Population piece in latest edition of Overland

Overland magazine has been going since 1954, and is one of the few remaining independent literary and cultural journals left in Australia.  I have a piece published in their most recent edition (issue #201) on the topic of population and the so-called ‘Big Australia’ debate.  Actually, it is sort of two pieces – both myself and Assoc Prof Mark Diesendorf were asked to provide a progressive perspective on the population issue from a progressive perspective. He advocated a low migration/population perspective, and I took a pro-migration perspective – and we then wrote responses to each other’s original piece.

The articles aren’t online – I will post them here sometime down the track, but I will leave it a while to encourage people to seek out the hardcopy of the full magazine (plus my second piece makes much more sense if you read it in conjunction with Mark Diesendorf’s comments).

UPDATE: The pieces by myself and Mark Diesendorf and myself are now online at this link.

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  1. It’s difficult to get any exact transcript, pity you can’t add one.
    I presume you adopt a position similar to the James Arvantakis perspective article in New Matilda, Deisendorf comes up with something akin to the commenter “Jazzmaster George”, in the NM comments section as to Arvanitakis’article?
    Lots of talking at cross-purposes,as usually occurs withthis topic, one presumes.

  2. I’ll post my original article here in a week or so Paul.

    I feel that as Overland is an independent publication trying to maintain its viability and essential essence in a less than hospitable environment, I thought I would leave it a week or so to give time for people to buy a copy should they wish. (There are plenty of other good articles, commentary and poetry in there as usual of course)

  3. I’m guessing that Diesendorf is a local (national) thinker, while you are a global thinker, Andrew.

    Using Diesendorf’s basic idea, Australia’s population would probably decrease over time without much migration, while global populations continued down the path to gross overcrowding.

    I’m not sure why the western world cannot just send box loads of contraceptive pills and prophylactics to moderate population growth in the developing world.

  4. Much of what Lorikeet says here I can sympathise with.
    But that’s been the history of contraception, particularly the Pill ( which was originally designed with poorer populations in mind ); the interference of old hard core religious patriarch types and politicians like George W Bush, when attempts at developing and implementing family planning programs for poorer locales have been attempted.

  5. Paul:

    Yes, but we still need to weigh that up against the incredible damage the misuse of the contraceptive pill has done to our society, in particular the undermining of the Age Pyramid.

    With fewer children has come more disposable household income, more selfishness and greed, and an enormous opportunity for the banks to feed not only on credit card debt, but on people’s life savings in the form of superannuation funds.

    The contraceptive pill came into use in Australia in 1961. Let us imagine the first people who used it were 18 years old. When the same people reached the age of 65, international banks thieved 20-40% of their life savings through Hedge Funds and Ponzi Schemes, so they couldn’t retire.

    Now that Everald Compton (80 years old) has resigned as Chairman of the National Seniors of Australia, he is working in a government role to get the over-50s out to work. He supports voluntary euthanasia and also people “choosing to work until the day they die”.

    I am expecting Julia Gillard to drop a bombshell regarding employment in the New Year. Those who cannot find work will probably be given to corporate bodies to work as volunteers.

    In the future, I think older people will be forced to work in voluntary roles, completely negating any superannuation income they might be receiving.

    At the National Press Club last week, health professionals certainly seemed to support an “operate, medicate and mobilise older people into the workforce” agenda.

  6. I don’t doubt there is something in what you say, Lorikeet.
    Alvin Toffler wrote “Future Shock” back in the seventies, examining our inability to adjust to increasingly rapid (and often deliberately opaque) change.
    I was just thinking of a teev doc I saw years ago, which indicated that the bloke who originally invented the Pill, in the fifties, was inspired to develop the contraceptive pill out of concern for the ghetto poor he’d seen in slums in Latin America, rather than for middle class people in the West, but then the marketing folk and of course people seeking a quick solution to family planning issues here, took it up enthusiastically instead, as you often would.
    That’s all I was trying to say, but I understand what you’re saying in general.
    The precondition for life seems to be uncertainty, then we look back with twenty twenty, in hindsight. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and the best laid plans of mice and people will go awry, on the smallest of errors, but I still beleive the pill could have been a breakthrough for the poor, had people in authority showed even a skerrick of imagination in thinking out and then carefully implementing a plan for the poor, who could hardly afford a dozen kids living in a slum, when they could barely feed themselves.
    Of course our problem is different, we are the opposite extreme, drowning in comodity fetishism and consumerism, we only replaced one problem with an other, but hopefully w e have not reached the “end of history” whereby our “forgetting” of sustaining things like neighborhoods, families, friends, nature and literacy becomes permanent, or that for the vast majority of earths people even the blessings of family and community may not be effective in mitigating the disaster it would be for many, of having a huge family in a poverty stricken village, refugee camp or slum somewhere.

