Home > Oz Politics > A bit more on population

A bit more on population

April 7th, 2010

Over the fold, a couple more paras on population, which is becoming a very hot issue.

It will be interesting to see how Abbott handles it. As with the parental leave tax, he has run with a populist position, apparently taking no trouble to square it with his business base, which is already causing trouble. Since he was supporting high immigration intakes only a couple of months ago (in the context of an attack on asylum-seekers), it’s hard to see how he can escape charges of opportunism. In fact, it’s hard to think of a major issue (tax, climate change, parental leave, WorkChoices) on which Abbott has not been, in Malcolm Turnbull’s memorable description, a weathervane. I suppose that’s what authenticity means.

It will also be interesting to see how his 9-day, 1000 km cycling/listening tour affects both his substantive position, and his ability to manage the debate[1]. Presumably, touring through rural areas, he’ll find it hard to back away from calls for a cut in immigration, but the Liberals are all over the shop on this.

The government has its own problems. Rudd’s “big Australia” is popular with business and some elite groups, but the case hasn’t been made to the rest of the country and I doubt that it can be. As I say over the page, it would probably be better to make the case for migration at the individual level (why should person X not be allowed to come/stay here) than in terms of aggregates. But if the Libs keep on messing things up, it will be relatively easy for the government to adjust both its rhetoric and his substantive position.

The strongest arguments in favor of high migration are based, not on narrow economic calculations but on a general presumption in favor of freedom. People want to come to Australia because there are jobs for them here, because they would like to join family members or friends, or to escape from repression and poverty.

Refusing to let them in reduces their freedom and the freedom of their Australian relatives, friends and potential employers. Before we take such a decision, we should have good reason to think that the net costs imposed on the community as a whole by increased migration justifies the loss of freedom involved in every individual refusal of admission.

fn1. Personally, it would be good news for me if he can manage it. I’ve been getting into triathlons and similar, nowhere near his Ironman feats, and it would be good to think that this can be done without detracting from the day job.

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  1. Chris Warren
    April 7th, 2010 at 15:44 | #1

    I suspect we are getting hit with all this “increase population” stuff because we have increased debt so much that we need more GDP to pay it off.

    If we do not accept more population then they will have to decrease wages, increase productivity, and raise more taxes, and similar.

    The economy, supposedly, has to balance, and a continuously increasing population is a very lazy way to create profits (or pay off debt).

    Unfortunately it just leads to worse circumstances latter – but capitalists don’t think about this.

  2. Michael
    April 7th, 2010 at 16:10 | #2

    it’s hard to see how he can escape charges of opportunism

    Is there much evidence that Abbott’s popularity is being dented by his opportunism and contradictory statements? Maybe he is discovering just how much he can get away with and finding that it is quite a lot. Or is this just the honeymoon period for new opposition leaders?

  3. Sam
    April 7th, 2010 at 17:17 | #3

    For me, a critical issue is reversibility. If we accept a large increase in population, Australia changes permanently, and all future generations have to live with our decision.

    We lose affordable housing, and the ability of our kids to play under the sprinkler, we lose beautiful untouched wilderness, we lose some of the most amazing species the world has ever seen; and we lose those things forever. On the other hand, if we choose not to increase our population right now, we retain the ability to change our mind at any time in the future. Taking an irreversible decision is highly restrictive on the decision-making ability of Australians yet to be born.

    To paraphrase your last paragraph John,

    Refusing to let future generations decide for themselves reduces their freedom.

    Before we take such a decision, we should have good reason to think that the net benefits accrued to individuals by increased migration justifies the loss of freedom to every person in the future who was never given a chance enjoy the things we take for granted.

  4. Sam
    April 7th, 2010 at 17:28 | #4

    More controversially, I think we need to take some account of the intrinsic right of native animals to live their lives in undisturbed habitat. I’m trying not to sound like a deep-green Gaia-worshiping hippy here, I guess others will tell me how successful I’ve been.
    I think most people would agree though, that when a koala loses it’s home in a gumtree to make way for some Bunnings warehouse, or Delphin housing development, at least a small entry has to be made on the negative side of the moral ledger.

  5. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 7th, 2010 at 18:32 | #5

    John,

    Leaving aside your political analysis I very much agree with what you are saying here. I the LDP immigration policy that I championed at the last election aligns very much with your articulated position. In summary the policy says:-

    1. Freedom of movement is a great ideal.
    2. The bilateral free immigration agreement (FIA) that we have with New Zealand is a good thing. We should seek to have more such agreements with nations of comparable economic standing. Examples of countries we may seek to make agreements with include Singapore, Canada, Ireland, Sweden and many others.
    3. Instead of annual immigration quotas we should moderate immigration with a simple immigration tariff. Got no criminal history, pass a basic medical checkup, pay a fee and you’re a permanent resident. Frame the immigration debate around the size of the tariff. I’d start with an opening suggestion of $40k but it’s a political question dependent on experience.

  6. Alice
    April 7th, 2010 at 18:49 | #6

    I once spoke with a post war Italian immgrant (WW2). In his words – they came – they got jobs with State Rail and the old Waterboard” because trhey didnt have enough english for anything better.

    But – the important thing was – it was a safe government job. They earned that and more on weekend by doing a bit of cash building or restaurant working here and there. The cash income was the difference between being able to take their wives out to dinner occasionally but the government job paid off the house. Later – that bit extra enabled them to start their own building or restaurant business….

    Net result? A positive for Australia.

    Except now – where do immigrants get the jobs that enable them to keep their heads above water or do they rely on welfare. Where is the investment by governments to keep them while they get established.

    Its not there and there is no use fooling ourselves.In my opinion the move for a “big Australia” has no support mechanisms behind it whatsoever and is insulting for its blatant attempt to pander to business who aims to keep wages down.

    The government can start taxing, and repairing infrastructure, and building before it gets any points for encouraging big immigration from me. Give the immigrants somewhere useful to work and then watch the benefits flow. But you give them nowhere to go and you will rapidly create more problems and a more indebted government.

    Investment? Even Menzies said it didnt matter if was public or private and we all need to be rid of ecorat rationalists who even dare (now) to suggest private investment is better than public. They live in a fools paradise and give the government an excuse to be lazy and incompetent and to ignore all evidence to the contrary.

  7. Alice
    April 7th, 2010 at 18:53 | #7

    As for Abbott

    Anyone that can run, swim and cycle that far has to spend hours each week in training (any athlete knows that).

    So how does he have the time to develop policy? Or even think about it. He is a lycra lout IMHO and he couldnt even prepare his own speech for a debate I once attended on Iraq (with him in it). He downloaded redneck speeches from the US the night before instead (and then just read hellfire and brimstone to the intelligent audience).

    Tony Abbott is a fake through and through.

  8. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 7th, 2010 at 19:40 | #8

    My Dad didn’t speak english when he got here. He worked three months for the RTA. He then ditched that and join the private sector because he wanted to get ahead. I don’t buy your outlook Alice.

  9. April 7th, 2010 at 19:49 | #9

    “Refusing to let them in reduces their freedom and the freedom of their Australian relatives, friends and potential employers. Before we take such a decision, we should have good reason to think that the net costs imposed on the community as a whole by increased migration justifies the loss of freedom involved in every individual refusal of admission.”

    This is an incomplete “chart of accounts” for what is involved, and it does not follow that there is a (net) “loss of freedom involved in every individual refusal of admission” for those whose freedom should be a concern; it omits any effects on the freedom of others who are already here. The headings and criteria for assessment should probably be:-

    - Their freedom. This is a large effect, but it should not be counted unless there is some ground for doing so like reciprocal arrangements (as with New Zealand). General criteria like common humanity certainly do apply, but – paradoxically – that should not be counted in under this heading (see below).

    - The freedom of their Australian relatives and friends. This should be counted, but it is small unless there is some reason why they cannot get together some other way, e.g. by the relatives and friends leaving. That would apply if the country at the other end was not a good environment, which would apply in genuine refugee cases and quite a few other lesser ones, but is not automatic.

    - The freedom of their potential employers. This should be counted, but it is usually only material when distortions have made it impractical for them to meet their needs without reaching that far. Their freedom would be restored better by fixing the other problems than by allowing migrants to reach them.

    - The freedom of the others who are already here. Under current circumstances migration probably reduces this, although clearly in the past it has raised it. By any direct measure, a great many people are currently restricted more by migrants, so this is a material negative that would probably outweigh all the other positives if that were all there were to it. However, there is a positive indirect gain. The gains to the migrants do resonate with the wider population to some degree. While those gains should not be counted as such – the migrants have no claim as of right – the resonance of their gains should be counted, to just the extent that the others resonate, to allow the others the freedom to express their charity (which is a technical term that I am using technically). If Australians feel uncharitable, well, that’s that.

