Has Tony Jones finally broken taboo on Australia’s population ponzi?

By Mark O’Connor, author of Overloading Australia:

The transcript  of this week’s QandA program (one of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s TV News programs), contains a bombshell.

This came at the very end, when presenter  Tony Jones announced the panelists for next week (which include Bob Carr and Tim Flannery). Jones also announced  that the topic will be Australia’s population growth rate which he described as the highest in the developed world. Jones has boldly broken  one of the strongest  taboos at ABC and SBS TV news.  Admissions that both Australia’s population growth rate and also its per capita immigration rate are exceptionally  high by OECD standards  have been rare indeed in recent decades —even though these are points that leap out from the ABS statistics, and would be among the most obvious pieces of information that any competent researcher would pass on to a presenter or producer contemplating a segment on  population or on immigration. (Very high immigration is of course the main driver of Australia’s population growth).  The environmentalist Ralph Bennett described trying to get one ABC team to mention these points, and being told “You’re trying to get us to break a whole set of small-l liberal no-nos”.

I cannot say that that this suppressed  information was never the starting point of any segment  on immigration or on population growth  on ABC or SBS TV news programs, because one cannot keep tabs on all programs; and in the age of search-engines like Google it is unwise to assert that something never happens. But I know how strongly most ABC and SBS presenters repressed attempts by interviewees to make this point. (It was only rarely that one was allowed to mention it on ABC radio.) This is one reason that Dick Smith recently referred to ABC News  as being dominated (on immigration and population) by a group of “well-placed bigots”—a conclusion also reached by myself and William Lines, with much documentation,  in our chapter on ABC Bias in the book OverloadingAustralia.

By refusing to concede/mention that Australia’s immigration rate was bizarrely high, and our population growth rate was higher than that of many third world countries, presenters could represent the current rate  as perfectly normal or natural and simply the way things were. No disquiet was expressed about Australia’s having embarked on a more extreme experiment than any other developed nation. The old image of Australia as a pioneering nation with “boundless plains” to fill was shamelessly propped up, even though (as Professor George Seddon pointed out) our agricultural frontier effectively closed a century ago.  The environmental damage was shrugged off. Evidence that the public dislikes or opposes  rapid population growth was  also suppressed, or treated as an irrelevance. Hence anyone brave enough to publicly criticise Australia’s sky-high  immigration rates could  be  represented as a naive eccentric with, very likely, some nasty motivation for wanting to criticise immigration. (A favorite trick was to claim that they must “hate immigrants”.)  By contrast, business lobby-groups with obvious vested interests in population growth were treated as impartial experts, and no right of reply to their claims was usually offered. Big Australia ideologues  like George Megalogenis  and Bernard Salt were often mis-presented as middle-of-the-road authorities.

Credible critics of high immigration, most notably the main community group  Sustainable Population Australia, were frozen out. In fact they were  denied oxygen  so completely that if their president or vice-president was interviewed on a major ABC TV news program in the past 20 years, I am not aware of it. Even when Peter Costello brought in his controversial “baby bonus”, no comment from Sustainable Population Australia was permitted on ABC TV News programs. More recently the very reputable Sustainable Australia Party  has been almost entirely denied oxygen, even by those ABC TV programs that exhaustively cover every shred of Australian political news. The strong statements of the Australian Academy of Science have also been largely ignored by ABC and SBS.

With the fact that Australia’s high immigration is unusual by world standards suppressed, other distortions became possible. All discussion of the costs of sky-high immigration levels  – costs such as traffic congestion, destruction of Australia’s natural environments, the wiping out of koalas around Brisbane, the crushing costs of infrastructure expansion that caused Anna Bligh to sell off the public silver and get booted out of office, the endless destruction of pleasant suburbs in Melbourne Sydney and Perth by bullying high-rise developers, the impossible price of housing,  stagnation of wages etc etc   – could be turned aside by putting the blame on “bad planning” or “nimbyism” or “government not doing enough”.  (No doubt that’s the sort of line that the Property Council’s  Jane Fitzgerald will be running next Monday on QandA.)

Now, in a single sentence, Tony Jones has emphatically tossed away thirty years of denial, and admitted the truth.  Australia’s rate of population growth is not normal, and is certainly not the result of the rational choices about family size that most Australian couples have long made. It is the result of the power that business lobbies and pro-growth donors have achieved over the Australian government. –

Should we present Jones  with a special cake for ending the big denial? But how is the ABC to make up to us for 30 years of intelligent national discussion that we have been denied? And note Jones’s exact phrasing: Next Monday on QandA, a close look at our booming population. Australia now has the fastest rate of population growth in the developed world, but are we equipped to deal with 39 million Australians by 2050?

