Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) has questioned the claim by the Business Council of Australia (BCA) that ‘two thirds of Australians believe that properly planned and well managed migration is good for Australia’. BCA has asked a loaded question, to get the answer they wanted. Their result is directly contradicted by the more reliable Australia Population Research Institute survey. Here, 70% want net migration at somewhat or much lower levels than the pre-COVID 240,000.
Australia's overdevelopment problem
How much is a Koala worth? $600. We wish we were making this up but this is what you can pay per Koala to offset impacting their habitat. Where does the money go? Not to the animal rescuers who are picking up the pieces.
Australia's best environmental journalist Michael Dahlstrom (Yahoo) has today written something that pretty much shocked us. Property developers can pay money and absolve themselves of guilt. That money doesn't go to saving those animals. It's an "offset"
I'm developing an unreasonable sense of proprietorship over Australia's island state,Tasmania. One could call it a "Tasmania mania", I suppose. How did this seemingly irrational neurosis arise? Am I alone?
About 15 years ago I realised that Victoria, where I live, was doomed to never-ending development, due to government insistence that we have incessant population growth, heavily supplemented from overseas immigration. You would wonder how an ordinary citizen could actually notice that the population was growing. Surely the changes would be happening in places where the people have not yet settled and would be out of sight and out of mind? To an extent, this was true for a while, and you had to go to the outskirts of Melbourne to see the sea of new rooftops on the side of highways trying to hide behind high walls. Those living in the "growth corridors" would complain of the massive changes in their local areas. They would moan in agony at the farmland and treasured bush land they could see being sacrificed for yet more suburbs. They tried to make us hear about what was happening and we listened but 15 years ago our established suburbs remained intact and our lives were relatively undisturbed so we were complacent.
In more recent years, a heavy foot has trodden on the accelerator of population growth and development. There seemed to be a spark of recognition from governments that Melbourne needed to be contained in some manner. The established suburbs were told they had to take their share of the population growth load. In came the bulldozers and, at a faster and faster rate, we all noticed empty blocks in our streets, and we struggled the very next day, post demolition, to remember what had been there the day before. Some of the demolitions got publicity. The gracious Victorian or Edwardian large houses or mansions, giving way to the wrecking ball after unsuccessful but valiant struggles by locals to preserve heritage and amenity, were and continue to be soon just large cavities. All vegetation is invariably removed, except for perhaps a token tree if not in the way of the giant yet to be constructed. Noise and the disruption of continual roadworks and infrastructure upgrades are now part our lives in Melbourne's suburbs. We live with short term uncertainty but long term resignation that our home environment will continue to be heavily degraded.
I think of not only the residents who are being inconvenienced and disadvantaged, but of the suburban wildlife - especially birds who will all but disappear. Once a large garden is excavated and transformed into a basement car park, that land is no longer a home for underground insects or flowering plants or trees. Habitat, in other words, is wiped out in an instant. "Birds can go somewhere else," they say. Well they can do this if there is somewhere else to go, but that means nevertheless that they are gone from the area. You will no longer get to hear them or see them. That is a huge loss that impoverishes your soul and those of your children, possibly before you can even put it into words.
I used to derive some comfort from the actual possibility that I can always move to Tasmania. I have visited Tasmania since my childhood as my grandparents and many cousins, uncles and aunts lived there. My family had a whole summer life-style there every year and so it was in a sense a second home. As a child I appreciated its quietness and beauty. Its sense of history, Hobart having been settled earlier than Melbourne, was reflected in many of its buildings. Tasmania, in reality, is not my home though. I have never lived there and I don't own any property there. But over the last 20 years it has been in the back of my mind as a possibility, an escape-hatch, as Melbourne's population surges towards 10 million (the same population of the whole of Australia when I was in primary school.)
For these reasons I feel a sense of alarm when I hear Tasmania mentioned in the news or on television or radio programs. I feel anxious, on the alert. What are they going to do? What are they going to change? I used to delight in the fact that whenever I returned to Tasmania, even in my adult years, it was always more or less the same; low key.
Yesterday I found my Tasmanian grandfather's 100+ year old scrap book. It provides an insight into life on that island at the time, through my grandfather's youthful passion for long-distance running. There are photos, newspaper clippings, and athletes programs about the many races and carnivals of the Hobart Harrier Club. The brown pages of the album are also filled out with images of relaxed beach goers and reunions of the old competitors 40 years later.