    It is certainly not clear that migration increases freedom, and it may well reduce it. There are comparisons with how things now are, but also with how they could be if other restrictions and distortions were removed. And there are open questions about just how and how much Australia vicariously substitutes charity for actual gains to migrants themselves, which it would be improper to count (indeed, it would lead to double counting).

  10. Alice
    April 7th, 2010 at 19:52 | #10

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Im only relating a post war immigrants story Terje. Its not my outlook…but yes I do beleive the government can dveop initiatives to support immigration and I beleive it works to create more wealth for all when capital investment is involved and I dont care about paying higher taxes when it means wealth is increased

    and I dont care for ideas that the private sector will do it all Terje…because time and free market economics has proved the shortfall in investment.

    When America became great Terje…it wasnt only because the private sector was investing in the economy. Public works were also high on the agenda. Its investment that does it …and creates a multiplier effect and it doesnt matter who invests because of the multiplier effect. But clearly, much of the great phase of capital investment (actual machinery, cobnstruction and building) is over in the US…and speculative investment is just no substitute. The infrastructure of the US is run down and in need of rebuilding…so is Australia’s.

    Unless governments get the idea…things will only get worse no matter how much cheap labour they import. If that labour isnt put to productive use (such that their productive efforts have some flow on effect here…not in a Cayman Island tax haven)…you can keep disagreeing with me Terje until your very disagreement becomes untenable to you.

    Which it will.

  11. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 7th, 2010 at 20:00 | #11

    PML – I think the LDP policy position I outlined deals with all your concerns. Free imigration is extended only to suitable nations that offer a reciprocal benefit (like NZ does). An immigration tariff balances out the benefit to immigrants and any concerns of the domestic population by applying a balancing financial fee the size of which is determined politically by the locals.

  12. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 7th, 2010 at 20:07 | #12

    Alice – when you say “when America became great” what era are your refering to in terms of years?

  13. Socrates
    April 7th, 2010 at 20:09 | #13

    Thinking about Alice’s comments about Italian immigrants, they illustrate a fundamental difference between now and the post war era labour market – we are not looking for unskilled immigrants. It might make some sense to import skilled labour, and I support taking refugees on compassionate grounds and then training them. But simply bringing in people without skills does not help any of our current problems, economic or environmental. Indeed, even bringing in refugees and not allocating resources to training them is a recipe for creating an underclass.

    Overall, I think we do have to face up to reducing overall population icnreases fairly soon. In a few decades time we will probably start coming under pressure to take our share of a million or so environmental refugees from Pacific island nations. We can also forget about meeting any meaingful CO2 emission targets if we keep increasing our numbers.

  14. April 7th, 2010 at 20:13 | #14

    Interestingly, migration policy, as it is usually understood, actually has only a small impact on net migration into Australia. As Mark Cully says “Migrant flows are dominated by temporary long-stay movements and free movements”. He is talking mainly about gross flows, but even in net terms (inflow minus outflow) this is also the case. In 2008-2009, net inflows were (very) approximately:
    Aust residents: -60,000
    NZ citizens: 30,000
    Working holiday: 20,000
    Temp skilled: 60,000
    Students: 150,000
    Humanitarian+skilled+family 130,000

    Everyone is talking about the last item – and this is what people usually call ‘migration’. (NZ residents have free entry, and student numbers count as education rather than migration policy). But there can be big changes in the other items also. The largest in gross flow terms (and hence where we might expect greatest changes in net terms) are Aust residents and students.

  15. Alice
    April 7th, 2010 at 20:20 | #15

    @Socrates
    You forget Socrates – unskilled labour post WW2 was used to build.

  16. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 7th, 2010 at 20:38 | #16

    Since when was building a non skill?

  17. Alice
    April 7th, 2010 at 20:50 | #17

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    1930s (after depression),1940s, a1950s – that is when the US built a lot of its puclicly funded infrastructure. What do you think made Rome “great” Terje?? Not when they lost control of their expansion…but when they were building it.

    Your type (libertarians) dont want any state investment Terje. In so doing you ignore a major source of wealth…a far more lasting form of wealth than waiting for two bit private sector companies to grow (takes too long), or in waiting for established medium or large private companies to “re-invest’. Often they dont – they just extract wealth and siphon it to tax havens or the private pool of savings of upper private sector echelons of employees…leading to a bigger divide between rich and poor with no real kickbacks into the economy.

  18. Alice
    April 7th, 2010 at 20:52 | #18

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    since employers decided skills meant being able to work with computers in the financial sector doh!

  19. Alice
    April 7th, 2010 at 21:03 | #19

    @Socrates
    On this comment I agree Socrates with one qualification
    “But simply bringing in people without skills does not help any of our current problems, economic or environmental. ”
    If we are not building and have no government building projects planned that can support their integration and employment to help them over the initial settling hurdles…and obtaining work and training hurdles…

    Then why do it (let them in) except to drive down wages for all and drive up welfare costs and taxes for all (you would think Terje would see the danger in this policy but he apparently cant get his head around it)??

    Its one thing to open the doors to immigrants, but what is the government offering by way of initial employment? The boats keep arriving and they are not full of skilled migrants…but I questionn the apparent uselessness of “unskilled” migrants. I think the word “unskilled” is a load of bollocks. How do you think the post war “unskilled” immigrants learned to build? It was taught on the job. The responsibility for training resides with employers primarily as it should…yet has been shoved towards the employee over time.

    The private sector and the public sector is failing those who are here now because as far as I can see the only jobs are to do with pink bats now cancelled. Not a bridge, road, school, or hospital construction in sight. Plus employers want university degrees for the most menial of jobs..pushing training costs on to employees and the government.

    What point in bringing more in?

  20. conrad
    April 7th, 2010 at 21:17 | #20

    “Anyone that can run, swim and cycle that far has to spend hours each week in training (any athlete knows that). So how does he have the time to develop policy? Or even think about it. ”

    All of these attacks on Abbott for being fit are just bizarre, and show just what an appalling state of health the Australian population has got too, and indeed, what bizarre ideas some people have about fitness. In case you’re wondering, it’s quite simple to get really fit on 10 hours of exercize per week, which many people can get most of by, for example, riding to and from work. Sean Yates, for example, rides around 90 minutes per day (e.g. here). That didn’t stop him winning the British 50 mile time-trial championship in 2005 and 45 years of age, and nor does it stop him running a cycling team. Some people actually feel that being fit and healthy helps them get through the day and think about things, not hinders them.

  21. Alice
    April 7th, 2010 at 21:24 | #21

    @conrad
    90 minutes a day inadequate to do the miles Abbott does Conrad – more like two to three hours a day. What you say is bunk.

  22. Michael
    April 7th, 2010 at 21:27 | #22

    @conrad
    I would agree. I applaud Abbott’s training and participation in sports. It doesn’t make up for his flip-flopping on climate change – although I doubt Abbott has any position, so it’s not really flip-flopping.

  23. Alice
    April 7th, 2010 at 21:30 | #23

    @Michael
    You mean he just drifts like an amoeba with no real policy anywhere Michael? Maybe he has too many endorphins where even no policy feels just fine after a 26 k marathon.

  24. Chris Warren
    April 7th, 2010 at 21:45 | #24

    Abbott does a lot more harm when he talks, than when he runs, swims, and bikes.

    I think he should do a lot more bike riding, swimming, and running.

    Preferably forever.

  25. Alice
    April 7th, 2010 at 21:47 | #25

    LOL Chris – Im inclined to agree. Perosnally I dont think he does much thinking at all …. (but he does plagiarise a lot from the mad US right…enuff said)

  26. conrad
    April 7th, 2010 at 22:01 | #26

    “90 minutes a day inadequate to do the miles Abbott does Conrad – more like two to three hours a day”
    .
    Alice, I ride in A grade races and train around 10 hours per week, since that’s pretty much where the benefits taper off, and you certainly don’t end up overly tired. I’ve also run marathons with less training — so please learn some stuff about exercize physiology before commenting on how much you need to train to get fit (Indeed, Olympic level marathon runners, many of whom no doubt train obsessively, don’t train much more than that — see e.g here). If you just want to think of nasty things to say about Abbott, I’m sure they arn’t too hard too find. Alternatively, criticizing him for not contributing to the worst chronic health problem that afflicts the Australian population is just silly, and shows that you just want to think of something nasty to say, versus something intelligent. That’s not exactly productive.

  27. Socrates
    April 7th, 2010 at 23:52 | #27

    Regarding unskilled immigrants and building projects, that is something I’d like to comment on too (since I am also a civil engineer). Unfortunately, the days of masses of unskilled labor working on building projects are largely gone. Most construction is now highly mechanised with workers needing various plant operating tickets that are the building equivalents of apprenticeships. Availability of electricians, plumbers and formwork carpenters is even worse. By all means, we should train more of such people, including immigrants, but they are not unskilled. This is why there is a skills shortage in the construction industry!