There are two potential fudges here: first, the pretence that Australia’s rate of population growth has only recently become exceptional, and second, fatalism, i.e. the pretence that sky-high immigration is inevitable (or is divinely ordained, or is determined by the labour market, or can’t be reduced because our immigrants are refugees). Don’t be surprised if the producer and panellists have tricks like this up their sleeves.

Still Jones has made a start to row back from decades of Big Australia propaganda.  Let us hope that he and his producer will soon start to include representatives from Sustainable Population Australia and the Sustainable Australia Party on their panels. After all, rapid population growth is the background cause if not indeed the effective  initiating cause of many if not most of the problems their program aims to investigate; and a single program devoted to its effects will be no compensation for decades of neglect and denial of the issue.

P.S.   The panellists announced for next week are to include:

Panellists: Bob Carr, Former Foreign Minister; Tim Flannery, Chief Councillor of the Climate Council; Jane Fitzgerald, Property Council of Australia, NSW; and John Daley, CEO Grattan Institute.


  1. Cool and could someone remind them about the student intake and position students achieve are also similar in nature and a part of the overall ballistic population spike?

  2. It’s almost as if they can see the worm turning.. just look at Brexit, or Italy recently. Or even Trump. All promises to reduce immigration. NZ too for that matter. Too much of anything is not a good thing, especially when the local population feels displaced. It will result in riots, nationalism and violence eventually. Just keep pushing, the problem with shutting down the debate is it just makes people angrier and angrier.

    I know I’m raging inside at the way things are going. Not sure how others are keeping it together so calmly.

  3. so what if he made one throwaway comment? next week’s episode is going to be weak as p1ss; look at the panelist lineup. a couple of consessions buried under a mountain of admonitions, warnings about ‘racism’ and and the usual spiel. definitely going to be an attempt at making it look like the ABC are acknowledging concerns about population but still trying to defuse them.

    at the end of this cycle i reckon we’ll get a cut to immigration, but it won’t be enough. probably 100K-150K rather than 200K. at this point i wont be content until its below 70K. my ideal is about 50K.

    • Can’t wait to hear what the Property Council of Australia has to say. Q&A is a joke.

    • Your first para describes the typical media placebo I’d expect to see. They’re putting it up there so they can appear to still be in control of the narrative just like 4Corners will likely do. They’ll then go home telling themselves that that was the discussion we had to have – done with move on……

    • I can’t understand a thing tony jones says maybe its because his progressive head has progressed so far up his QwankA

    • @stag
      Yes his off the cuff comment likely be received as though he passed wind at inopportune moment as soon will be forgotten.
      Create a stink.

  4. Tim Flannery – biggest fake scientist sellout on the planet. Belongs in Gaol for fraud.
    In good company with the other panelist sadly

  5. If Gov-monster pulls Tony-super-hero, we can stick him in MB staff with Piketty and Stiglitz and produce a global hope thing for youth; this is going to be awesome.

  6. I do hope Q&A presents what is the actual biggest population and demographic event this century.
    The death bust 80 years after a baby boom sees our actual real number of deaths double. Currently growing at twice our population growth rate. Our natural growth may drop to zero over the next few decades. This is the real story as to our population moving forward.
    I do not support a big Australia, however I am fully aware of where our natural growth is heading.
    Our NOM will not double or treble to compensate for the dramatically falling natural growth due to the anti-immigration traction already being laid. Not politically possible.

    “Looking to the future, Australia will experience an increase in deaths over the next 30 years. While there were 147,098 deaths in 2012, based on current death rates and population growth, the calendar year 2024 will record more than 187,000 deaths, an increase of 27% in the span of a decade, and by 2044 Australia will be recording more than a quarter of a million deaths per calendar year, an increase of 71% compared to today.”



    • Know IdeaMEMBER

      “… by 2044 Australia will be recording more than a quarter of a million deaths per calendar year …”

      Is that not about the same number of new bods that showed up in the country over the last year?

    • Who cares?

      Why do we even need population growth. As far as i’m concerned the move towards a smaller populations makes perfect sense.

      a) We have an ever decreasing requirement for human labour.
      b) A rapidly increasing need to mitigate environmental impacts.

      A shrinking population makes perfect sense to me.

