Dick Smith slams Lucy Turnbull’s population “ponzi scheme”

By Leith van Onselen

In December last year, Dick Smith used his own money to fund an ad in Australia’s major newspapers challenging Lucy Turnbull – the chief commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) – on mass immigration, and asking her to outline what their eventual plans are for the population of Sydney – querying whether it could be 16 or even 100 million.

Below is the ad that was published:

ScreenHunter_16811 Dec. 16 09.49 ScreenHunter_16812 Dec. 16 09.49

The response from Lucy Turnbull’s office was pathetic:

The Australian sought comment from Ms Turnbull, through the Greater Sydney Commission. Commission chief executive Sarah Hill responded that Sydney’s rate of population growth was the “hallmark of all successful cities around the world”, and the group based its planning on a middle range of growth forecast, prepared by the state’s demographers.

“More than half of this growth is through natural increase,” Ms Hill said. “Our responsibility is to plan for this to make our city more liveable, sustainable and productive, rather than to debate the facts.”

As I noted at the time, the claim that “more than half of this growth is from natural increase” is utter garbage, with net overseas migration (NOM) into NSW (read Sydney) accounting for 70% of population growth in the year to September 2016, and has averaged 67% over the past 30-plus years:

I’ll also point out that the term “natural increase” is misleading as it captures the children of migrants. That is, NOM brings with it an immediate direct boost to population as well as a subsequent boost as new migrant arrivals have children.

For this reason, the NSW State Government’s own population projections show that Sydney’s population would rise to just 4.9 million in 20-years time under zero net overseas migration (NOM), versus increasing to 6.4 million people under current mass immigration settings – a huge difference of 1.5 million people:

That’s the equivalent of nearly four Canberras worth of additional people that will flood into Sydney over the next 20-years, each of whom will compete for infrastructure and housing and place huge upward pressure on house prices.

On Wednesday, Dick Smith launched another stinging attack on Lucy Turnbull’s GSC and its plan for Sydney, demanding that it outline how it intends to cope with its plan for endless “ponzi growth”. From the Courier Mail:

DICK SMITH has hit out against the Greater Sydney Commission and its plan for the future of Sydney — claiming the commissioner Lucy Turnbull, is relying on a “Ponzi scheme of endless greed and endless growth”…

“I was absolutely amazed that I didn’t get a response from Lucy Turnbull when I asked her what her plans for the future of Sydney were,” Dick Smith said.

“We now have 5 million (in Sydney), is it a plan for 50 million or 500 million?”…

Mr Smith said his plan for the future would see an immediate reduction in immigration numbers from 200,000 to 70,000 per year, “which will see our population level off at about 26 million”…

“Australian families have the number of children they can give a good life too, our politicians should be doing the same thing — but instead they want endless growth, which is endless greed.

“They are trying to cover up the fact that we are actually going backwards, we are running on a Ponzi scheme”…

“Lucy Turnbull doesn’t know how to solve the problem, I thought she would come out and tell the people that ‘Dick Smith was mistaken’, but she didn’t do that.

“There has been no comment, which means there is no plan”…

Mr Smith called for Lucy Turnbull to respond to his requests for comment over the plans for Sydney’s future.

“You owe it to the people of Sydney to tell us what is your plan,” he said.

“One day we need to stop growing, but Lucy you are really letting us down, surely you don’t think 100 million is sensible for Sydney.”

While the population projections used by Dick Smith have changed significantly since he released his Population Puzzle documentary in 2010 (Australia’s population would now hit around 33 million under 70,000 NOM), his broader points are spot on.

As shown in the chart above, immigration is the primary driver of Sydney’s population, and therefore the city’s infrastructure, housing and livability woes.

Clearly, the best way for Lucy Turnbull and the GSC to make Sydney “more livable, sustainable and productive” is to tap her husband on the shoulder and convince him to rein-in Australia’s mass immigration program.

Because as far as high immigration goes, the buck stops with the federal government. If you are in local or state government then you don’t have much choice but to cope with continuing flood of people putting an ever-increasing strain on already stretched infrastructure, housing and public services.

Lucy Turnbull is in a unique position to influence federal policy and effect change for the betterment of both Sydney and Australia. But like her husband she is a mouthpiece for the ‘growth lobby’ that gains from never-ending population expansion at the expense of Joe Public.

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Unconventional Economist
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  1. Is Dick Smith on Twitter?

    He should have a Facebook account and post that ad on Facebook. Let it be shared on Facebook for free.

    He also made a documentary against mass immigration in 2010. He should put it on YouTube.

    (in the documentary he also went to Dhaka to show what mass immigration from 3rd world villages looks like)

    • The closest I have found (and used) seems to be this one

      ‪@DickSmithFoods ‬

    • HadronCollision

      Very good point. YT channel and Facie. Go to where the peeps you want to influence are.

      I think his marketing people need some advice. Or else he needs marketing people.

      I don’t read the courier mail or buy any Sydney papers so fallen on deaf ears

  2. haroldusMEMBER

    Finally someone’s willing to stand up tall against high levels of immigration. He might face some stiff opposition though; this might explode in his face.

