Dr Sobels: Mass immigration a mass environment killer

By Leith van Onselen

Dr Jonathan Sobels – a senior research fellow at the University of South Australia and the author of a key 2010 report prepared for the Department of Immigration entitled Long-term physical implications of net overseas migration: Australia in 2050, gave a brilliant incisive interview on ABC’s Radio National warning of a huge reduction in Australian living standards if the federal government continues with its mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ policy.

Below are the key extracts:

“You end up with, in absolute terms, more pollution. You end up with more impacts on people’s personal time spent commuting, for example. You end up with less choice in even simple things…

And we are coming up towards physical limitations within our physical, built and natural environments that will lead to compromises in the quality of our life…

Not only are the dams not filling, but the ground water supplies are not filling. The only option you have open to you is water efficiency use and whacking up desal plants. But if your population keeps increasing at the rates we have seen in recent times, you won’t be able to afford putting up billion dollar desal plants, which also have their environmental impacts…

I think we have a problem with this notion of growth being the panacea to all our policy problems. Ultimately, growth in a finite environment becomes impossible. It’s a lazy policy prescription that says ‘oh, let’s have more people’ to drive the economy because essentially the growth in productivity over the last 30 years is a product of increasing population.

Our productivity per se hasn’t necessarily gone anywhere in the last 20 years despite technological development. We need to consider how we can actually structure our economy so that growth is not the aim. But in fact creating living spaces and economies that people can sustain over a longer period…

I believe that [the number for net migration] is the place where we should begin. All our issues to do with infrastructure stem from the number of people we have. If we are going to have a discussion about infrastructure, we first need to discuss how many people but also, most importantly, where they are located before we start planning what we want to do in terms of infrastructure…

I’m baffled on why we don’t have politicians with either the information or the political capital to talk about how many people can live in certain places. 80% of the immigration into Australia post WW2 has been into 20% of the local government areas, principally Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. Those are the places where the Commonwealth needs to be active in terms of ‘can we sustain the continuation of that intake’. Or, is there a way that we can ameliorate the pressure on these major cities in terms of where we encourage people to live…

I’m a little bit skeptical and sanguine about the political will of the Government and either side to actually engage people into what are difficult and contentious discussions. And it’s really quite a shame that we don’t see leadership in terms of establishing the vision of what Australia could be and then working back from that vision in terms of setting policy”.

Excellent interview from a genuine expert that clearly understands the key issues surrounding the immigration debate. Let’s hope we hear a lot more from Dr Sobels in the future.

Dr Sobels’ 2010 report is also well worth reading and covers the above issues in much greater detail. Why was this report completely ignored by the Immigration Department and federal government?

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Unconventional Economist


  1. Gutless ABC discussing ‘population’ etc on Q & A next Monday.

    With no ‘Dick’ or LVO I am sure it will be a tepid affair.

    • Not sure if it’s just the past few years, but as a full pledged greenie I am pretty much the definition of right wing nowadays when it comes to social issues. Have we shifted that much. I can’t stand abc anymore.

    • The immigration discussion on Q&A will be about how to continue to accommodate the present massive 3rd world permanent immigration program.
      There will no discussion about reducing the present levels, or, if discussed, in such a way as to discredit those that question the program.

  2. Wigner effect

    QandA is what groupthink induced by propaganda looks like. Each week they talk about the same stuff, exercise no self control and allow bullies to talk down sensible guests that aren’t afflicted with groupthink. There was a guest last week trying to tell us all what Putin thinks. Sadly most would believe what was peddled without a curious critical analysis.

    Let’s have DIck and a few other independent population experts on it.

  3. Mining BoganMEMBER

    Pfft…since when did houses and Audis come from the environment?

    Just concrete the entire country as a nation building exercise.

    • Dr Sobels is clearly just a white nationalist racist who is against brown and yellow people coming here. They work harder than the lazy whites and ensure we all prosper enough to live in McMansions and drive the latest Audi’s .

