When will The Greens stand up to the population ponzi?

By Leith van Onselen

One of the reasons why an increasing number of Australians voted for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation at the recent Federal Election is because they felt their concerns were not being represented by the mainstream parties.

One example of this is Australia’s immigration-driven population growth, which for more than a decade has lead the world and is on track to nearly double the nation’s population by 2055 to around 40 million people:

ScreenHunter_15116 Sep. 26 15.29

Driven by annual population growth that is nearly twice as high as the post-war average, mostly via immigration:

ScreenHunter_15907 Nov. 03 16.07

The massive rise in immigration began in the mid-2000s when former Prime Minister, John Howard, performed a ‘bait-and-switch’ on the Australian people whereby he slammed the door shut on the relatively small number of refugees arriving into Australia by boat all the while stealthily shoving open the door to economic migrants arriving here by plane.

John Howard never articulated to the Australian people that the Government was going to dramatically expand the nation’s immigration intake. Why? Because he knew the electorate would be against it. Instead, Howard scapegoated refugees to give the impression that he was stemming the migrant inflow while proceeding in secret with his ‘Big Australia’ plan.

Rather than being honest with the electorate, the Rudd/Gillard Governments and the Abbott/Turnbull Governments continued the subterfuge. There has never been any community consultation, any national discussion, nor any mandate to proceed with such high levels of immigration.

Amazingly, given their purported environmental credentials, The Greens have been conspicuously absent from the ‘Big Australia’ debate. While they have rightly voiced their opposition to the disgusting treatment of asylum seekers (whose numbers are small), and have at least published an explicit population policy (albeit absent of specific numbers and targets), The Greens have remained deafly silent on Australia’s overall immigration intake and have refused to argue the case publicly for a smaller and more sustainable population for Australia.

The Greens’ silence comes despite several Australian environmental organisations and advocates calling for Australia’s population to be stabilised.

In 2010, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) called for Australia’s population to be stabilised and nominated human population growth as a “key threatening process” to Australia’s biodiversity.

Well-known environmentalist and former Australian of the Year recipient, Professor Tim Flannery, has estimated that the long-term human carrying capacity of the Australian continent and Tasmania might be as low as 8 million to 12 million people and has many times called for the nation’s population to be stabilised.

In 1994, when Australia’s population was just under 18 million, the Australian Academy of Science (AAS) convened a symposium on the future population of Australia. Its analysis was extended to Australia’s resources of water, minerals and arable land, and the interactions between present lifestyle and present environmental damage, and between future expectations and the costs of increasing population.

The AAS cautioned that “if our population reaches the high end of the feasible range (37 million), the quality of life of all Australians will be lowered by the degradation of water, soil, energy and biological resources” and concluded that “the quality of all aspects of our children’s lives will be maximised if the population of Australia by the mid-21st Century is kept to the low, stable end of the achievable range, i.e. to approximately 23 million”. Just 22 years later, Australia has already breached 24 million, thus exceeding the AAS’ recommended maximum population.

International organisations and commentators, too, have raised alarm at population growth’s impacts on the environment.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has nominated human population growth as the key risk factor for endangered species, noting that “the current rate of extinctions is 100 times what would be considered normal without the impact of human activity… more of us means more of that” (see below graphic).

ScreenHunter_15830 Nov. 01 17.55

And just last week, legendary documentary maker, David Attenborough, nominated population growth as the most fundamental issue facing the world.

With the debate over immigration heating-up both in Australia and abroad, it is high time that The Greens entered the fold and advocated on behalf of Australia’s environment.

In order to satisfy its support base, and ensure social justice concerns are met, I recommend that The Greens argue to increase Australia’s humanitarian intake (currently 14,000 per year) while cutting back massively on Australia’s economic intake (currently around 190,000 people per year). This way, it could achieve both goals: reducing population growth and saving the environment while also being a good and caring global citizen. After all, when it comes to protecting the environment, it is the overall numbers that matter, not how the migrants come.

Of course, The Greens should also highlight the associated benefits from running a moderate immigration program, including less pressure on housing and infrastructure. But the environment should be its main focus.