One album does not describe a whole lifestyle, but I could not help forming the impression that life was full and that those young men a century ago had made a life for themselves which was both physically and socially rewarding. This was in a small city in a state where the entire population of was only about 180,000"
My mother grew up in Hobart of the 1920s and 1930s. At that time her parents, as did many people in Hobart, owned a beach shack on the other side of the Derwent River to the city. She told me that she and her friends would catch a ferry to O'Possum Bay to stay on weekends. On arrival they would drop their bags at the house and proceed to the beach. If they saw anyone else on their chosen beach, they would move away around a point to another beach.
In the 1950s and 60s people in Hobart still had their beach shacks. My older cousins enjoyed sports such as surfing, water skiing, and sailing. I'm sure they worked hard at their weekday jobs or at school, but what I saw, was an easy accessibility to pastimes that would to most now seem like a luxury.
One of my cousins told me a few years ago that he would never move to Melbourne, as the 'lifestyle' wouldn't suit him. I found this amusing, as it seemed to me that no-one would actually choose the lifestyle on offer in Melbourne!
I wonder if the 'lifestyle' will suit him if the population of Hobart grows as the current premier intends it to.
Having spent the in Tasmania more than half a century ago, and hearing tales of the life there yet another 50 years before that, I feel I know the place a bit. I also know Melbourne very well and have watched it change from a rather quiet city, where you could get out easily into the country on the weekend just for an afternoon and where, if you could drive to a place, you could be pretty sure of being able to park your car there. You could be spontaneous about going places. All that has gone. Now, as often as not, I will hatch a plan involving travel in or around Melbourne, and then abandon the idea because of the uncertainties of traffic and parking.
I would like to keep alive the escape-hatch dream of simply moving to Hobart when Melbourne reaches complete bursting point. My anxiety levels rise when I hear of Hobart's fast growing population or when anyone puts it on the map for any reason. I heard this morning that MONA (Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart) was to be expanded further, and I felt sad. I like MONA but to me it is not Hobart, and why does it have to be bigger? Part of its attraction is the setting and, if it expands, more of the setting will be lost.
I would prefer not hear any news coming from Hobart. I want it to be quiet and unobtrusive and to just wait for me in case I need it.
The driving force behind the Protectors of Public Lands, Julianne Bell, passed away on Friday January 27 this year. Julianne was an indefatigable and tireless campaigner for the protection of Melbourne’s public open spaces. She was most well-known as the defender of Royal Park against any and all who would seek to diminish it for their own purposes, and she told me that she was most proud of her role in stopping the East-West Link, a Freeway which would carve up Royal Park in an outrageous act of environmental vandalism. She was the driving force behind this organisation and used it to defend public open spaces far and wide from all manner of threats – the Carlton Gardens, the Catani Gardens, the Exhibition Gardens, the Rogers Memorial Reserve and many others too numerous to mention – no public open space was too far away or too small to merit her attention.
Julianne worked closely with me on the problems caused by Rapid Population growth for the world in general and for Melbourne in particular. She understood that it is people, it is us, who are responsible for environmental damage, and was prepared to cut through the vanity that prevents many of us from acknowledging this. She had worked in the Immigration Department, and told me a number of times about the propensity for migration agents to tell fibs on applications, and the trouble an understaffed Department had in verifying claims and uncovering rorts.
Julianne was not always easy to work with, and she was very hard line. I did think when she was telling me about the evils of the Flower Show in the Exhibition Gardens that perhaps she could lighten up! But she grasped, better I think than anyone else I have ever met, that our public open spaces are constantly in danger from people or organisations or businesses who want to use them for a private benefit, at the cost of the value of the open space asset itself.
She understood and loved the heritage of Marvellous Melbourne, the legacy of beautiful parks and open spaces which Melbourne’s founders bequeathed us, and she was relentless in her defence of them. If Julianne had not been standing guard over them these past decades, they might well look rather different, and Melbourne might well have been on its way to becoming a soulless concrete jungle, like so many other cities around the world.
Over the years various Premiers and Lord Mayors have basked in reflected glory as Melbourne was declared the World’s Most Liveable City. But this title owes, in my view, a fair bit more to Julianne’s work than to theirs. If we are to keep that honour, we will need people to draw inspiration from Julianne, take over her life’s work, and themselves become Protectors of Public Lands.
After Julianne’s death Rose Iser suggested there be a memorial to her in Royal Park. I said I agree. But not too big. Julianne would not approve. I am very pleased that the City of Melbourne has got this right, in its acknowledgment of her at Walmsley House.
The evidence about the physical and mental health benefits of public open space and exposure to nature continues to mount. A study led by The University of Queensland and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions suggests people might need a minimum dose of nature. The research concludes that people who visit parks for 30 minutes or more each week are much less likely to have high blood pressure or poor mental health than those who don’t.
