Consultation paper for the state sustainability strategy – submission by SPA NSW branch to the WA dept. of the premier

4 February 2002

Professor Peter Newman

Director, Sustainability Policy Unit

Department of the Premier

15th Floor, 197 St Georges Tce

Perth WA 6000


Dear Professor Newman

Thank you for inviting community input into your Focus on the Future initiative. Your consultation paper is impressive and it deals with a remarkable range of issues.

However, there is one issue of over-riding importance which is not discussed, that of population size. Indeed, it could be said that the paper is at pains to avoid the issue.

For example, the large ecological footprint of the average Western Australian is discussed, and it is noted that this footprint needs to be halved over the next two decades.  It is arithmetically unavoidable that an increase in the population will cause an increase in the total footprint.  It is also unavoidable that a decrease in numbers would make a decrease in total footprint easier to achieve.  Why, then is the issue avoided?

The Paper also notes the “need to achieve a 10 fold reduction in our consumption of resources”, but does not note the difficulty of doing this while maintaining per capita consumption. Either Western Australians will consume less, or there will be fewer of them, or both. The Paper is at fault in not drawing attention to the significance of the proposed reduction.

The paper states that the Government is committed to conservation of biological diversity, yet it also discusses development.  It does not acknowledge that the purpose of nearly all development, whether to construct a new suburb or to establish a wheat field, has the purpose of increasing the utility of the land for humans and decreasing its utility for other species. In other words, the committed purpose of most development is to reduce biodiversity.

Increased population will require increased development unless standards of living fall.

Biodiversity will inevitably be lost.  Your Consultation Paper is at fault not drawing attention to this.

The Paper speaks of  “a transition to the hydrogen economy” as if this transition is assured, will be painless and can fuel the current population and economy.   Clearly the authors of this Paper have not studied this subject and your misleading statement is utterly irresponsible.  The cover of the Paper shows a photograph of a wind farm.   Again, the Paper makes no attempt to indicate what proportion of the State’s electricity needs might be met from this source. Instead of comforting, misleading information, the Paper should have given a realistic assessment of renewable energy and an indication of the population size and lifestyle that renewables might support.

A recent SPA paper on the connection between energy use and carrying capacity is enclosed.  I hope you will consider this issue.



The Consultation Paper is an excellent initiative and it discusses a wide range of issues. However parts of the Paper lack realism and quantitative analysis. Above all, avoidance of the issue of population size detracts greatly from the value of the publication.


Yours sincerely

Jill Curnow

Vice President

NSW Branch

Sustainable Population Australia Inc
600 Rydal Road, Hampton NSW 2790


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