The key point is that The Greens must stop ignoring the whole population issue and actively enter the debate. Otherwise, they will be left behind – both in a policy sense and at the ballot box.

[email protected]

Unconventional Economist


  1. Very good article in Huffington Post India:


    “The real “victims” of the curb are those who are seeking degrees and diplomas from relatively unknown “universities” and the diploma-degree mills. The real purpose of this sort of education is not skills and knowledge, but a means of migration that these institutions provide for a few thousand pounds.”

    “Almost all the “students” featured in the series are not genuine and don’t even answer the basic questions such as the their elective subjects and the name of their degrees. Preliminary enquiries by the immigration officials with their institutions often show that they hardly attend classes and that they use their legal stay as students in the UK to work as illegal migrants.”

  2. Congratulations, H&H…Absolutely right.

    I suggest you now also begin to say:

    ZERO population growth is required to equate with your quote:

    “Just 22 years later, Australia has already breached 24 million, thus exceeding the AAS’ recommended maximum population”

    As I have long been correctly writing on MB:

    Politicians, Greens included, deflect the real problems of immigration by claiming ethnocentric, religious or racist reasons are behind opposition to immigration. They simply hide the facts, ignore the bushfire and start brush fires elsewhere to divert attention from the facts.

    The bushfire and the facts are:

    Most immigrants are unwelcome in Australia by a segment of the population who see that Australia is importing people (immigrants) to the detriment of the existing population. This view is not racist. This view is protective of the earth and the people living on it. This view is also protective of the standard of living of the current Australian population and the ecological sustainability of flora and fauna.

    High levels of immigration are not necessary except to falsely inflate the frequently misleading neo-classical economic measure known as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP is increased by having high levels of immigration as larger population numbers, by definition, will increase GDP even if the higher population is, for example, employed only in land clearing while all other production remains equal.

    High levels of immigration are forcing up real estate prices, crowding cities and ethnic enclaves, creating a high demand on infrastructure (that is largely not being upgraded and in any case puts an increased taxation load on existing taxpayers if it is upgraded or replaced) and more.

    At this time in Australia’s history immigration itself is a cause of anti immigrant feelings that can spread into racism and religious intolerance.

    To prevent this continuing ‘boiling frog’ destruction of the Australian standard of living we need to reduce to only ‘essential’ immigration (which could include some refugees) and otherwise essentially zero population growth immigration levels in order to stop the destructive effects that immigration is currently inflicting upon the Australian economy, environment, race and cultural relations.

    Immigration is without doubt currently destructive to Australia and will cause further destruction if allowed to continue.

    There is not any other apparent choice than to call for the halting of all but essential immigration in order that we may begin rebuilding and restoring intercultural relationships in Australia. To do otherwise leaves us supporting and furthering the societal, economic and environmental destruction we wish to prevent and heal while we also increase the rift between cultures in Australia.

  3. Terror Australis

    I get it.
    The MB blog believes that in some small way it can tilt public policy in Australia a few degrees this way or that.
    Have at it Hoss. All power to ya.

    I’m sure you realize though, that main stream media is inherently antagonistic to minor parties.
    Think about it. Journalists make a name for themselves by getting access to Ministers and Shadow Ministers.
    Minor party back benchers don’t have any currency to advance a journalistic career.
    So generally speaking, minor party representatives are “cannon fodder” for the press gallery.
    Ambitious young journalists are always eager to through a minor party politician under the bus if it wins them browny points with the LNP or Labor front-bench.

    So bearing that in mind, why do you think a minor party like the Greens would take on the entire “establishment” over population policy, even if they agree?
    You can imagine the Daily Telegraph Murdoch Press headlines –

    “Di Natale gets in bed with Hanson!”,
    “Greens show their Anti-Immigrant True Colours!”
    “Sarah Hanson-Young says NO MORE Immigrants!!”

    Respectfully, I’d suggest that if you want the political establishment to take this kind of issue seriously, it has to come from the major parties, not the crossbench.

