16 June 2016

Answers from political parties 2016

Some weeks ago SPA sent a questionnaire to six political parties asking for their policy positions re population issues. In summary, we sought to find out from each of them:

  1. Their views on the optimum population for Australia and the basis for their figure;
  2. Whether they recognise that there are environmental constraints to population growth and which constraints are the most significant;
  3. Skilled migrant intake versus training local workers;
  4. Failure of infrastructure to keep pace with population growth and whether they would consider limiting population growth as a means of containing infrastructure cost
  5. Accepting political donations from developers
  6. Response to the recommendations of the House of Representatives Inquiry into Registered Environment Organisations.

It was sent out on 17th and 18th May, with a request that answers be supplied by 10th June – a reasonably generous three-and-a-half week turnaround. Only the Labor Party, the Nick Xenophon Team and Sustainable Australia submitted responses. Numerous attempts were made to ensure responses from The Greens, the Liberals and the National Party. The unedited answers (with the exception of one typo we found) are listed in order of receipt.


Australian Labor Party

Labor’s aim is to improve the wellbeing of current and future generations of Australians. We recognise that all levels of government need to ensure that the right infrastructure, housing and services are available where Australians choose to live, while also ensuring that our natural environment is protected for future generations.

In government, Labor launched the Sustainable Population Strategy. The focus of the Strategy was on population change rather than setting arbitrary targets or caps – exploring policies for driving growth to regional areas by attracting skilled workers to where job opportunities are, and alleviating pressures in outer suburbs of major capital cities.

A Shorten Labor Government will be committed to achieving sustainable and liveable cities through long term planning for and investment in public transport and roads to better connect people to education, employment and housing.

Labor also has a clear plan to combat climate change by getting Australia’s pollution levels back under control. Our plan will ensure that Australian business and workers are in the best position possible to benefit from the huge investment and job opportunities that come from a renewable energy and clean technology future.

Labor believes every working Australian deserves a good job with a good wage and decent working conditions. Labor strongly supports TAFE, and has a plan to protect and strengthen our TAFE system and restore integrity to Australia’s Vocational Education and Training sector. A Shorten Labor Government will ensure our vocational education system is properly equipped to train Australians for the jobs of the future.

Temporary skilled migrants assist Australia’s industries to access the skills they need, when they need them. It has been an adaptable and highly responsive program to industry needs, and we must ensure that it continues to be so. However, we also must ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place so that the 457 visa program is not abused.

Donors to the Australian Labor Party have the right to put their views to the Labor Party, no more than that. The Federal Labor Party accepts donations from all Australian residents and businesses, except the tobacco industry. Different restrictions may apply at state or local government level as dictated by legislation applicable to those jurisdictions.

Labor remains opposed to a requirement that a 25 per cent proportion of environmental organisations’ annual public expenditure be granted towards ‘remediation work’. This is a blatant attack on the independence of environmental organisations by the Turnbull Liberal Government, which wants to minimise criticism of its poor environmental record.


Nick Xenophon Team

The Nick Xenophon Team policy principle on Population states that people should be encouraged to move to areas where there is low population growth. A more even distribution of the population would allow regional areas to flourish and allow metropolitan cities to grow sustainably

Some examples of what needs to be done are:

– Businesses and individuals who commit to moving to low population areas could be provided with tax breaks for the first two years to help them become established

– Actively seek skilled and business migrants and in particular those who have the means to set up and operate businesses in low population areas via a special category of investor category of visa Population

– People should be encouraged to move to areas where there is low population growth. A more even distribution of the population would allow regional areas to flourish and allow metropolitan cities to grow sustainably

Please note we are not seeking to be an alternative government. Our primary function is to facilitate good government and encourage positive legislative change. For us, policies are all about principles that guide our actions. These principles are set out to inform Australians of our legislative views. Parliamentary members and candidates are encouraged to propose and debate the most workable solutions and options possible. If elected, our candidates would be happy to engage in discussion on these issues.


Sustainable Australia

1) What does your party regard as the optimum population for Australia? On what do you base that figure?

Australia should stabilise its population as soon as practicably possible, aiming for a population of around 26 million through to 2050. Our full SUSTAINABLE POPULATION & IMMIGRATION – AUSTRALIA policy is here: http://www.votesustainable.org.au/policies

We base our views on the need to secure an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable Australia.

2) Does your party consider any environmental constraints of increasing population? If yes, which particular constraints do you regard as having the most impact?