Researcher Dr. Danielle Shanahan says, “if everyone visited their local parks for half an hour each week there would be 7% fewer cases of depression and 9% fewer cases of high blood pressure”. ”Our children especially benefit from spending more time outdoors. Kids who grow up experiencing natural environments may benefit developmentally and have a heightened awareness as adults than those who don’t”.
The United States Natural Academy of Sciences did a study, reported in February this year, which found that increased urbanisation closely correlates with increased instances of depression and other mental illness. Given this correlation I am astonished that we continue to build high rise towers and continue to encourage people to live in large cities, where traffic congestion, cheek by jowl living and fierce competition for jobs and advancement make us less satisfied and more stressed.
Until our civic leaders and planners come to their senses about this, the Study suggests there is something people can do to help their mental health and wellbeing. They say that getting outdoors and bushwalking, disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature, can help. The research indicates that bushwalking can reduce mental fatigue and improve problem solving. Exposing children with ADHD to green outdoor activities reduced their ADHD symptoms significantly. The results suggest that nature exposure can benefit anyone who has a difficult time paying attention or exhibits compulsive behaviour.
Researchers from the University of British Colombia have found memory benefits for women over 70 coming from aerobic exercise. And the Natural Academy of Science researchers found people walking in nature had decreased obsessive or negative thoughts, by a significant margin, whereas people who walked in an urban environment did not. They concluded that bushwalking can lead people away from the negative thoughts that can lead to depression and anxiety.
So we shouldn’t just hang on to our public open space and vegetation for the birds and plants and animals – we should do ourselves a favour and hang on to it for ourselves.
I can’t speak to you about these matters without saying how disappointed I am with the failure of the modern left in politics around the world and environmental groups in particular to come to grips with the real drivers of our twenty-first century failure to successfully tackle inequality and environmental degradation.
The Australian Conservation Foundation has been particularly disappointing. The October edition of their Magazine Habitat sought to do some big picture thinking, with an extensive article titled “The 10 drivers damaging our living world”. It listed what it called “Persistent Human Population Growth” at number 7. While at least it got a mention, the ACF quickly moves on, and there is no action by the ACF to do anything about it.
In fact, rapid population growth is the Number 1 driver of damage to our environment. The article cites as Number 1 “The dominant view of Free Markets, Individualism and Technological Progress”. No doubt this is a real problem, but why is this view dominant in the first place? A key driver of its political success is that around the world the left and environment groups espouse open borders and refuse to talk about population, leaving a massive political vacuum into which populist right figures like Donald Trump. Nigel Farrage, Marine Le Pen etc march. In Queensland at present One Nation is outpolling the Greens.
Coming in at Number 2 in the article is “Undervaluing Nature, including as a result of the increasing disconnection from Nature”. Once again, this is a real problem, but why is it a problem? The answer is increasing urbanisation, and the left and environment groups do little to speak out against increasing urbanisation. Indeed they often support increasing densification – dual occupancies, multi-unit developments, and high rise - claiming, incorrectly, that this is a more efficient and environmentally appropriate way to live.
Coming in at Number 3 in the article is “The Endless Pursuit of Economic Growth through Unrestrained Free Markets”. Again, I agree that this is real problem. But the only reason we really need economic growth is on account of our rapid population growth. If we have population growth, we must have economic growth otherwise we’ll all be manifestly poorer. But if we had a more stable population we could maintain our prosperity without being fixated on economic growth. This is how things used to work, and work they did.
And Number 9 on the list of drivers is “Governments and Market Institutions that Ignore Environmental Degradation”. Once again, true enough. But governments presiding over rapidly growing populations spend most of their time and energy dealing with the problems this creates. It’s all about infrastructure. The present State Government is going hard on the level crossing removal program (which by the way Rosemary West from Green Wedges tells me could damage the Edithvale Wetlands) and on things like the City Link Widening Project. There is a crowding out effect. They don’t have much time to put into saving the Orange-Bellied Parrot. In a stable population Governments would have much more capacity to tackle environmental degradation.
In my view, until the left in general and environmental groups in particular are prepared to call a spade a spade, and stop indulging themselves and the rest of us in this vanity that we have about ourselves as a species – the problem couldn’t possibly be us – then protecting our public lands and open spaces will continue to be a battle.
Now I realise at this point I am in real danger of depressing the crap out of you, and having you go home spend the rest of the year watching TV, instead of inspiring you to get out there and do something. But Julianne Bell did take on, fight and win battles, and I will mention to you two that are going on right now that can be won, and need to be won.
