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“Numbers man” Shorten apparently open- ended on Australia’s population numbers.

Bill Shorten’s simplistic statement on immigration population and refugees in Tuesday night’s ALP leadership debate was also open ended and "cornucopian", ignoring the important issues directly affected by high population growth: environment , quality of life , employment, resources and future sustainability. Is Bill Shorten unaware of the sequelae of continuing rapid population growth or is he ignoring them?

Further to this, Shorten either deliberately or naively melded the issues of Australia’s immigration program with the issue of refugees, seen by most of Australia, it seems as “boat people” thanks to the mainstream media who make it seem so. This is what Shorten said:

“We in Labor, we're pro-immigration. We are pro the growth of our population through immigration. We are pro-refugees. It is not a bad thing to want to come here. People should know where we stand.”

It should not be necessary for a political leader or anyone in our “civilized “society to say “we are pro refugees” ! Really, who would be or declare themselves to be “anti refugees”, the opposite of what Shorten declares the ALP to be? To be anti refugees is in a similar moral category to being “anti homeless” or “anti unemployed” That is say anti people in unfortunate circumstances! Who was brought up like that? I don’t know anyone who was!

All these predicaments that people can find themselves in are the responsibility of governments to do something about. But neither of the major parties in recent years has given the impression of welcoming refugees. Maybe this is just “bad press”, because Australia actually continues quietly to re-settle about 20,000 refugees per year and I understand that most of the asylum seekers who arrive by boat are assessed to have genuine claims to asylum and have been settled in Australia. In August, however Kevin Rudd announced a plan to send all boat arrivals to Papua New Guinea, never to be settled in Australia!

Neither party knows quite what to say to the Australian people it seems but everyone is agreed that it is good if the Australian people see refugees as interchangeable with the county’s immigration program. Both parties have wished to appear to the Australian populace to be very unwelcoming of refugees or at least reluctantly accepting .

As any real numbers person would know (and I think they are few and far between), the Australian refugee intake is chicken feed compared with the actual immigration program including all other categories. The difference is about tenfold! The annual immigration program is about 200,000. ABS data released today show that the Australian population grew by nearly 400,000 in the year to March 2013.

From the Australian Bureau of Statistics:

“The preliminary estimates of net overseas migration (NOM) recorded for the year ended 31 March 2013 (238,300 people) was 10.5%, or 22,600 people, higher than the net overseas migration recorded for the year ended 31 March 2012 (215,700 people). (3101.0 - Australian Demographic Statistics, Mar 2013).

Australian governments, Labor or Liberal preside over huge numbers of invitees moving to Australia. These are people who already have a country of their own, already live in a house or apartment in that country and are by global standards not badly off. Many of these people are business migrants, or skilled workers and, of course, about 30,000 per year are New Zealanders, who can move to Australia at will due to the Trans Tasman agreement

It is disingenuous of Bill Shorten to bundle together in the same statement the issues of refugees immigration and Australia’s population now and in the future . To do this is a sort of emotional blackmail.

It is the 90% of people from overseas annually who are shaping our future as an overpopulated land mass rather than the relatively small number of refugees. A good numbers person will not stress too much over the environmental effects of an additional 20,000 refugees who need somewhere to call home (unless you are Fiona Scott now the Liberal MP for Lindsay who in a televised interview before the election attributed heavy Western Sydney road traffic to refugees!) when 200,000 + people annually who really want to increase consumption and therefore their environmental impact are coming to Australia to do just that!

When Shorten put population growth, immigration programs and refugees all in one basket what could his opponent, Mr. Albanese say? Had Albanese wanted to clarify the situation - and I don’t know that he did - he would have run the risk of sounding like someone who was trying to explain when he stopped beating his wife! He might as well have let that one go through to the keeper – and I believe he did.


Bill Shorten has failed to explain how existing inhabitants in our crowded and congested cities can gain by adding yet more people. Just possibly, if Bill Shorten could show that the Australian economy needed more workers that could not be found by recruiting from or training members of the existing population, then there would be a case for increased immigration.

But this has not been shown.

Unless this has is shown, then adding to our population can only make existing inhabitants of Australia poorer on average.

Others who must also lose are the many hundreds of millions who could not possibly hope to immigrate to Australia. Only a small fraction of potential immigrants from the Third World could hope to migrate to Australia. If Australia were to adopt a truly "open borders" immigration program, Australian society would collapse long before more than a fraction of intending immigrants could arrive.

Adding to Australia's population is only possible to a much smaller extent than could theoretically occur with open borders. Nonetheless, if that were to occur by the amount that Shorten is advocating, that still must add much to the quantity of wealth that must be extracted from the rest of the world in order to enable newer inhabitants to enjoy material standards of living comparable to those of existing inhabitants.

So, why pretend to Australian citizens that they stand to gain from population growth, when facts and logic show that we can only lose?

It is because a small selfish minority gain by making all of us poorer on average. This minority includes land developers, property speculators, landlords and others who variously profit from the crowding of cities including private toll-road operators.

In The Monthly "Election Issue" there is an article by Christos Tsiolkas entitled, 'Why we hate refugees'. The author states that "All our political parties know that we are underpopulated...". He goes on to suppose that there are huge amounts of racism in Australia and that Australians are ungenerous.

