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Fairfax sinks to a new low on population growth

The Fairfax media sank to a new low recently in pushing its in-house pro-population bias (in The Age) by publishing commentary on this crucial issue from the Australian Population Institute.

Unfortunately, the article, ‘We should look to the west as our population swells’, by Jane Nathan, 16 July 2015, highlights the way in which the left-liberal establishment in Australia, including Fairfax, now sings from the same song sheet as free-market growth maniacs. While it may be claimed that the population-boosting rant presented in this article is the opinion of the Australian Population Institute and not Fairfax, Fairfax, of course, can exercise considerable bias in its selection of opinion piece commentary. It has a broad menu of pro-population vested interests to choose from. It is worth mentioning that material presented as commentary or opinion does not have to stand up to any serious standard of factual accuracy or rationality in the eyes of the Australian Press Council. Commentary, therefore, provides an opportunity to push an in-house view to extremes without being very accountable about it. Fairfax may respond that ‘balance’ will be struck over the longer-term with the subsequent publication of opposing views. Just when this may occur or whether subsequent opinion would directly address the inaccuracies and bias of commentary like this within a reasonable time frame remains unclear.

The opinion piece presents a one-dimensional account of booming population growth in the western suburbs of Melbourne, with no recognition, let alone discussion, of the potential short or long-term damage that rapid population growth may cause. It is unadulterated propaganda. Without any consideration of such challenges, the core message of the commentary is simple: rapid population growth is manageable and beneficial; the suburb of Sunshine in Melbourne’s west is an example to be emulated everywhere; and such rapid population growth is compatible with the creation and maintenance of thriving harmonious communities.

In advocating this mind-numbingly superficial view, a number of spurious assumptions are made. It is stated that the tertiary-educated population of Sunshine has increased from 21 to 50 per cent, and the number of women working has increased markedly. What are we to make of such claims in relation to the issue of population growth? The implication is that rapid population growth has the effect of spreading wealth around – that population growth has lifted Sunshine up from being a down trodden working class area to one of higher social status. The reality is that Sunshine remains one of the most socio-economically disadvantaged areas within metropolitan Melbourne. The 2011 Census showed that Sunshine remained in the bottom decile in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Index of Socio-Economic Disadvantage.

The implied linkages are logically flawed and factually feeble. Levels of tertiary education have risen across the board over time and would likely have risen in Sunshine to some degree, despite its low socio-economic status, in the absence of population growth. As to the number of working women in Sunshine, the growth is presented in terms of raw numbers and not rates. The cited numerical growth in employed women is likely to be a simple reflection of overall population growth and not improved labour market access for women in Sunshine. In any case, historically, the workforce participation rates of disadvantaged women in poor areas have often been high – out of necessity. The question should be -- what proportion of women in Sunshine has access to decent jobs? No matter how this question may be answered, the links to population growth remain tenuous.

Reference is made to the provision of new infrastructure in Sunshine, to serve the burgeoning population. The suggestion is that without population growth, we would not have such wonderful new infrastructure. Again, there is a worrying absence of balance and objectivity in this claim. It is widely accepted that rapid population growth in Australia, and particularly in Australia’s capital cities, has created a situation of chronic infrastructure shortfall in many essential areas. In this context, to simply say that some infrastructure has been provided in Sunshine, without any assessment of the remaining shortfall, and of the social and economic consequences of such a shortfall, is bewildering. The public deserves a much better standard of public commentary than this.

Just how misinformed the Australian Population Institute is may be gleaned from its website, where it is claimed that current levels of population growth will take Australia to between 25 and 27 million people by 2050, which it maintains is far too little. Where have these people been for the past decade! Current mid-range population projections from the Australian Bureau of Statistics point to around 37.6 million people by that year. That is roughly the equivalent of an additional three cities the size of Melbourne in a time frame of 25 years.

It may not be surprising that someone, somewhere, may hold such a silly, ill-informed view. But, that it should be shouted from the rooftops by Fairfax deserves greater scrutiny. “Centre-left”? Not likely. This is Fairfax at its hypocritical best and music to the ears of the growth maniacs who are constantly at the doors of our political leaders demanding ever greater levels of population growth to keep the gravy train of dumb growth rolling along. Don’t let Fairfax’s preoccupation with asylum seekers, human rights and political corruption fool you. On basic issues of the economy and economic democracy, Fairfax is far to the right of centre.

Contrary to the Fairfax’s in house view, population is not a politically neutral issue, whereby population growth may be reasonably advocated by either the left or right of the political spectrum. Unquestioning advocacy of population growth by ‘left’ intellectuals reflects an historic capitulation to the deregulatory, free-market right. This is particularly so in Australia where, because of decades of economic short-sightedness, the only way to keep Gross Domestic Product growth rates high in the absence of a mining boom is population growth and city building (given the serious structural impoverishment of the Australian economy – we sell dirt and a little agriculture to the world in return for elaborately transformed goods). In reality, the Australian economy’s reliance upon population growth is a form of crisis management, from which particular sectoral interests parasitically and disproportionately benefit (e.g. housing, banking and retail). For these sectors, any correction of the structural imbalance in the Australian economy would be perceived as a dire threat.

Reliance upon population growth is dumb growth writ large and Fairfax’s faux humanitarianism helps the free-market right along its way.