  7. Paul:

    Yes, that’s true and very interesting indeed.

    Last year I was discussing the misuse of the contraceptive pill with an elderly woman who was a practising Catholic.

    She said before the pill became available, when Catholic women had given birth to several children, they had to either close their legs and risk having their husbands seek sex outside of the marriage, or have a hysterectomy.

    She thought the optimum plan would be for women with 3 or 4 children to be given access to the contraceptive pill. This certainly would have helped to prevent the baby boom/bust scenario & damage to the Age Pyramid.

    Instead, ever since the pill was made available to girls as young as 14, people have gone about screwing everyone, with a gross reluctance to get married and form a family unit, together with a rise in STIs.

    Social values have sunk so low that men feel free to desert pregnant women, creating a financial burden to the community and numerous interactive social problems including drug use, domestic violence and crime.

    People don’t have time for family, community or friends because they are now also being abused by employers and working far more hours than they ever get paid for. The real value of wages has also been shrinking with household bills increasing, largely due to corporatisation.

    This seems to have commenced in the 1970s when women were encouraged to go back to work because they had fewer children. This created a glut of employees. Not long after, compulsory unionism was abolished, and we saw the rise of “Me Syndrome”.

    Luckily people are starting to get back to the unions to really crack heads with corporate bosses.

    When we’re looking at the developing world, the situation with contraception is quite different. Unless people receive good access to food, clean water, medical attention and housing, their children will keep dying.

    I suggest everyone studies up on legalism, various forms of social engineering and manipulation of the masses.

  8. What about this? How do we know that the contraceptive pill was not deliberately “commissioned” by a bank to rip everyone off?

  9. just stopped buy to see how it was going and liked what i have read here buy paul and lorikeet .
    good comment s and to me in a strange way seem to make sence .

  10. During World War II, though not in a perfect way, the need to support working women left with children to care for but with an urgent need being trumpeted for muitions and labour force replacement, creches were started/augmented and other measures were taken to support women as if their needs were important to the nation . My mother tells me that when so many had ice-boxes, for example, the ice delivery times were altered where she lived so that the ice didn’t melt in summer waiting for working women ot get home. It was seen as important, and it was done.

    You can tell a nation’s priorities by how it treats the helpless – Aboriginal people’s death rates, amd morbidity rates, the way we treat asylum seekers, the way we treat chldren and old folk. If we really did think they were people whose well-being and dignity mattered, we’d do alot of things differently, while certain millionaires from Western Australia, for example, would lead much different lifestyles – perhaps they’d be put to work painting the homes of old folk.

  11. Yes, Togret and rest give a good thumbnail of what we have lost, despite better times materially. A sense of commonality and purpose instigated by an emergency and the resulting sense of community, held till the sixties and seventies and we were rightly proud.
    But somewhere, sometime, people did lose sight of other people and lose compassion. In fact we are now so far seperated from the experiences of previous generations that lived through wars and real economic recessions, let alone third world people still living through emergencies, that we no longer capable of understanding others experiences through reference to our own.
    That seems a sort of blindness and you know what can happen to blind people, particulalry when crossing the road.
    Lorikeet, it is unlikely that the Pill was a bank plot. That would have been counterproductive, since you need a whole new generation of rubes to fuel the next housing bubble,so the banks can foreclose afterwards.

  12. Andrew, thanks for the link. The debate was certainly interesting, with good points being made on both sides.

    To my knowledge, we have been locked into a worldwide redistribution of populations and wealth ever since Whitlam signed the Lima Declaration in 1975.

