Monday, March 21, 2011

Committee for Melbourne Stooges ABC

Committee for Melbourne Stooges ABC

Last week the ABC News 24 Breakfast Program interviewed Andrew MacLeod about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster, describing his as a disaster relief expert.

The Program didn’t know, or didn’t mention, that Mr MacLeod is the Executive Officer of the Committee for Melbourne, an organisation of large business and property developers which runs a high population/high migration agenda.

Mr MacLeod didn’t let the chance go by. He said the disaster was a reason to ramp up skilled migration. He said Japan would experience more hardship as a result of its ageing and shrinking population, and that it should have more skilled migrants to help with the recovery effort. He even managed to find a way to use the Japanese earthquake/tsunami disaster to attack my proposal to reduce Australia’s skilled migration to levels we used to have in the mid 1990s.

The Committee for Melbourne apparently thinks that Japan would now be better off if only it had brought in more people to augment its workforce from, for example, China and India.

I wonder how many Japanese people today, as they sit in makeshift relief shelters without enough food, water and electricity, as they wait in queues for the limited petrol that is being rationed out, unable to leave their suburbs, as they wait fearfully for the latest in radioactive fallout from the malfunctioning nuclear reactors that they live nearby, are thinking to themselves – if only there were more people here things would be so much easier! The proposition is farcical. If Japan had had a bigger population, it would be experiencing even more misery and hardship than it is now.

The fact is Japan has a very high population – Tokyo alone is 36 million- and is overcrowded. That is why it has had no choice but to use nuclear power and to have millions of people living in close proximity to nuclear reactors and earthquake zones. But it has managed its population pressures more successfully in recent times than many other Asian nations. That is a key reason why its living standards are higher than its Asian neighbours. If its population had gone the way of those Asian countries hit by the Boxing Day tsunami, then the damage done by the Japanese tsunami would have been all the greater.

Kelvin Thomson MP

Friday, March 18, 2011

Daniel Andrews: Melbourne Growth Got Away From Us

Josh Gordon reports in today’s Age that “Daniel Andrews has conceded Labor lost government because it failed to meet community expectations as Melbourne’s runaway population growth ‘got away from us’.”

He reports that the Victorian Labor Opposition Leader has told The Age that a failure to properly manage Victoria’s strong population growth contributed to Labor’s defeat at last year’s state election, as services failed to keep pace with Melbourne’s expansion. “We just couldn’t keep up”, he said.

Daniel Andrews acknowledgement and understanding of the problem and its role in Labor’s election defeat is good news. I raised the need to curb Melbourne’s runaway population growth at ALP State Conference and in detailed submissions to the State Government concerning Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary, the future of the Edgars Creek Parkland, and the Kodak site. Unfortunately the previous State Government dismissed concerns about Melbourne’s population growth and in so doing got out of touch with voters.

Daniel Andrews statement that “We just couldn’t keep up” is true, but should not be regarded as a sign of failure. No governments or councils successfully manage growth at this pace – the problems are the same in Sydney, South-East Queensland, California, and every other urban centre experiencing rapid population growth. It is not that the State Government was lazy or incompetent – in my dealings with them I found them to be extremely hard-working and conscientious. It is simply that the infrastructure task of a rapidly growing big city is incapable of being successfully managed. There is no sign that the Baillieu Government will have any more success at making housing affordable, reducing crime, containing the cost of living, tackling traffic congestion etc.

Victorian Labor can successfully win back voters by action on three fronts: -

·         Planning. Restore planning powers to the local communities. Get rid of planning appeals to VCAT, and let Councils do what residents want, not what property developers want.
·         Cost of living. Peg electricity prices in particular (and possibly gas, water and Council rates) to the amount by which pensions rise. Electricity prices in Melbourne have doubled in the past decade, and risen by over 50% in real terms. This should stop. Electricity companies should be required to recover the costs of new infrastructure from the property developers who are the beneficiaries of it.
·         Big Australia. Victoria Labor should distance itself from the high migration policies of the past decade which have fuelled Melbourne’s rapid population growth. While business lobbies for high skilled migration on the basis that workers are needed in Western Australia, in reality Melbourne remains a major destination for migrants, keeping unemployment in Broadmeadows, for example, above 15%. We should stop boasting about Melbourne’s growth rate, and aim to stabilise Melbourne’s population.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

World Population Growth Not Slowing Down

The view that the world’s population is going to level out of its own accord is in doubt following a new United Nations Report. The world’s population is set to reach 7 billion later this year, and the UN’s Population Division say this figure could double to 14 billion by 2100 if action is not taken.