    The sort of building work that is trully unskilled now is mainly maintenance type work. The large construction projects are complex. If you are trying to install fibre optic cable, build a desal plant, or a train line, or four lane the Pacific Highway, you need large plant and skilled plant operators.

    I don’t wish to sound xenophobic, and as I said, I support allowing immigration of refugees as well as other skilled migrants. However we shouldn’t kid ourselves about the economic benefits or otherwise of unskilled migrants. Things have changed since the 50s.

  28. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 8th, 2010 at 00:45 | #28

    And yet I don’t think the notion that building was unskilled 50 years ago is that accurate either. To be sure the skills were different but they were still skills. I’m reminded of the Vasa museum in Sweden where the history of the construction of the Vasa (a ship) in the early 1600s is recounted. Artisans of all sorts came from across the corners of Europe to work on the project. The trades of the different workers is tabulated in lists in the museum. They were all there because they had skills.

    It turns out that even installing housing insulation requires skills. Despite some people who live with the delusion that you can’t get skills from a job because skills come from books and classrooms.

  29. April 8th, 2010 at 06:39 | #29

    Re the skilled versus unskilled debate, I’ve worked in large professional accounting, finance and law firms. For them the debate is about the so called “skills shortage”. I suspect it’s the same with many other industries. From their perspective they are finding it hard to find sufficient numbers of skilled workers to meet increased demand. However, I wonder how much this view is a product of our recent economic growth. Business is growing, and competition for qualified staff is tough (though I hate the term “war for talent” from McKinsey).

    Having being exposed to many senior decision makers I can say this is a dominant concern. They look at the demographic trends, and wonder how they will replace the ranks of “baby boomers” and “Gen X’s” (again marketing terms) and wonder how they can keep their highly sophisticated, knowledge/technology based companies not only just operating but growing.

  30. Socrates
    April 8th, 2010 at 07:04 | #30

    Agree Terje; I was just assuming about the 50s.

  31. Alice
    April 8th, 2010 at 07:22 | #31

    @conrad
    Conrad you say
    ” Alternatively, criticizing him for not contributing to the worst chronic health problem that afflicts the Australian population is just silly, and shows that you just want to think of something nasty to say, versus something intelligent. That’s not exactly productive.”

    You are right. I didnt criticise Abbott for not contributing to the worst chronic health problem that afflicts Australia…but I should have. When he was health minister he ripped a billion dollars out of the health system.

    He can stay on his bike.

  32. Hermit
    April 8th, 2010 at 07:46 | #32

    I question the presumption that people in rural areas want more people around them. Why did they go there in the first place? I can tell you that the yokels often sit around the TV watching programs like ABC Q&A with remarks like ‘glad those d*ckheads don’t live here’.

    We will lose bucolic charm if we continue with quarter acre blocks or many of us will be miserable if forced into high rises. Already cities like Adelaide have paved over their limited areas of good soil and rainfall. That means future food will almost certainly be more expensive. I’d also contend that we will soon see global resource limits bearing down on us with oil the likely frontrunner.

  33. Michael
    April 8th, 2010 at 09:20 | #33

    Hermit :
    We will lose bucolic charm if we continue with quarter acre blocks or many of us will be miserable if forced into high rises.

    I have lived in quarter acre blocks and 20 story high rises and I can tell you there are pros and cons for both, but if you never actually try it then you will probably be too closed minded to consider it objectively. Where in Australia are people being forced into high rises? Ever considered that some people (just for arguments sake) might prefer to have the convenience that comes with high density living and might choose it over living in the car dependent suburban sprawl. What I can see is that a bunch of vested inner city oldies want to stop anyone else enjoying the convenience they have and are fighting tooth and nail to stop increases in density. Wealthy people who live near public transport and don’t use it also want to keep their streets from being developed. Strange thing is that at some point their leafy streets were farm land. So to simplify it right down – development that brought about their lifestyle GOOD, further development BAD. Them being born GOOD, future people being born BAD. I’m not denying there are ecological limits but some of the arguments from the Malthusian hand wringers are just self-justifying “lets not change anything because I’m comfortable” nonsense.

  34. Paul Norton
    April 8th, 2010 at 09:28 | #34

    Tony Burke is quoted as saying that the government needs to consider ways to determine where new migrants settle “in the national interest”, by which Burke appears to mean the national economic interest.

    http://www.news.com.au/national/minister-tony-burke-says-migrants-should-go-bush/story-e6frfkvr-1225851126005

    The problem with this approach is that there is no reason to expect new migrants to want to stay settled forever in the rural and regional areas where employers are said to be crying out for labour, especially if they bring with them, or acquire in Australia, professional qualifications for jobs for which demand exists in other areas. Further, sooner or later those new migrants will have kids, and will want the kids to have good educational opportunities, and the kids themselves will want more options than to follow their parents into whatever regional and rural occupation Tony Burke has in mind for them. They will head to the major coastal cities in pursuit of higher education and paid work, they will discover the good restaurants, good nightlife and cosmopolitan cultural environment of the major coastal cities, they will discover equable coastal weather and the beaches, and they won’t go back to the bush.

    The question which Tony Burke has clearly not considered is: how ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Sydney?

  35. Michael
    April 8th, 2010 at 09:45 | #35

    Has anyone with an appropriate background looked at the plausibility of the population modelling that has given us the 35 million figure?From the ABSIncreases in fertility rates Australia’s total fertility rate (TFR) in 2008 was 1.97 babies per woman, up from 1.92 babies per woman in 2007 and the highest since 1977 (2.01).
    The increase in the TFR between 2007 and 2008 was largely due to births to women aged 30 to 39 years, who accounted for 55% of the increase.

    I wonder how sustainable this increasing birthrate trend is? Is it a product of birth age being pushed back and then trending forward again as stories of age related pregnancy difficulties were being told in the media? Ultimately developed countries birth rates are below replacement so doesn’t this tend to mean that there will be a population decline in the future, or even in the present in places like Japan and Italy?

  36. Paul Norton
    April 8th, 2010 at 10:06 | #36

    Michael #35, your last sentence is correct. See:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overpopulation#Projections_to_2050

    Fertility rates are difficult to predict. The slight increase in recent years in Australia was not predicted ten years ago when all indications were that the fertility rate was headed south. Also, I believe the calculation of the fertility rate contains a prospective assumption (i.e. that women who are in their teens and 20s today will make the same reproductive choices in their 30s and 40s that women who are currently in their 30s and 40s are making) which may well turn out to be incorrect. Our understanding of the causal connections between government policies, economic conditions and the wider socio-cultural milieu on one hand, and people’s decisions to start families on the other, is incomplete and imprecise. However the following statements are probably true as generalisations, and ceteris parabus:

    1. In developed capitalist economies, a combination of achievement of a reasonably high level of economic development, and increased education and employment opportunities and greater freedom of reproductive choice for women, invariably leads to fertility rates falling below replacement levels.

    2. Women who commence childbearing earlier in life tend to have more children than women who commence later in life, and this is reflected in national fertility rates (i.e. the English-speaking countries have much higher rates of teenage childbearing than other advanced capitalist countries, and generally higher fertility rates).

    3. Countries such as the Scandinavian countries which support women’s choice to combine paid work and motherhood have both higher fertility rates, and higher rates of female workforce participation, than countries where public policies and dominant social attitudes are hostile to women combining paid work and parenting (which is why fertliity rates in the southern European countries, Japan and South Korea have nosedived).

  37. Michael
    April 8th, 2010 at 11:15 | #37

    @Paul Norton
    Thanks for your reply. Presumably religion and economic outlook effect birthrates as well. There is obviously a large degree of uncertainty about the prediction – a variation of 4 billion in the range of projected increases by 2050 is quite a lot. It is interesting how seriously population projections are taken by business compared to climate change projections.

  38. Paul Norton
    April 8th, 2010 at 11:27 | #38

    Michael, it’s worth noting that the two previous occasions in the past 40 years when AUstralia’s fertility rate edged upward against the long-run downward trend were during period of recession in the early 1980s and early 1990s, whereas the most recent increase has been in a period of economic growth.

  39. April 8th, 2010 at 12:56 | #39

    I think a society has to first guarantee basic rights to its own citizens before seeking to guarantee the rights of citizens of other countries. One basic right that has been taken away from the poorest Australians in an ostensibly to give rights to the citizens of other countries right to secure affordable shelter.

    As I showed in my post on 29 March, that is precisely the intention of those pushing hardest for high immigration. As I showed in that post. land speculators and property developers openly gloat (that is when they think others aren’t paying attention) of how high immigration allows them to gouge the rest of us for a basic necessity.

    Consequently, even many professional people who are forced to rent describe their circumstances as ‘slavery’. How much worse must circumstances be for people in unskilled occupations, students, pensioners and those living on welfare.

    Now that the Australian people have spoken emphatically against contiued high immigration, and the Liberals and Nationals (of all people) appear to be listening to the people for a change, the Murdoch Press. true to form, is demanding that the Labor Government, instead, take its orders from the ‘Business Community’.