The first is in Fawkner, part of my former electorate of Wills, where VicRoads is the owner of land adjacent to the Merri Creek. For many years they wanted to build a Freeway through there, but strong community campaigns and excellent leadership by their political representatives at the time prevented that.
Now VicRoads want to sell a significant parcel of that land, and Moreland Council is not prepared to pay the price they are asking. This land, as part of the Merri Creek valley, has real environmental and open space value, and should not be sold off for housing. I can assure you that if it were in Balwyn or Camberwell and proposed to be sold off all hell would break loose. Fawkner residents should not be treated as second class citizens, and the land should remain as public open space. Indeed it is adjacent to the former NuFarm Factory, which used to make the chemicals used in Agent Orange. Any housing development on this site will involve dubious clearances from planning and environmental authorities.
I have seen this kind of issue many times over the years, and been involved in the successful resolution of a number of them. It involves the State Government body substantially reducing the money it is seeking, and stop trying to make a financial windfall, and the Council being willing to pay a reduced amount, so that honour is satisfied all round. But it requires a lot of effort to get to this point. Fawkner Residents Association leader Joe Perri is doing a great job trying to prevent this selloff, and I hope some people will be willing to support him in protecting these public lands. His phone number is 0412 112 545, and his email is [email protected].
Of course Julianne Bell knew that our public lands not only need to be protected against people who want to sell them off, but also against those who would appropriate them for a private benefit. This is the issue on the beaches between Port Fairy and Warrnambool, where commercial horse trainers have been licenced to use the beaches of the Belfast Coastal Reserve. This is prime habitat for the endangered Hooded Plover. I find it remarkable that Governments can put a great deal of effort into protecting the Hooded Plover, then undo it all by allowing throughbred racehorses to charge up and down the beach!
The horses churn up the sand, disturb the chicks and adult nesting birds, crush eggs and damage protective fencing. They also risk the safety and enjoyment of joggers, swimmers, surfers, anglers, birdwatchers and other beachgoers. Horses are for courses, not for beaches. The campaign to stop beaches being turned into racetracks is being run by the Victorian National Parks Association, phone 9347 5188 or email [email protected], and by the Belfast Coastal Reserve Action Group, email [email protected]. One of their key people is Killarney resident Shane Howard, lead singer of the Goanna Band.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this afternoon. Julianne Bell would be delighted to see you here carrying on this incredibly important work.
“If you don’t plan, those folks in Western Sydney will have their worst nightmares come true,’’ Chakrabarti told The Daily Telegraph, threatening that Sydney "would also struggle to create good jobs and fall behind East Asian cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai".
That is the awful benchmark our enemies who call themselves our leaders seek to impose on the rest. It is indeed our worst nightmare, to compete with Hong Kong and Shanghai. Only psychopaths like warlords and corporate landlords would wish such a nightmare on Australians. Good leaders would lead us against it.
Bad leaders stand on a rubbish heap of trashed human rights
How could any self-respecting media dignify such authoritarian drivel as the basis of planning policy? Is this what inevitably happens in a capitalist system that privileges bullies and psychopaths by making them rich enough to dominate the public messaging system? If it cannot be made democratic then we can only hope the system will be brought down. The sole reason most of those talking up development and population growth are even heard is that they stand astride a skyscraping rubbish-heap of trashed human rights which they have helped to bury through land-speculation on an industrial scale.
The mass media that purveys this propaganda and invests in real-estate, keeps any dissenting views to a whisper. The ABC follows suit in a conspiracy to protect the beneficiaries of propaganda. Australians hate what is happening, but because so many still rely on the mainstream media to understand what is happening and to represent their views, they fail to connect on the ground and therefore fail to organise. Most people reading these transparent propaganda tracts marketing population growth and infrastructure explosion as inevitable must feel alone in their horror.
I believe that I have shown in Demography, Territory, Law: the Rules of Animal and Human Populations, that growth is not inevitable and that about half of the first world nations are planning to adapt positively to smaller populations by the 2050s.
Chakrabati is also reported to have said that the selling of airspace to highrise developers is, “a very viable model as areas around train stations are very, very valuable.’’ Fighting highrise development above a local station was where Marvellous Melbourne came into being, with the help of Planning Backlash. Marvellous Melbourne sought to publicise what the speculators who have taken over our government had planned for Camberwell Station, in Melbourne, Victoria. As well as the imposed massive changes to the local visual and experienced environment, there was the abrogation of democracy of local residents. The situation has since greatly deteriorated with VCAT, the Victorian Court system, now imposing impossible costs on citizens to prevent them from exercising self-government.
