16 September 2011

Population policy (Canberra times 20070704)

It is a considerable pity that none of our political leaders are likely to read, let alone ponder, your thoughtful editorial of 29 June, "Getting a fix on the population debate".

For both major parties, it would seem, population policy is simply a matter of the more, the better. Peter Costello has led the way for the Government in claiming credit for higher birthrates and increased immigration levels (and makes a valid point about the offset this will provide to the ageing of the population), but appears to assume that the increased pressures this will bring on resources and the environment won’t be a problem. Some assumption!

Kevin Rudd, for his part, informed the Press Club at his appearance there a couple of months ago that "On population, long-term, strong migration flows to this country, combined with policies that improve Australia’s birth rate are of critical importance." Again, an apparent underlying assumption that the resources will be available to meet whatever demands such open-ended policies might impose.

Given the very long term implications of today’s population trends on Future population levels and structures – like the continuing significance for public policy of the baby boom of half a century ago – this is myopic stuff. And it’s not something that the troops and the cops can be sent in for a quick fix.

We do indeed need a proper, informed, rational debate on population policy, and we need to start the process right now. Just don’t hold your breath waiting for our political leaders to see the point.

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