  40. April 8th, 2010 at 13:02 | #40

    Of course, the second sentence of my previous post should have read:

    One basic right that has been taken away from the poorest Australians, ostensibly to give rights to the citizens of other countries, right to secure affordable shelter.

    My apologies.

  41. Michael
    April 8th, 2010 at 13:29 | #41

    @daggett
    I agree that people have a right to affordable shelter but blaming this on immigration is a massive simplification. So property investers should have the right to claim 4 billion in rental losses much of it on property that was purchased on the secondhand market. I find it revealing that “outsiders” can be pretty much blamed for all Australia’s problems.

  42. April 8th, 2010 at 13:43 | #42

    Michael, there’s no ‘simplification’. Land speculators openly acknowledge the cause and effect as that link in my post shows, and many of us are now living with that every day of our life.

    The fact that many, who advocated immigration, supposedly on humanitarian grounds, implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, claimed that immigration would be entirely cost-free, or, indeed, even beneficial, when it clearly has not been been and when they clearly had no basis to believe that that would be the case, should make the rest of us very suspicious of their motives.

    My apologies, again. but that sentences, should have been:

    One basic right that has been taken away from the poorest Australians, ostensibly to give rights to the citizens of other countries, is the</em right to secure affordable shelter.

  43. Chris Warren
    April 8th, 2010 at 13:48 | #43

    @Michael

    You cannot really bring up kids in high-rise flats. London housing estates have led to huge feelings of disadvantage and social alienation.

    Kids need backyards. Households need reasonable separation from neighbours.

    It is human nature when this is allowed to develop freely.

    High rise flats may suit some people but only for some stages of life.

    However economists only see economic advantages in higher density. This just reflects their ongoing project to pump up their fortunes by artificially growing their markets through aggravated population increases.

  44. Michael
    April 8th, 2010 at 14:10 | #44

    @Chris Warren
    My first child was born in a high rise flat. Luckily there was lots of playgrounds at the bottom of all the high rise towers and shops and places to eat downstairs. There were buses about 100m away and a train station 500m away. Supermarkets, doctors, schools and wet markets were all in walking distance. We didn’t own a car and didn’t suffer any disadvantage. Now we live as close to a train station as we could afford – 2.5kms away with a bus that runs intermittently and slowly and owning a car is pretty much mandatory because everyone else has one. Your arguments are based on badly done high-rise not well done high-rise, just like your arguments in favour of sprawl is probably based on nice leafy middle class suburbs not the hell holes of suburbia that litter the dark corners of disadvantage in Australia were people chrome in the graffiti covered parks, all the bus shelters are vandalised and any car left on the street has a good chance of being broken into and the gardens are fire hazards full weeds. Perhaps you might see a bit more of the world before proclaiming your own lifestyle supreme.

  45. April 8th, 2010 at 14:13 | #45

    Abbott certainly seems able to get away with reversals of policies without any real reproach, much more than almost any other politician. Speculating about why, I can pick some element of the lovable rogue persona – the Bart Simpson of politics – and partly from a much more deeply rooted feeling that labor people are supposed to be idealists and should therefore be held to their ideals, while liberals are supposed to be individualists devoted to the gospel of success and should therefore be judged only on whether they win or not.

  46. conrad
    April 8th, 2010 at 15:35 | #46

    “You cannot really bring up kids in high-rise flats. ”

    You might have to tell that to a billion or so people in the world that do (or whatever the real number is).

  47. April 8th, 2010 at 15:38 | #47

    @Michael,

    Firstly, I have lived in a supposedly well designed high-rise and found living conditions unacceptable. Some are happy to live that way, but it seems that most are not. In any case, are we prepared to trust private property developers to create well-designed high-rise estates, let alone affordable, given their record to date?

    Both unrestrained urban sprawl on the one hand or else cramming into high rise on the other incur unacceptable costs.

    Thanks to South East Queensland’s past unrestrained development, the koala is expected to be extinct in this region in perhaps as little as two years time.

    The economics of population growth is self-evidently insane. In 2008 Bligh defended population growth on the basis that it was necessary to maintain employment of Queenslanders. She said:

    [Stopping population] would have a very serious impact on the construction industry that a lot people rely on for jobs.

    In other words, property-growth-driven development is a Ponzi scheme. How are the new-comers expected to then be employed unless yet more people to sell houses to are imported?

    And when it has all run its course, what can four million plus crammed into the barren dustbowl that will be South East Queensland hope to be able to trade with the rest of the world in exchages for the goods and services that we all need?

    In the meantime, both Kevin Rudd and Anna Bligh have chosen to accept their marching orders from those who gain from this Ponzi scheme at the expense of every one else and of our future.

  48. April 8th, 2010 at 15:42 | #48

    The second last last paragraph should have read:

    And when it has all run its course, what can four million plus crammed into the barren dustbowl, that will be South East Queensland, hope to be able to trade with the rest of the world in exchange for the goods and raw materials that we all will need?

    My apologies.

  49. Ernestine Gross
    April 8th, 2010 at 16:05 | #49

    @Chris Warren

    It seems to me your paragraphs 1 to 4 reflect the preferences of Australians. From an economist’s point of view in the mainstream tradition, these preferences are relevant and not those in say people in Hong Kong. However, I strongly disagree with your last paragraph. You seem to more or less continuously confuse accounting and commerce with economics.

  50. Michael
    April 8th, 2010 at 16:14 | #50

    @daggett
    Just for the record, I don’t think Australian property developers do a good job of shaping the city. In fact the economics and politics of the development of Australian cities puzzles me as does the bizarro property market that I don’t believe anyone can really explain. It is rare indeed to see any recent developments that add anything much to the cities. But that doesn’t mean that higher density can’t be done better or that the sole purpose of development should be short term profit. I don’t have the answer for that, but just putting the kibosh on development seems silly and reeks of a lack of imagination and NIMBYism. I would like to see evidence that immigrants are responsible for property unaffordability or the poor state of infrastructure – to me they seem an all to convenient scapegoat. I also don’t see that there is a need or desire to FORCE people to live in high rise developments. The expression of this fear seems to me to be projection. Do you fear being forced into high rise towers or do you fear other people choosing it? I’m not a cornucopian either.

  51. Sam
    April 8th, 2010 at 17:05 | #51

    @Michael
    I regard a request for “evidence that immigrants are responsible for property unaffordability” as too silly to bother with. Of course an increase in housing demand when the market is already tight will drive up house prices, it’s just basic common sense. How on earth could anyone think otherwise?

  52. April 8th, 2010 at 17:10 | #52

    Daggett,
    I have pointed out to you (and several others here) before that you use the term “Ponzi scheme” incorrectly. A Ponzi, by its very nature, has little or no productive output. It will not result in houses or flats in which people live. A Ponzi is simple – money in on the promise of massive returns, no investment or productive activity that may give rise to any returns and eventual inevitable collapse.
    Clearly, a scheme where people are brought in to build houses and are paid to do so is not, by any stretch, a Ponzi scheme. If you wanted to make the argument that it is a pyramid scheme then that may be supportable (I would still disagree, but that is a different argument) but if you claim it is a Ponzi scheme than you are simply, and flat out, wrong.

  53. April 8th, 2010 at 17:37 | #53

    @Andrew Reynolds

    I suspect D@ggett is using it simply to mean “any scheme in which buyers bid each other up until the pool of funds required exceeds that held by potential buyers”.

    Your objection, while formally correct, is not how the term is used popularly.

  54. Chris Warren
    April 8th, 2010 at 17:54 | #54

    Ernestine Gross :
    @Chris Warren
    It seems to me your paragraphs 1 to 4 reflect the preferences of Australians. From an economist’s point of view in the mainstream tradition, these preferences are relevant and not those in say people in Hong Kong. However, I strongly disagree with your last paragraph. You seem to more or less continuously confuse accounting and commerce with economics.

    Maybe you could expand a bit. The last point was not an accountants argument, but should be seen as political economy.

    So I agree it was not pure economics.

    I continuously separate economics from political economy. Those who claim just to be using economic tools, are probably discounting the fact that they are doing this within a capitalist framework.

    I deliberately look outside this barrier.

    Within this broader context – we are seeing calls from industry lobbyists for artificial population growth and investment in necessary infrastructure, for economic goals.

    These lobbyists use politics for economic ends. This is why the broader context is necessary.

    There is no confusion.

  55. April 8th, 2010 at 18:10 | #55

    Fran,
    If he is going to argue that something is a Ponzi scheme then he should expect that the proof of his error is a trivial matter. If he wants to make a strong argument then he should actually use the correct term.
    .
    Sam,
    The crucial term in your argument (IMHO) is “…when the market is already tight…”. Why is the market tight? That, to me, is the primary cause, not the immigrants.