    • Dear Terror Australis:

      The butterfly effect applied at the right time, in the right place will achieve the intention.

      It is helpful if you become part of the change by doing whatever you can to support it.

  4. Srinivasa Ramanujan

    The Greens. They are not very bright.

    They do not believe that land supply has ANYTHING to do with house prices – none. Have emails from them confirming this.

    They have no limit on immigration. You find it ill read it. I have been looking and asking for years – they only call for increases and have no specified upper limits.

    Shocking levels of stupidity.


    I also confronted them on immigration and rampant population – their response was that there was no problem at all with big Australia and high immigration and that everything could be solved by taxing corporations more.

    Literally. We can increase taxation and then we can bring in as many people as we want.

    They are stone cold morons.

      • roylefamilyMEMBER

        Having fought 4 elections as a SAP candidate the above comment squares with my experience. I have come across Greens members (even candidates) that agree with us but they have to keep their views quiet.

      • I’ve sent them a email questioning their party policy position and their lack of public comment on “Big Australia”, if I get a response I’ll let you know.

        My C&P was in response to SR’s claim there is no written policy on pop.

    • It tends to confirm that the ‘pinks/reds’ (choose your flavour) are dominant in the Greens (especially in NSW) and are simply not interested in the environmental issues UNLESS they can be tied to issues that are of traditional interest to the various flavours of the political pink/red left.

      This does not mean that environmental issues are completely ignored and would explain why they appear in policy documents but are not pursued except by those Greens who come from the environmentalist faction.

      Immigration is a tough one because your average utopian international socialist is not that keen on the nation state and by definition immigration is tied to the idea of the nation state. So no surprise that the Greens are hot to trot on the issue of asylum seekers but silent on the issue of the population ponzi scam.

      The politics of the Greens sounds much more like the politics of the ALP 40 years ago.

      It is probably is a good thing for the ALP that they lost their radical left and they formed their own party. The only problem is that they didn’t form their own party – they hijacked the environmental party. Perhaps the Red members of the Greens should split and set up a new party that is clearly identifiable as more Pink/Red than Green and leave the Greens to the Greenies.

      • Just remember the Greens are and always will be “WaterMelons”. Green on the outside, red on the inside.

      • A bit of genetic work with honey dew might result in a party with a greenish tinge right to the core.

    • Totally agree Srinivasa!
      The Greens have been taken over by the Trot’s. To them its a matter of how people live, not how many there are. Well of course this is partly correct, but good luck to them trying to get people to reduce the quality of life that comes from all that consumption. Very few will want to go off the grid. It ain’t going to happen in a time-frame that makes any difference to the Anthropocene.

      The low hanging fruit is population. If the Greens were serious about human rights, they would understand that there is NOTHING more likely to reduce human rights than overpopulation, which leads to scarcity, hunger, corruption, conflict and forced migration.

      Now at least we have a grown-up ‘real’ environmental movement that takes these issues seriously in the form of Sustainable Australia, which is backed by many true environmentalists and those concerned for the planet and all life on it.

      The policy needs to ensure that all women have access to family planing technology. Reducing unwanted and unplanned pregnancies is a relatively easy task and could be achieved globally for the cost of a few, dud joint strike fighters!

    • I handed out how to vote cards at a couple of elections and chatted to the Greens (amongst other) people doing the same. 3 or so years ago the Greens there were a couple of over 60s, and I had a friendly chat about population and they instantly agreed with my party’s principles and weren’t aware how their party line dismisses any talk of curbing high immigration levels despite the blatant environmental consequences. They were actually concerned about the effect on the environment, as opposed to the world socialist view of resource reallocation of the Green’s leadership. At the last election the Green was a 40 something person who said he was an immigrant and one of his aims was to bring as many people to Australia as possible. Maybe he was winding me up, but he dismissed any concerns about the environment as being irrelevant in the quest to share our lifestyle advantages (and relatively fixed pool of resources) with as many poor people as possible.

    • ‘We can increase taxation and then we can bring in as many people as we want.’
      Was the GST windfall the enabler? Will a LVT be the next enabler of immigration?

