Big Australia: how much does size matter?

Tom Dusevic’s article “Does the pandemic mean the end of Big Australia?” (26-27/12) is a fine exploration of Big Australia. It draws on the extensive knowledge and wisdom of Bob Birrell and Katharine Betts, but Dusevic offers his own insightful commentary as well. Gary Banks’s comments on the limited economic advantages of high immigration were also significant; my wish was that he had said as much — and often — when head of the Productivity Commission.

Dusevic describes the fault-lines in the population debate. On one side, those who “see” high immigration as ecologically unsustainable, a threat to the social fabric and a Ponzi scheme to perpetually pump up our market size. A fair description, but, on the issues of sustainability and the borrowing-from-the-future economics of an immigration-fed growth model, “knowing” is a more accurate descriptor.

On the other side, Dusevic nominates the pro-growth coalition of big-business, property developers and globalists. He does not identify the hallmarks of the latter’s belief system, but it can be reasonably interpolated these would include such terms as “vested” and “self-interest”. This side’s profound indifference to all things environmental was illustrated by another of Dusevic’s contributors, the US Studies Centre’s Stephen Kirchner.

In short, there was (or is) no comparable merit between these two points of view. One gives us a sustainable future — to be experienced within a diverse, robust and abundant natural environment. The other does not. This difference matters.

Graham Clews The Australian 28 December 2020

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