  56. Chris Warren
    April 8th, 2010 at 18:14 | #56

    Michael :
    @Chris Warren
    Your arguments are based on badly done high-rise not well done high-rise, just like your arguments in favour of sprawl is probably based on nice leafy middle class suburbs not the hell holes of suburbia that litter the dark corners of disadvantage in Australia were people chrome in the graffiti covered parks, all the bus shelters are vandalised and any car left on the street has a good chance of being broken into and the gardens are fire hazards full weeds. Perhaps you might see a bit more of the world before proclaiming your own lifestyle supreme.

    I don’t think you have grasped the point. The fact that you had a child in a high rise flat is probably biasing your understanding.

    I don’t understand why you would mention vandalised bus shelters as these exist near high rise flats as well, so what is you point?

    How have I declared my lifestyle supreme? I have not used or described my lifestyle?

    You do not know what my lifestyle is nor its relevance to anything said above?

    Maybe this was your Freudian slip, as it appears you are the only one proclaiming the beauty of your own high rise flat experience.

  57. Sam
    April 8th, 2010 at 19:29 | #57

    @Andrew Reynolds
    Well I’ll take out that unnecessary caveat then, and restate the argument in a stronger form.
    Of course an increase in housing demand will drive up house prices. Period.

    Why does that statement need justification? I’m genuinely curious to know why you think it would.

  58. Ernestine Gross
    April 8th, 2010 at 19:38 | #58

    @Chris Warren

    Before I reply to #4, p2, I’d like to get your assurance that you will not assume (and assert) that I am targeting you (or anybody else).

  59. Luke Elford
    April 8th, 2010 at 19:42 | #59

    It’s interesting the way “deep brown” arguments have been co-opted by those opposing immigration on environmental grounds. Apparently, we can’t have 35 million people and address environmental concerns, because our quality of life would be ruined—cue horror images from Hong Kong, as if a doubling of the nation’s population would lead to a twenty-fold increase in urban densities. What puzzles me is how proponents of such a view square this belief with their view that, with a stable population, either 1) we can address environmental problems with only a small reduction in our material living standards, or 2) the costs are large but we’ll be all the happier for it. If the costs in terms of our living standards of achieving more sustainable outcomes are small, as they are, why shouldn’t we be willing to accept the small extra costs of achieving those same sustainable outcomes with a bigger population in exchange for the benefits of immigration, like personal freedom and alleviating poverty and other social and environmental problems in the rest of the world?

    Michael, I completely agree with you about the NIMBY vibe that surrounds the debate about immigration. The whole thing is a kind of NIMBYism writ large. But it’s been interesting to view the debate because it provides insights into an issue that’s always puzzled me, of why environmentalists oppose medium- and high-density infill developments in the inner city, and thereby exacerbate the environmental costs of sprawl. The answer is that the people who would live there just shouldn’t exist, and if they do exist then protecting the environment would impinge on their welfare too much, and anyway it’s development and they’re capitalists and anyway it’s all just evil.

    Chris Warren, if you care to inform yourself, you’ll learn that urban economics recognises a range of positive and negative externalities associated with higher population density and a larger population. I doubt you want to hear it, but there are consumption and production benefits from having more people located within a small geographic area, otherwise cities and towns wouldn’t exist. If you want to come to a sensible conclusion about these matters, you have to address these issues as well, not just focus on the obvious minuses like congestion and housing costs.

    Daggett, you know there are other resources apart from natural resources—things like labour, and physical and human capital—that are quite useful for making goods and services that a region can trade with the rest of the nation or the rest of the world in exchange for things it can’t make cheaply itself. In fact, south east Queensland’s economy is already based mostly on manufacturing goods using natural resources from elsewhere, in particular the rest of Queensland, and providing services to the rest of the state, the nation and the world. This is what all urban areas do.

  60. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 8th, 2010 at 19:44 | #60

    Of course an increase in housing demand will drive up house prices.

    Unless supply grows quicker.

  61. Ernestine Gross
    April 8th, 2010 at 19:52 | #61

    @Luke Elford

    “I completely agree with you about the NIMBY vibe that surrounds the debate about immigration. The whole thing is a kind of NIMBYism writ large. ”

    And the above statement is an attempt to change people’s preferences by means of social pressure involving silly labels such as NIMBYism.

  62. conrad
    April 8th, 2010 at 20:03 | #62

    “as it appears you are the only one proclaiming the beauty of your own high rise flat experience.”

    I’ve lived in big high rises, and found it fine too. It was nice having proper security, a pool, a gym, a private bus to the city, never having to worry about maintenance, someone to collect parcels for me when they came, rubbish collected for me, etc. . Some high-rises even have hire cars now, so you don’t need a car if you’re like me and only do 2000ks or so a year. The main reason I don’t live in one now is that most of the good ones in Melbourne are located in places I don’t want to live (e.g., the Docklands). In my books, the worst accommodation you can live in are mid-sized apartments, since you generally don’t get a view or any other benefits of the big high rises, but you have essentially the same limitations. These of course are the main alternative to high rises.

  63. Alice
    April 8th, 2010 at 20:07 | #63

    @Ernestine Gross
    Exactly Ernestine – well said. Its been a proclivity of those on the somewhat “has been” right to use pat pour out breakfast cereal style aphorisms like “nimbyism.” Oh and dont forget the extra writ large value pack.

    Luke…try something more intelligent…but then again if you want to use such expressions..you could always consult the Miranda devine dictionary of such terms (Im sure she has collated quite an archive)…or then again, Tony Abbott has a nice little repertoire as well.

    Its all wearing off. No-one knows what you mean by nimbyism and no-one cares anymore.

  64. Chris Warren
    April 8th, 2010 at 20:08 | #64

    @Luke Elford

    Luke Elford

    You obviously do not know how to conduct yourself.

    Please explain where I suggested:

    1) that externalities do not exist ?????????
    2) where I expressed doubts about wanting to hear anything ?????
    3) where did I focus on congestion or housing costs ???????

    You are just making stuff up.

    Why would you just look at benefits of having more people located without looking at costs? preferences? and alternatives?

    Grow up.

  65. Michael
    April 8th, 2010 at 23:00 | #65

    Ernestine Gross :
    @Luke Elford
    “I completely agree with you about the NIMBY vibe that surrounds the debate about immigration. The whole thing is a kind of NIMBYism writ large. ”
    And the above statement is an attempt to change people’s preferences by means of social pressure involving silly labels such as NIMBYism.

    Zoning laws drafted to protect the interests of existing residents and spurious admonishments about “changing the character of the neighbourhood” are also attempts to restrict people’s ability to “reveal” their preferences by disallowing removing or restricting alternatives. If you look at some local by-laws you will find that houses that predate the rules would often not pass the new rules brought into “protect” the character of the neighbourhood. People have a right to try and protect their assets and lifestyle up to a point, they don’t in my opinion have a right to naked hypocrisy. The end of history “preference for sprawl” is a shonky simple-minded argument manufactured by paid up intellectual mouthpieces for developers seeking to push urban growth boundaries.

  66. Michael
    April 8th, 2010 at 23:10 | #66

    @Chris Warren
    No. My reference to “bus shelters” was in reaction to your simple minded reference to low quality, low income UK “housing solutions” as an example of what living in flats is like. It also happens to be my personal experience living the “Australian dream” amongst the disaffected youth who smash every bus shelter in the area or cover them in swastikas. Since I have tried both lifestyles I can say that when high density living is done well (in another country as it happens) it beats my current suburban quality of life, but people like you who haven’t experienced it can make sweeping statements like “You cannot really bring up kids in high-rise flats.”

  67. April 9th, 2010 at 07:31 | #67

    Luke Elford wrote:

    The answer is that the people who would live there just shouldn’t exist, …

    In a sense, the argument against population growth is a case of the self-interest of current residents of a country or region against the interests of people who would wish to become residents of that area.

    The paradox that people arguing against population growth face is that many who are arguing against population growth today might not be here today if those arguing against population growth a generation ago.

    Nevertheless, the fact remains that population growth has been demonstrably detrimental to the interests of all but a few of the smaller population that was here a generation ago, and, further population growth will be similarly detrimental to the intersts of, if not catastrophic to the current residents of the region.

    At some point population growth has to stop before the numbers become unsustainable and, given that there are insufficent natural resources in the region, most notably water and given that the koala (as just one example) may well become extinct in South East Queensland within two years, thanks to the destrction of much of their natural habitat.

    Past experience demonstrates that no civilization can survive if it destroys its natural habitat. A good example of where South East Queensland is headed can be found from studying the experience of the Pre-columbian North American Chaco Anaszi civilisation:

    One of the decisive causes for the Chaco Anasazi collapse … was the elites’ power and their formulaic repose to the crisis: “roads, rituals and more houses”. In a stunning but final building frenzy, the Chacoan elites erected their grandest buildings in an effort to “pump the economy”. Many hundreds of thousands of ponderosa pines had been cut to support the roofs of the canyon’s proliferating great houses. Immense logs, up to 30 feet long, were carried 20 to 30 miles from outlying forests.

