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Oz Parliament: Bob Brown moves for sane population policy: See who voted for & against growth

This was only the first shot in the war on unsustainable growth.

Australians and the world now have on record where their so-called leaders stand on this question. The 'nay group' carries the names of the people Australians may hold responsible for thirst, starvation and slavery, if the future continues to unfold according to their plan to continue population growth.

S.A. Senator Minchin about-face

In passing I note that the elderly Liberal Senator Minchin, South Australia, failed to support this motion. Minchin made his maiden speech congratulating ex-NSW leader, Bob Carr, on his ostentatious (and curiously ineffective) stance against population growth.

Young South Australian Senators, Xenophon & Hanson-Young vote for the population motion

However, Independent, Nick Xenophon, did support the motion.

And so did the youngest member of Federal Parliament in Australia's history, Sarah Hanson-Young, also in South Australia.

Now South Australians have a real choice in the Federal Senate!

West Australian based Greens Rachel Siewert and Scott Ludlum also supported the motion.

And so did Christine Milne, who represents Tasmania in the Senate. (She is informed on peak oil and other energy issues and has some good discussions on her site.)

Pressure for growth comes mainly from the property & infrastructure development lobby

I have been studying this political problem of obdurate growthism and the pressure for growth from the infrastructure development lobby now for years. It is a threat to our democracy. I will be watching with great interest from now on. I can only urge those six senators who showed the ability to think for themselves and to strongly represent Australia's welfare not to give up. The mass media is pro-growth because it is really part of the corporate sector, so the senators won't derive benefit there for their courage. In fact the only source of support they may find is in the broad Australian population. The Greens seem to be the only ones attuned to the cries of warning from people in Australia who can see things getting so bad so quickly as we place more and more pressure on this fragile country's natural resources, wildlife and trees, democracy and social structure. It is good to see that they have managed to shake themselves loose from whatever was holding them back from confronting the issue of population in previous years.

Details below:

Senate Hansard November 13th 2008 p.3.

Senator BOB BROWN (Tasmania—Leader of the Australian Greens) (9.37 am)—I move:
That the Senate calls on the Government to develop a white paper on population during this period of government which takes into account:

(a) projections of a global population of between 9 to 10 billion people by 2050;
(b) the inability of the Earth to provide for 9 to 10 billion people if average resource consumption is to be at
current levels in Australia;
(c) climate change;
(d) Australia’s inability to host exponential population growth; and
(e) the wellbeing of future generations and life on Earth.

Question put.

The Senate divided. [9.41 am]
(The President—Senator the Hon. JJ Hogg)

Motion defeated 6 to 47

(The President—Senator the Hon. JJ Hogg)

Ayes………… 6
Noes………… 47
Majority……… 41


Brown, B.J.
Hanson-Young, S.C.
Ludlam, S.
Milne, C.
Siewert, R.
* Xenophon, N.


Adams, J. Bernardi, C.
Bilyk, C.L. Boswell, R.L.D.
Boyce, S. Brandis, G.H.
Brown, C.L. Cameron, D.N.
Cash, M.C. Colbeck, R.
Collins, J. Conroy, S.M.
Coonan, H.L. Cormann, M.H.P.
Crossin, P.M. Eggleston, A.
Farrell, D.E. Feeney, D.
Ferguson, A.B. Fielding, S.
Fierravanti-Wells, C. Fifield, M.P.
Fisher, M.J. Forshaw, M.G.
Furner, M.L. Hogg, J.J.
Humphries, G. Hurley, A.
Hutchins, S.P. Ludwig, J.W.
Lundy, K.A. Macdonald, I.
Marshall, G. McEwen, A.
McGauran, J.J.J. McLucas, J.E.
Minchin, N.H. Moore, C.
Nash, F. Parry, S. *
Polley, H. Pratt, L.C.
Stephens, U. Sterle, G.
Williams, J.R. Wong, P.
Wortley, D.
* denotes teller
Question negatived.


Thank Dog (I'm a religious dyslexic!) for Bob Brown, the country's (and possibly the world's) only politician with the courage, intelligence and foresight to face the anachronism of exponential growth (beyond a point). I have always admired Dr Brown's skills and moral fortitude, but this now puts him a much greater peg above the rest. As someone who has written extensively on the limits to growth and human health (again, beyond a point) in academic journals going back to 1974 I would be delighted to provide Dr Brown with any information in this area he requires. However as I know he is bombarded with lobby groups I would not wish to push this on him. Please keep up the good work Dr Brown - without you we are all in deep doggy doo doo (no dyslexia intended this time).