    • Oh well, you can read this then!

      The Australian Greens believe that:

      The current level of population, population growth and the way we produce and consume are outstripping environmental capacity. Australia must contribute to achieving a globally sustainable population and encourage and support other nations to do the same.
      Our environmental impact and ecological footprint is not determined by population numbers alone, but by a range of factors including per capita consumption patterns and levels, distribution of resources, agricultural practices for domestic consumption and export, levels and types of industrial activity and production, urban design and transport options.
      Australia’s population policy should be determined by its commitment to:
      ecological sustainability;
      global and domestic social justice and equity, including women’s rights;
      intergenerational equity;
      international human rights obligations; and
      decent wages and conditions for all workers.
      Population policy should not be primarily driven by economic goals or to counter the effects of an ageing population.
      Population policy should consider the geographical distribution of human settlements in addition to population size at the national level.
      Australia has an obligation to accept humanitarian migration, including that resulting from climate change.
      The continuing rapid increase in the human population is drastically affecting national and international outcomes in environmental sustainability, human health and welfare, and other areas. Current rates of resource use are not sustainable and are compounded by inequitable distribution of wealth and power.

      • Denis, it is good that The Greens have gingered up the policy statement recently, but what are the policy directions that flow from all those words? I don’t see anything other than bland descriptions. There is no acknowledgement of a sustainable limit, just open doors to climate change refugees with no limit, the Vegemite solution of spreading / promoting more people in regional settings, as if that will reduce our impact on the environment, and lots of buzz words. Complete waste of space!

        I’ll see you that load of gobbledygook and raise you a real policy:

  5. Well you can’t blame the Greens for extending beyond their core policy area (after all they’re trying to be a mainstream party) but you’d think that core policy area would act as a driver for everything else.

    Dick Smith confronted Bob Brown about it but that seems not to have gone anywhere.

    In other late breaking news: apparently we owe the world a living and everyone who wants to come here should be able to.

    • Dick Smith has knocked on all doors of major parties to lobby for the issue.
      Bob Brown actually spoke in parliament about the need to limit population growth.
      Julia Gillard appointed Bourke as the Minister for Sustainable Population after Rudd came out as a “Big Australian” and was stabbed in the back, but that only lasted a couple of weeks after the paymasters at the unions complained and I am sure there were a few calls from the big media barons as well.

      Meanwhile Tony Abbott was sensitive to the issue, but commented that he could not get such a policy past his Party and was not able to move on the issue while in opposition for fear of being labeled a Hansonite by the media and the Labor Party.

      So there you have it, the sum total of Dick’s lobbying left him with little choice but to endorse Sustainable Australia (during my candidacy) in the WA federal re-run for the Senate. This was the first time that Dick had EVER endorsed any candidate from any party.

  6. You are kidding right? You actually think these idiots stand for anything to do with the environment? They are just left wing radicals masquerading as environmentalists. Greens want open borders because the hordes of immigrants they would like to see pour into the country will always vote for bigger government and more socialist style policies. In other words, the left side of politics thinks they are importing a new voting bloc.

    • I think this is it. Similar to the default Democrat position in the US – immigrants are far more likely to vote Democrat. Interestingly the Democrats actually opposed W’s sensible immigration reform because they would rather keep the status quo of family-driven (rather than economic) immigration and lots of illegal immigration indirectly broadening their voter base.

      Is there another possibility as well? As the country gets more crowded (what a laughable idea in this country!) people naturally become more attuned to environmental issues and are more likely to vote Green. Similarly, large urban populations are more likely to have left wing tendencies, and vote Green.

      When you look at it this way, it makes a lot of sense. Even if I dont like it.

  7. As a matter of interest when you make posts like this, do you forward them onto people in the relevant parties as well ?

  8. Is the Greens truly the Identity Politics party of Australia.
    Identify with us, ignore the facts.
    Immigrants, refuges, red, pink identify with us, and we can all be wrapped in the green bit for marketing purposes.
    The biggest issue to all groups is affordable shelter, which can make the greens irrelevant to those interested in facts.