    - Franz J. Broswimmer writing of the stratified Anasazi society who inhabited the Chaco Canyon in the north west of what is the modern-day state of New Mexico in the United States from approximately 700AD until 1300AD on page 47 of Ecocide, 2002.

    The massive construction projects to provide lavish dwellings for the Anasazi elite, denuded the Chaco Canyon and surrounding regions of ponderosa pines and juniper trees. This, together with the use of unsustainable irrigation-dependent agricultural practices turned this once-lush region into the desert that it is today.

    So, it would seem that the self-interest of those who would wish to preserve the life-style we have today, or at least, prevent the further erosion of what remains of South East Queensland’s once relatively pleasant and harmonious lifestyle also coincides with our long-term sustainability.

    If we don’t stop growing our numbers, then we face the serious risk that our ecology will also collapse and that our numbers may well also collapse catastrophically when we find we have insufficient water, fertile soil and other natural resources necessary to sustain us.

    In conrast, the naked rapaciously greedy self-interest of those who would crowd ever more numbers into this region, that I referred to in my earlier post in this discussion, just so that they can prosper in the short term from their Ponzi scheme while the resut of us are driven further into poverty is completely contrary to our long term sustainability.

    Also, Luke Brown’s arguments about the supposed economic efficiencies of scale of crowding more people into a region are self-evident clap-trap.

    Even if some efficiences are possible, what use are such efficiencies if their are less natural resoruces per head of population to which they can be applied?

    Furhermore, what economies of scale may be possible would be entirely dwarfed by the obvious diseconomies of scale that we see after the optimum population has been exceed which it clearly has been in our region.

    The diseconomies of scle occur, because at a certain point, the necessary complexity of providing services for additional people actual increases the cost per capita.

    The other cause of diseconomies of scale is the necessity to destroy infrastructure that would have been perfectly adequate for an existing population in order to build the necessary infrastucture for a larger population.

    Another aspect of that destruction is the destruction of communities all over Bribane that are required to build new roads, bridges and tunnels.

    This is why all our living expenses — elecricity, water and gas charges, coucil rates, toll road charges, parking fees, parking fines, traffic infringement fines, car registration, food prices, etc. are going through the roof.

    If the economy-of-scale argument had any validity, we would surely all be paying less for all of these services, rather than more.

    The fact that Bligh herself justifies the $15 billion asset fire sale on the grounds that it is necessary in order to pay for the increased population is surely evidence that population growth is unsustaintable.

  68. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 9th, 2010 at 07:50 | #68

    The notion that our population can not grow due to constraints on resources makes no sense. Places like Sydney are not self reliant on food and import the stuff from outside. If that outside is across the water instead of across the land it matters little. In order to feed it’s population Britian has been dependent of food imports for over a century. Australia does not need a large amount of resources to handle a larger population. However it does have a large amount of resources.

    In terms of providing drinking water coastal regions should have little problem so long as governments are willing to permit desalination plants. And even without that we can do a better job of harvesting storm water.

  69. JIM
    April 9th, 2010 at 07:59 | #69

    @daggett

    Daggett you raise a good point about the Ponzi scheme appraoch to development that the Bligh government and the Beattie government have supported. It appears that when your ALP membership card gets the stamp on it for you to become a parliamentarian, it includes a free membership to become a property developer. There seems to be a huge number of ex-Ministers with interests in basic subdivision based property development.

    The issue, I beleive isn;t that the population growth that is occuring is a bad thing. Rather, it is the approach that is being applied to the management of the growth. The appraoch in SEQ has been and continues to be for an increaseing % of jobs to be focussed in the CBD. In part this reflects a market preference for proximity, but it also reflects a lack of foresight on behalf of government to spread the economic activity. There are a number of potential methods that could be used for this spreading, and a node based approach is likely to offer a better outcome than a completely distributed approach. Many studies have identified thise sort of node based approach to economic activity, if properly managed provides a significantly more efficient environment within which services can be delivered. IN effect a properly laid out city, and region would decrease costs of healthcare, social services, education and most importantly would significantly reduce the undeliverable infrastructure plan. You need to balance both expectations and deliverables, you cant let everyone picj their preferred houseblock size and then just try and retrofit infrastructure to support it. A more sensible approach is to provide good quality options (some low density, some high density, not much medium density as it tends to be a cop-out) and have a sensible discussion with the population about the balanced approach and the significant benefits it brings.

    Edward de Bono states that you can analyse the past but you have to design the future. With population growth management, or lack thereof, and with immigration I see governments with a distinct lack of design for the future. An incremental approach to these issues isn;t acceptable.

  70. JIM
    April 9th, 2010 at 08:08 | #70

    @daggett

    daggett :Luke Elford wrote:

    This is why all our living expenses — elecricity, water and gas charges, coucil rates, toll road charges, parking fees, parking fines, traffic infringement fines, car registration, food prices, etc. are going through the roof.
    If the economy-of-scale argument had any validity, we would surely all be paying less for all of these services, rather than more.

    Not quite. The reason these prices are going up is the incompetence of this government.

    There are many examples of cities much larger than Brisbane with less remaining resources that operate very successfully. For economies of scale to drive improved services there needs to be a government in place who has the ability to comprehend that they have the ability to fundamentally change the order of things. Having worked in and for government for many years, the concept of efficiency or effectiveness is seldom seen and never acted on. Rather most activities of government are more focussed on self preservation and internal politics.

  71. Ernestine Gross
    April 9th, 2010 at 08:14 | #71

    Michael :

    Ernestine Gross :@Luke Elford “I completely agree with you about the NIMBY vibe that surrounds the debate about immigration. The whole thing is a kind of NIMBYism writ large. ”And the above statement is an attempt to change people’s preferences by means of social pressure involving silly labels such as NIMBYism.

    Zoning laws drafted to protect the interests of existing residents and spurious admonishments about “changing the character of the neighbourhood” are also attempts to restrict people’s ability to “reveal” their preferences by disallowing removing or restricting alternatives. If you look at some local by-laws you will find that houses that predate the rules would often not pass the new rules brought into “protect” the character of the neighbourhood. People have a right to try and protect their assets and lifestyle up to a point, they don’t in my opinion have a right to naked hypocrisy. The end of history “preference for sprawl” is a shonky simple-minded argument manufactured by paid up intellectual mouthpieces for developers seeking to push urban growth boundaries.

    I am not sure what the argument is to which you reply, but I do know it is not my point.

  72. Chris Warren
    April 9th, 2010 at 08:37 | #72

    @Michael

    OK if you want to try to call people simple minded – here is a simple test for you.

    Where did I mention low quality, low income UK “housing solutions”? This is a figment of your imagination.

    The UK developed flats as a good quality, economically efficient, architect designed, policy including new towns. The rejection of this lifestyle, when other alternatives emerged, led to them being occupied disproportionately by a few social strata, who could not access the same preferences.

    Another test to find the simple minded. Where did I say I haven’t experienced it?

    For your information I have lived on farms, in suburbia, flats and colleges, in Canberra, Sydney and London.

    I have owned flats in Canberra and Sydney and I currently own a double brick flat in a housing estate in London at Elephant and Castle and, as I have its Home Information Pack and environmental report I can attest to its quality.

    So unfortunately it is Michael who is simple minded, sprouting nonsense from his own biased imagination.

    The face at the bottom of the well is his own.

  73. Michael
    April 9th, 2010 at 09:08 | #73

    @Ernestine Gross
    I was responding to you calling NIMBYism a silly label. It’s not, it’s an accurate descriptor of a lot of people’s motivations for being against changes in the urban landscape such as increasing density. Do you reject that notion? It’s a perfectly understandable behaviour but one that governments need to temper for the wider benefit of society.

    It seems to me your paragraphs 1 to 4 reflect the preferences of Australians. From an economist’s point of view in the mainstream tradition, these preferences are relevant and not those in say people in Hong Kong.

    Maybe I read too much into your statement. If what you are saying is that Chris Warren’s views on child rearing in quarter acre blocks “reflect the preferences of Australians” then I (as a non-economist) would reject that as simplistic. There are many factors that influence the houses people buy and live in. Few people really get to build their own homes in a location where services suit them or their jobs might be. There are also a lot of cultural and technological factors in the development of the urban landscape, cheap oil being one of them. In other words much of the current urban landscape represents a culmination of all these factors rather than a simple revealed preference. Are you familar with Wendell Cox’s arguments in support of sprawl?
    What are your views on population? Maybe you fleshed them out on another thread?

  74. Michael
    April 9th, 2010 at 09:24 | #74

    Chris Warren :
    Where did I mention low quality, low income UK “housing solutions”? This is a figment of your imagination.

    You implied it here.

    You cannot really bring up kids in high-rise flats. London housing estates have led to huge feelings of disadvantage and social alienation.

