Friday, August 15

A sustainable population for Australia

In “Dick Smith and Graham Turner call for small population” (AFR 14th August 2014) Entrepreneurs Dick Smith and Flight Centre founder Graham Turner say Australia must abandon unending economic growth because a ‘Big Australia’ is unsustainable.
But one could also argue good economics has never endorsed a theory of endless growth, but rather aims to find the best most economical outcomes. Although orthodox economics, supportive of market freedom, but subject to prudential controls is suggested by most economists to be an important factor in improved standards of living, the real driver has been the advancement of scientific and technological knowledge. In this regard the determinant for the level of population that Australia can support, without a diminution in living standards will depend on how effective the nation is in reducing waste and improving productivity. Smarter outcomes in line with finite resources to determine optimum future population limits and migration policy should be the subject of a national debate, as was suggested by Smith and Turner.


♥ N o v a said...

The mining investment boom is now over for Australia, no? So now with a declining economy... how does any country decrease the existing population and prevent increase?

susan said...

I agree wholeheartedly, Lindsay. Overpopulation is already a serious problem as far as worldwide carrying capacity at average western lifestyles is concerned. It's a very difficult subject to raise with people though.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Nova & Susan
Thanks for your visits and comments.

Our current migration intake is about 190,000 people a year which is clearly unsustainable, given rising unemployment and finite resources. I think we may be able to sustain about 75,000. An example of the aftermath or rosary predictions made at the height of the mining boom is in Western Australia, which will have 900 law graduates this year (5 years of study) but only 200 positions are available.

Susan. Indeed I agree overpopulation is already a serious problem as far as worldwide carrying capacity at average western lifestyles is concerned. I also agree it’s a very difficult subject to raise with people, and I note my published letter was virtually the sole contributor in the AFR on the subject. Many of the skilled migrants coming to Australia would be better off staying in their own countries and helping build their respective nation’s resources.
Best wishes

susan said...

Unfortunately, what seems to be happening is that the richest and best educated people are the ones emigrating. All the rest are stuck.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

True Susan, countries need to have policies that increase their intake of refugees, rather than encourage the best educated in developing countries to emigrate.

This is particularly relevant to technological development and the transfer and sharing of knowledge. The benefits to developing nations are rather obvious with those who have obtained expertise exercising that knowledge at home - albeit at less personal rewards than could be achieved abroad.
Best wishes