The Brimbank Community Fund reveals that 43% of Brimbank residents were born overseas, and 14 babies a day are born at Sunshine Hospital.

25% of Brimbank’s population is between 10 and 24 years, and approximately 2,500 10-14 year olds are not in education. Almost 15% of Brimbank's 15 to 24 year olds are unemployed.

It's not the cafe-sipping, "green" and healthy image projected by the article!
The Brimbank Community Fund is a charitable fund account of the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation. It's asking for donations to help out the disadvantaged.

Surely the jobs and prosperity should come BEFORE turning up the immigration rate? It's like a car going up a hill on empty, then wondering why the engine (economy) is faltering? Of course, it's always the lack of "development", "investment" or other factors that are blamed, not that population is outstripping job creation or affordable housing!

Nothing, not facts, anecdotal evidence or opinion, seems to inhibit the enthusiasm of growthists to keep growing the population! The City of Brimbank population forecast for 2015 is 193,590, and is forecast to grow to 218,349 by 2041. Rather than "forecast", this is about tweaking our demographics to achieve a target, through full throttle immigration rates, considering our low fertility levels in Victoria.

Like piranhas, savvy Sydney investors are swooping on properties in Melbourne’s west. “Priced out of Sydney, these buyers are outbidding the locals and snapping up the more affordable homes here, usually before auction,” YPA Derrimut director Gioan Pham said. "Unaffordable housing" is being imported to an area that's already disadvantaged. Melbourne City Mission now runs the Sunshine centre. The mission’s chief executive Ric Holland said it received nearly 500 requests for emergency accommodation from youth across Melbourne every month.

But Mr Holland said the system was “under such pressure that hundreds of these kids are turned away”.

Associate Professor Robyn Broadbent says the government contributes to disenfranchising certain groups of young people because it does not have clear youth policies that recognise the value of the country’s young people. “No one is joining the dots about why the young men making news as ‘terrorists’ in Australia are becoming marginalised and disengaged,” she says. So, disengaged young people, with little hope of a future, end up "radicalized" through desperation to belong and be part of anything! “Areas such as Brimbank or Dandenong in Melbourne are notable for their very high rates of youth unemployment, school drop-outs and families living in poverty, as well as for their large proportions of minority communities".
As for domestic violence, more and more strangers are forced together because extended families are broken apart, without support.

The Australian Population Institute should be about demographics, research, and be objective and non-partisan as its name suggests, not masquerading as a not-for-profit, public information organisation. This "institute" is not academic or indifferent, but another pro-growth lobby group.

Australia is stalling economically. The consequences of mindless growth are coming home to roost now.

Expect more of this as the situation worsens. The noise about how great growth is has to drown out the reality we see. The more obvious it becomes, the more they will shout to cover it up. The more audible the reality, the louder they yell.

Thats all that this is, ensuring they are the loudest.

The torrent of articles supporting neoliberalism emanating from Fairfax Media lately is way over the top. As a follow-up to Jane Nathan's horror story on Thursday is Elizabeth Knight's "Negative gearing just one card in the bubble blame game" in Saturday's Age. The nexus of the piece, according to the precious Lizzie, is that we need to take a wider view of our tax take ie if we scrap or tighten the rules regarding negative gearing, other taxes (incentives) need to be adjusted to accommodate those changes.

In short if we take money off the rich bastards, the poor bastards must pay for it. It works this way according to Gavin Slater from NAB supported by the Business Council of Australia (rich bastards) who is 'pretty relaxed with some tinkering with negative gearing as long as it wasn't done in isolation from a broader group of measures around tax'. In essence they believe that if change in this area is implemented then changes in the GST, capital gains tax and company tax must also be adopted which will impinge on Joe Public (the poor bastards). The article goes on to say that negative gearing is not the sole cause of the housing boom (there's no bubble - repeat after me - there is noooo... bubble) and that if negative gearing was withdrawn that the housing industry would be annihilated.

Slater is, apparently, quite happy to concede that we have a housing affordability problem (to go with renting affordability, homelessness, marriage and family dysfunction &c) and points out that without negative gearing property development will stall precipitating a rise interest rates and unemployment. How thoughtful of him! This article is just a mindless piece of neoliberal propaganda, reinforcement of the official narrative, the more often it's repeated the bigger the chance that the punters will believe it. This is the nauseous sort of stuff that continually fills the pages of Fairfax Media of late, typical of all mainstream media. Another toxic little piece in the same paper was Ruth Pollard's "New horror for Syrians: falling mines"!!

and that if negative gearing was withdrawn that the housing industry would be annihilated.

In a market economy, goods are produced if there is a demand. It is considered a market inefficiency for goods to be produced where there is no demand. The basic idea is, that those who spend resources on things people don't need, go out of business. Such behaviour is weeded out.

They don't even pretend to ascribe to this anymore. They blatantly state that the market is propped up, and that this is normal. We have to produce houses that no one needs, because, well, because someone who wants to squander resources should still be able to make a profit and not have to shift towards something the market actually needs.

This is a step towards economic fascism, where people's money is decided, by the state, where it goes, what it is spent on. That money is taken for me, for developers to produce something that people don't have a market for (if there was, they would sell at the price they produce it for without grants or gearing).

That is basically theft.