The basis for this supposition appears to be that he himself has racist reactions to people he sees as foreign and presumably also feels ungenerous. He sees Government and Opposition policies as similarly racist and ungenerous. However he uncritically buys all the other government economic propaganda economic for population growth. He does not seem capable of looking at the problem of democracy and how everything is getting more scarce and more expensive - housing, oil, gas, water, land ... This article is interesting because it sort of epitomises what passes for political comment in Australia - never questions the cause of anything, just roves about imagining individual motives and looking for sin.

It's really hard to know how to respond to propaganda like this. There is a false argument that being compassionate to refugees requires that we accept that Australia is underpopulated, or in reverse, that anyone who doesn't think Australia is underpopulated is not only anti-refugee but "hates" them.

This is irrational. Feeling sorry for refugees is a normal response that has no logical basis in whether or not you believe that Australia is over, under of benignly populous. That is the feeling part. The issue for government however, needs to be logistically accountable.

Policy and pity should also include the situation of people in refugee camps in places like Kenya, who may spend many years in makeshift villages on barren, sun-baked earth, waiting for a government to sponsor them out.

The author of this article seems to have no pity or interest in these people, of which Australia sponsors about 20,000 annually. The author does not seem interested in the wars that caused these peoples' displacement either.

He is fixated on those people who arrive via boats.

It is really worrying that something so simplistically polemic as this poorly researched piece can actually make it to the Monthly. It means that the reading public are in a substantial majority, so naive as to be fooled these days by almost artless propaganda

Earlier tonight on the Q & A debate for the leadership of the Australian Labor Party, Bill Shorten (approximately 44 minutes into the 1 hour, 5 minute broadcast) gave a long speech about how the Labor Party was a Party for high immigration and population growth, whether for refugees, "skills migration" or family re-union. Shorten acknowledged that Australia was environmentally fragile, but quickly restated "immigration is a plus for us".

Anthony Albanese responded that we first need to build the necessary infrastructure, make sure that we have proper settlement programs and ensure that the immigrants had skills that matched our needs.

It is many decades since these conditions were met. As a result, immigrants have been crammed into already overcrowded cities. Housing costs have increased as a result of insufficient housing stock for the larger numbers of people requiring shelter. Roads have been gridlocked and our schools, hospitals, public transport and other infrastructure have been strained as a result of having to handle larger numbers.

Had Anthony Albanese's proposals been Federal Government policy, it would not have been possible for the Federal Government to impose the chaotic immigration programs that we have experienced in recent decades.

He had 60% of the members' votes to Shorten's 40%, but because the caucus members all voted for him (and his corporate-friendly, big population policies) he 'won' by a whisker.

The system is still not reformed enough to be a democracy. Labor members should also vote on policy - such as privatisation policy.

With Shorten and Abbott in charge of the two major parties, democracy hasn't a chance. It's between two authoritarian catholics.

Sooner or later, if the Labor Party is to become a real alternative to the ruling Abbott government, it will have to confront the economic dogma of neoliberalism that was suddenly adopted in 1983, with no prior warning, and no electoral mandate by the Hawke/Keating Government.

When it does, it will have to set about to re-establish the public ownership of the enterprises that were privatised by 'Labor' and Liberal/National Coalition governments in recent decades -- Telstra, power utilities, railways, public transport, roads, housing, ports, etc, etc.

Source: Kelvin Thomson, MP. Wills electorate:
Australia used to be the country where everyone could afford to have a home of their own. But for far too many of today’s young Australians, that is no longer true. Housing affordability has declined.

Treasurer Joe Hockey confirmed yesterday in New York in an interview with CNBC that our large migration program is one of the key drivers of housing unaffordability for young people.

He told CNBC that “Australia is a long way from a housing bubble….The fact is we have a very generous immigration program and we have very slow supply coming in the market”.

Mr Hockey is correct that the high migration program is a driver of rising house prices in Australia. Where I differ from Mr Hockey is that I don’t believe rising house prices is a good thing. The fact is that housing is a necessity, like food, water, electricity and petrol. No-one cheers when the price of food, water, electricity and petrol goes up – why should we cheer when the price of a house goes up?

That cheering drowns out the quiet sad shrug of a generation being locked out of the opportunities which my generation and the one before me had the good fortune to have.

You may also comment on this on Kelvin Thomson's blog here:

Opposition spokesman for infrastructure, transport and cities Anthony Albanese’s “more efficient cities” is a euphemism for higher density (“Labor wants to give cities back a voice”, AFR Letters, October 21). Before we embark on this folly, let it be known that urban “densification” (squeezing more people into existing suburbs) is an idea that has failed all over the world. Whether it’s traffic congestion, air pollution, the destruction of biodiversity or the unsustainable pressure on electricity or stormwater infrastructure, the policy has been a disaster. It is not good for the environment, it does not save water, it does not reduce motor vehicle use, it does not result in nicer neighbourhoods, it does not stem the loss of agricultural land, it does not save on infrastructure costs. Worst of all, it puts home ownership out of the reach of those on low and middle incomes.

Senator Bob Day
Adelaide, SA