Saturday, May 14, 2011



The Government’s population strategy represents a missed opportunity to put Australia’s population on a sustainable basis and curb our rapid population growth.

The failure to set targets means we are still on our way to Big Australia, with net overseas migration tracking at 180,000 per annum, the number Treasury says will see Australia’s population rise to 36 million by 2050.

I remain concerned that the present rate of population growth – a 60% increase in our population over the next 40 years – will put upward pressure on the cost of housing, electricity, water, food, council rates, and upward pressure on interest rates.

The impact of a 60% increase in Australia’s population on our native wildlife will be catastrophic. Then there is the issue of carbon emissions. The government has promised to cut carbon emissions by 60% over the next 40 years. How are we supposed to cut emissions by 60% if our population is rising by 60% at the same time? It’s pretty hard to reduce your carbon footprint when your keep adding more feet.

I am pleased that the strategy acknowledges the challenges faced by our major cities, such as declining housing affordability and increasing traffic congestion.

I hope that all levels of government – federal, state and local – and all political parties – Labor, Liberal and Greens – will acknowledge the reality of life for people living in the big cities, and abandon plans to grow these cities still bigger. If all levels of government now work together to stabilise the populations of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, this strategy will have achieved something worthwhile.

But I continue to be convinced that another 13 million people will not give us a richer country, it will spread our mineral wealth more thinly and give us a poorer one.

Our aim to lift the participation rate and find work for people who are presently on Job Search Allowance or Disability Support Payments would be much more easily realised if we reduced skilled migration to the level of the mid 90s to give us a net overseas migration level of 70,000.

Member for Wills


  1. Well said. It's fairly obvious when you look at the figures. The main ones to gain from an increase are those that have investment property.

  2. Thanks,Kelvin,for speaking out about this charade.I haven't bothered reading this strategy because I knew it would be a scam.What else can be expected from the Boosters Club where myopia is one of the requirements for membership.

    Unfortunately,Kelvin,you don't go far enough.What is needed is a moratorium on immigration across the board combined with automatic deportation of all illegal arrivals or stayers.This would break the expectation that Australia is a target for immigration,illegal or otherwise.With the worsening global political and economic situation,much of it due to unsustainable population growth,Australia needs to set very clearly defined limits to population.This will entail withdrawal from refugee treaties and the like.So be it.

    Australia is a sovereign nation (in spite of the efforts of your political friends)and has every right to protect its borders and decide an appropriate population level.

  3. Kelvin

    I've just watched your interview at
    Well done! That was very well put.

  4. This rate of population increase is obviously not sustainable. Australia is deceptively a large piece of land for the size of our population, but land size is not positively correlated to "carrying capacity". Otherwise, why aren't more people living in the Sahara or in the Arctic circles? They have massive land areas with small populations. Australia's vast sunburnt plains are largely uninhabitable except for those willing to withstand irregular water supply, searing heat, the "wet seasons", and prohibitive distances to travel. There is little capacity to sustain large numbers of people. Moving more migrants or regional areas will not solve any problems either. Many rural communities are close-knit and co-dependent. Outsiders, even Australians, are not accepted easily. How would they accept people from different cultures and ethnic groups? They would be seen as intruders and unwelcome.
    Population Minister Tony Burke has abrogated any responsibilities given to him in this role. He basically has ignored public consultation and concerns in favour of reckless economic growth! Full speed ahead is dangerous when considering that our lives, and the lives or future generations, are at stake. He should step down from this position.

  5. As always Kelvin has hit the nail squarely on the head. A worrying aspect of both the Labour and Liberal policies, which do not set clear limits, is that they appear to be significantly
    influenced by sectional interest groups with plenty of money. Policy should be set in the national interest, not in the interests of property developers and retailers who can't see past growth economics. We should have a referendum on population, and ban political donations altogether. Well said Kelvin!