    I like Dick. He’s full of spunk. SOMEONE needs to take this matter in hand and firmly thrust the agenda into the public gaze.

    The only problem is, the great unwashed may start gagging at it being shoved down their collective throats over and over again.

    He might need to soften the delivery.

  3. – Right. The federal government is responsible for immigration and the states are forced to shoulder the burden of that immigration.
    – Or is the federal government deliberately following a particulart strategy ? E.g. deliberately overburden the states & local government. And when the burden becomes too heavy then he states & local government have a good reason to privatize these services to their buddies/friends in the private sector.

  4. Where is the ABC Fact Check on this?

    Maybe launch your own Fact Check page – you use a lot of graphs and data to prove our gut instincts on mass low-wage immigration to be correct anyway.

    • Lots of graphs and tables don’t explain anything except evidence that many Australians are data illiterate. For data to be meaningful it needs to be clearly defined eg. ‘immigrants’ (mostly temp churnover not eligible and/or interested in PR), broken down depending upon a specific question or hypothesis. Then with data you can analyse and test hypothesis for correlations suggesting relationships, rather than offering subjective opinions masquerading as analysis; keeping in mind a correlation is not a causation.

      Fact is Australian media use badly analysed and presented data, and often misrepresentation, to demonise ‘immigrants’, but many educated Australians know this yet still accept superficial opinions, not supported by data, but matching their sentiments.

      • I know that 3rd world passports come here to work for $10/hour cash – thus paying no income tax at all.

        I knew that in 2005.

      • You’ve just proven my point… but seriously, I used to have a lot of respect for Dick Smith, especially in his role as patron of the ‘Australian Sceptics’ in the ’80s who promoted science and highlighted junk or pseudoscience.

        However, in the decades since there seems to have been a transformation into becoming an angry white male, who finds immigrants the cause of many perceived issues in Australia, based purely upon beliefs and opinions while avoiding good scientific analysis? Or was he merely building credibility and reputation as a science advocate, then goes off piste into highlighting more recent ‘immigrants’ and citing an abstract mathematical concept of ‘infinite exponential population growth’, without citing any factors that influence it?!

        • You’d have to be deluded not to recognise that more than doubling the immigration intake has created huge problems for Sydney (and Melbourne), and that growing Sydney’s population by more than 80k a year is unsustainable.

          Are you deluded Andrew?

          At least Dick Smith understands these basic facts.

          You call Dick Smith an “Angry White Male”. He could just as easily call you a “deluded white snowflake”, or a “social justice warrior” that doesn’t understand (or refuses to acknowledge) basic facts.

  5. proofreadersMEMBER

    “Lucy Turnbull is in a unique position to influence federal policy and effect change …”

    But probably for not much longer?

  6. Just a man and women who would and do, do anything to stay in power. Well done Mal etc

  7. It’s an embarrassment that we only have an old man fighting this fight in public. Disgusting, opportunistic gen x mouth breathers and vile and pretentious gen ys prevent any spirited and intelligent people arising.

    • SchillersMEMBER

      Try Mark Latham, Judith Sloane (the Australian), Pauline Hanson, Tom Elliot (3AW), Cory Bernardi….
      Not the ideal proponents I know, but better than nothing. Dick Smith is not alone. Hopefully more in the main stream media will get with the program. As for the pollies…

      • Yes courageous people. Bernadi should get 10-20% of the vote from those angry with the Liberals becoming a smidgen more left.

  8. ” subsequent boost as new migrant arrivals have children.”

    I’d like to hear from a demographer whether this is a sound argument. It’s true that new migrant arrivals have children. It’s also true that new migrant arrivals eventually die. It’s not obvious that, other than the increase from the migrants themselves, that there is a net increase in population.

    • There’s a short term increase as adult migrants have children sooner after their arrival in Australia than Australian born babies. We’ve had a 20% increase in births roughly since the 90s – without migrants it would have been a few per cent decline. Effectively with zero NOM since 2000 our natural increase in 2017 would be about 50k lower.
      In the longer term – around 60 years after they arrive and therefore start dying – there’s no further effect if Australia’s TFR doesn’t increase.

      • Lies damn lies and statistics.
        Where do the demographers record the WAY above the average success enjoyed by the Children of immigrants?
        Where’s the statistic that measures the economy with and without these individuals?
        To give a specific example lets looks at Michael Cannon-Brookes (co-founder of Atlassian), he’s a first generation Australian, born in the US( I believe) with sometime spent in Asia and raised in the UK (a true third culture kid). There’s a Harvard University study that’s going on at the moment into the extraordinary success that these true Third culture kids enjoy. They’re different that’s for sure, as are the kids of Immigrants, this difference creates opportunities in their adopted societies….but where do the demographers weigh in on this? ….crickets.

        • Listen [Not] Smart. Nobody is calling for zero NOM (not even Dick Smith). Just for the migrant intake to be returned to long-run norms. Your Atlasian pal’s parents would have come to Australia under the old (sustainable) immigration settings.