Unbelievable that they would vote against this! Well not really - but all Bob was calling for is some recognition that this issue needs to be addressed, and this vote proves beyond reasonable doubt that the mainstream pollies just don't want to know.

Disgusting that they should abdicate their duty like this, This is an outright refusal to address in any way, the long term wellbeing of our country. Shame!

It seems the Greens have finally buckled under and spoken out on the population issue. Why they failed to do so a long time ago is a mystery to me as the majority of them, being concerned about the environment, poverty and the like, could not have failed to see the connection between population (and rampant consumption) and those matters of concern to them. It now only remains for them to rewrite their population policy to reflect this swing to common sense and in so doing ensure that they incorporate a view on the need to stabilize population growth in Australia itself and not just the third world.

Still regardless of what further steps the Greens do take to formalize their policies on population they are far and away a better bet than the rest of the mob that occupy seats in the parliament.

As far as the 41 senators who voted against the the motion are concerned I can only conclude that:-
a) they are intellectually impaired or live their lives in some sort of cocoon or
b) they owe the allegiances to the pro-growth business interests and not the public who they are supposed to represent or
c) their jobs are at stake and they are afraid to go against their party lines or
d) some combination of the above.

In the end of course it is the fault of the voters who continue to allow Australia's two biggest political parties to take us along the path we are traveling.

I loved the irony of Minchin voted down this despite his view of Carr's stance.
The only problem is, gee whizz, that his maiden speech contains no such reference. Nevertheless, love your work.

This is bizarre. I have read the speech I referred to. It was passed around in anti-population growth circles. I would now need to go through all his speeches, say, prior to 2000. I also read speeches he gave as minister for Science and technology (or similar portfolio) where he suggested that business should focus more on export than on growing local population. I also met him at a SPA conference years ago. Thanks for letting me know... I'll see how I can correct this.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
home page

Found this one, which demonstrates his purported attitude:
Media Release - Ref 1999/60 - Mar 31 , 1999
Future Makers, Future Takers: Life in Australia 2050

There are three political strategies, and three alternative routes on the road-map to Australia's future.

That's the choice offered by a CSIRO scientist in a new book that attempts to give a rational guide to getting Australia to the year 2050 in good shape.

"Today's Australians have to consider the big choices which will ensure that our grand-children have a good quality of life," says Minister for Science and Technology Senator Nick Minchin.

"Should we be going down an economic prosperity path using a strategy of self-regulated markets and small government? Or should we be following the 'conservative development' path of active intervention by a strong central government?

"Or the third alternative, 'post-materialism', putting a cap on development and the economy, and building political and business structures which are based on stakeholder participation and collaboration."

Senator Minchin today launched the new book by Dr Doug Cocks of CSIRO Wildlife and Ecology, Future Makers, Future Takers. Dr Cocks creates three hypothetical political parties - the Conservative Development Party, the Economic Growth Party, and the Post-Materialism Party. He gives each party a detailed policy platform, and rigorously draws out the consequences of each of them getting into power.

The book is subtitled 'Life in Australia 2050'.

Dr Cocks emphasizes that he does not favour any one particular option of the three that he presents, and he asks readers to "resist going partisan, as soon as they think they know which strategy best reflects their political allegiances."

According to Senator Minchin, Future Makers, Future Takers is likely to stimulate important discussion about Australia's future directions.

"While there has been lively community debate about a number of matters of political form, decisions which we take today will have a real and material effect on the way our children and grandchildren will live their lives," says Senator Minchin.

"Although Doug Cocks is careful to avoid taking sides in his three scenarios, he is urgently concerned about the need to avoid 'short-termism' when choosing paths to our nation's future," says Senator Minchin.

"The way we educate our children today will determine their capacity to find employment and fulfilment as adults. Big infrastructure projects like airports and the Very Fast Train will still be operating in fifty years, and will have profound effects on population densities," says Senator Minchin.

"We need to consider, today, the consequences of continuing our relatively rapid population growth. Do we want the mega-cities which could be the consequence of a large-scale immigration program?" asks Senator Minchin. "What will our grandchildren inherit of our natural environment? Are today's government decisions going to have the effect of ensuring sustainability and profitability in industries such as mining, forestry, and agriculture in fifty years time?"

