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The Population Debate Continues

August 23, 2011

Last night I made a presentation to members of the Pennant Hills branch of the ALP on arguments about the size of Australia’s population. I shared the platform with Jessica Brown, researcher from the Centre for Independent Studies.

Meeting on the day that BlueScope Steel retrenched 1000 workers was a reminder – a big reminder – that our economy is changing and old-fashioned notions of force-feeding growth in workforce numbers no longer apply. With manufacturing and tourism being hollowed out by a high dollar and the nation dependant on proceeds from the resources boom, why must we go for ambitious targets?  I quoted the most recent work from Bob Birrell that net overseas migration of 90,000, half that of the current 180,000, is enough to sustain the resources boom mark two. The report sustaining that figure came from the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University. It challenged many of the assumptions underpinning the arguments for continued high immigration. It deserves more attention.

The business case for a bigger population reflects pressure from the construction lobby which can’t see any argument beyond the desirability of cramming more people into the nation’s capital cities, a process – incidentally – that simply exacerbates skills shortages.

I was encouraged that under the umbrella of the local Labor Party people want to turn out to hear such a big question aired. I paid tribute to Jessica Brown of the CIS for her media comments supporting the tax reforms in the last federal budget. The CIS has a consistent record of opposing middle class welfare.

  1. Byron permalink
    August 23, 2011 12:51 pm

    I believe discussions about the tasking of the population should go hand in hand with discussions about size. Please consider off-shoring. Many individuals and companies profit significantly from off-shoring (owners and consumers). How do we transpose this pattern of wealth creation from just business owners and companies to [affected] communities? Maybe through strategic investments in education we can improve our agility and embrace change. Our nation, large or small can become masters of production, leveraging global contrasts to our advantage, rather than productions vulnerable servants. I believe in the not to distant future, it will be those communities / nations that have invested most in their education that will be the most agile and see the greatest rewards.

  2. Christopher Brown permalink
    August 23, 2011 4:43 pm

    Bob, while I maintain constant respect for your stance on population stagnation, I have to point out again that not all proponents of a growing Australia are simply spokespeople for the construction industry.

    I want a vibrant, developing and growing Australia because of a range of reasons – nine of which include sympathy for the construction industry.

    I want to live in a community with enhanced cultural sophistication, greater educational
    opportunity for my kids, more places for regional
    refugees and deeper racial diversification.

    I refuse to accept a “populate and perish” eventuality for Australia. We are a big, smart nation capable of both growth & sustainability, both economic progress and social inclusion.

    Unfortunately, many people’s prejudices about population growth stem from bad experiences of congestion arising from traditionally inane urban planning, insufficient regional decentralization, incompetent transport management, inadequate infrastructure provision, inequitable social policy settings and ill conceived environmental regulation.

    Yes, we can have it both – a growing, outward-looking, efficient and prosperous economy with an inclusive, clean, smart and caring society.

    Christopher Brown

    • Mr Squiggle permalink
      August 24, 2011 7:46 pm

      Christopher, your post leaves me cold. There are two obvious conclusions to draw from your post

      1) you are deeply dissatisfied with the Australia we have now. It holds nothing for you that is worth preserving or protecting, not in terms of multi-culturalism, freedom of expression, safe urban environments etc

      2) You can’t imagine a future Australia that provides opportunity for kids, racial diversification etc unless we have strong migration programs. The implication is clear, there is no opportunity for your kids now, inadequate diversification now, no acceptance of refugees now.

      What’s wrong with what we have now? why do you want to alter it?

      If mass migration is a journey for our country, what does the end of the journey look like and are we there yet arewetheryet arewethereyet arewethereyet?

  3. Christopher Brown permalink
    August 23, 2011 6:51 pm

    That would be, of course “none of which” and not “nine of which” in my earlier post. Damn iPhone! cb

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