      • Locus of ControlMEMBER

        I agree Tom. What does it matter if deaths outnumber births in a single country? Looking at the big picture the population of humans on the planet has exploded in the last century or so. When my grandparents were born there were about 2 billion humans around, now we are at what, 7 billion? That is grossly unsustainable, even with the technological developments we’ve made in the past 80-90 years. The environmental destruction and degradation has been appalling. I think our population should be declining, if only to give our natural environment a bit of ‘breathing space’. And yes, I live what I believe – I’ll be bringing no children into this world to follow on from me.

  7. “Jane Fitzgerald, Property Council of Australia, NSW”

    Yeah, of course the property council is invited to the panel. Lol.

    Objective of the show is probably to put the frighteners on people that if crazy migration were to stop, their precious house prices might stop rocketing.

    • CoreLogic has Sydney house prices down 0.83% yoy, and nearly 4% from top. Why be scared of something that’s already happened?

      • Because Melbourne is different to Sydney, so it won’t happen in Sydney. Melbourne has better Coffee.

      • Why does the Property Council of NSW spokesperson care so much about how Melbourne is going whilst having no concern for Sydney?
        Besides, Melbourne property is also falling, albeit at a slower rate, and after peaking a couple of months later.

      • HadronCollision

        Market Lane
        Proud Mary
        Deadman Mthfking Espresso
        The list goes on and on and on bro

      • I visited Melbourne recently, had to drive around the whole joint for business meetings, and you Mexicans would want to have the better coffee cos your city is shagged, its as shagged as Sydney, maybe worse in parts, the congestion is off the scale, what happened to Melbourne?

      • @hc,

        4% down in 5 momths is close enough to a 10% p.a. decline, so not all that slow. What proportion of Australian wage earners earned $40k after tax to make up for the loss in wealth they’d have experienced if they were unfortunate enough to own a $1mil house in Sydney?
        Besides, even 0% growth means house prices are no longer rocketing.

    • We have almost reached a point where 51% of the voters own no real estate.

      I guess Howard was able to win election after election due to giving handouts to the richest 60% of the voters and maybe at that time, 60-70% of the voters owned some real estate. But with the braindead Greens making land too expensive, the situation has almost reached the tipping point.

      • The most recently available figure via HILDA for the proportion of Australian adults who own the house they live in is 51.7% – for 2014. The survey on that question is to be repeated some time this year. If the decline from 2010 to 2014 was to be seen again, they will find around 48% of Australians aged 18 and over live in a house they own in 2018.

      • I look forward to that tipping point, refer to Canada’s new draconian property tax laws. 😀 Even Holiday houses ain’t safe!

      • “We have almost reached a point where 51% of the voters own no real estate.”

        Snap. We’ve reached the point where 51% of taxpayers pay no net tax.

        Anyway, our home ownership rates will soon rival Germany and Switzerland at 51 and 42% respectively.

  8. not expecting much, when 4 corners can do a whole 45 minutes on the housing bubble without mentioning foreign buyers!!!!!!!!! FFS, you know calibre of these morons

    • Funny how Chinese buyers left a few months ago and prices started to fall not long after… and credit started to tighten… hmmm it’s almost as if the boom in prices was related to foreigners. But #Racist!

  9. So obviously Labor and Greens will be calling for a Royal Commission into this disgraceful cover-up by LNP and ABC.

    When are they announcing it?

  10. So who on the panel could we expect to tell a few truths about Australia’s population growth rate?

    From memory, Tim Flannery has some form on the subject, but he strikes me as a bit too much of a nice guy to stand up on it without support from at least one other panellist. Who would he get the support from? Not Jane, we know she will be pushing the wonders of rapid population growth, no doubt recycling all the great myths (it’s all about building the infrastructure, skills shortages, ageing population, etc).

    How about Bob Carr? He did make some noises about population growth when he was NSW premier but that was likely just deflection of the electorate’s discontent toward the federal government and away from himself rather than any genuine belief. Besides, he’s Sino Bob these days and it seems unlikely his donors would support him pushing lower population growth on national television.

    And John Daley? His comments on the topic have been fairly equivocal haven’t they? My guess is he will be sprouting the “it’s all about building the infrastructure…” line too.

    Prediction: population growth is just being raised as a topic on Q&A so that Auntie can reassure the public that it isn’t a problem, and the only people who think that it is are secretly racist.

    • Tim Flannery says Australia has a sustainable population of between 9 and 12 million.

      “Virtually all hunter-gatherer societies seem to possess a ‘golden rule’ of population. This is, that in ‘normal’ times, the human population of a given area rarely exceeds 20-30 per cent of the carrying capacity of the land…If this were done, Australians might decide upon an optimum, long-term population target of 6-12 million”

      Tim Flannery, Senior Research Scientist
      Australian Museum in Sydney
      The Future Eaters 1997

      Of course he’s been ignored on that, but put on a pedestal for his position on carbon emissions.