Coming up from the wings in the two party fixed horse race #fnAirSpace3" id="txtAirSpace3">3 towards impossible living conditions is the growing unaffordability of land-rates. As well as driving up rental costs, elderly residents innocently living in homes they bought and paid for decades ago, find that rates based on speculative land-values are pulling them into debt at a time of life when wages and pensions do not keep up with the related inflation. And it is not just the elderly, young renters and young home-owners face lifetimes of enslavement to debt with little prospect of retaining equity in purchased property as these costs rise.
Of course, this suits the predators who pass for parliamentarians and their friends, because it means that a proportion of those people will be forced to sell-up and move out, creating a dynamic that will favour subdivisions, making housing even less affordable.
"Policies which promise to build low cost modest housing, or any policy which increases density will only drive prices higher and worsen the situation. By reducing dwelling size, the premium paid for land increases and land price increases." (Dennis K in "The Housing market and the death of Australia.")
Whilst building high-rent slums, the person or corporation that buys the 'air-rights' around the stations servicing increasingly congested suburbs will make billions of dollars, far more than is needed to buy parliamentarians and political parties.
We are told that the Planning Department estimates Sydney’s population will increase by 1.6 million over the next 20 years, requiring 664,300 new homes. Chris Johnson, of Urban Taskforce, an organisation that represents the interests of property developers, is quoted predictably as saying that 'Sydney will need to build 100 new high-rise apartment towers a year for the next 50 years to accommodate a third of the increased population.' Only if Mr Johnson and his allies get away with their political push to bulldoze Australians' rights.
Australia's population is increasing at an unsustainable rate, impacting on democracy, the environment, and civil rights, only due to immigration policy at both Federal and State levels. All the states have websites inviting people to come and live in them and all the states pretend they have no control over the situation. The Australian government is trying to induce young people to move to the north of Australia in the context of high unemployment. The aim is to give young people no choice but to work for the predators who are moving in on the north to cover it in mines, roads, dams and suburbs. There will be no natural environment left at this rate. The high immigration that permits all these abuses is not Australia's friend. But it's not terrorism from overseas we should fear most; it is the terrorism of the developers inside and outside parliament who are removing our rights in order to promote growth for their selfish profits.
Probably the only way to change this kind of situation is through a revolution that redistributes land and decommodifies it. With the mass media working so successfully to keep Australians ignorant and isolated from each other, this would be almost inconceivable, except that there is also a good possibility that petroleum depletion and the inadequacy of alternative sources of power and of nuclear will undermine the awful profit system we are groaning under. The result will be a decline in the ability to travel long distances and a return to the family and clan unit, interacting locally. The family and clan unit has an organic power structure, rooted geopolitically in its local environment. #fnAirSpace4" id="txtAirSpace4">4
Did Vishann Chakrabarti, touted as a 'leading New York architect' willingly lend his name to this subversion of democracy by the new Australian squattocracy? Such a man could use his position to denounce the hidious transformation of the world into New York-style ghettos divided by desert, or he can use it to help Australian Prime Minister Abbott to further privilege corporate power and wealth, in an entropic race to the bottom.
#fnAirSpace1" id="fnAirSpace1">1. #txtAirSpace1">↑ Bradfield was a founding member of the Australian Engineers Institute and famous for being the engineer in charge of the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. He was also famous for pushing schemes to turn Australian rivers inland to animate the desert. Someone decided to attach his name to give some ersatz gravitas to this grande bouffe for greedy developers. However, I note that his great great granddaughter, Holly Parker, won a young scientist prize for a kind of packaging that can be replanted after use, which sounds like a generational turn for the better.
#fnAirSpace2" id="fnAirSpace2">2. #txtAirSpace2">↑ See, for instance, article in the Sydney Daily Telegraph: Sydney Harbour Bridge engineer John Bradfield: A great legacy to live up to in our city.
#fnAirSpace3" id="fnAirSpace3">3. #txtAirSpace3">↑ The ALP saw that Bill Shorten, rather than the membership favoured Anthony Albanese, was pushed to the top of the heap after the last election. Shorten, like Abbott, will push population growth on behalf of the ruling and wealthy classes, whereas Albanese actually said he preferred for Australians to democratically decide on immigration numbers. See "Numbers man” Shorten apparently open- ended on Australia’s population numbers."
#fnAirSpace4" id="fnAirSpace4">4. #txtAirSpace4">↑ Demography, Territory, Law: the Rules of Animal and Human Populations