Holistic local sustainability; food, water, energy, money, people

Big Australia Plebiscite

Australia is at a crucial juncture. During the pandemic, we experienced two years of very slight population growth (due to births). Not since 1916 during WWI has anything like this occurred. Australians now have the rarest of opportunities to assess the value of a stable population.

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Source: https://mccrindle.com.au/insights/blog/australias-future-demographic-identity/

The impacts of rapid population growth have mostly been on the downside for Australians, which is why most would, wisely, like to see a slow-down. They include higher unemployment; deteriorating wages and conditions for workers (and productivity); housing unaffordability; higher personal and state debt resulting in cutbacks to social programs; congestion of roads, ports, hospitals, schools and recreational areas; expensive desalination plants; habitat loss and high species extinction rates; endangered ecosystems; loss of fertile soil to housing developments; more stressful, system-dependent urban lifestyles; more pollution and greenhouse gases as new arrivals take up a more carbon intensive consumption pattern; less revenue from natural resources per person; a bigger trade deficit; greater inequality between rich and poor; less social mobility, distraction from indigenous issues and the dilution of democracy. Overall, these negate the benefits of updating, expanding and remodeling the built environment and the improved lifestyles of the mostly middle class who arrive here with skills that they gained from their home countries and don’t necessarily employ here. Australia is now a very culturally diverse society and this needs to consolidated and stabilized.

The graph above shows the source of population growth. This is not to negate the contributions of migrants. They contribute where ever they are. It is the number of EXTRA people per year – be they babies or immigrants – on a very dry, finite continent that is at issue.

For decades federal governments have – at the behest of business interests – foisted recklessly fast immigration-driven population growth on the Australian public. They are clearly choosing a policy that most Australians oppose. A proper, open and respectful debate of the pros AND the CONS has never been held. Politicians can no longer claim this is ‘inevitable’ and ‘unstoppable’, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison did before COVID. Our population growth rate is the result of immigration quotas set by Federal Cabinet alone (not legislation) and incentives to have babies. We could set an example to the world by at least slowing our growth and consumption addicted economy and do our bit to help save the planet.

Sign the Change.org petition HERE.

Prominent Australians tout the benefits of a stable population. During the end of the pandemic, the RBA Governor and the Secretary of the ACTU both acknowledged wages gained ground. Unemployment dropped – the excess supply in the labour market was absorbed. Journalists in the mainstream media pointed to the positives like never before. Alan Kohler lambasted the federal government for “deliberately undermining Australian workers by importing huge numbers of temporary migrant ‘slaves’.” He also called immigration policy “the most material economic decision to be made by whoever wins the next election.” (Alan Kohler: immigration reboot a deliberate wage killer, New Daily, Leith van Onselen, MacroBusiness, 18 November 2021).

In December, 2021, the ALP leadership announced it opposed the Coalition’s goal of a 160,000 migrant intake for 2022. (Liberal politicians were calling for up to 400,000 per year). Citing working conditions and unemployment, it hinted at a lower rate without giving a number. But the ALP’s hints have turned out to be a ruse; having won the election, they are talking (at their Jobs and Skills Summit) about increasing the intake quota to 200,000+ every year for at least 4 years. The Labor government’s call for a return to even higher immigration levels continues a hugely transformative policy.

A plebiscite campaign will highlight the issue and public opposition to this policy. Running a plebiscite during a federal election will save on costs ($69 million+).

A NOM (net overseas migration) quota over 100,000 would not be considered moderate by Sustainable Population Australia, which advocates between 50k- 80k.

TAPRI‘s July 2021 survey shows public sentiment has hardened against immigration-driven high population growth. “The pandemic has created a unique opportunity to ask the Australian voting public what they think the level of immigration should be after it is all over… Do voters want the Big Australia policy back…? Their responses allow us to see whether the Big Australia advocates have been successful in putting their case … Voters are not persuaded that Australia needs more people. Most, 69 per cent, say that it does not (Figure 8).”

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The Big Australia advocates – powerful wealthy donors – have captured both major parties. It is long over due that the interests of ALL Australians were taken into account, including all our other species. Let’s rethink Big Australia (video).

Tens of thousands of people leave Australia each year; we could receive the same number without adding to our population. Even then, it would take decades for Australia’s population to stop growing due to births. Refugees make up about 5% of Australia’s immigration in recent years and this could be increased even with zero net migration.

How does a plebiscite work? A referendum is used to change the Australian Constitution… whereas a plebiscite is a poll that can be used to test whether the government has enough public support for a proposed action. Unlike a referendum, a plebiscite outcome can be ignored by the government. It requires the support of both Houses of parliament, so every plebiscite held in Australia has been put by the government of the day.

Prominent constitutional lawyer, George Williams (UNSW) stated, “Plebiscites are rare in Australia. They go against the grain of a system in which we elect parliamentarians to make decisions on our behalf. By contrast, referendums and plebiscites introduce an element of direct democracy that allows people to have a say … they can have a major political impact.” (The Age, 2011)

However, our elected officials are ignoring us on the issue of population growth. Parliament is skewed by fear that muzzles discussion and by campaign funding and the lobbying of vested business interests.

Australians have begun to abandon the major parties. More independents are being elected and hung parliaments are more likely. This increases the possibility of forcing a plebiscite with a question formed to our own liking. When the time is right, we want a Yes vote to something like this:

Should the Commonwealth government encourage our population to grow more slowly than it has been, through non-coercive means?”

A government that ignores a majority Yes response would clearly do so without a mandate.

Currently, surveys show that 60% of Australians support above zero NOM (net overseas migration). Two thirds of Australians want lower levels than in the past (TAPRI October 2021 Report, Figure 1).

A plebiscite can include a Specific Action statement.

The following policies could be included in the campaign:

  • Reducing immigration to 70,000 NOM (net overseas migration) whilst maintaining our current refugee intake.
  • Free contraception to all to prevent the tragedy of unwanted births.
  • Generous subsidies and support limited to first borns to those under $70k income.
  • Increased foreign aid with more focus on family planning.
  • Broadening the cancellation of Illegitimate Debt.
  • Encouraging a reduction of per capita consumption at the higher end.

In the meantime, let’s raise the profile of the discussion, and make it okay to talk about. Please spread this message.

Simon Cole

2 comments on “Big Australia Plebiscite

  1. George Paris
    September 1, 2022

    I support net zero population growth. Unfortunately big business who have all the money don’t. Unfortunately politicians follow the money. It would take a brave politician to act against the money.

    • Equanimity Foundation
      September 2, 2022

      Yes, George, good that you get it… There have been brave politicians in federal parliament such as John Coulter (Aust Dems, SPA), Kelvin Thompson (ALP) and currently Gerard Rennick (LNP) and MP from WA, Kate Chaney (Ind)… there are more and they are growing in number, but outliers … for now. They are a bit ahead of their time, but the time will come.

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