewers, power and water infrastructures, water supplies,and perhaps even in time their food supplies? Why is Australia growing at more than three times the average for advanced countries, paying baby bonuses to encourage more births, and pushing up immigration again despite Gillard's promise to get us off the Big Australia path?

There seems to be no limit to the deterioration in our quality of life that our leaders, and some planners will propose, sooner than concede there must be limits to population growth.

Here are some of the things we are regularly asked to give up

Urban green space

Houses with gardens

Affordable houses

The right to drink water that has not come from a sewer


Abundant and varied birdlife

Land on which to run a pet

Land on which to have a clothes line

Affordable meat.

Roads without traffic jams

The last three city plans...

The chance for Australian school leavers to be trained and to find jobs

Resource security

A city that would not have to be quickly surrendered in war if its main highways for food-trucks were cut by missile strike. (e.g. Sydney)


Freedom from the risks of nuclear power.

Continuing public ownership of profitable utilities and public lands

And now it seems we must add:

Freedom to drive without a mileage toll.


The public and business communities are being forced to face congestion for no fault of their own. We are all victims of the economic-population growth model. Why should drivers pay for something not decided by them, democratically, and not in their interests?

There's also the suggestion that taxes must be raised more to pay for the infrastructure for population growth - as if it were inevitable!

Dr Ken Henry said the projected growth in the population would place growing demands on government spending on vital infrastructure. The "projected" growth of our population is a political choice, and lands right within the portfolio of Minister for "Sustainable" population, Tony Burke.

Extracting more tax revenue means more public and heavy private debt, at a time of rising unemployment, funding cuts, weaker household spending, and housing stress.

Demand on infrastructure must keep apace with population growth - but the short-term benefits of population growth don't cover the long term costs. So, the solution? We end with an addiction problem. More people are needed to cover the funding shortfall, and the ongoing problem is never solved.
We need a circuit-breaker, and a "sustainable" population size. There is no precedent on a finite planet for unlimited growth, and when economic growth becomes uneconomic, it's time to reconsider the "business as usual" policy of "big Australia".

There's a definite question about environmental sustainability, but economic sustainability is another dimension of greed for growth - beyond our ability to pay for it.

The myth that cities must continually grow or "stagnate" must be challenged.

Eben Fodor, community planning consultant and author of Better, Not Bigger, has released a study comparing the fastest-growing metro areas of the U.S. with the slowest-growing, to test conventional wisdom that cities benefit from growth. This study ought to put the final nail in the coffin of the “grow or die” myth that misinforms public policies in many cities.

According to Fodor, “The slowest-growing MSAs (Metropolitan Statistical Areas) outperformed the fastest-growing in every category. The 25 slowest-growing MSAs averaged almost 1% lower unemployment rates, 2.4% lower poverty rates, and a remarkable $8,455 more in per capita personal income in 2009. They also had larger income gains from 2000 to 2009 and saw significantly lower declines in income from the recession (2007-09). “

For example, it is a "no brainer" that it is better to spend $X billions on universities, research and exports, and manufacturing, rather than spend $X billions on a road upgrade caused by population growth. There must come a time of betterments, improvements, not cost-cutting and austerity to pay for growth.


Your logic works for the European system which generally manages to treat growth as a social cost and not to confuse it with financial benefits, which it taxes. Our system does the opposite. It treats narrow profits from growth as a financial benefit and taxes everyone else to pay so that those few elite beneficiaries can maintain their outrageous supply. The rationale is that the rest of us benefit via 'trickle-down' - yes, just the way pigs do from scraps! That is why appeals to reason and logic do not work with our politicians. I posted the following at The Conversation, where Mark O'Connor's article initially arose as a comment.

No-one should allow this model to proceed, and here is why; it will produce the exact opposite of what it purports to aim for.

As a land-use planning sociologist, I formally predict that this method, if applied, will increase revenue for governments and a few private industry beneficiaries and will also cause increased road traffic and congestion. This is because our land-use planning, political and economic system tend to maximise any activity that brings focused financial benefits to business or government via diffuse costs imposed on the general population.

The moment that even more money is to be made out of congestion (because money is already made hand over fist), we will see more policies and businesses designed to attract those benefits. If charges are specifically related to congestion, it will be treated as an overall good.

A similar situation exists with the treatment of population growth (which accelerates traffic congestion). It is treated as inevitable and desirable by all levels of government and big business, although it is increasingly openly resented by almost everyone else.

Examples of how this dysfunctional economic system works are to be found in the concept of toll roads and parking lots as major investments by big business in congestion and population growth and the blurring of business with government in areas where money is to be made from these sources, with big business advising parliament and government services outsourced. An incontrovertible sign that industry works to institutes such benefits is the existence of a population growth lobby that generates business for the property development industry (See

Unfortunately for Australia the results of this system are loss of democracy and rise of cost of living and of manufacturing and farming on a local scale.

The way to combat congestion and population growth is to tax the beneficiaries to the hilt and preferably into bankruptcy. This will also greatly benefit democracy, the environment and society in general.

Sheila Newman, Sociologist


Last night's episode, the final one in the visually rewarding ABC 1 series filmed from the air "Great Southern Land" showed how urbanised Australia is, the extent to which its population centres cling to the coast and how rapidly they are expanding. The narration expressed a sort of horror about this extremely rapid growth and the consequent swallowing up of farmland and country side under housing. They showed the established suburbs of capital cities such as Melbourne still sporting evidence of green private garden space, stating that Australia's cities are the least densely populated of any in the world. (I have been told that actually, parts of Melbourne are denser than Singapore so this needs to be investigated as a possible myth) They concluded that as Australian cities simply cannot continue forever to grow out in the way they are , there is an imperative to be more compact and build a lot more high rise. There was not the faintest hint of a suggestion that Australia stop this rate of population growth and start to stabilise its population.It blithely went on to show what the night lights would look like over Australia around mid century when it will have doubled its population. The show took us to the Gold coast where a man is occupied extracting snakes from people's houses. He said that as the snakes habitat is taken from them , they remain on the modified land and get inside houses- an ongoing process. This was a perfect illustration that new suburbs are built on the habitat of other species.

In my view much of the vocal refugee lobby are population boosters of a different 'flavour'.

We are all sandwiched between the refugee lobby calling for more refugees to meet our UN obligations and bif developers calling for more skilled immigrants to feed the housing market and consumption.