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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About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.