According to Senator Minchin, Future Maker, Future Takers will become a valuable handbook for all Australians concerned with future policy directions, and should be closely studied by politicians, and their advisers, of all political persuasions.

Future Makers, Future Takers will be launched by Senator Minchin on Wednesday 31 March at 5.30, in the Mural Hall, Parliament House, Canberra.

It is published by the University of New South Wales Press, and costs $39.95.
Review copies are available from Maria Foster on (02) 9664 0909 or email

More information from:
Dr Doug Cocks 02-6242 1741
David Salt 02-6242 1645
0419 283 154
Monica van Wensveen 02-6242 1651
0418 168 535

*Note that to attend the launch you will need a Parliamentary pass. This can be arranged by
calling Shona Miller before 1.30 pm on Wednesday 31 March

Shona Miller 02-6242 1681

Mr Nick Goldie
PO Box 225
Dickson ACT 2602
Phone: +61 2 6276 6478
Fax: +61 2 6276 6821
Mobile: 0417 299 586

Ms Monica van Wensveen
CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
GPO Box 284
Canberra ACT 2601
Phone: +61 2 6242 1651
Fax: +61 2 6242 1555
Mobile: 0417 561 802

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
home page

Okay, still haven't located that parliamentary speech, but here's some more evidence of his historic outlook, which should be of interest:

This is from Katherine Betts and Michael Guilding, “The Growth lobby and Australia’s immigration policy”People and Place, vol. 14, no. 4, 2006, page 45
Though immigration had become very unpopular in the early 1990s it was not an issue in the March 1996 election. After its victory, however, the Howard Government embarked on a program of immigration reform, including a reduction in numbers.24 By 1999, public hostility to immigration had eased considerably.25 But the moderate decrease in migrant numbers meant that business leaders, long accustomed to high immigration as a matter of course, found themselves in new territory. The advent of a non-Labor, presumably pro-business, government which reduced the intake in fair economic times was novel.

Disquiet in business circles was apparent in a 2001 interview conducted with Senator Nick Minchin, Industry Minister and a member of Howard's cabinet. The journalist, Maxine McKew, reported that Minchin was a convinced immigration skeptic and very aware of business pressure on the Government to increase migrant intake:

But he [Minchin] parts company [with business] on a key point that's advanced by many corporate leaders and industry bodies-the need to dramatically increase our population. Can a market of a mere 20 million, it's argued, ever really be taken seriously? Over and over the message from business is the same. Entrepreneurial cultures welcome immigrants on the basis of a simple proposition: who knows where the talent might be? Minchin clearly is unimpressed. 'With great respect to business, they speak, not unnaturally, completely out of selfinterest.
They want more people to sell more widgets to. But there is a world of 6 billion customers out there, so I say: “Get out there and sell to the world”'. It's time, Minchin says, that Australian business 'stopped trying to bully governments and the Australian people into a view that we should double our population'. This must go down a treat with assorted CEOs, I suggest. 'Whenever I have this debate with businessmen, I say, for God's sake, read Tim Flannery's The Future Eaters.
The fact is there are severe physical limitations in terms of the population we can sustain on this continent'. You sound like … Bob Carr. 'Bob and I have a lot in common on this issue. But it is all there in Tim's book. We made this mistake with European colonisation, we all tried to believe we could live like Europeans and fare like Europeans. But this ain't Europe.
It's a desert'.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
home page

So far I have located three references to Minchin stating he is a fan of Tim Flannery's Future Eaters (1994). The first was cited above, in People and place article. The second, I found in a Bulletin article -, dated Wednesday, October 31, 2001, and this one (which doesn't directly refer to population) I found in Hansard, - Wednesday 25 March, 1998, p.1277.

Each of these publications refers to some anterior first statement - without actually giving its date and location. Call me tenacious, but this just makes me think that there must be an earlier speech and that it was made to parliament. Where the record is, I cannot imagine. In the last, parliamentary publication, it is Minchin himself who acknowledges his fondness for Flannery. (Flannery's book was all about how we should not grow Australia's population and that, long term, perhaps 6 million might be the sustainable number. - He didn't take decline in fossil fuels into account. The number might be around 1 million without fossil fuels.

There is also a very interesting old Four Corners transcript (5-11-2002) with Bob Carr, Minchin, Barney Foran, Ted Trainer all talking about water, population and greenhouse gas.

It is great that we have the internet with such records, so handy. It would be good to stimulate more questions. What an enigma - what ever became of Minchin's concerns about population? What the hell happened to the debate?

