Government ducks population gorilla

ScreenHunter_02 Apr. 21 18.01

By Leith van Onselen

On Friday, I expressed frustration at how politicians of all persuasions talk big on issues like housing affordability and the environment, but then run contradictory policies, such as a high immigration program and birth incentives, which place additional pressure on Australia’s eco-system, as well as increase demands on infrastructure and housing.

Over the weekend, my frustrations grew when I discovered that the Government had delayed the release of the fourth inter-generational report until after the election. From the Australian:

THE nation’s next long-range economic report is likely to be delayed until next year despite an earlier government plan to release a fourth Intergenerational Report before the federal election.

The delay could spare the Gillard government from another election-year row over population growth after the third report revealed in early 2010 that the nation was on track to reach 35.9 million people by mid-century.

The Australian has confirmed that the busy government agenda and the coming election campaign will make it difficult to complete the IGR this year, despite expectations that it would be released three years after the last report…

Former treasurer Peter Costello issued the first IGR in 2002 and the second in 2007 under a Charter of Budget Honesty that promised the reports every three years.

Labor changed the timetable when it promised greater budget transparency in a reform called “Operation Sunlight” in 2008, when former finance minister Lindsay Tanner outlined a plan to release an IGR “at least once every parliamentary term”.

The government’s response to the review of budget transparency in 2008 agreed to the recommendation for an IGR every three years.

That led Mr Swan to issue the third IGR in January 2010.

Any delay to the IGR would leave the next parliament and possibly a Coalition government to decide when to update the report.

To say that the delay in releasing the fourth IGR is disappointing is an understatement, as the issues surrounding Australia’s high rates of immigration and population growth are now likely to be swept under the rug by all major parties, and will not be debated prior to the election.

To make matters worse, should the Coalition win the upcoming election, its busy first term agenda is likely to push-back the IGR’s release even further into the future, stifling much needed analysis and debate.  Indeed, Joe Hockey admitted as much to The Australian when he commented that “If we are elected we’ll have a pretty full dance card and I don’t want to put extraordinary pressure on the department”.

Admittedly, there are some extenuating circumstances behind the fourth IGR’s delay, with Treasury identifying a large statistical error in the 2011 census, which reportedly means the most accurate data for the next IGR would not be available until 2014.

Nevertheless, given the potentially fundamental impacts on Australian living standards and prosperity, it would be nice for a change if Australia’s politicians would openly engage each other and the community on this issue, rather than assuming tacit consent. This is a democracy after all, and we need to have our say. And in order to do so, the facts and arguments for/against a substantial increase in Australia’s population need to be brought into the public sphere and debated.

[email protected]


  1. “..we need to have our say…” We do. That’s why we’re in this mess. No Party is going to offer the voters of our nations an option of the truth that’s needed. It wouldn’t get elected. So we are left with only one option – a party that knows what to do; campaigns to the contrary, and then has the courage to act when it gets in. But that is neither democratic or likely. We will continue down the road of getting what we ask for.

    • Not true Janet. The major parties have slick marketing like a fast food company and have managed to sell a product that only benefits the party ruling cabal and their big corporate backers.

      The gap between what they say and achieve is as wide as ever.

      The parties are rotten.

      • In a sense – but my point is we are not getting what the slick marketing machine sells us – we are not getting what we ask for.

      • Oh we are though AB…unless you include the slick marketing everyday advertising media that tells us we DESERVE to have everything we want NOW and to hell with our children and our future world.

        Who to blame? The problem is US.

      • Fl – that is a bit like saying the kids are to blame for the relentless fast food advertising. Parents are leaning to fight back but it takes time as people understand the depth of the manipulation.

      • GunnamattaMEMBER

        Theres a lot in that. Advertising (all advertising) serves interests, and it generally serves interests other than the customer’s first.

  2. Thanks to the spin from the major parties, Australia has run massive population growth policies relative to anywhere else in the world.

    Our historically great infrastructure of schools, hospitals and roads is bursting at the seams. Our wonderful and clean urban environments are getting pushed to and past their limit.

    Not having an honest discussion with the citizens about what the causes are, and who benefits, is disgusting.

    • Leith’s point is good, though; the policies are wrong at both ends. The policies on urban growth and infrastructure and funding, are as bad as they could be anyway even without immigration.

      The bad policy has created a crisis of its own. Australia cannot avoid either a demographic crisis or an infrastructure one. Temporarily, it has both. The urban growth and infrastructure crisis would KIND OF resolve itself due to natural decline in population. But the demographic crisis would mean no money to even maintain the existing infrastructure.