    This can be seen in our burgeoning foreign debt, along with downgraded education, hospital and aged care systems, reduced value of wages, increases in homelessness, high cost of housing and utilities and huge immigration programs.

    I think a good point is made about increasing taxation to provide for our ageing population, but more savings could be made by limiting government wastage and cutting out Middle Class Welfare.

    Increases in skilled migration would seem to coincide with the downgrading of student performance using poor behaviour management strategies and inadequate curricula, particularly in Maths and Science.

    Profits of the order of $46 billion per annum achieved by educating foreign students who are also migrants has also NOT resulted in the provision of federal funding for our own university students.

    When governments spread out the people across the world, they must also be spreading out pollution.

    At the meeting in Cancun, Mexico, some people were advocating the exemption of third world countries from a Carbon Trading Scheme.
    I believe this would send even more industries out of the developed world, creating high unemployment, while inflicting even higher levels of pollution on the third world.

    I believe a Carbon Trading Scheme would crush all Australians like (financial) cockroaches, and kill a large percentage of the third world with pollution-related diseases and damage to crops, with banks being the primary beneficiaries.

    I don’t think anyone needs to live in a huge mansion or become a multi-billionaire. I would like to see our government control the banks, reduce foreign debt, hit the super-rich with a Wealth Tax, and gradually increase foreign aid.

  13. The last part of that is actually quite shrewd- you can guess the sort of slyness and double dealing going on behind closed doors with decisons made for the wrong reasons, during trade negotiations at places like Can cun.
    Wikileaks sure put a cat amongst the pigeons

  14. I can see having read both sets of coments, that this in-house discussion still has some way to go before much is resolved. Much of it is to do with false dichotomies.
    Development population and enviro are made more oppositional than they need to be, by both debaters.
    For my part the jury is still out.
    We need more from Andrew’s side as to how the projected process will work and what guarantees and safe guards can be built in the system to prevent it becoming another neolib excuse for inequitous” growth at any cost”, thru use of cheap labor to unionbust and drive down conditions for the public, while the developers and bankers get fat?
    Planning, that’s the answer!
    So that costs (if any) are not fobbed off on the wide population
    I say this on a day with two major news items.
    Firstly, the latest refugee disaster. I won’t say more, apart from saying I found some barbaric comments at tabloid newspaper sites celebrating this dreadful event intolerable beyond forebearance.
    The other is the sad sick, sly and duplicitous privatisation of NSW electricity by Kenneally.
    Once again, how can we trust the assurances of governments as to guarantees involved in future devolopment, when neolib boosters sell off the means of securing increased refugee and migrant numbers, a social wage and conditions, with amenities in place; a sort of social contract, which is then ripped up, the moment politicians and developers smell a buck?
    If people already here are not left secure, how do Andrew Bartlett and others ever expect to be able to sell high(er) pop, when the bosses keeep changing the goalposts?

  15. It seems to me that no one ever takes into account the tyranny of distance that adds to Australia’s per capita consumption of fossil fuels.

    I don’t believe that Australia can yet sustain a population of 100 million. I have seen 2 people from the CSIRO appear separately on “Landline” and at the National Press Club who say we can only grow enough food to feed 60 million. The CEO of the CSIRO said the government’s future plan is to export most of the food.

    This would appear to concur with some politicians’ claims that we are becoming a net importer of food, which would have unnecessary negative impacts on the environment and possibly increase foreign debt, as the population continues to grow.

    I think we should certainly regionalise populations away from the green coastal strips, using infrastructure development, and water grids which redistribute rainfall from the northern parts of Australia. This would improve our population carrying capacity, facilitate the growing of more food and redistribute and even out environmental impacts.

    To ignore over-population in the developing world would also be to increase the threat of war to gain more territories.

    I think Diesendorf also ignores the fact that net migration is only half gross migration numbers, after those leaving Australia each year are taken into account.

    I think affluence is certainly the primary driver of excessive consumption and pollution.