  6. I'm still digesting the "Government's population strategy" report... but I'll venture a preliminary comment. The Minister's Foreword states:

    "Population change is not only about the growth and overall size of our population. It is about the needs of our population, it is about the skills of the population, it is about how we live and, importantly, where we live."

    Well, the evidence is clear:
    (1) The total need of the population scales with the size of the population.
    (2) Resource availability won't increase with further increase in population, so as the population grows Australian's will have a diminished lifestyle.
    (3) Skills depend upon having training and on having an economic return on that training. At a national level, this depends upon government policies that have nothing much to do with population. At a global level, most people are so resource-limited that that they simply don't have access to training.

    So, I'd say that it IS all about population growth.

  7. The world is a very risky place today and Australia is no longer insulated by distance. Therefore, we should expect shocks from the rest of the world (eg GFC mark II, environmental catastrophes, political upheavals and the decline in world oil supply to name a few).
    Employment rates will then fall markedly as we move away from boom conditions.
    I haven't read the whole report but see nothing except an expectation of continued good years indefinitely. Reality is not recongnised in the report.

  8. Increasingly it seems, that "consultations" are just processes gone-through to enable the government to arrive at a pre-decided conclusion. Big business is banging the population growth drum. I guess the rest of us have to keep banging the sustainable drum, and more will join us. It's frusrating though.

  9. Is there any Federal MP apart from Kelvin who gets it? Our Third World growth rate is wrecking our quality of life, the environment, and our kids' future. Please note, net migration of 70,000 is still too high when our natural increase is over 156,000 per year. Forget party loyalties - vote for whoever has the lowest growth policy. Lose this battle and we lose all the others.

  10. What a cop out by the government...leaving the responsibility for population strategy to local communities. I was under the impression our governments were elected to lead. Everything KT says about unfettered population growth is true and we will be marked very poorly by the next generation as they grapple with the urban chaos and environmental destruction this generation is gifting to them.

  11. Thirra's post smacks a little of bashing the wrong people over the head for the problem. People arriving by boat and overstayers make up a tiny proportion of population growth. My suggestion for population control is a migration level close to the 70,000 KT suggests, however my opinion on asylum seekers differs markedly from the govt who are racing to the bottom on this issue.
    I think Australia should
    1. dismantle all detention centres (huge cost and human suffering saving)
    2. allow asylum seekers to live amongst the population
    3. re-introduce TPV's for all asylum seekers but extend to 5 years
    4. only issue permanent visa's for TPV holders after 5 years if a number of criteria are met. They could be a) language learnt, b) skills training undertaken or meaningful employment kept, c) no criminal activity and d) no ghettoing within like communities (full integration within community demonstrated)
    5. adjust legal/business migration rate against arrival of asylum seekers to maintain approximate 70,000 per annum rate.

    I think the govt is tying itself in knots on this issue and need to be able to demonstrate some compassion and tough but fair leadership to defuse this as a political football.

  12. It's obvious that Minister Tony Burke or our government had no intention of considering the concerns of all the people who wrote submissions on a population strategy. With both sides of government supporting a "big Australia", Julia Gillard's rejection of it was just political spin. Our government's main focus (or only focus?) is the economy. Their terms of reference are short. They are only concerned about votes until the next elections, nothing further. Long term considerations are not their worry. Overpopulation on a dry land with limited population-carrying resources will mean that the governments of the future will be able to blame the previous government's policies. Tony Burke and the rest of today's politicians will be gone or safely installed and protected by their parliamentary salaries.

  13. Minister Burke's response to the process was easily predicted, since he latched onto the regionalization concept early on as the panacea,but it is depressing nevertheless. It seems no-one who is in a position to help us as Tony Burke certainly is will do so. I noticed that in defence of his strategy document Tony Burke advised against "hurtling towards arbitrary numbers or arbitrary targets." Yet his solution sets us "hurtling towards a Big Australia" which is what Julia Gillard eschewed before the election. Thank you your sanity and consistency, Kelvin

  14. Kelvin you are a shining light in an otherwise dim parliament. Are all of your colleagues really so stupid that they think our population can double in the next 40 years without any consequences.