    They might have started out with good intentions but in reality they were failed social engineering experiments. You are conflating poor town planning, social issues with high rise housing, by drawing from your limited experience.

    Another test to find the simple minded. Where did I say I haven’t experienced it?
    For your information I have lived on farms, in suburbia, flats and colleges, in Canberra, Sydney and London.

    All within similar “Anglo” cultures so your experience of high density is limited to were it’s demonstrably failed.

  75. Chris Warren
    April 9th, 2010 at 10:04 | #75

    Michael

    Stop wasting time. Your first point is wrong – there was no implication. You created this.

    Your second point has no content – How is my experience limited? You do not know what my experience is. Can you tell me what my experience has been?

    If you had passed your test of simple mindedness, you would not be trolling like this.

    Now you want to rant and rave about “Anglo” culture as if this was even relevant or appropriate.

    You simply do not have the ability to control concepts without inventing “implications” (and then barking at your own implications).

    Every post you make only takes you further into the quicksand.

  76. E.M.H
    April 9th, 2010 at 10:32 | #76

    A white australia policy would solve all problems – more productive workforce, lower crime rate, fewer people on welfare and probably a lower natural population growth rate.

  77. Chris Warren
    April 9th, 2010 at 10:48 | #77

    Michael
    @Ernestine Gross

    Maybe I read too much into your statement. If what you are saying is that Chris Warren’s views on child rearing in quarter acre blocks

    This post should be ignored. This person is continuing to misrepresent views for no good purpose.

    I never mentioned quarter acre blocks.

    What is a desirable “socio-spatial” standard, for humans to live their lives in quiet enjoyment (a legal right), depends on many factors.

    Aborigines lived in family groups separated by 20 paces, and in tribes separated by 20 miles.

    When they were compressed into missions, many died, 100% in the case of Tasmania.

  78. April 9th, 2010 at 10:49 | #78

    PrQ, I draw your attention to EMH’s explicitly racist proposal. Not apt here.

    @E.M.H

  79. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 9th, 2010 at 10:56 | #79

    EMH – An immigration policy that only let in Japanese people might arguably achieve even better results. Assuming the metrics you apply are the only ones that matter. However I don’t favour a race based immigration policy. Even if in Japan they do.

  80. Chris Warren
    April 9th, 2010 at 10:57 | #80

    E.M.H :
    A white australia policy would solve all problems

    No, no, no

    The descendants of Charles Perkins and Kevin Gilbert etc would probably say

    A black Australia would solve all the problems.

    However I would say you only need a stable Australia irrespective of differences of identity.

  81. Ernestine Gross
    April 9th, 2010 at 11:00 | #81

    @Michael

    Michael: “I was responding to you calling NIMBYism a silly label. It’s not, it’s an accurate descriptor of a lot of people’s motivations for being against changes in the urban landscape such as increasing density. Do you reject that notion? It’s a perfectly understandable behaviour but one that governments need to temper for the wider benefit of society.”

    EG: You are entitled to your opinions but so am I. I said already that NIMBYism is a silly label. It is surprising that the silliness is not obvious to anybody in a non-dictatorial society because: If agent y can do something in agent x’s backyard then the effective ownership of the backyard shifts from x to y. There are many examples where corporate interest groups have used the silly label NIBYism to achieve a costless transfer of ownership. If you wish to have a suitable application for the term NIMBYism then I suggest you attach it to those CEOs who during the past decade or more argued for wage restraint for everybody except themselves. Get the point?

    Michael: “Maybe I read to much into your statement….”

    EG: Yes you did.

    Michael: “What are your views on population?”

    EG: The discussions on this thread have brought out several points which indicate to me that having ‘views on population’ is a silly idea to begin with.

  82. April 9th, 2010 at 12:10 | #82

    JIM,

    The issue of whether regional areas could sustain larger populations should be explored. However, …

    1. We should not continue to expand our population until it is proven that those regions can;

    2. Even if they can, it would surely be appropriate to first use that capacity to relieve the acute problems created in the major urban regions by the successive Hawke, Keating, Howard and Rudd Governments before we even consider expanding our population further; and

    3. Until we see evidence to the contrary, I see no reason to assume that any alternative Government likely to be elected can do any better than the sorry record to date of the successive Beattie and Bligh Governments.

    Some degree of decentralisation would make sense and I suspect that it hasn’t been pursued further since the middle of last century because it suited the property lobby that it was not.

    It seems more likely to me that the newly rediscovered fad for decentralisation is just a ploy to divert our attention from the critical question of population growth and we can expect that when (and if) the furore is behind us, it will be quickly forgotten.

  83. Sam
    April 9th, 2010 at 14:23 | #83

    Everyone has focused on immigration. Can we at least agree that the baby bonus is bad policy? It’s very expensive, and is making Australia’s environment worse by increasing the number of people.
    We shouldn’t care about the aging of the population because;
    a) Creating a baby boom now is just making another problem further into the future, and
    b) It’s not a problem anyway, because
    i) Old people are much more productive than official accounts suggest,
    ii) Children are much more dependent than official accounts suggest and,
    iii) Decreasing the working age population has positive benefits, such as reducing unemployment, which (because of it’s emotional effects) we should value much more than long run growth.

    TerjeP, since to spend is to tax I think you should be against this totally counterproductive distortion of people’s natural behaviour.

  84. paul walter
    April 9th, 2010 at 14:58 | #84

    Nice to see my ol’ mate Dagget back. Glad to see some here want to put the horse before the cart, neoliberlism on the one hand and racism on theother, have no place in a conversation of this sort, what’s wanted is accurate modelling, then interpretation, rather than the half cocked approach to”development” proposed by the corrupted Labor Right and Tories (same thing?).

  85. Chris Warren
    April 9th, 2010 at 17:21 | #85

    paul walter :
    what’s wanted is accurate modelling, then interpretation,

    Oh dear, o dear; this is an old cry.

    Remember the ABS’s doomed approach at a “Composite Indicator”? This approach to economics will never work.

    A key problem is that noone has found a way to predict exchange rates.

    And there seems no way to predict debt trends.

    And there is no agreement about how capitalism operates. Some p/g students once created a physical fluid model of a Keynesian, but it too failed – good for tutes, bad for life.

    Models tend to have 50% accuracy in predicting outcomes within 2 quarters, provided you don’t require them to predict turning points.

    Other models that are more accurate are based on a pipeline effect – eg if you know the changes in university commencements – you can predict next months enrolments.

    OECD has a Composite Indicator, which predicts growth but only too short a timeframe to serve any policy purpose at all.

    Has anyone produced, even a scheme for a model of a capitalist economy that explains permanent per capita debt increase and that can achieve a steady state without decreasing wages, adding to the population, or importing economic benefit from outside?

    I would be very interested in reviewing any such literature.

  86. gregh
    April 9th, 2010 at 19:36 | #86

    @Ernestine Gross
    I agree re the silliness of ‘nimby’ – it is essentially a label given to justify a ‘lite’ form of colonisation.

  87. paul walter
    April 9th, 2010 at 20:04 | #87

    Yes, Chris Warren- you get it exactly.
    Rudd’s propositions are likely cock and bull and no time to show, as against a basket of indicators, whether the ecological and economic sustainability of the place and its latest “plan” is finally tipped, or not (WE already know the answer ; think CRS, Murray Darling, run down infrastructure, privatisations etc, inherited from the last generation), until AFTER it’s too late.
    The one thing they WONT offer for their harebrained schemes is any meaningful mechanism that gets the People out of the crap they will find themselves put in by the neolibs, who will have long since scarpered with their money-crammed brown paper bags, or whatever the modern equivalent is.

  88. April 11th, 2010 at 09:37 | #88

    Thank you for that nice welcome back, Paul Walter.

    You are also welcome, as is anyone else here, to post your thoughts on population growth to any of the articles on our web-site concerning population growth.

  89. April 11th, 2010 at 15:26 | #89

    Here’s yet another online poll which has come out overwhelmingly against population growth. The Age Online poll question was:

    Population-wise, is a bigger Australia a better Australia?

    4979 responded and 69% voted against while only 31% voted for (and if there was not so much propaganda in favour of population growth the results would, no doubt, be even more overwhelming).

    No doubt Rudd intends to continue in the fine tradition of Bob Hawke of “imposing elite as opposed to majority views” on immigration even though neither he nor any other population growth advocates have been able to put a case in favour of population growht other than to satiate their own greed.

    For my part I consider this unacceptable in supposed democracy.

