Philosophical Conversations Public Opinion Junk for code
parliament house.gif
Think Tanks
Oz Blogs
Economic Blogs
Foreign Policy Blogs
International Blogs
Media Blogs
South Australian Weblogs
Economic Resources
Environment Links
Political Resources
South Australian Links
"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

a Big Australia « Previous | |Next »
April 4, 2010

If more people now leave Australia for resort holiday in Asia, rather than holidaying in Australia, then more people want to come to Australia. Nor problems, given that the current political discourse is about a Big Australia to live. The concept of a Big Australia refers to total population levels, rather than annual immigration numbers and refugees, and it is tied to economic growth and development.


The ability to sustain a larger population depends on the planning abilities of state and federal governments and a larger population means that large investments in urban infrastructure must go hand in hand with longer-term reforms to boost the productivity and participation of the existing workforce.

Yet population is tied to migration, asylum seekers and boat people by those who play on the atavistic fear of boat people in the Australian population.

Thus the Liberal Opposition, ever anxious for "product differentiation" in difficult times, quickly ties a Big Australia, to border protection, and quickly ups the anti on asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat people. The federal government is far too soft on asylum seekers is the talking point. They lack the muscle that is required to control Australia's borders effectively and stop the boats. They are moving towards making "the boat people" a major election issue.

So we don't really have a debate about what a Big Australia means for our cities. Nor will we have one in 2010.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:37 PM | | Comments (15)


A big Australia means population growth in the main capital cities.Michael Stutchbury in The Australian says that political resistance will stifle this urban growth without some sort of demographic relief valve for our big cities:

As they become population pressure cookers, this resistance will promote the anti-growth Greens' political control of inner cities and grassroots revolts in our leafy suburbs.

Behind the fear of "boat people" is an animus against Islam. It consists in these themes: Islam, they say, has shocked Europeans, the shock comes from Islamic values, and the clash is unlikely to subside.

These three themes—Islamic shock, value conflict, and unending struggle—evoke Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations,” with Muslims on the wrong side of the Huntingtonian line.

The Coalition conflates population and immigration as it is saying that migration levels will be cut if it wins. Yet a key driving force of immigration is the demand for labour. The demand for labour is very high as a result of the resources boom and the program of renewal of Australia's social and economic infrastructure. So the Coalition will maintain skilled migration because skilled migrants are better than unskilled migrants.

The Coalition has gone back to the old Howard rhetoric of boats are bad, and people on boats are very suspect with a new twist--the boat people will cause our cities to suffocate! As Katherine Murphy puts it in The Age:

The ''Morrison Solution'' is a simple message tailored for talkback and Twitter: boats bad, people on boats dodgy. Now these Bad Boat People will make Melbourne's traffic even worse, and they will drink the Murray dry. Good Governments make Bad Boat People Go Away.

We need to add re migration that skilled migration = good; family migration = bad.

That doesn't look promising for a debate about the effects of high population growth on inadequate urban infrastructure and planning.

I don't think we really need boat people for labour do we? After all we have our Mexican workers (Kiwis) on a swinging door doing lots of shit jobs.

The boats are bringing the 50 plus voters back to the coalition.

you're right. Immigration and refugees are two different issues. The former is primarily about skills shortages and workers; the latter is about asylum seekers fleeing persecution.

The opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison is mixing them up for political gain when he says that immigration was out of control and needed to be cut back.

The appointment of Tony Burke, the Minister for agriculture, fisheries, forestry, as population minister, looks like spin to take the heat out of the issue.

Yes, Nan, that's all it is.
Still, no one has explained why the economy needs to be predicated on high population growth; are so many of you sure we can't, under ANY circumstances, have a succesful economy at a lower population than than be sold by the growth at any/every cost merchants?
What about some attention paid to creating the (pre) conditions FOR growth, by at last adressing the plethora of ecological problems that threaten future sustain ability?


We have 1000ish refugees on xmas island now. I would be interested to see a breakdown of the qualifications/skills of these refugees.
Do you know if that information is available anywhere?

if the boats are bringing the 50 plus voters back to the coalition, then what does being tough on boat people mean. Turning the boats back using the navy?

So the navy will have to tow the boats out of Australian waters or fire on them to make them turn back.

If, as usually happens, the boat is scuttled or it falls apart under tow and people end up in the water what are the Navy's orders then? Leave them in the water? Or pick them up and dump them where?

reyour comment:' I would be interested to see a breakdown of the qualifications/skills of these refugees."
The processing history of Xmas Island indicates that the majority of them found to be refugees--they are fleeing persecution and so they would have a mixture of skills--enough to have money to buy and to make their way to Australia

I don't know about public information re skill levels of refugees.


Exactly what I meant by my comment was the coalition making remarks that they would be tougher on refugees is appealing to the 50 plus group of voters. What they mean by getting tougher is not really important because it is just a statement to harvest voters.

If you are asking my opinion? My opinion is that we should start sending people straight back after they have had medicals and a few days food.

I live in an inner Adelaide western suburb, in a street that's a mixture of housing trust and private- all sorts.
It's always been a bit multi cultural here, Africans, mid easteners, Balkans, South east Asians and the newcomers always seem to fit in well and prove to be pretty fair sorts of neighbours, including against some of the dingbat ockers in the street.

My problem has been with "our" end- Australia. We lack the guts and drive to deal with foundational problems that compromise our future sustainability.We fail at many other things,because we are told to by our betters and failure has become inbred into us. So it's little wonder we'd get it wrong on refugees, immigration and future planning.

The last issue on that list is mired in corruption and greed, that is my big problem.
Whatever our big society building plans, you get the feeling it's going to be made a hash of and too much will come from it all that is wasteful and counter productive.
I abjure and desist from big population Australia, the bigger the project the more comprehensive the stuff up, particularly when the process has already been hijacked by crooks.
I don't see any end to the typical Aussie "she'll be apples" attitude, to convince me that the results will be in any way similar to the utopian promises and premises offered now, by the Ruddites, developers, etc.

On Monday night's Q&A Abbott presented his recycled refugee policies: floods of asylum seekers are coming here by boat; they pass through other countries to get here; they can and should stay in those other countries but they come here because Australia is such a great country, but Australia cannot be a ''lifeboat to the world''.

So getting tougher is that asylum seekers can and should stay in those other countries --presumably Pakistan, India and Indonesia, who are not signatories to the United Nations refugee convention.

Any refugee who reaches Indonesia must live in the shadows, with no right to education or employment, and constantly at risk of arrest. Those assessed as refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees have to wait decades before they can hope to be resettled in a country that offers them protection.

There are 4000 asylum seekers registered there (Afghans, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans) and Australia takes only a handful of asylum seekers each year from Indonesia through the official UN process. So instead of waiting many years for formal placement, many asylum seekers try to go directly to Australia where they are processed within months and guaranteed residency if found to be genuine refugees.

Other options are needed.

Re GST's last, it is obvious that the people who need a break first and formost are the refugees, but as you say, if they are after imigrants, it will be ones with skills, from non "political" locations.
They love nice middle class Pakistani doctors, say, but the Hazaras, Somalies or Tamils banged to rights by the dominant hegemonies of their regions are left to stew..
Personally, I have problems with us selectively importing skilled labor in such terribly short supply in the countries of origin. Were the third world countries rebuilt properly, there would less of a need for a headlong rush from such hostile places.

"Immigration and refugees are two different issues".

Quite right. But both political parties are anxious for the voters to think only about the refugees. They are very keen to avoid any real discussion of population policy.