    If they really support carbon reduction then how can they marry this with a doubling of the population. I think they want their cake and eat it too.

    PM Gillard was very vocal about rejecting a Big Australia. She has been very quiet on this subject recently. She really is no different to Rudd.

  15. Kelvin you have created an issue where there is none and opened up the opportunity for a lot of xenophobic people to use the population debate as a rationale for their sleezy agendas. Stupid, foolish and immoral.

    Of course environmental impact is important but to make the oversimple equation that more people means more impact is wrong. We are getting better all the time at using less energy and resources per person through technology improvements and regulations.

    Immigration has been crucial to the growth of this nation.

    We desperatly need more people. We don't not have enough people now to pick our crops and staff our mines.

    Dr John

  16. Dear WBM/Dr John, scientific and technical advances greatly facilitate the ability of human beings to provide for their material needs. Given the incredible advances over the last century, there should be no poverty, anywhere. But there is. Why? Because population growth has prevented per capita availability of resources from being realized.

    I put my full name to my commentary (and for the record, my title is also Dr, but I prefer not to flaunt it). You assert that those who show concern about population are "xenophobic people" with "sleezy agendas" is plainly an insulting strategy to deflect attention away from the paucity of your argument.

    The notion that Australia needs to import hundreds of thousands of people to "pick crops and staff mines" is wrong. Modern mining uses huge machines and a relatively small labour force. There are plenty of people who would pick crops if the wage was reasonable in view of the intermittency of the work and the high cost of living. (The high cost of living has, in turn, been caused by over population... by increasing the demand for resources to a point where most people on this planet barely get by.)

    It is outrageous and thoughtless to label people who have genuine and well-thought concerns as being "xenophobic people" with "sleezy [sleazy] agendas".

  17. If part of the BIG Australia debate is driven by the 'needs'of mining then this is as much a fallacy as the so called 'green tape'supposedly preventing rich multinationals from further feathering their nests.
    The mineral wealth of Australia driving the current push for more immigration has sat in the ground for millions of years and can stay in situ for many many more. It is in Australias interest to treat this as a kind of future fund and trickle the benefits out over a longer period of sustained growth with no increase in population, than to madly scramble to extract it all now with a massive spike in population who will remain here for us to try and sustain long after the minerals are gone.

  18. Leave the minerals in the ground and trickle them out into the economy over time to prevent the need for population spikes and booms followed by busts. This will also prevent the need for undue haste with environmental apprval as well.

  19. Governments and business are addicted to big population. Governments do so because they can always claim more economic growth. Never mind that that growth is spread over a larger population so in fact we are always treading water and on a per capita basis we are always in the same place. Business do so because there is always a bigger customer base, and the real and the developers in particular love it because their business grow. But more importantly, they love it because they can manage to depress salaries by increasing labor supply. Morally all this is wrong. We are a rich country that can spend more educating our own people rather than poaching people that have often been educated by countries with much less resources than us. The problem is for the average punter that has to wrestle with ever increasing unaffordability of housing, poor public transport, road congestion, etc, etc. And councils are only too eager to oblige and approve anything that the developers want.

  20. Many great comments here and well done again Kelvin - problem is the average punter is clueless - I have many friends who show little or no interest in my comments in relation to population; and these are people capable of rational thought. Many believe you can't do anything about it, or insist that this isn't the problem or believe someone else will fix it. And they complain about everything - yet tell them that a key to improving the situation is through stabilizing the population and their eyes glaze over or they argue "you can't tell people how many babies they can have" - they immediately assume you're suggesting some draconian agenda. And this is what the growth addicted bank on. Still there are people like Kelvin, William Bourke of the Stable Population Party, and even the Australian Protectionist Party that are making some inroads. So, at least joining one of these parties and voting in their favour at election time is perhaps doing something to turn the tide.