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Sustainable Prosperity

Towards a Sustainable Population

Towards a Sustainable Population

To meet Australia's international obligations and move towards achieving environmentally sustainable population levels nationally, the Australian Democrats advocate:

  • Substantially reducing the numbers entering Australia through our business migration scheme while simultaneously training the 1.5m Australians who are unemployed or underemployed to gain the necessary skills;
  • Doubling the numbers in our humanitarian intake;
  • Increasing our foreign aid budget and ensuring more money and effort is directed towards women in developing countries for sexual and reproductive health, including contraception.

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Australians have been subjected to an environmental roller-coaster ride on population. Prime Minister Rudd said he believed in "a big Australia", then Prime Minister Gillard said she did not. The Environment Minister, Tony Burke, followed up by telling us that the government's strategy for continued population growth is to encourage people to live beyond our capital cities - as if they do not have an environmental impact elsewhere! Our fragile and unique environment cannot withstand the trampling of the extra feet that Australia's politicians want to foist on it.

Most Australian politicians fail to understand the impact of population on the environment:

  • The Labor and Liberal Parties bow to the dictates of the development lobby and continue to support increases in population.
  • The Greens' position is unpredictable, with some expressing concern about population increase, and others showing no understanding of the environment and passionately advocating a "welcome all comers" approach.

But ahead of the rest, for more than 30 years the Australian Democrats have had enshrined in our constitution that "we accept the challenges of the predicament of humanity on the planet with its exponentially increasing population, disappearing finite resources and accelerating deterioration of the environment".

Towards a Sustainable Population

Since European settlement, hundreds of species have become extinct in Australia, including at least 50 bird and mammal, 4 frog and more than 60 plant species. It is likely that other species have disappeared but without our knowledge. Many other species are considered to be threatened and are listed under Australian Government legislation as endangered or vulnerable. More than 310 species of native animals and over 1180 species of native plants are at risk of disappearing forever.

In a continent where only 6% of our land is arable and drought is the norm, Australia has neither the soil fertility nor water resources to produce the food requirements for an increasing number of people. We face impending problems of peak oil and decreased rainfall within the Murray-Darling Basin which in turn will have major consequences for our primary production. Unbridled population growth will turn us into net importers of food.

The reputable studies are there: as long ago as 1994 the Australian Academy of Sciences advocated a maximum population for Australia of 24 million, a figure we are fast approaching and will soon exceed. In 2010 the National Institute of Labour Studies at Flinders University looked at different levels of net overseas migration - from zero up to 260,000 p.a. - and found that all levels lead to worryingly unsustainable positions, which worsen the higher the levels become.

Increasing numbers of Australians are recognising the importance of reining in population growth. The Public Health Association of Australia has adopted a population policy based on health, nutrition and environmental constraints, encouraging Federal and State governments to adopt policies that will lead to population numbers being held at sustainable levels.

In 2010, the Public Affairs Commission of the Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia issued a discussion paper which argued that "Unless we take account of the needs of future life on Earth, there is a case that we break the eighth commandment - 'Thou shalt not steal'." As a consequence, at their General Synod meeting in 2010, a "Caring for Creation" motion was carried:

Whatever level of immigration is agreed upon, we say that Australia's intake must not be based on race, ethnicity, sexuality or religion.

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There are important international obligations in relation to refugees and asylum seekers which the Australian Democrats strongly uphold and on which we have campaigned extensively over many years.

Our party's Immigration Policy argues for "a non-discriminatory immigration program, which gives priority to refugees and family reunion, the total number of which when included with overall population trends will not impede sustainability of the nation's natural resources".

The Australian Democrats strongly support the Millenium Development Goals, which include commitments to reproductive health improvements and the empowering of women. Population increase is not just an Australian phenomenon, and many women in developing countries would prefer to have fewer children (indeed 250m couples have no access to contraception, 68,000 women die each year from unsafe abortions and many more are permanently maimed). We call on the Australian Government to substantially increase our effort in foreign aid for sexual and reproductive health.

So, to re-state our position - to meet Australia's international obligations and move towards achieving environmentally sustainable population levels nationally, the Australian Democrats advocate:

  • Substantially reducing the numbers entering Australia through our business migration scheme while simultaneously training the 1.5m Australians who are unemployed or underemployed to gain the necessary skills;
  • Doubling the numbers in our humanitarian intake;
  • Increasing our foreign aid budget and ensuring more money and effort is directed towards women in developing countries for sexual and reproductive health, including contraception.

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Towards a Sustainable Population

We can meet our international obligations and move towards achieving environmentally sustainable population levels by substantially reducing the numbers entering Australia through our business migration scheme and doubling the numbers in our humanitarian intake ... Read more.

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Authorised by: Darren Churchill, 29 Brunswick Circuit, Kaleen, ACT, 2617.