The UN Population Division has produced six projections of potential future population change based on different changes to fertility level and other factors. The report says that “even with significant fertility reductions Africa’s population will likely increase by 150% by 2100 and many of its countries will see their population increase four-fold or more”. It warns that considerable effort over the next few decades is required to achieve a reduction in fertility levels.

To have a reasonable chance of stabilising world population, fertility must drop below “replacement level”, and then be maintained at that level for an extended period, says the report.

If fertility were to remain mostly between 2.2 and 2.3 children per woman, we would have a world population of nearly 30 billion in 2300. This clearly is unsustainable.

Ken Henry has good advice on population but the Baillieu Government hasn’t noticed

It was pleasing to see Treasury Secretary Ken Henry promoting the need for an environmentally sustainable population. He said it was very clear that the population growth we have experienced to date has not been sustainable. He estimated that a sustainable population for Australia given present arrangements was 15 million.

The Baillieu Government State Treasurer Kim Wells obviously missed the speech. He said the government wanted to encourage more people to Melbourne, despite conceding booming population growth has been eroding living standards for years. He believes living standards can be maintained through better planning and higher productivity.

The magnitude of the problem of rapid population growth in Melbourne when it comes to planning, however, is illustrated by the Melbourne 2030 planning framework developed by the previous Victorian State Government for the period 2001-2030. It was based on a population of five million by 2030. It is now projected that Melbourne will in fact reach 5 million by 2020, and could reach as high as 7 million by 2030.

The Victorian Treasurer is wrong to want more people to come to Melbourne. The previous government found, to its political cost, that it’s just not possible to effectively meet the transport, health, education, housing, infrastructure etc needs of a city growing by 1500 people every week. If the Baillieu Government doesn’t work this out, the political goodwill they have as a new government will quickly vanish.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Price on Carbon 4/3/11

A Price on Carbon 4/3/11

The Leader of the Opposition says he would repeal legislation for a carbon price should such legislation go through this Parliament and should he be elected to be Prime Minister at the next election.

But is this to be believed? This is an Opposition Leader who has had numerous positions on this issue. In July 2009 he described emissions trading as a “plausible means to limit carbon emissions that doesn’t impose any obvious costs on voters”. Not only did he endorse carbon emissions trading that month, in the same month he also endorsed a carbon tax, saying “I also think that if you want to put a price on carbon, why not just do it with a simple tax?”. “Why not just do it with a simple tax?”- the words of the Opposition Leader in July 2009. Little wonder that Malcolm Turnbull lamented in a blog on 7 December 2009 that “Tony himself has, in just four or five months, publicly advocated the blocking of the ETS, the passing of the ETS, the amending of the ETS and, if the amendments were satisfactory, passing it, and now the blocking of it. His only redeeming virtue in this remarkable lack of conviction is that every time he announced a new position to me he would preface it with “Mate, I know I am a bit of a weather vane on this”. A weather vane indeed.

Secondly, the Leader of the Opposition showed no compunction about breaking election promises, when he was Health Minister. Remember his rock solid iron clad guarantee?

So if the Leader of the Opposition were to become Prime Minister, it requires little imagination to see him standing before the media or the parliament, explaining that it’s now all too complicated and difficult for business, looking slightly apologetic and sheepish, as he does, saying he’s not going to repeal the carbon price legislation, and saying “sometimes it’s easier to seek forgiveness than permission”. After all, he’s said that before.

Amidst the tumult and shouting and cant and opportunism we are hearing on this issue, one thing matters as far as I am concerned and it is this- Do we need to cut our carbon emissions? And I have no doubt that we do. I cannot believe that anyone watching the world’s increasingly whacky weather- floods, cyclones, droughts, bushfires everywhere you look- doesn’t now understand that climate change is real. We have an obligation to avoid passing onto our children and grandchildren a world in which Lockyer Valley floods, Black Saturday bushfires and Cyclone Yasi are annual events.