I think I know part of the answer and that is that the growth industry - of property development, engineering and construction corporate lobbies, aided and abetted by the major media - simply managed to promote any politician who talked up growth and buried any politician who talked it down. So perhaps the few who had some brains on the subject changed their tune.

Others may have other explanations for the changed tune.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
home page

Date: 27-9-1999, Adjournment - Immigration (Full references at end of this excerpt from Hansard)

So, maybe it wasn't a maiden speech, but here it is - quite feisty and an historic and ironic document, considering where the Liberal Party later took us with immigration numbers and now the Rudd Labor government's massive and undemocratic population push:

Senator MINCHIN (South Australia) (7.20 p.m.) —I wish to speak tonight on a matter which I regard as a serious deficiency in Australian public life; that is, our lack of any population policy. I am moved to speak on this subject by a recent news report on immigration to Australia in 1994-95. The Adelaide Advertiser reported on 7 September 1995 that figures released by the Bureau of Immigration, Multicultural and Population Research showed a 25 per cent increase in immigration from the previous year. That is an extraordinary increase in one year. What is also extraordinary is that it was largely ignored by the media and by the parliament. It does appear that immigration is, in fact, a no-go area in Australia.

There were 87,428 immigrants in 1994-95 compared with 69,768 in the previous year. The bureau notes that nearly half the immigrants are still going to New South Wales—43 per cent to New South Wales; nearly twice as many as go to the next highest state, Victoria, which received 22 per cent. I think that is quite interesting in the light of New South Wales Premier Carr's recent comments on the population problems, as he sees them, in New South Wales.

The concern raised by the latest figures is the fact that such a big increase in the immigration intake has occurred while unemployment in this country remains so high. We had an MPI on that subject today. Unemployment is still at 8.3 per cent—a very high level. There are still nearly three-quarters of a million Australians who cannot get work but who want it. The economy is slowing down. It is being deliberately slowed down by the government. So the likelihood is that unemployment will at some point start to rise again. Even the government's budget, which one must say is an optimistic document, admits that unemployment will not be less than eight per cent by June next year.

Yet, in the face of all that—three-quarters of a million unemployed—the government is accelerating the immigration program. I am not talking about whether there is immigration or not; I am talking about the pace of the increase in immigration. To have a 25 per cent increase in one year really makes no sense to the Australian community in the face of the very high level of unemployment. It particularly does not make much sense when you note—as I do not think many Australians do—that the unemployment rate for migrants who have arrived in the last five years is 22 per cent. That means that almost one in four of recent migrants who wish to obtain a job cannot get a job and are unemployed.

In fact, the unemployment rate for all migrants who arrived in the last 20 years—that is, since 1976—is above the national unemployment rate of 8.3 per cent. Yet, in the face of all that, the government is proposing another increase. We see that in 1995-96, the current financial year, the government has set aside an extra 14,000 places, which will take immigration back over the 100,000 mark. I just do not know how the government can justify such a rapid increase in immigration when we still have three-quarters of a million Australians who cannot find work. I really wonder what the trade unions think of all this.

The real issue, in my view, is that the government is threatening what is fragile community support for a big immigration program by this sort of rapid increase in the intake. I note that the community has really already given up on Labor on this issue of immigration. The Newspoll survey published on 20 September, which sought the attitudes of people to the handling of various issues by Labor and the coalition, showed that voters think that the coalition can handle the issue of immigration better than Labor.

That is not a surprising finding when you look at what has been an extraordinary roller-coaster ride on immigration under Labor—incredible fluctuations in numbers year by year. The net migration in Labor's first year, 1984, was 49,000; by 1988, only four years later, it was 149,000—an extraordinary increase in four years. In 1989 it was 157,000; in 1990 it went back to 124,000; and in 1991 it went down to 86,000. It is just like the big dipper at Luna Park.

Former finance minister Peter Walsh was very revealing in his book about the way this government conducts immigration policy. He noted in his book that it took five years of this government before it even had a major debate on immigration. It said:

Early in 1988, the first major cabinet debate on immigration took place.

He then says, in looking back over the five years at that point:

Thus three sequences of blow outs and cave-ins boosted arrivals from 70 to 115 thousand. The next year—

that is 1989—

it blew out again to 140 thousand. Apart from the unplanned and unintended doubling of numbers in four years, the composition at the instigation of the ethnic mafia, also changed towards `family reunion', which debased migrant employability. Frequent Ministerial changes—four Ministers in the first five years—did not facilitate the development of coherent on-going policy.