  90. paul walter
    April 11th, 2010 at 17:28 | #90

    Daggett, I thought a couple of articles in the SMH, one by Peter Hartcher in particular, added background to the issue, following from another report observing that there significant omissions; accidental or even deliberate lack of data from Treasury’s latest population growth stats and projections somehow withheld from its report.
    Refugees are a different topic; sadly they have been drawn into the latest imbroglio and will remain where they are whilst the political parties contests for the priceless political prize of “authenticity “.
    I suspect Labor turned the tables on Abbott last week, a little reminiscint of the way Howard did to Beazley in the wake of “Tampa”.
    Abbot at least will quite approrpriately, wear the same approbrium as Rudd from now on, and that’s an improvement for Labor and a fair one.
    You’d like to think that one more devastating defeat would finish off the right of the Liberal party and that then Labor could finally be free to render a more civilised policy than the current one, starting with those “poor sods” who have been stranded at Merak.
    But it is likely that Labor has finally got its message across, re Abbott’s obstructionism, and without emotive issues to run with, his election push will finally fizzle and the Liberals, after their upcoming election defeat, can at least at last get rid of their discredited right, who undermined the reforming likes of Turnbull so pyrrhically, keeping it in the denialist Dark Ages.

  91. April 11th, 2010 at 18:47 | #91

    @daggett

    Suppose that they didn’t agree that “a bigger Australia” was “better” (terms too vague to say) but that a bigger Australia was feasible i.e. we could manage.

    It’s all how you interpret the question. I’d have no strong opinion on whether it was “better” but I think it might be inevitable if one is a humanitarian and a beleiver in non-coercive public policy.

    Trying to keep a “small Australia” or working for “a declining Australia” might turn out worse.

    Perhaps someone should have asked: “Do you think a declining Australia would be better?” or “Do you think a laager Australia would be better?”

    Push polling anyone?

  92. April 11th, 2010 at 19:46 | #92

    Paul Walter,

    The boat people/refugee issue is a a vexed question.

    I favour a more humanitarian treatment of all arrivals, but the bottom line is we have to have a system that works and is fair to all and is within the capacity of the Australian community to support.

    If we cut back economic immigration, then our capacity to accept refugees could be significantly increased,. but even then we would more than likely be far from able to accept everyone in the world who would like to come to Australia, even if they had good grounds to fear at least persecution, torture or death.

    Ultimately we have to aim to help people in those regions to solve their problems, whether political, or simply problems of poverty driven by there being too many numbers.

    The approach of many refugee activists seems to imply that there is only one conceivable way Australia can and should offer help to people in the world suffering hardship, that is, to offer them residence here.

    I fear that if we don’t have a rational discussion on this issue, we could find ourselves again in the circumsntances we found ourselves in through much of the last decade where most refugee activism actually seemed to help John Howard retain power. This helped make possible the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which have made the plight of those people even worse.

    This is because the reasonable objections of people who understandably feared that perceived leniency towards boat people could encourage much larger numbers of people to try to reach our shores by boat. This is certainly the experience of Southern Europe for example. I recall a few weeks ago David Marr was dismissive in precisely that way. And while people became wound up by the relatively small numbers of boat arrivals, Howard ramped up economic migration to record levels, a fact that few, if any, refugee activists attempted to draw our attention to.

  93. April 11th, 2010 at 20:06 | #93

    Fran Barlowe,

    Although most population stability activists disgree with me, I don’t entirely preclude the possibility that Australia could sustainably support a larger population (although I think it unlikely).

    This just might be possible if:

    1. We fix up the Murray Darling Basin;

    2. We thorough fix up our land by applying systmeatically with Peter Andrews’ Natural Sequence Farming ideas.

    3. We take urban planning out of the hands of land speculators and property developers and put it back in the hands of the community through their elected local state and federal governments.

    4, We stop woodchipping old growth forests.

    5. We accept lifestyles in which we all make do with consume less material resources.

    6. Ditch the baggage of economic neo-liberal ideology and allow

    7. Etc.

    To allow our population to further increase with property developers, land speculators, mining companies, banks etc. still exercising their insidious control over our destiny is a sure-fire recipe for evironmental, economic and social calamity.

    I think if we adopted all the policies I advocate, we may still find that we only have just enough to support the current population.

    Whether or not the evidence shows that this country can sustainably support more, the same or a smaller population, any decision to increase the population should be for the people to decide.

  94. paul walter
    April 11th, 2010 at 20:10 | #94

    Daggett, good try.
    Whether you get a sensibleand honest response from some of them, or not, I dont know.

  95. April 11th, 2010 at 20:23 | #95

    Apologies, in my second last post, I should have linked back to Paul Walter’s post.

    The first sentence in the last paragraph should have read:

    This is because the reasonable objections of people, who understandably feared that perceived leniency towards boat people could encourage much larger numbers of people to try to reach our shores by boat, is dismissed.

    Apologies for the broken link back to Fran Barlowe’s post in my last post.

    BTW, I am still waiting for someone to provide an economic defence of immigration.

    Can I take it, therefore, that everyone here concedes that the economic justifications are complete nonsense?

  96. Ernestine Gross
    April 11th, 2010 at 20:52 | #96

    daggett, what do you mean by “an economic defence of immigration”?

  97. paul walter
    April 11th, 2010 at 21:35 | #97

    Ernestine, surely Daggett means”an economic defence of immigration”he means “a boost to population “that is not economically and/or ecologically sustainable?
    After all we’ve just spent the last two years debating whether or not world civilization is going to collapse through ecological problems culminating in the global warming disaster, that make even current populations problematic.
    All of a sudden we hear that an inquiry into population growth, apparently employing dumbed down figures, tells us that the population growth projected is now completely different and more rapid than now even to what it was just a few years back.
    Why shouldn’t I ponder the presence of a religious excess, for example, to do with their (Rudd Abbot, Conroy,etc) odd fertlity cult, advocating rapid population growth for mythic delusionary reasons rather than equitable constructive economic ones?
    How can I be sure that this alliance of Ruddists and property developers is going to offer me or my fellow “norms”anything for the future after their misappropriations have finished. Any guarantees involving firm money (hyperbole alert!).
    If rapid population growth is the new future for Australia, replacing neoliberal “reform” as the dogma of choice, why are they fudging the figures.
    OKlLets just presume they are fudging?
    If rapid population growth economics is such a marvel, you’d think they’d have every piece of economic data they could find at their finger tips.
    It must have been a different thread where I read Ernestine discussing this in depth and in a thrust more sympatico to Daggetts sentiments?
    Hey, Ernestine, I seem to remember you claiming a little expertise here at economics, a while back.
    Perhaps you could give us your impressions of what rapid population growth would mean, given current circumstances and (im)ponderables involving global warming, Murray Darling, defoliation/soil degradation, etc.
    These can be measures on some sort of realistic projection of these as seperate and incorporated projections for future growth, resource use , productivity, etc? eg, more than expected increase in global warming, unforseen circumstances (massive quake inLA or Tokyo, a war), complete with graphs /numbers, etc?
    I feel Daggett is just worrying that in to trying to do the rightthing we dont go to the stage of actually sinking thelifeboat rather than merely filling it.

  98. Ernestine Gross
    April 11th, 2010 at 22:40 | #98

    Paul, the question asked by daggett is too vague, IMO, to reply. As for population growth globally, its pretty obvious that resources (marketable and non-marketable) are finite and therefore there is an upper bound on total population. But don’t ask me for the numerical value of this upper bound because I don’t know it and I don’t believe it can be calculated; possible scenarios is about the best one can achieve. Moreover, and this is what I have argued on many occasions, economics intersects with natural science and with philosophy. The latter influences the institutional environment of ‘an economy’ and knowledge from the former is essential to empirically study questions of resource feasibility. The ‘global economy’ is a complex organisation – much more complex than international trade models reflect – not least because of differences in the philosophical base of various countries, call it culture if you like. The extent of uneven development in the so-called ‘global economy’ complicates matters further. For example, to what extent is uneven development, as conceived by economists from Europe-US-Australia, a problem in the eyes of economists in some other parts of the world. I am trying to say, not very successfully, that it seems to me to be a pretty hopeless endeavour to on the one hand acknowledge histories of cultural and real resource differences among countries and regions and, on the other hand, pretend they don’t exist. Hence I would not volunteer to offer an opinion from the comfort of my armchair in a leafy North Shore suburb. At present and, IMO, foreseeable future, big topics like sustainable global development need to be addressed via inter- and intra governmental bodies who can draw on interdisciplinary research organisations and free exchange of academic research globally. This is not to suggest that broad public debate from a local perspective is not important for policy formation.

  99. paul walter
    April 11th, 2010 at 22:54 | #99

    Thank you,
    Ernestine. It’s releif to get a straight and informative reply and the answer is a bit more honest than some have been offered, from some who arguably have had far more obligation to be so.

  100. paul walter
    April 11th, 2010 at 23:01 | #100

    However.
    You’d agree that it would be an improvemt if we did not have too many “secret ” negotiations without a proper chanel of comunication with the public.
    Eg Afghanistan.
    AUSFTA is a good example, too.
    I know very few people who are “over” the guts of it.
    Then there are the local versions involving infrastructure, where pertinent information is witheld under the nakedly unscrupulous COI ( commercial in confidence) rules, and interferences in Freedom of information laws.

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