  4. Have you noticed that the argument for immigration always returns to the benefits and importance of the “economic growth”? It should be shocking that our society has been effectively brainwashed to hold such a narrow principle as the be-all and end-all of every decision making process.

    What is even more alarming is the observable fact that our financial, economic and political systems are now degenerate and dysfunctional. Try and identify a single case where the system works as it is supposed to in the orthodox canon. There is a growing laundry list of “stuff that makes no sense” which gets ignored, while the talking heads in the media just mindlessly recite the orthodox beliefs.

    Many of the issues we face could be debated rationally, and you would think that they would be, but no. For example, why are interest rates stuck at close to zero? Why do we enjoy such a high standard of living when we produce nothing? What will happen to the cities full of immigrants when the jobs disappear? The only answer we get at the moment is a variation on … “because growth!”.

    The only way to make any headway is to bring awareness to the failure of modern finance based economics. QnA is supposed to be doing that job, but they are almost a complete failure.

    • ScientistMEMBER

      Agree about the GDP/economic growth brainwashing. Maybe one way to counteract the brainwashing in society is to ask individuals at the next BBQ: how has the last few years of GDP growth in Australia been of benefit to you and your family? Would expect plenty of blank stares and silence because many don’t actually understand what it is and how it relates to their life, but hopefully it gets people thinking why it’s pretty useless as a measure of their personal economic and living standards.

      As for Q&A, cannot stand it and don’t watch it anymore. You can bet the next episode on immigration will be an attempt to shutdown any of the recent debate. The panel with be loaded with pro-immigration lobbyists but include a token “anti-immigration” person with a racist agenda so they can pretend the anti immigration movement is just about racism rather than improving the living standards of Australians and the sustainability of Australia’s resources and environment.

      • I also fear that Jones has a trap set for Monday. China Bob and Flannery will be easy targets for the lynch mob. But the tone of this interview where the interviewer stated as fact that there were so many good things that flow from population growth, was abysmal. Also, it was Gillard that appointed Bourke as Minister for Sustainable Population and it was Rudd that was kicked out, partly BECAUSE he backed a Big Australia on the 730 Report.

      • It’s our own fault, most of us think if they have a job, somewhere to live and a few bucks then everything’s all right. try explaining at your next barbie how high immigration is a deliberate ploy by the government to keep Australia out of recession and getting re-elected and is just a sugar hit that will have to be paid for by following generations in massive infrastructure spending with money we don’t have.As usual the effects of it all will be felt years down the track letting those guilty of b…s…ing us off the hook.

      • @Brian. Sadly, a simple lie is much easier to pass off than a complex truth. I have found that persistence pays off. Water on stone!

  5. If road tunnels were not being built due to the manic immigration rate, perhaps the voters would spend more time worrying about deforestation in AUS.

  6. What’s all the more galling is that we pay Scott Morrison half a million dollars and population growth is all he comes up with! Seriously, we could pay monkeys to fling poo and they would do a better job that that lecherous scumbag of a person.

  7. “Why was this report completely ignored by the Immigration Department and federal government?” Your question (or was it a plea) would seemed to be answered by the obvious reality that this Department does not really exist anymore except to exercise its penal functions with regard to so-called illegal migration. Migration and control over intake numbers appear to have been effectively outsourced from government to industry, migration and visa consultants, universities, labour hire companies and the property development industry.

    In 1998, Immigration was forecasting a population of 23 million by 2051. Hello,we are passed that number already so what happened? John Howard and Kevin Rudd unilaterally decided they wanted to go for The Big Australia and for over a decade, all the brakes were off.

    Sydney is rocketing toward a population of 9 million by 2051 if not earlier. The fact that the city infrastructure does not work for the population of 2007 does not faze the rent seekers and the apartment spruikers.

    Don’t look to the Department of Immigration for help on this issue. What Australia needs now is a fully independent Population Council to take back control of the migration debate and to properly inform the public of the full impacts on our cities and countryside of excessive rapid intake. Good job for you, Leith