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Our Immigration Department should be closed

Reducing our immigration numbers is not enough. Our Immigration Department should be closed except to manage the intake of refugees and individual cases.

The "problem" of an ageing population is being used as a smoke-screen to artificially increase our numbers because it is "good for businesses". Any skills lacking should mean an adjustment to our education and training schemes. Businesses don't pay students' prohibitive HECS fees!

We will never meet our Kyoto obligations while we continually compensate for our "ageing population"! Our abysmal figures of biodiversity losses should sound warning bells that our environment is already heavily stressed. Even a strong economy will never be able to replace the "services" of our biodiversity.

We only have one planet, Earth! While our global population continues to increase, more natural resources are threatened. We live firstly in an environment, not an economy! Migration has given us an optimum population and it has been good for our prosperity. However, we have passed "sustainable" growth. Instead of bringing economic and livability benefits to our lifestyles, our over-population is causing greater stresses and expenses. Natural resources are finite. Will businesses be able to find a solution to climate change, irreversible ecological damage and a threatened ecosystem?

Our economy is dictating government decisions, aimed at continual economic growth through population growth. Other countries have healthy GDP figures without immigration. Our economy needs to be based on 21st century technology. Our grandchildren will be cursing us and singing "advance Australia bare" unless we stop our population growth.

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Barry Cohen, former federal Labor MP, makes a strong case against further immigration-fuelled population growth:

Danger in growth for growth's sake

Barry Cohen
August 06, 2007

Scene: The House of Representatives
Date: 29-5-2007
Time: 2pm
Program: Question Time

IS the Prime Minister aware that the basic reasons for the introduction of Australia's excellent immigration policy by the Chifley government in 1946 and continued by successive Liberal governments are considered by many people to be no longer applicable? Does he realise that vast population increases, once considered highly desirable, are now being questioned due to the pressure it places on education, health and social welfare services, housing and land prices and the consequent diminution in the quality of life that overcrowded cities have on our environment? Will his Government bring down a white paper on immigration so that a cost-benefit evaluation can be made?

Good question isn't it? It shows that at least one backbencher is on the ball and understands the crisis Australia is facing. There's one problem. I lied about the date. The question was asked on June 10, 1970. Modesty prevents me naming the prescient backbencher.

The prime minister, who, at the time, happened to be John Gorton, was shocked at the question and appalled that it had been asked by a Labor MP. Fred Daly, then Labor's shadow immigration minister, was none too pleased either. Questioning Labor's sacred post-war immigration policy was not on his or his colleagues' agenda.

All had been nurtured, since World War II, on three fundamental beliefs: that Australia, having just fought a war of survival with the Japanese, had to substantially increase its population to ensure that it had the numbers to defeat "the yellow hordes" who were casting their greedy eyes in Australia's direction; to justify our occupation of the vast open spaces and to provide a substantial population that would enable our manufacturing industries to develop the economies of scale that would enable us to compete with the world's large economies: the US, Britain, Europe and Japan.

All of the above was conventional wisdom among Australia's political parties. It ensured bi-partisanship no matter who was in government. "Populate or perish" was our national slogan.

Gradually, Australians came to realise that basing Australia's defence on population increases was beginning to look ridiculous. With billions on our doorstep a few million extra Australians would make little difference. Increased trade, cultural exchange and diplomacy would have far greater effect.

So too with the economies of scale argument that gradually disappeared as our manufacturing industry wilted under the pressure of the Asian tigers. Mining, agriculture, tourism, education and specialised manufacturing that did not require large numbers of low-paid employees, ensured a growing and prosperous economy.

As the old argument faded a new reason emerged for increasing our population. As medical science extended the average life span, an increased population was essential to support the swelling ranks of the retired. It is no surprise the business community enthused about that one. Immigration provided them with a continually expanding market with little effort on their part.

At the same time, while there was growing concern about the deterioration in the quality of life, particularly in our cities, there was little public debate about the cause of the deterioration: more and more people. Very few made the connection.

In 1970, when Australia's population was about 12 million (it was 5 million when I was born in 1935), in a speech in reply to the budget, I asked: "We all know that if we follow unthinkingly the present program we will reach almost any figure we care to name - 25, 50, 100, 200 million and so on. But the question is when? Will it be by the year 2000, 2050, 2100, 2200 or 2300?"

After my speech, the then minister for immigration, Phillip Lynch, invited me to his office to ask me what I was on about. I told him: "You can't have an immigration policy divorced from a population policy. Growth for growth's sake is nonsense. It's a question of how many people Australia can contain and still maintain a high quality of life." We should be asking, "What is Australia's optimum population, when should we get there and what do we do when we arrive? Slay the first born?"

Shortly afterwards Lynch announced the appointment of W. D. Borrie to head up an inquiry into Australia's population. Unfortunately, when the final report was tabled in 1978 it made no recommendations about numbers, merely stating that there were various schools of thought that favoured population levels ranging from 14 million to 50 million.

In the decades that followed nothing much changed and then suddenly the debate about climate change exploded. Headlines daily scream about greenhouse gases, global warming, water shortages, air and water pollution, urban congestion and so on. What had, for years, been primarily the concern of the dark greens overnight became mainstream. The worst drought in our history suggests the Cassandras might be right. Even the sceptics, agree that action must be taken.

What is bizarre about the debate is that rarely is the connection made between the apocalyptic scenario painted by eminent scientists and the demand for a greatly expanded population. Why is that?

In part because public figures are nervous that any call by them for a slowdown in population growth will be interpreted as less immigrants which the multicultural lobby will call racism. That is nonsense but it will bedevil any attempt to develop a concerted attack on the environmental catastrophe many believe Australia is facing.

If our population continues to expand over the next 40 years as it has during the previous 40, by 2050 Australia will have a population more than 40 million. If that happens, all the solutions now being proposed by politicians and public figures won't amount to a hill of beans.

Barry Cohen was a federal Labor MP from 1969 to 1990.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22193118-7583,00.html

"We will never meet our Kyoto obligations while we continually compensate for our "ageing population"!"

Indeed. As Bob Birrell and Ernest Healy concluded, there is simply no point even trying to reduce Australia's carbon emissions unless population growth is drastically curbed.

Monash researchers Bob Birrell and Ernest Healy used computer modelling to predict the effect of population and economic growth on greenhouse emissions.

If no carbon trading scheme is introduced, Australian emissions will reach 797 million tonnes - or four times Labor's target - by 2050, the researchers found.

Emissions would only fall to 502 million tonnes if the nation managed to cut carbon intensity levels by one per cent a year under a tough cap and trade scheme.

"The problem with radical decarbonisation proposals is the limited political feasibility of these measures,'' the authors said.

"It is hard to understand why the population driver has been ignored in the recent debate, including the work of the Garnaut climate change review.''

The authors said that net migration would contribute to most of the 50 per cent increase in Australia's population over the next 40 years.

"Like all Australians they'll be living at twice the standard of living of current residents if the Government's predictions for per capita economic growth are correct,'' they said.

"Clearly, it's not possible to achieve the Government's target of 60 per cent reduction in emissions at the same time we add an extra 10 million people living at twice the current income level.''

The authors called for immigration to be slashed, and the population stabilised at about 22 million by 2050.

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