Tasmanian Times

Politics

Tasmania’s future

Michelle Paine

TASMANIA’S population should be capped at 500,000, says Sustainable Population Australia’s Tasmanian branch. Tasmania is expected to have half a million residents before the end of this year after increasing about 24,000 in 10 years. “The State Government should set an aim of stabilising the population and adopt a cap of half a million,” branch president Tom Nilsson said. Read more here

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Red Bob

    August 14, 2008 at 4:25 am

    I appreciate the reply, although I am afraid to say that raised eyebrows were the only affect you had on this reader.

    First, you say you don’t want to turn away refugees, but actually skilled migrants, arguing that “I do want to decrease immigration by getting employers to employ locals instead of importing workers from overseas”. This statement just opens up a can of worm, but you make it sound so simple.

    If SPA can solve the many problems relating to why certain industries and professions – such as, for example, the health system with overseas-trained doctors (that’s a common one in Tasmania) – have to recruit workers from overseas then I’m sure we would all be happy to hear them.

    Second, increased availability and better family planning services, together with “promoting sustainable family size (IE smaller)”, is your answer to how you would encourage people to have less kids.

    It is straight-forward to obtain contraception, abortions could be an easier process certainly (although the sheer number performed each year in this country would suggest otherwise), and I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of women who become pregnant tend to know why it happened.

    Encouraging people to have less kids? Couples will have as many or as few kids as they wish. The biggest disincentive for people to have more kids is the family finances, which is where this statement comes in “Changing tax incentives, eg applying the baby bonus only to the first two children.” Right, so in the future when they hopefully replace the baby bonus with paid maternity leave, you would deny the latter to a woman on her third pregnancy? Would you also like to do away with child care subsidies for the third child onwards? There’s one word for this and I think we all know what it is – discrimination.

    Third, you say “the “ageing population” is not the problem it is made out to be. Retirees provide jobs through the services they purchase and use. If people are living longer they are also like to work longer.” Really? Can you please explain that to the economists, social demographers and so forth who have been concerned about this problem for decades?

    By the way, you are exactly right in the sense that we need service industries – such as aged care – to service retirees. Have you heard that aged care is a growth industry? It certainly is. What you are conceding there, however, is that not only does someone retiring take that person out of the workforce but it creates a flow-on effect as more people are taken out of productive industries – those which bring revenue into a community – to care for the increased number of retirees.

    In response to my comment about changing the quarter-acre block mentality, you said: “Do you live in a high-rise apartment and if not are you volunteering? Is living in a high-rise apartment a good environment for children to grow up in?”

    No Tom I don’t, but nor do I live on a quarter-acre block. My contention is we could halve the average size of house blocks or at least reduce them by a third. Do we really need the big front and back yards and the side yards? Do we need the bigger and bigger houses that people are building for less and less people?

    In response to your query: “Furthermore, you have not really explained why you actually want to increase the population.” Simple – three words – economies of scale. It explains why we don’t have efficient and effective public transport, public health and public education in Tasmania, not to mention a host of others. A larger tax base in Tasmania means more public funding. It means better services.

    But then, let’s be clear here, I am not actually advocating a push to dramatically increase Tasmania’s population.

    You are advocating some kind of cap on our state’s population. How this would even be achieved for Tasmania is beyond me since surely most of the issues relating to this subject would fall under commonwealth jurisdiction?

    Your group says on its website that Australia’s population should be 10 million. I wonder what you think Tasmania’s share should be?

    In summing up, I really feel that the position you and SPA are coming from is one of defeatism.

    You see the environmental challenges facing not only the state, but the country and the whole world and you throw your hands in the air and say “the only answer is less people”.

    But that’s not tue. We can do so much more in terms of water conservation, land management, recycling, sustainable energy, and the list just goes on and on. We can have a growing population and at the same time actually do a better job of looking after the environment.

  2. Tom Nilsson

    August 13, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Response to Bob

    Bob: First, do you really want to turn away migrants and refugees? And how would you achieve that?
    Reponse: I don’t want to turn away refugees. I do want to decrease immigration by getting employers to employ locals instead of importing workers from overseas.

    Bob: Second, how do you encourage people not to have children?
    Reponse: Several ways. Increased availability of family planning services. Better family planning education. Promoting sustainable family size (IE smaller). Changing tax incentives, eg applying the baby bonus only to the first two children.

    Bob: Third, what about Australia’s ageing population and the reality that the growing political power of the `grey vote’ in lobbying for a higher rate of pension will only compound the problem that our social welfare system will become unsustainable in the future?
    Reponse: The “ageing population” is not the problem it is made out to be. Retirees provide jobs through the services they purchase and use. If people are living longer they are also like to work longer.

    Bob: If we can change the Australian culture of everyone wanting to own a quarter-acre block we could even accommodate a larger population without increased urban sprawl.
    Response: Do you live in a high-rise apartment and if not are you volunteering? Is living in a high-rise apartment a good environment for children to grow up in?

    Furthermore, you have not really explained why you actually want to increase the population.

  3. Red Bob

    August 13, 2008 at 4:26 am

    Sustainable Population Australia’s Tasmanian branch (is Mr Nilsson its only member?) did well to get so much oxygen out of its comments.

    As I understand it, there was nothing new in what Mr Nilsson had to say. We have seen the argument on this site before.

    Having said that, I would like to see more justification for the argument, on one hand, and, more importantly, responses to three key obvious problems with advocating such a policy.

    First, do you really want to turn away migrants and refugees? And how would you achieve that?

    Second, how do you encourage people not to have children?

    Third, what about Australia’s ageing population and the reality that the growing political power of the `grey vote’ in lobbying for a higher rate of pension will only compound the problem that our social welfare system will become unsustainable in the future?

    On the second point, I noticed Mr Nilsson was asked by a TV news reporter whether he was advocating a one-child policy. I must acknowledge that he did deny wanting to go down that path but he hardly did so in a way that shows disgust at that practice. Mr Nilsson does know what the one-child policy means for women who become pregnant with a second child? He does know what it means in terms of infanticide, for example?

    I reviewed Sustainable Population Australia’s website and I was not impressed with the arguments at all.

    We could certainly support a higher population in Australia . . . but I guess Mr Nilsson would argue the cost (the prospect of more dams, desalination plants, nuclear power plants, et al) would be too great.

    Australia – and particularly Tasmania – could support a higher population and still reduce its carbon footprint, water usage and so on if we were to get smarter about conservation of resources, recycling, etc.

    If we can change the Australian culture of everyone wanting to own a quarter-acre block we could even accommodate a larger population without increased urban sprawl.

    Changing the land use culture, reducing our carbon footprint and our water usage, encouraging greater recycling and so on are major challenges, but they are clearly more achievable and better for both the country and the environment than reducing our population.

    We can have our cake and eat it too.

  4. Dismord

    August 12, 2008 at 3:23 am

    Sane idea until we take into consideration how the ‘Tasmanian Navy, Army & Air-force’ are going to keep all those global warming refugees from crossing Bass Straight.
    And I’m not just on about fellow Australians but the millions who will pour cross the Timor Sea as well.
    Glad I’m too old to see it happen – – – well, maybe at the rate things are hotting up, not?

  5. Mike Adams

    August 11, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    A decade or so ago, the experts were saying that the future population of Australia should be 250 million, provided that 200 million lived on Tasmania’s West Coast. With present lake levels maybe that should be scaled back a bit…

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