An understatement, if ever there was one.

This is the hopeless adhockery of immigration policy which former Labor minister Peter Walsh complained of and which Barry Jones in his own report—a very interesting report on Australia's population carrying capacity—complained of. The report is by the National President of the Labor Party, and the committee has a majority of Labor members on it. Its recommendation No. 2 is well worth reading in the light of what I regard as this ad hoc approach to immigration. Mr Jones's committee recommended:

The Australian Government should adopt a population policy which explicitly sets out options for long term population change, in preference to the existing situation where a de facto population policy emerges as a consequence of year by year decisions on immigration intake taken in an ad hoc fashion, such decisions being largely determined by the state of the economy in the particular year and with little consideration of the long term effects.

There is your own national president—the national president of the party in government—describing his government's policy as ad hoc. I strongly support that committee's recommendation. I note that it was a recommendation from a majority of government members. It is about time the government responded to that report in full, not just the interim report we have had.

I want to indicate tonight my personal support for committee option IV in looking at the future for Australia. Option IV was for a stable population in the possible range of 17 million to 23 million, which the committee notes has `strong community support'. I do not think anyone in Australia can read Tim Flannery's outstanding book The Future Eaters and not recognise the significant environmental limits to Australia's population carrying capacity—that is really what was being referred to in the Jones report.

Very interestingly, New South Wales Labor Premier Bob Carr referred to this matter in May. I want to quote what he said about all this. He said:

. . . the debate ought to be about the carrying capacity of the continent—a continent that has lousy soils, fragile vegetation and depleted and degraded river systems.

I do not often agree with Labor premiers, but I must agree with Mr Carr. I suspect that, like me, Premier Carr has read The Future Eaters and been moved by what he read. What was very sad was the condemnation that Mr Carr incurred right across Australia. It was a disgraceful example of the sort of intimidation and intolerance—

Senator Bob Collins interjecting—

Senator MINCHIN —Certainly. The criticism of Mr Carr was not confined to people outside the Liberal Party. I condemn everyone who attacked Mr Carr for making a very sensible contribution to what is an important debate in Australia, and a debate we have to have. It is very sad that in Australia, allegedly a free democracy, a bloke like Bob Carr cannot make those sorts of comments without being attacked from all sides.

In my view, both major parties, including my own, need to recognise the need for a population policy and need to recognise that the immigration program that the government, of whatever colour, presides over must be determined within the context of that population policy, which, as Mr Jones says, is not the case at the moment. The population policy that the government has, whether it is Labor or coalition, must recognise the real constraints on our continent's carrying capacity.

Here are the references for the speech:

Immigration, Database, Senate Hansard, Date 27-09-1995, Source Senate Parl No.
Electorate SA, Page 1608, Adjournment, System ID, chamber/hansards/1995-09-27/0175;adv=;db=CHAMBER;group=;holdingType=;id=chamber%2Fhansards%2F1995-09-27%2F0175;orderBy=_fragment_number;page=;query=(Dataset%3Ahansards%20SearchCategory_Phrase%3A%22senate%22)%20Context_Phrase%3A%22adjournment%22%20Electorate_Phrase%3A%22sa%22%20Speaker_Phrase%3A%22senator%20minchin%22;querytype=;rec=4;resCount=

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
home page

it's here:

couple of relevant paragraphs...
Any discussion of unemployment must address the impact upon the supply of labour in the 1980s caused by high immigration and the increase in the number of women, particularly women with dependent children, entering the paid work force. Net immigration from 1982 to 1992 was just over one million people--an increase of nearly 50 per cent on the previous decade. In the past decade the female work force participation rate has increased by 40 per cent. Since July 1984 the number of married women in the labour force with dependent children has increased by 27 per cent.

Government policies have played a big part in the significant increase in the supply of labour in the last decade which puts an even greater responsibility upon the federal government to have policies which result in a high demand for labour. Immigration has declined to a net 62,700 in 1992-93 and, in my view, should stay within that figure into the foreseeable future. Women are now reaping the benefits of years of struggle to achieve equal opportunity in the paid work force. However, I have a particular concern for those women with dependent children who have been forced by economic circumstance to seek paid employment when they would prefer to be concentrating on their role as mothers and homemakers..

Oh well, it didn't turn out that way, when his party (Liberal party) in coalition with the Nationals were in power 1996-2007 immigration exploded. This speech is from 1993 while they were in opposition.