      In all this, I insist it is not at all clever to be forcing the younger generation to pay out of every orifice, exorbitantly inflated prices and rents just to occupy their bit of dirt in the city. It would actually be a lot more sensible to have just hit everyone with a $100,000 bill for infrastructure as they turn 20. A lot of infrastructure could have been provided for that, and the cost of land could have been kept so low (look at Texas) that the young folk with the $100,000 millstone around their necks would be ahead in the long run.

      Ironically, this would have been regarded as an appalling betrayal and abuse of the younger generation…… but even more money going out of their pockets, not to be spent on infrastructure at all, but rather benefiting boomer property investors and vendors, is morally OK?


      • Now a political party running on this $100k at 20 policy might get a lot of votes from boomers.

        It might be worth a try.

      • At least the young would understand quite clearly what is being done to them, in contrast to the status quo. And they would have the comfort of seeing the money they pay actually being spent on something worthy.

  3. GunnamattaMEMBER

    There is a significant element of the politics of denial about Australia at the moment.

    When you think about it none of the major parties want to look at issues like

    Private debt
    Real Estate
    Middle Class welfare
    Industry Policy

    and put together a narrative on how it all comes together

    • “and put together a narrative on how it all comes together”

      It all comes together in a nation that has sold its soul for crap.

  4. Bravo Leith.

    If nothing else, the concerns over the reliability of the data should cause us to scale back our soaring pop growth rate, not drive it to levels twice comparable economies.

    Transparency, accountability and informed debate….is that too much to ask for?

  5. None of what concerns us here at MB will be put in front of voters! How could it be? As I stated: No Party telling the truth or having an informed discussion is going to get (re)elected. Why on earth would any voter, in general, choose an option that’s bad for them? WHcih property owner, for instance, is going to vote to lower the value of their most cherished asset; the store of most of their ‘wealth’? Very few, if any at all….

    • “We all know what to do, we just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it.”
      Jean-Claude Juncker

  6. What’s the worry though? If the economy gets into a severe tailspin those recent migrants who’s skills are most in demand worldwide will vanish just as quickly as they arrived. They can pursue a quality of life anywhere. Most of those who arrived in the last wave may not have bought housing either and should be debt free.

    • Most of those who arrived in the last wave may not have bought housing either and should be debt free.

      But they are consuming and not producing anything real. So it just goes on as increasing debt…until it can’t.

      • +1
        Reading that many are riding on housing saving the nation, well, much as I understand house building would support a fair number of associated services, I have to ask “meanwhile, what are the people living in those houses building & selling to pay their mortgages?” All the goods you want are sitting in unsold stockpiles in K Mart, Woolies etc etc..
        My question is: Just what are we going to be using for an economy?

      • Mining BoganMEMBER

        Someone here once posted the numbers who left within five years because of how counter-productive our high standard of living here is.

        It was surprisingly high.

      • They can easily be replaced from those from developing countries. $300-$600 a week for a 2 bed is paradise for them.

      • That is true. This is because space is so expensive in cities with no phase having occurred as yet, of automobile-based rapid growth and genuine competition between developers. Of course “economic land rent” is far higher when every person has to fit into an urban footprint of about 1/16 the amount per person that a developed-country city has.

        So the RE rents paid by people in the “formal” market in a developing country are easily as high a proportion of their incomes as we are used to, only for about 1/16 the space. This is why so many of them are quite happy to “overcrowd” once they arrive in the 1st world; they are ahead anyway in terms of their space-cost trade-off.

  7. Good quality skilled immigrants arriving and buying a house, if “supply” of houses was elastic, would be boosting the Aussie economy without any impact at all on the cost of land zero-sum racket. Freakin’ houses would be getting built just as fast as immigrants were buying them.

    Would it help the Aussie economy if every immigrant was going to buy a new Holden Commodore? This is literally what it could be like in “housing”. Think this through. Immigrants buying an older house in an economy where supply of new houses is elastic, will merely result in another new house being built at a price the market participants can stand, without prices going up.

    How do you think a city like Houston grows from 4 million to 5 million people in 10 years, without house prices going up? Meanwhile it’s pretty good for their economy. The way infrastructure is funded, the cost burden is perfectly manageable and falls more equitably on its users. Remember that unaffordable house prices, is people paying a whole lot more for “nothing”, just to avoid paying a whole lot less to get some infrastructure.