Now we have frequent complaints from the Opposition, and quite a few from the media, that the Government is all spin and no substance, and focused on political advantage rather than delivering for the future. But here we have announced a proposal which is substance with a capital S. All about the future rather than about political advantage. Yet we find the Opposition and those same media commentators who’ve complained that we have no substance, trying to scuttle and undermine it. It’s no good complaining that your politicians have no ticker, when if they show some ticker you do your best to cut them down. Now the easy thing would be to walk away from the carbon problem; to leave it to someone else to fix. Leave it for the next generation. Leave it for other countries to tackle. That is the Liberal Party approach. The easy way out. Rank opportunism. But if this campaign stops us getting a price on carbon, I believe future generations will hold such selfishness driven inaction in contempt.

When the Leader of the Opposition had his ‘it happens’ moment with Channel 7’s Mark Riley a few weeks ago, I and we all defended him. We said ‘he would never make light of the death of an Australian soldier’.

But the Liberal Party does not show us the same respect. They come out with these disgusting Colonel Gaddafi jibes about the Prime Minister. You know the French expression “noblesse oblige”- that the people who have the privilege of running the society have an obligation to display high standards of dignity and decency. The Liberal Party has a lot of very powerful people in it, but there is no sign of noblesse oblige- they have no class, no manners, no breeding.

Labor is not going to do the easy, opportunist thing on climate change. We are going to do the right thing.

Kelvin Thomson MP
Federal Member for Wills

Governor of Tasmania Recognises Ageing Myth

I was pleased to hear that the Governor of Tasmania picked up on the theme of the ageing population myth in his recent speech to the 2010 National Conference of the Association of Independent Retirees.

The Governor said in his speech, after referring to comments I have made on the ageing population scare:

“I could not agree more….Is not a long life expectancy a standard measure of a progressive and successful community?”

The Governor went on to say that an ageing population is an opportunity, limited only by an inappropriate attitude to retirement.

The proponents of the ageing population scare devalue older people and the significant contributions older people make to our society. Research constantly shows that older people make a great contribution to our society, providing child care and acting as mentors and role models.

We should recognise that workforce ageing will help us solve some of the most deep-rooted and serious problems we have in our society, and dismiss, to quote the words of the Governor, “the doomsayers who make gloomy predictions upon the basis that living longer means that the extra years of life will impose a financial burden on the younger generation.”

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Clean Up Australia Day 2011

Clean Up Australia Day, is a great opportunity to support the Merri and Moonee Ponds Creeks, wonderful community assets which have been transformed for the better over the past 30 years by efforts of groups like the Friends of Merri Creek and Friends of Moonee Ponds Creek, and other local residents.

Mr Jeff Martin has let me know he is organising a Clean Up on the Merri Creek this Sunday, 6th March, between 8.00am and 12 noon. The location will be Tate Reserve, East Coburg, just south of the suspension bridge.

CityLink Neighbourhood Connections Program in conjunction with Debney Meadows Primary School and 16 other groups is coordinating the Moonee Ponds Creek Clean Up at Debney Meadows Primary School, between 10am and 2pm.

I encourage Wills residents to support these worthy ventures. If you can make it you can either turn up on the day or register beforehand on the Clean Up Australia Day website:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Carbon Price Should Be Complemented by a Population Policy

I welcome the Australian Government’s commitment to putting a price on carbon. Australia has the highest emissions per capita in the world, higher even than the United States. Australia’s households and business are at risk of being left behind in a global economy which is already moving to cut pollution – which will hurt our economy and cost jobs.

Population growth and climate change are inextricably interwoven. Population growth increases greenhouse gas emissions, and in turn the effects of global warming are exacerbated by large populations. Australia’s emissions-intensive economy ensures that rapid growth translates into increased greenhouse emissions. Treasury-led modelling indicates that Australia’s emissions will grow from 553 million tonnes in 2000 to 774 million tonnes in 2020 of which 83 per cent is attributable to population growth.

According to a study by Bob Birrell and Ernest Healy, if Australia’s population were to stabilise at its current levels there would be a reduction of about 276 million tonnes in green house emissions, as opposed to a net migration of 180,000 and a projected population of 31.6 million by 2050. This is what is called a base case ‘business as usual’ (BAU) scenario. The Third Intergenerational Report in 2010 has projected a population of 36 million by 2050, and with a net migration of 215,600 in 2009-10, we are currently well beyond ‘business as usual’. It’s pretty hard to reduce your carbon footprint if you keep adding more feet.

Population policy should be a part of the plan to contain greenhouse emissions.