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John Passant

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April 2010



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Population – more dog whistling than at Crufts

They’re all at it. The ‘Liberal’ Opposition will cut immigration, but not skilled immigration. The Greens on the other hand will cut skilled immigration.

And Labor, more nuanced than the other two blunderbuss barbarians, has appointed rising star Tony Burke as Population Minister.

His role is to square the circle on population, what we might call the third way between the xenophobes who want no immigration and the ruling elite who want more immigration.

One possible Labor compromise  is growth in regional and less developed centres and stagnation in the major cities. 

This of course doesn’t address the fact that most major industries are in the capital cities. Labor will have to adjust its policies to take account of capital’s needs for more and more workers in places like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.  

Labor understands that population growth is vital to Australian capitalism, and that skilled migration is at the heart of that.  The minerals and energy boom – sustained and boosted by China’s seemingly insatiable demand – is drawing skilled migrants into the mining areas in the tens of thousands.

In addition the decades of underfunding of training and education by both Labor and the Liberals has produced a shortage of skilled workers across many non-mining industries in Australia.

Last financial year for example there were almost 115,000 skilled immigrants who came to Australia. This was 67 percent of the total migration program. This financial year the target is just over 108,000.

Labor has been criticising the Liberals for cutting immigration but in fact Labor cut the planned skilled immigration program, according to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship website  ‘by 14 per cent from 133 500 to 115 000 in mid March 2009 in light of the economic situation.’ This year it has cut it a further 7,000 or about 6 percent.

The Liberals have made much of the fact that last year the net overseas migration intake was 300,000. What they don’t mention is that much of this (perhaps over 100,000) was Australian expatriates returning home after losing jobs, pay or prestige in other countries badly impacted by the  Global Financial Crisis or students coming to study in Australia who return to their home country after a few years.

So the Liberals want to destroy Australia’s $14 billion a year international student market do they? Actually I suspect their real target is all those dark skinned people in the family re-union and humanitarian programs.  The racists will be happy.

For Australia, given that half our population growth comes from immigration, any debate about population becomes a debate about immigration. Given many of our immigrants come from non-Anglo-Saxon countries, the debate is necessarily about race.

Last year, Treasury’s Intergenerational Report predicted, based on a slowing population growth rate of 1.2 percent per annum, (of which immigration represents 0.6 percent or half the projected growth), that Australia’s population in 2050 would be 35.9 million. It is currently over 22 million.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd welcomed the projection. He said:

I actually believe in a big Australia. I make no apology for that. I actually think it’s good news that our population is growing.

Then there was some waffle from Crappy Kev about long term plans for health, the environment and infrastructure. Rudd welcomed population growth not for humanitarian reasons but because it is good for profits.

Now something has gone astray for Rudd.  There  are a mixture of opponents to population growth which of necessity means opposition of some form to immigration – from the out and out racists to the soft green ones, who under the guise of concern for the environment reject people coming here.

These are the sort of people who think Malthus was right.  Malthus of course is the man who argued that disease and hunger cutting the population of the the poor was a good thing.

Neo-Malthusians transfer 18th Century reaction to a 21st century context. They talk in terms of carrying capacity and  sustainability but in the end their program – cut the population – is the same prescription as Malthus offered, and for the same reason – to protect the elite.  

Take Bob Carr for example. The former Premier of New South Wales has been a vocal proponent of population controls. He asks how Sydney can survive if its population increased from 4.5 million to 7 million over the next 40 years.

It can’t survive now. But this dog eat dog Sydney world of traffic congestion, crap public transport and hospital and education cuts is Carr’s legacy.

He was in power for ten years from 1995 to 2005 and did capital’s bidding in cutting Government funding for infrastructure, health and education.  He also oversaw an increase in Sydney’s population of just under half a million.

Carr conveniently blames increases in population for overcrowding, poor amenities, bad infrastructure and non-existent public services when in fact they are the direct result of his Government’s policies to underfund these priorities.

Planning under capitalism is about profit. If there is community involvement it is often minimal. In any event Government has given itself the power to call in matters and make anti-community decisions in the interests of business.

The left cannot support the xenophobes or environmental racists. People are not the problem.

For example there is more than enough food currently produced to adequately feed the world.  The problem for capitalism is overproduction of food because not everyone can buy it.

But surely some resources are finite? Well yes and no.  For example , according to the National Water Commission, despite having only 6 percent of Australia’s run off, 50 percent of Australia’s water use is in the Murray-Darling Basin. 

65 percent of all water use in Australia is for agriculture.

The ACT, Victoria, NSW and South Australia have high rates of water consumption compared to total inflows. According to the National Water Commission again, ‘this is the result of the large investments in water delivery systems and irrigation infrastructure and from the development of agricultural land in these areas.’

On the other hand Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have low use rates compared to water availability.

A rational, planned and democratic society would adjust production and consumption to fit the natural environment and what it has to offer (including through human intervention.) An anarchic profit driven system destroys the Murray-Darling Basin.

On an international scale agricultural production would occur in those regions of the world best suited to feed us all.