    • Yes – that underlines the craziness of the house price maintenance strategy pursued by the RBA via their low interest rate household debt ponzinomics.

      Instead of having an active housing and general construction industry building housing and infrastructure for the existing population and the many new migrants we have one that is battling tumbleweeds.

      Tip to the big Australian fan club – you will have a lot less resistance to your plans/obsessions if you fix the land/housing markets FIRST.

      • Such is the national divide.

        The big Australia fan club see driving up housing demand as the fix.

  8. Fascinating
    I read an article in the weekend rag about how Australia is becoming increasingly jingoistic. The author had to tread very carefuly.
    What generally happens next in the position we find ourselves in is:
    1) Economic meltdown when all the chickens come home to roost; followed by
    2) a dangerous swing to the left or right.

    Nothing new here. The only hope of avoiding this playing out is a revolution in Australia’s media. I’d love to be there when that happens, but I’m working on being elected the next pope.

    • It’ll go the the left.

      We’re too apathetic to induce the violence a shift to the right would bring.

      leftists are prone to violence, but ours are heavily feminised, or feminists themselves.

      They’re fat apologists, being fat themselves, they can’t walk down to parliament house, let alone kick some skulls.

      • Instant classic quotable quote:

        “…..leftists are prone to violence, but ours are heavily feminised…..”

        I see something in the conspiracy theory that international Communism as it was a few decades ago, deliberately sowed the ideologies of “feminisation” (in the broadest sense in which I think you mean it) in western universities, to make us a push-over one day. I can supply a reading list on this, but won’t divert this thread topic.

  9. Just so you know, the Australian Stable Population Party will be running candidates for the senate in all states and some lower house seats. I will be running for Melbourne Ports.

    • Heya, the only Victorian I can find on the SPP website has a CV that says:

      “Clifford was elected by the community on a platform of planning reform, opposing high rise over-development in Bayside (100,000 residents).”

      Does the SPP adopt strangling the supply of new dwelling as policy?

      • I wouldn’t care what they did about high-rises; housing affordability is all about what happens at the urban fringe. There is no city in the world in which affordability is underpinned by density, period. Every city with “affordability”, has regulatory freedom to convert rural land to urban.

  10. Stable Population

    Indeed this is frustrating Leith, and continues the Gillard Government’s supression of the issue.

    First we had the “no big Australia” promise from Ms Gillard, then the sham Tony Burke ‘sustainable population’ consultation, then the broken promise and INCREASED population growth policies, and now the suppression of IGR4 growth estimates.

    At least we’ll have a choice on the federal election ballot paper!

    We need it, because, as this Department of Immigration-sponsored report on the impact of different levels of Net Overseas Migration in 2010 shows, high levels of immigration are and will cost us dearly:

    A summary from Ken Henry (Apologies for the length:

    A helpful context for the key findings is provided in an address given in 2009 by the Secretary
    to the Treasury, Dr Ken Henry
    — we are now projecting an increase of 13 million people, or around 60 per cent, over the next
    40 years. A population expansion of this order has a host of implications for the Australian
    economy and society; and it raises a number of profound issues for economic policy.
    Where will these 13 million people live – in our current major cities and regional centres or in
    cities we haven‘t yet even started to build? –
    How will Sydney cope with a 54 per cent increase in its population, Melbourne a 74 per cent
    increase and Brisbane a 106 per cent increase? Surely not by continuing to expand their
    geographic footprints at the same rate as in the past several decades. Surely not by loading more
    cars and trucks onto road networks that can‘t cope with today‘s traffic.
    However our cities do cope, they will have to find ways of securing a sustainably higher level of
    investment in public infrastructure.
    What sorts of jobs will this larger population want? —How will the location of the jobs be
    reconciled with preferences about where people want to live?
    Are Australia‘s natural resource endowments, including water, capable of sustaining a population
    of 35 million? What are the implications for environmental amenity of this sort of population
    growth? Must it mean an even greater loss of biodiversity – difficult as that might be to imagine,
    given our history of species extermination?
    We don‘t know the answers to these questions, even though all of us would have opinions.

    This report deals with the physical world within which the impact of higher net overseas
    migration is felt. Our response to the brief covers the major issues of concern to the Secretary of
    the Treasury. Our key findings are relevant to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship
    as sponsor of the study, the Department of the Treasury and the new portfolio of the Minister
    for Population. Our findings represent a step towards a greater understanding of immigration
    and population impact on the natural and built world.