    • They’ll try it, and probably get away with this time. But the genie is finally out of the bottle and it ain’t going back in. They are only delaying the inevitable.

    • Daley? Grattan? Whose latest missive could be summed up as large scale immigration causes more residential building and leads to lower house prices. Cue maniacal laughter.

  11. Don’t get your hopes up.
    A lot will be said about how great migrants are and how we just need to plan better.

    • Plan better is the best comment, because if we haven’t managed it so far, what makes anyone think we will going forward? Especially with the current crop of policy decision makers we have.

      • You don’t have to plan in Trumbull’s neoliberal economic paradise. The magical market will take care of it.

    • bob carr is worried there wont be enough room on the Australian continent for bob carrs ego and another 400 thousand immigrants

  12. Like the Pedestrian Council and other community based organisations, perhaps there could be a “Concerned Citizens” group formed with some political voice and strength.

    Could fight government like the opposition is supposed to do.

    • There is – Sustainable Population Australia as mentioned in the article. But standard MSM practice forbids sensible debate on the issue so they never get a mention or hearing in the MSM.

      • SAP are far too soft. They’ve already reversed their core purpose of population growth to third position and removed “population” from their name. They want to raise humanitarian intake from already world’s highest.

        They are not aggressive enough in campaigning, rhetoric or stance.

        IMO, no one knows who they are or what they stand for. 2% vote for what over 70% of Australians see as a major issue says it all.

        They should be screaming in the streets that they weren’t invited to QandA. They should be vocally and angrily calling for an investigation into the ABC, LNP, Labor, Greens and unions into their support for a big Australia that defies what more than 70% of us want.

  13. so is anyone here interested in getting on the show? ive applied, im going to try to ask them a question if i get on.

  14. ABC’s QandA Programmer (Tara) tells me Dick Smith was invited onto the panel but was ‘unavailable’ can anyone verify this? Dick, are you there?

    • HadronCollision

      Unless he actually has something else to do (and I am sure there are a lot of better things to do like be in Italy for Milan San Remo) he is a f#cking imbecile for not being there

    • ErmingtonPlumbing

      How about MBs own,…Jacob?
      He could talk about $500 one way suburban rail tickets for foreigners and do a lament about how mass immigration has lead to us all, having to endure low flow shower heads.

      • Agreed, Dick would have done it if he could. He is trying to the message across and forks out his own money to do so, I suspect he would be disappointed that he couldn’t make it.

    • I’d actually rather see Leith make it. Whilst I love dick (Haroldus be quiet!) he gets a little shrill when putting across his point. Makes it too easy to label him, whereas Leith comes across much more rational and fact based.

  15. We need our pal Reus on TV complaining about the Thai massage ladies being replaced by the old Chinese ones. That will fix thing!

  16. HadronCollision

    most notably the main community group Sustainable Population Australia

    And right there is SPA/SAP?SA? image problem
    No one knows their name or what they are
    (As everyone here keeps saying)

    And good luck with QA even discussing this. You’ll be relying on hand chosen q’s

    Q from audience FakeLeft: “Dear Dick smith why are you a racist? Don’t you love immigration Dick? ”

    If you think Q&A can discuss this how you want them to I have a river on Mars to sell you
    Just $1000
    You pay now
    cash only

  17. ErmingtonPlumbing

    Is there like a phone number or email address, that we can all inundate with our demands, that Leith Van Onsellen be given a seat?

    • set by Canberra regime, toll free: 1800-462929 (1800-GOAWAY)
      there’s a number for complaints but it will not pass the redact-a-bot here 1300-382563

    • Q&A has its own website where you can submit questions, suggestions and request to be in the audience.

  18. I love the idea that immigration quantity is placed on referendum/plebiscite.

    Like in every little country where a thug comes to power but tosses a few breadcrumbs to hungry plebes, *everyone* will criticise her but will vote for her secretly. Call it a Trump or Brexit or even Italexit effect…
    She, He, Ze, Hu, Hen, Ne, Mx, Hir, Yo, They… I am trying not to be sexist here. Make your own pick

    If local plebes are placed to choose between:
    1. House price plunging back to below historical levels (with revert to historic immigration qty)
    2. Further cramming of the overpopulated cities with city limits set 50yrs ago but prices of homes remaining or further increasing…. I recon choice 2 will be overwhelming. No one will want to trade their own “wealth” for a bit of space and wealth for all.

