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Big Australia and Sustainable Population Debate

Most people have little doubt bigger isn’t better. LATE last year an editor rang and asked me to write for his magazine. The only proviso was that I stopped writing nonsense about the need for Australia to have a population or immigration policy, because no one was interested. I’m still waiting for his apology. Having written about the subject since 1970, there has been some satisfaction in watching it become one of the big issues of this election.

The bad news is that advocates of a big Australia have bundled a range of immigration issues – asylum-seekers, refugees, cultural integration and economic growth – into one debate and branded opponents as racists, rednecks or worse: Hansonites. It appears impossible to have a rational discussion about immigration.

Fortunately, those who have been in the vanguard of the sustainable population movement include the former NSW premier Bob Carr, poet Mark O’Connor, businessmen William Burke and Dick Smith, Labor MP Kelvin Thompson and some feather dusters like yours truly.

Cohen claims that population growth protagonists have bundled immigration and related issues into one and accusing others of being racist? I see the opposite, all these issues bundled together yet the underlying theme seems to appeal to many with negative “racial” views. This is exemplified by formerly neutral terms that have now become negatively “loaded” in media, political and social dicsourse e.g. asylum seeker, overseas students, private college, immigration, Australian values etc.. Unfortunately many Australians, for whom there is little if any impact, have taken a position which assumes these “others” are Asian?

Cohen’s conclusion “Australia is one of the luckiest countries in the world with a politically stable, non-violent society, and we have achieved that with a medium-sized population. Let’s keep it that way.” suggests that newcomers adding to population are prone to violence and have cultures of political instability, unlike our traditional Anglo Irish stock….

Would it be too much for Australians to expect that our (self appointed) elites can focus not just on perceived problems, but on innovative and strategic solutions, rather than withdrawing from the worldand our region?

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