    Our key conclusions are:

    1. In general, the macro-scale modelling found that higher levels of NOM impose greater
    adverse impacts on the quality of our natural and built environments. Key impacts are
    outlined below. The modelling demonstrates an approximately linear correlation
    between the NOM level and the magnitude of many impacts at any given year. This
    does not imply cause and effect relationships due to the complexity of the physical
    relationships and independent social variables that are involved in our social and
    economic systems. In particular, other variables such as individual affluence expressed
    as per capita consumption, industrial activity and technological efficiency play a role in
    the extent of the impacts; none were without negative consequences.
    2. The meso-scale analysis established that migrants are essentially similar to Australian
    residents in adopting Australian consumption patterns and lifestyles except that they
    congregate in particular locations, especially within Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. This
    geographical concentration substantially increases their environmental impact.
    3. Decreased urban water supply is a significant environmental constraint exacerbated by
    higher levels of NOM. Modelling shows the vulnerability of Sydney, Melbourne,
    Brisbane and Perth to deficits in water supply, on a NOM strategy of 260,000 pa.: a view
    strongly supported by empirical review of State Government reports. The effect on
    water infrastructure investment of the most recent drought and entry to a drier, hotter
    climatic phase since the 1990s was substantial. State Governments were compelled to
    review future strategies and implement infrastructure spending of billions of dollars. It
    remains moot whether this increased capacity for our cities will cope in the next
    drought, given that they will have substantially larger populations nudging absolute
    water demand ever higher, even with improved water use efficiencies from behavioural
    and technological solutions.
    4. Only NOM levels of 50,000 pa or less result in Melbourne and Sydney maintaining a
    small surplus of net surface supply over demand on average out to 2050, assuming
    current climate conditions persist. Potential options to alleviate water stress at high
    NOM levels over the longer term may be hard to find.
    5. Oil is a physical resource in a critical state of supply, which macro-scale modelling
    reveals to be particularly grim for transport fuel. Domestic production of oil could
    diminish quickly within the next 1–2 decades, independent of, i.e., at similar rates for, all
    NOM levels. In contrast, demand for oil increases steadily over time and at faster rates
    for higher NOM levels. Demand for oil reaches about double recent volumes by 2050 for
    a NOM of 260,000 pa. NOM levels of 50,000 pa or less result in demand remaining
    marginally below recent volumes. This reduction reflects increases in vehicle fuel
    efficiency countering most of the effects of increased affluence and consumption.
    6. Analysis of any potential resolution of an impending gap between demand and supply
    of oil—or the implications of not resolving the gap—is complex, fraught with
    uncertainties and is beyond any predictive modelling. It is unclear, for example, what
    volume of foreign oil might be available for import to Australia and at what price.
    Substitution of conventional oil by a range of alternative transport fuels, or wider use of
    public transit and modal shifts present other options for maintaining transport services.
    Issues of timely infrastructure development, as identified in the meso-scale reviews, and
    of increased pressure on other environmental resources arise with such options.
    7. The micro-scale analysis revealed that increased traffic congestion caused by higher
    levels of NOM is estimated to reduce people‘s subjective well-being by up to 10% of
    their income. Our conjecture is that this has important implications for employment
    location and housing (re) development, since congestion perceived at this level alters
    people‘s preferences. Their response is to adapt to the unreasonable time and distance
    required to travel to work by moving to other jobs and locations. Melbourne has
    maintained a relatively constant average commuting time to work of 20 minutes over
    the last two decades demonstrating an adaptive capacity in the people of Melbourne.
    8. Assuming that critical oil and water resource issues are addressed to support ongoing
    economic activity, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are expected to grow to several
    times current levels by 2050 unless substantial and rapid mitigation activities are
    implemented. The level of emissions is sensitive to levels of NOM, and grow in an
    accelerating manner with time. By mid-century, GHG emissions from fuel combustion
    were modelled to increase by about 60% above contemporary levels for a zero NOM
    level, and by 170%, and 200% for a NOM of 180,000 and 260,000 p.a. respectively.
    9. The growth in GHG emissions is not as rapid as the modelled economic growth,
    calculated as GDP in the macro-scale modelling. This relative decoupling of the
    economy from emissions results in the aggregate carbon intensity (tonnes of CO2
    emitted per dollar of GDP) decreasing by approximately 50% by 2050. This is facilitated
    by increases in efficiencies and structural changes in the economy, but overall economic
    growth results in higher absolute GHG emissions.
    10. Accompanying this overall economic growth are additional pressures at the meso- or
    regional scale. Urban expansion occurs for all NOM levels in the modelling, with total
    urban area increasing about 50% in 2050 for zero NOM in a slightly saturating trend
    over time. For a NOM of 260,000 pa accelerating expansion results in an increase of
    about 150%.
    Implications of such urban growth include the loss of horticultural production from peri-urban
    areas which will reduce access to high quality fresh food especially vegetables and increase the
    vulnerability of food supply for consumers. Sydney is the city most at risk from losing access to
    fresh foods due to urban expansion into productive agricultural land. This may exacerbate other
    food security issues based on increased demand for fertilisers (for both nitrogen and
    phosphorus), water availability, climate change impacts, and disruption of distribution due to
    oil constraints.
    Assuming that additional land for urban growth is released, or that more compact urban form
    is adopted, there is an on-going demand for building and dwelling construction. It appears that
    much of the decision making about resource consumption and waste disposal is made at the
    household scale, so it is important for policy to understand the links between the growth in
    population and the growth in the number of households. The demand for buildings increases
    with higher NOM levels. The growth in construction does not scale linearly with time, but
    demonstrates dynamics associated with population demographics and building vintage, such as
    reduced occupancy per dwelling and smaller households. Related to this, demolition waste
    was modelled to increase by at least a factor of two by mid-century. The meso-scale analysis
    identified additional waste streams caused by high migration inflows to be especially
    problematic for Sydney, which has no future landfill sites identified within the Sydney Basin,
    and will use up its landfill air-space within 10 years.
    From the combined analysis, the magnitude of the impacts at all NOM levels suggests that
    unless substantial and timely actions are taken to address these impacts, some impacts have the
    potential to disrupt Australia‘s economy and society. Crucially, but not part of this study, will
    be the roles of institutions and governance in the establishment of the frameworks within which
    adaptation and mitigation can occur. An example is the case of transport infrastructure
    overhaul for Western Sydney to reduce the social and environmental impacts of congestion.
    This will affect the location of employment and homes and perceptions of ‗liveability‘ in
    Western Sydney for the next 30 years.
    The case for judicious action arises due to the cumulative nature of many of the impacts for
    most NOM levels, that is, impacts on the natural and built environmental increase steadily or
    accelerate modestly with time. Small differences now in the effects of different levels of NOM
    on various natural and built assets in many cases accumulate to large differences 10, 20 or more
    years down the track.

