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Cause for alarm - Australia's population growth and the irresponsibility of those who drive it

(illustration by Sheila Newman)
In “Population grows at record rate", an article by Tim Colebatch, The Age, June 6, 2008, an Australian journalist has once again been given license by the Fairfax Press to frame Australia’s overpopulation problem as some kind of triumph.

In an article akin to the spin used to sell large bags of potato crisps and sugar, caffeine and phenelalanine-laden soft drinks to adolescents, Tim Colebatch sells overpopulation to Age readers.

Whilst relating the latest ABS statistics, the journalist chooses resoundingly positive terms for this undemocratic and frightening complex phenomenon:

Australia “turned the corner” into 2007 by having ‘almost 21.2 million people'.
In Victoria, the state’s population grew by a “record” 82,430 people. Tasmania “reached a milestone” and is ‘now “on track” to reach 500,000 residents’

Portraying this bizarre engineered growth as some kind of race for supremacy, Colbatch comments that Victoria “lost slightly” ‘in net migration flows to other states.’ ‘Queensland (+25,647) was the “big winner” from interstate migration, as usual, while NSW (-24,028) was again the “big loser”.’

The article concludes with some of the costs of population growth in Australia, but without portraying them as costs. In contrast to the hyped up descriptors for the growing numbers, journalist Colbatch leaves right for the end a peculiarly unemotional account of some of the suffering involved:

“The rapid population growth is driven by business recruiting ready-trained skilled workers from poorer countries rather than training Australians. In the six months to April, almost 100,000 temporary workers arrived, while the Government has just increased the quota for permanent skilled migration from 102,500 to 133,500. Critics point out that there has been no increase in housing supply, so the arrivals are intensifying the housing shortage and helping to drive up rents.”

There is no warning of how the extra people will affect the chances of Australians to weather oil, soil and water depletion.

The statistical news is actually unrelievedly awful, especially as related with ghastly flourishes like these for Victoria:

‘VICTORIA's population has “soared” to more than 5.2 million, with the Brumby Government "claiming the biggest growth in 35 years”' and ‘Treasurer John Lenders said the figures were "an endorsement of our Government's record investment in making Victoria the best place to live, work and raise a family"’.

No mention at all of the growth in groups all over Victoria and the rest of the country protesting at the loss of democracy and control over their environments. This is not reporting. This is propaganda, pure and simple.

Please circulate this article to help to counteract mainstream-media propaganda for population growth.


I sent the following letters to The Age and to the Herald Sun on 6 Jun 08 in response to the 2 articles on this bad news re population growth in Australia and particularly Victoria (since they are Victorian rags.) I don't think either was published but I'm not completely sure.

Tim Colebatch's article "Population grows at record rate" The Age 6.6.08 is a smorgasbord of depressing numbers - no less for Victoria than other states. Whereas we used add one million to our national population about every 4 years - now we do it in 3. Victoria's population used to grow by some 60+ thousand per year and now it's over 80,000 in the last year recorded.

Population growth, especially at this rapid rate is self evidently and logically unsustainable. Even at this stage much of the country is water-stressed. Our current Federal Government appears as unlikely as its predecessor to curb this trajectory and alleviating population pressure on largely arid Australia will be left for governments of the future to deal with as crisis management - if they can.

This one went the The Herald Sun on the same day

The Victorian Treasurer's self congratulation in claiming credit to his government for Victoria's attributes as a great place to live and raise a family (H.S. 6.6.08 "Victoria's population booming") seems ingenuous given the well known existing and anticipated problems that population growth is causing in Victoria and the proposed controversial, environment threatening infrastructure projects resulting from this. e.g. desalination plant in Wonthaggi, road tunnels in inner Melbourne suburbs, and dredging in Port Phillip Bay to accommodate larger ships for increased cargo.

Mr Lenders, it is not much fun for families now spending so much time trying to protect their local environment when once they could just enjoy it.

AUSTRALIA is poised to be the world's fastest growing industrialised nation over the next four decades, with a rate of population growth higher even than India.

It means that if the G20 leaders gathering in Pittsburgh this week were to line up according to expected population growth, Kevin Rudd would be in second place, standing only behind Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah who can expect his population to grow by 74 per cent by 2050.

Japan's Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, would be last in line, with his population expected to shrink by a quarter.

Australia is projected to grow at a rate of 65 per cent, well above the global average, a survey by the Washington-based private research body, the Population Reference Bureau, shows.

The population is already growing at the fastest rate since post-war migration and the baby boom saw it explode in the 1950s and '60s , figures released yesterday by the Bureau of Statistics show.

In the first quarter of this year Australia saw the biggest influx of migrants in almost 30 years of detailed figures. It gained about 97,000 net migrants in the quarter, about 20,000 more than at any time since Bureau of Statistics figures started in 1981. The natural increase in the population - births less deaths - was also about 15 per cent higher in the year to March 31, than the previous year.

These comments just show the stupidity of pretending that past trends are predictions of the future.
With oil depletion, water scarcity, soil destruction and food scarcity we cannot rely on the future reflecting the past and only those with their dollars invested in short term growth continue to pretend that we can.

I'm sure that the Easter Islanders said, just before they cut the last tree down, "Gee, we are poised to be the world's fastest growing stone-cutting nation in the Pacific!"

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
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