    Diesendorf said that both major parties are concerned about the threat of refugees, but I think this is mainly to kiss up to a largely racist electorate.

    One can only guess as to why the latest arrival of boat people resulted in so many drownings. I think we have to question whether the government deliberately allowed the people to die in order:

    (a) to discourage further boat arrivals; or

    (b) to seek the agreement of Australian voters to pick up asylum seekers by much safer and more direct means.

    Either way, allowing people to drown is completely unethical.

  16. Diesendorf also cites the Roman Catholic Church as a driver of population increases. I think most people have few children now due to political indoctrination, increasing living costs, and an economy geared to a 2 income household.

    Those with large numbers of children are most likely to be found at the extremes of both poverty and wealth, with poor communities winning the race overall.

    I think it is true that Aboriginal Land Rights could be seen as a type of racism, which is probably accurate for ANY group of people who are given specific rights that are not applicable to everyone else.

    This is not to say that I think they should be banned from living on Cape York, if it is their natural home.

  17. well its in the news againe and all the b.s starts to fly around once more buy people who know nothing . the opisition blames the govt the govt trys to dlame anyone it can the do gooders and bleeding harts start to cry and every one has and uninformed opinion .
    now i will tell you howcome i get info from there i looked at the photos in the paper yesterday and saw my son and his mates risking the own lives trying to rescue asylim seekers and watching from only metres away as they drown and not being able to get them out .nice thing to have on your mind that they will never forget or get over .
    so mabe we should all spare a thought for some of the locals who risked there own lives to try and save a few ppl who should not have been there in the first place .

    merry christmas .

  18. well what next we had a little protest just after getting dragged from the ocean by local heros who risked there own lives because the air con broke down !!!!!!!!!!!!
    my boys unit dosent have air con and the roof is leaking .
    whats that i here from you lot silense well thats to be expected isnt it
    as i sead in another comment the boats these fools are going to sea in you would not cross the brisbane river in on a good day so why are we surprised . this or worse will happen againe .as i predicted a few weeks ago in this blog

    this b.s has to be sorted out by our stupid govt before it becomes a bigger industry than it is now..

    the word is that there is not just a few waiting to take a risk iv herd there is about 70.000 so just how many will be lost and just when will some one trying to rescue them loose there lives.

  19. Red Crab:

    Yes, I’m sure it would have been a very devastating experience for your son and his mates, which would take quite some time to come to terms with.

    I saw a man on TV who said he has been stuck in a refugee camp in Indonesia for years, but the people with the money are getting out by boat after only a week.

    Can you tell us how that boat could have arrived without being intercepted by an Australian naval vessel, and without any kind of government assistance to prevent the people from drowning e.g. an air lift?

    What do you propose that the government should do? I would be interested in knowing.

  20. Of course anyone would have compassion for service personnel such as your son and for the Xmas Islanders who tried to save the hapless boat people. Yes, they will probably have lasting effects from this. Good for them for trying to help.

    That has nothing to do, though with the larger policy issues, which require decent ledership and moral courage – sadly lacking in all directions.

    I need to go overseas to UK because of a death in the family under shocking circumstances. If I continue to feel the same way as I do now, I won’t be back after my return.

    Thanks, Andrew for providing this forum and thanks to those who provide thoughtful comments.

    Thanks to those who provide other comments, too – you make me think about points of view I never meet “in real life” .. thank goodness my reality doesn’t overlap that of some of you. I am grateful.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to those who partake in those.

  21. togret hope you come back here from time to time as i do .
    if not thanks for a valued point of view.

    that boat like many others is nothing bigger than a grain of sand on a beach so its not suprising to me that they were not spotted as have quit a few others who have made it to the cove undetected in the past .
    it was quit obvious the the asylim seekers on christmas island already knew they were on there way and when the were expected to arive so why didnt they tell some one . so to me some of the resposibility lies with them .
    christmas island is in international waters if some one calls for help they will be assited by the authoritys there if they wait untill they are a few metres from the cliffs and expect to be just plucked from the water . then the job is made that much harder and more dangerouse for the ppl involved .
    now that this tradgidy has happend it wont stop the boat ppl it will make them more determined to make the trip before the govt closes the door before this industry gets to big to have any control of at all

    the supply of sea worthy boats is drying up and the boats as seen are very bad iv seen photos of worse in flying fish cove . the smugglers dont care as all they are interested in is the money .
    the ppl here dont care all they care about is the jobs .
    and the boat ppl dont care because if the reach there objective the are a bit farther up the que
    so what do we do
    if we have to take in many more ppl then as sugsted in another coment send them to a un camp and take whoever has been waiting longest and only fron the camps .