    • “Melbourne has
      maintained a relatively constant average commuting time to work of 20 minutes over
      the last two decades demonstrating an adaptive capacity in the people of Melbourne.”
      I wonder how they came up with this figure?

      Also, off topic cost of living gripe. I just returned from Tokyo and it is currently cheaper to live there than in Melbourne. Spending wise anyway, I didn’t find out about income levels.

      • Melbourne has maintained a relatively constant average commuting time to work of 20 minutes
        I wonder how they came up with this figure?

        Probably by taking Sydney’s average commute to work of 10 minutes, and doubling it.

      • GunnamattaMEMBER

        In the last 10 years I have lived in Moscow Berlin and Stockholm – all would make it onto most expensive city lists. Came home about a year ago.

        Melbourne blows all of them out of the water cost wise.

        About 18 years ago I used to drive from Balaclava to Balwyn each day for work purposes. Took me about 20 minutes. I did it when I got back. Took me 55.

      • What a useless analysis from Henry.

        “…..How will Sydney cope with a 54 per cent increase in its population, Melbourne a 74 per cent increase and Brisbane a 106 per cent increase? Surely not by continuing to expand their
        geographic footprints at the same rate as in the past several decades. Surely not by loading more
        cars and trucks onto road networks that can‘t cope with today‘s traffic…..”

        All this hysteria when the simple solution is “spreading out”. It is the “compact city” policy that is doing all the harm. It is far cheaper to build “out” than “up” and this goes for infrastructure too. All the analyses that claim the opposite are leaving out the costs of land acquisition, access, and disruption.

        Density does not correlate with “sustainability” at all. There are plenty of ways in which sustainability is enhanced in low density living conditions. All that is necessary is the fiscal incentives. People react now to the fiscal incentives (eg energy costs) but urban form takes a century to change and the blunt instrument regulations have massive unintended consequences anyway.

        The low density, affordable-land US cities that planners love to hate are actually the MODELS that we should be following; only without the cheap petrol.

        SOME international trip to work time data is HERE:
        (“Table 8” beginning on page 36)

        I do not know of any better data collation as yet.