Yes. Population growth multiplies all environmental impacts including deforestation, loss of animal habitats and biodiversity, food and water security, degraded lands, finite and non-renewable resource depletion, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and waste.

3) What is your position on training of local workers instead of bringing in skilled migrants?

Australia should prioritise the training and education of the local workforce. Well over 1.5 million Australians are unemployed or underemployed.

4) Are you concerned that infrastructure is not keeping pace with population growth? Would you consider limiting the rate of population growth as a means of containing infrastructure shortfalls and costs.

Yes. Our roads, public transport, schools and hospitals are overcrowded. Lower immigration will helps us to address the infrastructure problems.

5) Does your party accept donations from developers?


6) If your party is elected to parliament would you agree to the implementation of any recommendations, and specifically recommendation 5, from the House of Representatives Environment Committee report of the inquiry into the Register of Environmental Organisations? (This recommendation would force all REOs to spend at least 25% of their income on direct environmental remediation work, all but removing environmental education and advocacy from the definition of legitimate environmental activity.)


Comments from National President, Sandra Kanck, about the responses and non-responses

Is it contempt that has caused three political parties not to respond in a timely manner? Or are they just too fearful of the issue itself? Or are they too disorganised to respond?

The Liberals provided a quick initial response in the form an automated reply. But to be certain, I phoned three days later to check on progress. No, they could find no evidence of having received it, but explained they had activated that e-mail address for the first time on Tuesday, and it was not till Thursday they had set ‘someone’ to looking at them! And no, that ‘someone’ had gone out for coffee, and ‘someone’ would get back to me. They didn’t – so I rang again four days later to be told that Maxine, who was in charge of questionnaires, had received it. I sent an e-mail 48 hours before the deadline, and nothing has been forthcoming. Regardless of their extremely poor record on population matters, in terms of their processes I find it incomprehensible that this party dares to ask to be returned to govern us! Please explore https://www.liberal.org.au/our-plan and maybe contact your local candidate to make up your own mind.

The National Party received similar encouragement from SPA to respond as did the Greens. It certainly was not for want of trying. Their website shares exactly the same set of policies as the Liberal Party.

Given the non-response of The Greens to our questionnaire I simply provide links that might help inform you about their policies: http://greens.org.au/policies/population http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/06/03/greens-push-extra-10k-family-reunions

http://greens.org.au/policies/immigration-refugees Those of you on our SPA Facebook page would have noted spirited discussion from time to time about their position which appears to dismiss population growth as a cause for concern in Australia, focussing their criticism instead on consumption.

The Labor Party at least gave us some answers, although their responses dodge some of the questions asked.

Sustainable Australia has some policies that are in line with policy positions held by SPA, but they have candidates running only in Queensland, NSW, ACT and Victoria. If you live elsewhere you will have to find alternative candidates.

The response from the Nick Xenophon Team disappoints, particularly as this party could end up holding the balance-of-power in the next parliament. Their policy appears to be one of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and fails to understand that, no matter where you locate these extra people they will still require water, energy, infrastructure etc. However, it appears that their candidates are quasi-independents, so you should track them down at public meetings and quiz them. But without that knowledge voting for NXT is risky. Additionally, their leader appears to be much too close to sectors that SPA finds play a role in increasing Australia’s population. For instance, Senator Xenophon’s law firm lists migration law as one of its specialties http://www.xenlaw.com.au/migration-lawyers-adelaide-visas/ and more recently, in short-lived controversy about his parliamentary register of interests it was revealed that he is a director of property development company Adelaide Tower Pty Ltd. And earlier this year he called for more business migrants for South Australia and Tasmania, although not appearing to call for an increase in their total number: http://www.themercury.com.au/news/politics/tassie-and-sa-need-business-migrants-says-xenophon/news-story/fdb80f0e91d2e0a07a3994443042351e

SPA members in the electorate of Batman might be interested in this lone candidate: http://www.voteplanet.net/

And perhaps from the sublime to the ridiculous: another party drawn to my attention although not surveyed by us is the Science Party. But it’s a most peculiar party. They say their policies are based on reason and the best available research yet they want to increase Australia’s population by 20 million people over the next 20 years. http://www.scienceparty.org.au/immigration_policy

SPA does not recommend any political party. Rather we ask you to inform yourself about the stance of each candidate you are considering voting for.

Responsibility for election comment: Sandra Kanck, Sustainable Population Australia, 18 Napier Close, Deakin ACT 2600

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