    the ppl smuggling trade will dry up quikly .

    the asylim seeker industry will be controlable .

    but ofcorse the govt already knows this so the question has to be asked just who is in control its not the gvt the govt cant control the banks so if this industry is able to grow then the govt wont be able to control it either .

  22. Togret, sympathies to you on your loss, sounds very bad, by the sound. Not the right way to be spending Xmass and grief tends to have a life of its own, as perhaps it needs to, if we are to learn anything from it, mutton-headed beings that we are.
    For what its worth, I have always found your coments valuable and thoughtful and hope the darker side of humanity doesn’t poison your spirit, soul-destroying tho the worst of behaviours and attitudes of humanity might be.

  23. i wish you well togret and hope all go,s well for you
    just a small point my son is a christmas island resident not in the services and has been so for some time now .
    well now i have spoken to him i feel better and have calmed down a bit .and yes he was umungst those first on the seen and yes he was umungst those who tried to do what they could before the anyone elce turned up .hope the govt gives them all bravory awards as the sead they would . mabe they will just forget them because the dont like the truth.

    any way i wish you all well and merry christmas .

  24. just a note if anyone is interested in some truths about whats going on at christmas island all y have to do is ask .
    warning you may not like the truth
    and it mite just make you think about just who is being let into the country.

  25. Then let us hear what you have to say, Red Crab.

    I hope you had a good Christmas and New Year break. Mine was one of the worst I have ever experienced.

  26. sorry to here your christmas was not good lorikeet
    ours has not been much better .
    but there are ppl who are much worse off than us .
    as y know buy now my son lives on christmas island and has done so for over 10yrs now
    so i get my info first hand .
    point one the navy was attending to another boat that was sinking and had to be secured before they could leave .
    some of the things i was told could not be repeted here but they are disterbing behaviour.
    small bit of trivior usully there are 30 robber crabs run over in a year last year there was 600 run over all on the road to the detention centre . these crabs live to as old as 120yrs and move very slowly and can be avoided with ease locals belive they are run down diliberately mostly by the ppl who work there for fun..
    the word out there that it is costing 80 mill per month to run now .
    they suspect that there have been up to 7 boats just disapere recently atempting to get to christmas island .
    other things that iv been told have made me rethink my compasionate tendancies . and begin to think the labor govt has it completely wrong..
    they have missed the boat you mite say.

    dont belie what the govt and media are telling us .

  27. Red Crab:

    Thanks for your input and sympathy. You are right to believe that lots of people are worse off than we are, and also that the media and the government all tell us lies.

    Not long ago, Tony (DLP) sent me a video link about a company named Serco, which was said to run a hell of a lot of services throughout the world, including those relating to Prison Facilities and Defence.

    Since I didn’t know what to think, I sent the link to my son in Canberra who works for Dept of Defence, and he sent us a much better one. The worldwide power and interests of this company are enormous.

    Since then I have seen on the news, large Serco vans taking people who had been arrested during riots away. I cannot remember if it was in Greece or Ireland, where the economies have been shot to hell and there is a high rate of unemployment.

    Since we have been locked into a worldwide redistribution of populations and wealth for 35+ years, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the government continues to throw money away by any method of its choosing (including financing offshore detention centres), and allowing global organisations to rip us all off individually through banks, privatised utilities, fuel etc.

  28. well i know now where 80 million per month could go for a while what do you think andrew .

    ps i was there in 74 and there for the cleen up to dont be surprised if im not there againe soon
    serco has ties to the millitary in the us a couple of years ago on this blog i told of american millitary inspecting the detention centre i asked myself why silly question. sold out againe

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