        Congestion data is not quite as useful as trip to work time data, but THIS is damning:

        In general, my assertion that the USA’s cities congestion levels are lower than those of Europe’s continue to be confirmed. And my hunch that Australia’s and New Zealand’s are “world’s worst” – worse than Europe, which is in turn worse than the USA – among valid comparison cities, is confirmed.

        Reliable population density data is HERE:

        Phil McDermott in Auckland, who is a really good guy, ran an interesting correlation exercise:

    • The trouble is, this is pointed out in the absence of our dear leaders. What we need is a media that will bluntly say “cut the [email protected]@@ing spin, you’re not answering the question” on air as soon as they start answering the question they weren’t asked, or start talking about the other side. How I’d love to hear that, especially when you see the fawning sycophants at the A(LP)BC in action.

      • +1 all we ever get is slime as the party patsies dodge the questions and feed more spin. The gutless journos just don’t call them on it makes watching a politician get interviewed a totally pointless activity.

      • The trouble is, this is pointed out in the absence of our dear leaders. What we need is a media that will bluntly say

        We don’t need the media at all to do that, stop being weak.

        You need to do it yourself, YOU keep the politicians accountable.

      • RP
        I joined the Brisbane protest (first protest ever) against internet censorship when Conroy was close to getting his first victory over democracy. Very few people showed up. I suppose they had more important things to do on a Saturday. I’ll tell you what, if Conroy had tried that in France or the UK, he’d have been swinging from a lamp post…

      • All governments will try, it’s up to us to sort the individuals concerned out – the French do that so well. They don’t just target the policy, they target the twit pushing for it. I guess I mentioned the UK a bit too quickly, because Jo Citizen does take a bit longer to wake up over there, but once you get ’em fired up (remember the Poll tax) …

  11. Rumplestatskin

    +1 The last thing a politician wants is the public to have a forthright and frank debate about important issues.

  12. Well, talk about not seeing the elephant for the gorilla!

    1. We have peaking emigration.

    2. 60% of our NOM are temp visa holders (ABS changed their methods in 2006)

    3. Talk permanents not temps and it is a very different picture.

    4. Our natural growth may drop to zero or even negative as our deaths double over the next few decades. A death bust as a down the track reflection of the baby boom. An older ageing OZ will not double or treble its immigration to compensate and OZ will peak around 2030/40 and then start its population decline.

    5. The ABS stats are BS.

    6. We will not get to 40 million. That is mad as batpoo…

    • wn – do you have kids? Do you use any of the infrastructure now? The problem we have is that unfettered growth is ruining lives right now!

      Let’s return to stable and sustainable growth before we go all panic station on what may or may not pan out in the future – and for balance their has been quite good economic analysis that population growth does not solve the issues its proponents believe.

      • aj.
        You misunderstand me. I support population stabilization and decline. I think we can grow our GDP while we have population decline. Some things are a certain, and they are not ‘may or may not’ data. The 5.3 million boomers will all die.

        My point is that I firmly believe that my kids will see Australia peak and then start its decline by the time they reach 30. So, in a declining population, what extra infrastructure do we need?

        Many suburbs in all capitals (Brisbane – Rochedale -14%, Chelmer, Jindalee, etc) have been declining in population since 2001. So many just do not understand the reality of what and where our population growth is or is not.

        We need to create anti-speculation laws immediately for property to divert capital towards productive works for our to grow a pie while we have population decline. We are a smart, creative nation and we will ‘mine the minds’ after the dirt runs out.

        We also need to tax the asset rich/cash poor (over 65’s) more.

        1. GST to 20% and raise welfare and the tax free threshold accordingly to compensate.
        2. Land tax to replace stamps and create reverse mortgages from Centrelink for those that are asset rich/cash for to pay.
        3. CGT on all property sold under 10 years. Exemptions for real reasons to move – health, babies and work. No CGT after 10 years, ZERO!
        4. Death tax on the value over $1million at 25%
        5. Asset test the PPOR (value over $750k) for pension eligibility and also provide reverse mortgages exclusively from the govt, to those asset rich/cash poor. It is not fair that pensioners can live in a $5million dollar home, have $1m in cash and still get a part pension!
        6. Change our ABS reporting to only report permanent growth, not the BS or counting temp visa holders, as recommended by the OECD.

      • fair enough w.n. – at the very least Australia should be auditing our infrastructure right now to see what population it can currently cope with and addressing migration on this basis.

      • aj.
        Correct. Without a clear population plan, making such an audit will be just about impossible.