          To borrow your own words: “shallow analysis, even pond scum have deeper insights” than your comment.

      • Assume you are referring to only new permanent residents under the skilled migration program and related cap?

        Or are you referring to the expanded 2006 definition of NOM including temps too eg. students, backpackers, NZ’ers and 457s, all described as ‘immigrants’?

        If the latter definition of ‘immigrant’ is used, then each sub category needs to analysed separately due to clear qualitative differences.

        However, it seems more about confusing people and creating some angst about ‘immigrants’ when it’s suggested they are new permanent settlers?

        • The permanent migrant intake was increased from 80,000 in 1999 to 200,000. This is what underpins NOM (since temps come and go).

          How is quoting these figures “confusing people” and “creating angst”. Do you not like facts?

      • Afraid you have lost me, in statistics rubbish in equals rubbish out.

        Not sure what does this mean:

        ‘The permanent migrant intake was increased from 80,000 in 1999 to 200,000. This is what underpins NOM (since temps come and go).’?

        It’s claiming not just a potential correlation between an increased permanent intake and the NOM, but there is causation, how?

        • The permanent migrant intake was lifted by 120k to 200k from the early 2000s. This is what has driven (and will continue to drive) Australia’s immigration intake (assuming temps eventually leave).

          None of this is rocket science. Yet you choose to ignore these basic facts.

          It was a deliberate policy decision to ramp up immigration to levels way above historical norms -creating massive infrastructure and housing pressures in the big cities. What’s the problem with lowering it back to historical levels so that our cities can better digest the intake?

  9. Standing in the same room with “it” Pauline Hanson is enough taint, let alone lining up with (some of the) policies of “it”.

    Dick may have a good cause but he’s tainted enough to never be separated from “being a Hansonite”.
    Impatience to swift political erection may do that.

  10. Dear me… It seems I need to draw attention at the risk of personal abuse, to the obvious that all demographers are well aware of.
    Our natural growth is set to decline dramatically as 80 years after a baby boom comes a death bust.
    Over the next few decades our deaths double and that will reduce our natural growth in an unprecedented way.



    Anything else apart from actual deaths is a prediction.

    UN predictions for OZ…

    • I’m genuinely interested in the question I posed above.
      Do demographers understand that all people are not equal, they’re not equally gifted, they’re not equally driven, people don’t all come with the same advantages. An immigrant’s child will always have greater insights (and better contacts) in their country of origin than any 3rd or 4th generation Australian born, this difference translates into global opportunities for Australia.
      For example Australia is now one of the largest producers of Chick peas in the world, even though our domestic consumption is negligible, the markets for Australian chick peas were opened by Immigrants from ME countries who recognized an opportunity.
      Similarly Australian Sushi grade fish are regularly flown to HK and Tokyo as as highly prized items. A whole industry has developed that ensures these fish are split out from the bulk of the catch and treated properly to ensure they arrive in Tokyo in perfect condition. The know how and market insights for these sectors were developed by immigrants from these countries.
      These industries increase the value of Australia’s human capital, they are our best hope of developing a diverse national income and probably our only hope of a successful post-mining future.
      But where is this information buried in the statistics?

      • Quite correct that these industries are growing. I know of no link however to immigrants as the driving force behind that rather it seems demand driven and better more efficient transport costs and options.

      • Do you honestly believe that diverse export markets develop simply because they become technically possible?
        If you don’t think that people play a role, just imaging paying $100/kg or more to air freight Sushi grade fish to Tokyo only to discover that it fails freshness tests.
        When you pay that money you are putting your faith in people more so than technology. The technology to address the market is available to everyone however the right people with the rights skills and commitment, now that’s the differentiated supply line that pays real dividends at the Tokyo fish markets.

      • Of course people make the difference. I just question your assertion that those ‘people’ are immigrants.

      • @Smart
        There is zero doubt that certain industries that have sprung up in Australia may not existed but for the presence of immigrants, however, that doesn’t detract from the fact that increased immigration is happening in tandem with a decrease in GDP per capita. While the Australian economy has certain internal challenges (well documented by MB) the declining GDP suggests that immigrants (as a whole) are not having a net positive effect i.e. not enough of them are productive or successful enough.
        If you think a chickpea growing industry is going to be the salvation of this country then you’re absolutely deluded. Part of the issue is that a welfare state is massively expensive to run and the immigrants are (on aggregate) not paying their way. It’s that simple.

  11. A great article, with valid and timely points.
    What a shame that so many comments are made by individuals who do not really understand the issues.
    I would strongly recommend that those of you who question some of the growth assertions actually get a text book and learn a bit about population biology (forget the demography – that is just a sub-set). Learn about ‘e’ and exponential growth, lean about concepts of net replacement rate and fecundity.

      • Oh yeah you would cop it for sure.. but also a lot of people are so completely unaware of what is happening re demographics – if people knew, you would find a significant number of them would not be happy about it – they will be the silent ones that don’t go hysterical about a video like that.