Posted by Jim on April 13, 2010
Gross population figures by themselves are irrelevant. Whatever number Australia reaches by 2050 or 3000, the present growth trend will take Australia beyond the projected 35 million in Treasury’s forecasts.
The discussion about how big Australia’s population has to be, first, can we sustain the number? That means: do we have enough water? Do we degrade the environment by digging more coal pits and pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere? What efficient infrastructure do we need to reduce our reliance on oil to provide rapid and convenient transportation? What directions should education planning take to provide a skilled workforce that is not reliant on immigration? What technological developments that do not degrade air quality or add to toxic waste production can assist the necessary growth in productivity. To what extent can government encourage the necessary research? How do we go about protecting and utilising the most productive land for food cropping when so much has been alienated by urban spread? Should we expand the protection of forests and to what extent should we expand existing plantations?
The population question generates questions on a very wide range of policy issues and that is why Bob Brown’s call for a review is the most savvy response to the current discussion. However, if the discussion continues on in the vein of Gerard Henderson’s commentary, it will be nothing more than a fatuous focus on political spin. The future of the Australian population is not a one-dimensional question that political spin will resolve. The nation’s future requires a whole-of-picture approach and neither Mr Rudd nor Mr Abbott have demonstrated the vision for the future, which our politicians owe us all.
Letter to the Editor, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 April 2010 [unpublished]