      • Oh come on, there is a winning model, and it is to be found in the fast-growth, low housing cost, low density cities in the USA.

        It is CHEAPER for everyone in the long run, to allow growth, provide infrastructure, construct houses and buildings; than it is to “constrain growth”. The real life proof is there for all to see.

        Sure under the “constrain growth” policy, you do succeed in constraining growth and supplying less infrastructure. But your costs are a whole lot higher, in return for precisely NOTHING. It is merely paying a much higher price for something not as good.

      • I’d prefer my rivers not to be polluted festering bacteria ridden sewers PB – so unfettered growth is not ideal.

      • AJ, people are people, and each one produces a given amount of waste that can be altered by the same available technology regardless of the density of urban form in which they live. And in fact, lower urban density is compatible with many anti-pollution approaches that high density is not.

        And spreading humans out, spreads out the pollution of all kinds, weakening its immediate local impact as it is dispersed – same as traffic congestion in dispersed cities. Don’t the lowest density human habitations correlate with the least pollution of all? Just think of Houston as a whole lot of romantic rural exurbs side by side.

        The grimiest human habitations of all are the “compact city” planners favourite high density cities. I’d like confront some of these people in public with some slides of how ordinary families live in their favourite cities, compared to ordinary families in a low density affordable housing US city.

      • I’m not talking about constraining growth pb – you have won that debate!

        It’s the scale and pace of growth I’m interested in – particularly given we are not about to see any changes to the constrain approach then this is even more important.

    • Tomorrow the Australian population clock will tick over past 23 million. There will properly be discussion about population growth and sustainability.
      I hope we can have an informed discussion free of references to race.
      Beware of obfuscators seeking to advance their business interests.

  13. I always vote Labor and Liberal last. I encourage everyone to do likewise.
    Whichever major party is in power gets voted last. The other major party is placed 2nd last.

    If everyone did this then Labor would not get a single seat, and Liberal would not get a single seat (assuming independents run). The result would be some short-term chaos then some real choices would emerge.

    • I will not be voting. True, it is compulsory to turn up and get you name ticked off, but not to vote. It is strange that this was promoted by Peter Garrat when he was in Midnight Oil for the red sails tour. made sense then and still makes sense now.

      This certainly does make a difference when the % has been growing as it has already. It sends a clear message that real change is require to motivate the people again.

    • I really like this idea. I suspect there are many who are disenchanted with the current 2 party system and the perception that there is no major difference between them – if one compiled a list of grievances, an idea like this could be spread via social networks like Facebook/Twitter etc. However, this would likely be tempered by people’s impression of the current experience where the independents are holding the balance of power.

    • And we end up with a Parlaiment of Oakeschotts and Windsors? That’s not a choice .It’s a nightmare. No thanks.

      Repeal compulsary voting. That way people who care get to decide and the donkeys get what’s given. Your choices may change decidedly then.

      • The result would be some short-term chaos then some real choices would emerge. (As I said in the original post)

      • I suspect we will have to go through some chaos to get real change even though I would rather skip the chaos bit.

    • This is a time for decisive leadership in our country, and that is NOT going to arise through a rabble of independents and minor parties. Witness the never ending chaos of Italy and tell me that you think that is helping to solve their long-term problems. No, as others have suggested, we need to remove compulsory voting in this country, stop forcing people who have no idea or interest, who just end up propping up the usual vote buying policies that are destroying this country.

      • This is a time for decisive leadership in our country, and that is NOT going to arise through a rabble of independents and minor parties.

        The elites running this country will be very pleased to hear you say this. Why not encourage everyone to keep doing the same thing (voting L/L) and hope it might work out differently next time.

      • The ‘elites’, as you put it, will always run things – leaders are always ‘elite’ in the sense that they rise above their more ineffectual compatriots and take control. And Australia NEEDS decisive leadership at this juncture; someone to decisively steer us away from the oncoming lights of ever increasing government interference and welfare payments, which are sapping the ability of entrepreneurial activity to generate the actual wealth that funds the whole State to begin with. The minor parties in this country – the Green & Katterist fringe dwellers – will destroy this country. The Liberals may not be perfect, but they are our best chance this country has for pursuing policies that decrease the size of government, removing the welfare state that is dragging us down, and allowing business to start generating new sources of wealth.

    • Check out the Swiss system of democracy.

