Overloading Australia” by Mark O’Connor and William Lines. Book Review

The population of Melbourne will soon reach 4 million and yet the government of Victoria is planning an expansion of 75,000 people per year to a total of 6 million with the creation of an urban sprawl greater that than that of New York or London.  Another 1 million people will need to be accommodated before 2025. This madness, abdication of responsibility, whatever one calls it, is an appropriate point to review Mark O’Connor and William Lines’ book “Overloading Australia” (Envirobook)

This book makes the case that population control is the key issue in the plethora of interlocking world problems that threaten humanity and specifically it analyses population trends in Australia. The facts and fallacies are stated clearly and will provide a valuable source of information for those challenging the bastions of ignorance.

For Australia the figures provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) are as follows. We add nearly a million people to our population nearly every three years and in 2008 the annual rate of population growth was 1.6%. Half of the increase is due to net migration, the surplus of immigrants over emigrants. Half is due to the natural increase, the excess of births over deaths.

The ABS predicts that with net migration of 220,000 and fertility at 2.0 (both figures are a little higher than current rates) our population would reach 44.5 million in 2056 and 62.6 million in 2101.

The authors point out that government departments have long been under instructions to plan for just 28 million in 2050. This bears no relation to current growth rates which are third world rather than a typical first world rate.

Some people believe that Australia’s birth rate is now below replacement (or would be but for immigration) and that births are not matching the number of deaths.  This is a false assertion but is frequently used by those who argue against birth control or high immigration.  The current birth rate per thousand people is twice the death rate.

Those who perpetrate the falsehoods are business interests, property and real estate interests and governments which see the taxes for development as a key to their political success. The book identifies in detail these false claims and who makes them. This is a sad story. Criticism is due particularly to State governments. Both SA and Victoria have policies to increase population and the other states also act as if they had. “I think 21 million Australians is not enough” former Premier Beattie, “There is no point in saving the planet if we ruin the economy doing it.”  former Premier Iemma, epitomise State thinking. The inadequate performance of the press is also analysed and indeed the suppression of information by them, presumably in support of business interests. Indeed one notes that the barriers to acceptance are much the same as those operative in the climate change debate.

The only problem I found with the book was a deviation from the well organised facts into some generalisations which some might use to deride it. I have a problem with the "New Class" which on several occasions is described as an impediment to progress in population issues! Who are they? “Few better examples of membership suggest themselves that the list of participants at Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s  Australia 2020 Summit”. While some  who were not invited might regard this as a badge of integrity, the generalisation becomes self defeating. The chapter on Guilt and Aborigines seems to be an argument against "sorry” rather than part of the overloading debate.

This aside, our members should buy or consult this book in their lobbying for a better world.

 Included in suggestions for the way forward is “Instruction for all new arrivals on the fact that they are entering a largely desert continent, and one whose unique animals and plants are already severely stressed by the activities of the existing population.” Surely the instruction and indeed education should be for the successors of Mr Beattie and Mr Iemma and their co-Governments? There lies the problem.

David Shearman