    It will boil down to what the telly, billboards etc tell them. As it is always the case with plebiscites. And we all know what those that own telly and billboards want…

    • David Cameron thought the same way as you – he held a referendum on Brexit because he thought that Britons will vote for more overcrowding. They voted to slash immigration hard while Japan and Portugal have shrinking populations.

      Japan has shrinking house prices! I do not see Japanese plebs demanding that Japan open the immigration floodgates so that house prices go up again.

      Even if SAP wins the election, AUS will still have 70,000 immigrants per year. The braindead Greens can simply stop releasing more land and land prices will keep going up.

  19. Q&A did an episode on the out of control immigration rate in 2010 and SBS Dateline did one in 2011. Ross Gittins even spoke the truth in the 2011 episode.

    Strangely, John Elliott cheered on mass illegal-wage immigration in the 2010 episode but now rants against mass illegal-wage immigration on his son’s radio show on 3AW Radio. Tom has ranted against it since he got the gig in 2013.

  20. MichaelMEMBER

    Questions submitted, on continent carrying capacity and the population Sydney infrastructure is currently designed for.
    Hope they get answered or something similar.

  21. hareebaMEMBER

    No coincidence both Q & A and 4 Corners covering this on the same night.

    Sarah Ferguson is the the most combative political journo going around. Ruthless. Jones, her husband, and her have seemingly ‘teamed’ up on this issue.

    Shame we have to put up with lightweight Leigh Sailes on 7.30. Ferguson should be in that chair. A few pollies would be needing diapers if she was.

    It might not be the snow job we all anticipate. But being the ABC it probably will be.

  22. RussellMEMBER

    If it is at all possible, could you make your book available for purchase on kindle. I find kindle books are easier to read and carry than paper books.

  23. looks like sustainable australia got invites. i just got this e-mail:

    “4 Corners and Q&A – 12 March
    Next Monday 12 March the ABC is covering the ‘Big Australia’ (40 million population by 2050) debate through its flagship current affairs programme 4 Corners, followed by a Q&A special on the same subject. This is welcome news and will give us an opportunity to collectively engage with the issue.

    Sustainable Australia campaigns for Australia’s population to be stabilised at 26-30 million by 2050, in order to help achieve our big goals of secure jobs, affordable housing, better planning and a sustainable environment. It’s very important that we are clear about why we want population policy reform.

    We have long argued for a population plebiscite on this target and will be pushing for it through social media engagement in the lead up to and during Monday’s ABC programmes. The related point we will also make is to lower annual permanent immigration from a record 200,000+ back to the long term average of 70,000. Normalising immigration will largely achieve the abovementioned population target.

    Please follow, share and retweet Sustainable Australia as much as possible via our Facebook and Twitter accounts. See links below.

    Join the Q&A audience

    The ABC has contacted us directly and asked to invite members and supporters into the audience in Sydney.

    If you want to join the audience, register here now. In Q.15 please write “Sustainable Aust” as a reference.

    The link to submit questions on the Q&A website is here.”

    check your e-mail folks.

    • Dear me, 16 million added by 32 years is 500K pa and we have never grown at that rate, not to mention that our nartural growth is falling and will continue to fall. Such stupid numbers are just ‘thrown about’…..

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      LOLOLOLOL! The people on here don’t leave their parents homes too often…

    • Can’t believe the ABC form has only 2 genders I’m offended!

      PS: Signed up, said I was part of a political party (because I joined Affordable Housing Party), hope that doesn’t sh!t can my chance to get on the show.

  24. It’s good luck that Bob Carr and Tim Flannery were both born in Australia. We won’t have to listen to another round of idiots saying: “Well, because Tony Abbott is an immigrant himself, he’s a big fat hypocrite and not allowed to say anything”.

  25. So….. based on that panel the question will be asked and answered with a roaring YES, population growth is great, now move on people! Why else who you invite a PCA delegate?

  26. RACIST!!!

    Fun fact: allegedly a phrase created by the communist Lenin to undermine strong and prosperous European countries.

  27. I’m gobsmacked that Jones, the elite at the ABC, fessed up. I suspect he’s done so because it’s a hot issue now and he’d be fact checked and made to look like a pratt. For someone who sell himself as the intellectual one, this is a big one to be on the wrong side of.

  28. When I heard this was being discussed on the ABC I cheered at first. Then after reading the title of the program again “Big Australia, Are We Ready”? I realised that they have already signalled that they see a big Australia as unavoidable.

    Title should be “Big Australia, Do We Want It?”
    Oh well at least its a start

  29. Chain migration will be the real wave as all the third worlders bring all their relatives in. Then health services will collapse rapidly.