      “It’s a Small World – or it Should Be”
      By Owen McShane

      April 2010 NZ National Business Review

      “Recently, John Banks, Mayor of Auckland, prefaced his opposition to mining on Great Barrier Island by declaring himself Mayor of the island.
      And he is.
      Great Barrier Island is part of Auckland City and consequently Mr Banks is Mayor of its 700 residents.
      On the other hand, the Chatham Islands, with about the same population, is a Unitary Authority, with its own Mayor and Councilors.
      One must wonder why the Chatham Islanders are deemed capable of self-government while the people of the Great Barrier Island are governed by Aucklanders.
      Have they ever had a choice?
      Mayor Banks was announcing that Great Barrier Island should remain as a pristine playground for urban Aucklanders. Nikki Kaye, MP for Auckland Central, agreed. Then we heard more hostile responses on Television from Forest and Bird and other national environmental groups. When we finally heard from people who actually live on the island, many seemed quite keen on the idea of having local jobs, given the Island’s falling population as young people leave to find jobs elsewhere.
      This news coverage demonstrated the extent to which we generally accept that politicians and special interest groups should have the first right to speak for others, including those who are quite capable of speaking for themselves.
      With other cities now rushing to amalgamate this will become even more common as Mayors of larger territorial authorities pontificate on the interests of people in distant areas. City based Mayors will continue to deny economic development to the outer pastures.

      By contrast, in Switzerland or France, the Mayor of a commune of 700 people would be the first to be asked for an opinion, and few politicians would dream of invading the political territory.

      France has about 37,000 communes.
      Their median population is only 380 inhabitants – about half the population of Great Barrier Island.
      Each of these communes has its own Mayor and Council.
      Switzerland has 2,636 Communes.
      These Swiss communes exercise real power, even though most of them are tiny by New Zealand standards. Only 30 have more than 20,000 people while 860 have fewer than 500. Most have populations between 1,000 and 5,000. The largest municipal commune is Zurich with a population of 377,000. The smallest is Steinhaus with a population of 41.
      So there are 2,636 Swiss Mayors for their 7.8 million people.
      New Zealand has 73 Mayors for our 4.4 million people. Yet we are convinced we have too many.
      The Swiss communes, with a typical population of only a few thousand people, deal with education, medical and social services, and public transport. The communes collect the taxes and hand on the surplus to the Cantons, which keep most of what they get, and hand on what’s left to the Federal Government. The 26 Cantons have different rates of personal and company tax and even negotiate special rates with wealthy people to stop them migrating to another Canton.
      If you want to emigrate to Switzerland, you have to decide where you want to live and then apply to the relevant commune. The commune Council processes the application and issues the papers.
      The Swiss citizen’s first loyalty is to the Commune, then to the Canton and finally to the Nation. Hardly anyone thinks seriously about amalgamating into larger units because they believe in local democracy. However, the smallest ones frequently combine voluntarily with larger neighbours to form special purpose districts.
      There are only seven Ministers in the Swiss Federal Council. The two chamber Parliament has 200 members who are part-timers and need real jobs to earn a decent income. The chambers meet for three weeks at a time, four times a year.
      After Parliament passes legislation the cantons and communes have 100 days to organise a referendum, and the resulting referendum can veto the Act. Any constitutional change must be endorsed by a referendum. Sometimes it only takes a few days to organise a demand for a referendum because with such small units of government it is easy to get the people together for a town meeting.
      Many outsiders have criticized Switzerland for not giving women the right to vote until 1971. Their defence is that the women could not see the point because at the town hall meetings they voted as a family. And the women had a firm grip on all the right things.

      Switzerland is one of the world’s most stable nations. Its PPP per capita GDP of $US43,000 ranks 7th in the world, just behind the US. New Zealand’s per capita GDP of $US26,625 ranks 34th in the world, just behind the Bahamas.
      Maybe small really is beautiful.

      The main reason for telling these Swiss stories is to demonstrate that there are other models of the political world beyond the “left/right” dichotomy that dominates our political debate.
      We seem trapped in the top-down side of the top-down/bottom-up debate and assume that wealth, tax re-distribution, and political and administrative power must trickle down from the top to the people below. The Swiss have turned that world-view on its head. They assume everything trickles up.
      Furthermore whenever anyone suggests reform of our local government we instinctively grasp hold of amalgamation as the sole route to change.
      We seem incapable of imagining the benefits of being small, and of keeping power in local hands.
      Just imagine a New Zealand where the Mayor of Great Barrier Island spoke for the residents of that island, but called town meetings of all residents to make any important decisions on the Island’s budgets, taxes, migration, roads and schooling……”

      Original article behind a paywall.