Letters to the editor
Letters to the editor from SPA members, supporters and others are a rich source of community insights and concerns about population issues. The SPA web site maintains an archive of published letters.
Many SPA members wrote to the papers to express their views in regards to the latest Intergenerational Report and the commentary that followed. Below are our favourites including Jenny Goldie, National President and Dr Alan Jones, National Committee.
AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW
Participation Rate Will Lift Us, Not Population
In their article about the 2021 Intergenerational Report, Peter McDonald and Jeromey Temple argue for a strong permanent immigration rate to avoid having three million temporary migrants in the country in 2061 (‘‘ IGR’s population forecasts rest on ‘brave’ migration assumptions’’ , June 29), because the latter would be “politically unsustainable” .
What is likely to be politically unsustainable is another 13 million people in the country, irrespective of whether they are native born, temporary migrant or permanent migrant. Rapid population growth brings a raft of problems such as housing unaffordability, high youth unemployment, congestion, pollution, loss of natural habitat and difficulty in achieving greenhouse reduction targets. Total GDP will rise with a bigger population but there is no guarantee it will translate into bigger GDP per capita, a better measure than total GDP of living standards.
Of the three Ps (population, productivity, participation), McDonald and Temple argue that the greatest of these is productivity. They correctly note that as we move to a more service-based economy it is difficult to achieve productivity increases, unlike manufacturing, where robotics can make a huge difference. What they fail to acknowledge, however, is that productivity falls in cities that grow past a certain size and, rest assured, our major cities will be the ones that absorb most of the extra 13 million people.
Recent research by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) has found that traffic jams and unaffordable housing are the cause of an apparent decline in economic growth and productivity in the capital cities. The report says that when workers confront growing housing expenses, households may be unable to relocate to where they can earn a better salary. At the same time, some businesses have difficulty obtaining employees or contractors they want at rates that allow them to remain competitive in a global market. Endless growth of our cities may not be such a good idea after all.
And let us not forget participation. As the percentage of people of working age declines from 6 to 2.7 people compared to people over 65 (as the IGR projected), wages will rise and people will be more inclined to join or rejoin the workforce – to participate. Perhaps in the end, of the three Ps, the greatest will be participation
Jenny Goldie, Sustainable Population Australia, Deakin West, ACT
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
Full marks to Ross Gittins for explaining some basic economics that dispel the ill-founded panic about our decreased immigration and population growth and the increased ageing of Australia’s population (SMH 30 June). Some basic ecological demography is also relevant; no population can grow forever. Once the carrying capacity is exceeded, our life-support systems decline to the detriment of future generations and nature in general. This is happening now and yet senior politicians and bureaucrats cling to the populate or perish, growth at all costs dogma.
A hopeful sign arises from the lived experience of Aussies who suffer the unsustainable socio-ecological costs of excessive growth. A large majority now believes we don’t need more people. To this end we can see reduced immigration as a silver lining to the dreadful Covid pandemic rather than impending doom.
Alan Jones, Narraweena
Building a fair society
Housing policy is a mess but it mostly comes down to supply and demand (“‘Hold on to that hatred’: Boomers aren’t to blame for Australia’s property mismatch”, June 20). Negative gearing has to go to help potential owners enter the market, rather than investors. And no doubt many empty nesters could convert their homes into dual occupancy. However, the more people there are, the more demand for housing.
In 2018, Australia’s population grew by 404,000. At an average household of 2.7 people, that equates to a need for nearly 150,000 new dwellings – just in one year. If we are to solve the housing crisis, addressing the supply side alone is not enough: demand counts too.
Jenny Goldie, Cooma
Congratulations to active Victoria SPA member Jennie Epstein for her published letter in The Age today
This is a good thing
We should be celebrating our near-zero population growth rather than disparaging it (“Population growth drops to lowest rate since WWI”, The Age, 18/6).
The sooner we can stabilise our population, the greater the chance of a sustainable future. Not only does it provide a window of opportunity for our environment to recover, but our economy is doing well, and employment levels and wages are finally increasing.
Jennie Epstein, Little River
The thought of Marie Low (“Australia, we can’t just keep on building outwards forever”, canberratimes.com.au, May 23) having a live mouse in the toe of her boot will stay with me for a long time.
Nevertheless, her sentiments on the need to rein in population growth were admirable.
Similarly, Nicholas Stuart (“When what we “know” turns out to be wrong”, canberratimes.com.au, May 22) questions the long held assumption that we need a “big Australia”. He notes that, with immigration collapsing because of border closures, overall employment has risen.
He rightly acknowledges the contributions that immigration has brought us but now questions whether we need to return to the huge levels of immigration on this fragile land.
There’s a lovely ad on TV about a boy and a koala and the need to “protect all homes”. Yes, we do, koalas’ homes included. We cannot do this, however, under a scenario of endless human population growth. We have to stop somewhere, preferably now. We need to do it for our own sakes before, as Marie Low noted with the mouse plague, we turn on each other.
Equally, we need to stop growing for sake of other species that inhabit this fragile land.
(Property Council of Australia CEO) Ken Morrison (“We need a dose of quarantine to open borders”, April 16) wants our vast number of immigrants, students and tourists back asap.
Never mind that, pre-COVID, our rampant population-fed, greed-and-growth economic model was rapidly destroying the livability of our major cites and, in all respects, was environmentally unsustainable.
Despite his influence, it is just possible that Morrison will be denied his wish. The vast majority of Australians seem not to share his prescription for what is best for them. They have had a whiff of sustainability and like the way it smells!
Since the 1960s, residents of the North Coast/ Sunshine Coast have said they don’t want the area to become like the Gold Coast. This call continues today despite the moving goal posts.
In the 1990s, Maroochy Shire had one of Australia’s highest rates of population growth and many residents called for a population cap. Property developers and Maroochy councillors involved in the industry claimed that this would drive up property prices. Therefore, we got both, almost uncontrolled growth as well as ridiculously high property prices. Some residents marched for ‘no high rise’ and lower densities. Developers, and many councillors, claimed higher densities were needed to prevent urban sprawl and loss of native habitat. Many replied we’d end up with both. We now have higher density infill as well as higher density urban sprawl (including on floodplains). However, ‘local government’ is a creation of state governments and they must comply with state government legislation (including parking regulations) so, it is state governments that drive the population growth and loss of native species.
Is there a solution? No, not with our materialistic society and governments that cling to an economic model that dictates unsustainable constant growth and a distorted distribution of wealth.