Without a profit motive, but with satisfying human need as the driver,  in the next decade we could move away from energy that produces Green House Gases to a range of renewable energy sources fully satisfying human needs.

The environmental crisis is a crisis of production for profit, not population. It can only be addressed by democratic planning where human need rather than profit is paramount.



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Comment from Alan Ide, NewAustralia Party
Time April 7, 2010 at 2:30 pm

At some point Australian and world population will be too high to be sustained by the environment.

Some say we have passed that point, others say we can pack in some more people by diverting a few more rivers, building more desal plants or whatever.

But fundamentally the more people there are the less of the world there is each. Given the world’s problems NOW seems like a good time to encourage ZPG instead of mindlessly breeding like bacteria.

This is not xenophobia.

Comment from Tom Nilsson
Time April 7, 2010 at 3:14 pm

John, you seem to have got things the wrong way around in relation to population. Population growth is bad for the working class and good for the capitalist class, as population growth pushes down wages and boosts profits.

Therefore the Greens, by opposing high population growth are supporting the interests of the working class (unlike Labor and for most of the time the Liberals.)

Comment from Ben Courtice
Time April 7, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Population growth cannot continue indefinitely. In other news, the Pope is a Catholic, and bears shit in the woods. Having got that out of the way, let’s address the substantial issue at present: is immigration/population growth causing problems like housing shortages/high prices, traffic congestion, unemployment or overuse of water and natural resources?

The real problem on environmental issues is overpollution, not overpopulation. Talking about population when we have one of the worst overuses (per capita) of natural resources like water in the world is a dangerous distraction.

Equally, croaded roads and housing markets have a lot to do with free market urban planning — sorry, the free market doesn’t plan, I mean free market urban degeneration.

Blaming population on any of these issues really lets the vandals of neoliberalism off the hook. Their high skilled immigration rates are just a symptom of their system: cram people in and exploit them in every way. If you remove the exploitation and overpollution, then a rational debate about urban planning and resource use can take place.

It isn’t about immigration, that’s a smokescreen, the real issue is exploitation. If we want to build a just and sustainable society in Australia, more people just means more hands to help with the job. Absolute environmental limits, like the amount of water or land for crops, are a long way off being broken by our population in Australia: it is the pollution of the existing population that is the problem.

Comment from John
Time April 7, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Ben, I think we need to be very careful about population growth. Why can’t it continue indefinitely? You present it as a self evident truth, but you would need justification in terms of the limits of capital and so on. If there is some limit, what is it. The population in 1800 when Malthus was writing that there were too many people? The population now? If so, why?

Comment from Chris A
Time April 7, 2010 at 11:23 pm

It’s really simple. An analogy: if you keep pouring water into a bottle eventually the bottle will fill! You may argue that currently there is a lot of space left in the bottle, but the bottle will still fill eventually. To ignore this is alright for short-term planning, and maybe most people alive now won’t see the consequences. But let’s not be short-sighted; let’s consider the people of the future and do some necessary long term planning.
But really we are much worse off than the above analogy indicates because we are pouring water into the bottle at a continuously (exponentially) increasing rate, not a steady rate. Google “Chris Martenson Crash course chapter 4” or go to to see why.

Comment from Ben Courtice
Time April 12, 2010 at 11:59 pm

John, did we already cover the “unlimited growth” issue on our facebook repartee? The Earth’s resources are, materially, finite, even if the possible different ways of utilising them are not. This poses real limits for an economic system like capitalism. This is the problem of global warming: the carbon sinks are all used up.

I was being facetious in this instance with population, however. Population cannot “keep growing forever” because eventually there would be no room left on the planet to grow food etc — but that’s not a relevant scenario because it is never going to happen.

I was taking the piss out of some of the anti-population environmentalists who I’ve heard demanding an answer to the stupid question “do you believe population can keep growing forever?”

It’s a bit like the video linked to in Chris A’s post above. People think that simple maths determines population, but of course it doesn’t. World population growth rate is actually slowing rapidly. To pose questions of population growth continuing exponentially forever is silly.

Comment from John
Time April 13, 2010 at 5:58 am

Yes I think we have talked about it enough already Ben. I suspect we are at cross purposes. I am looking at the concept of finite in the context of capitalism. So too are you. But we are approaching it from different angles. I don’t think politically anything turns on this since we both agree the way production is organised is the problem and a rational, planned and democratic society would address these issues.

Comment from Chris A
Time April 13, 2010 at 8:55 am

Unfortunately, governments (and individuals and businesses) all over the word have borrowed and are borrowing huge amounts of money on the assumption that economies will be big enough to pay back the loans in the future. This means that governments will work to ensure that the economies are big enough so that there isn’t another mass default in the future, requiring another round of bailouts. The only ways to ensure a bigger economy are to increase the population or increase the per capita consumption; either way we lose.
Consumption increases can only go so far, ultimately, increasing the population is necessary to keep the economy growing, hence baby bonuses, paid maternity leave, and “Have one for Australia” promotions. A society that keeps operating under this premise obviously isn’t a rational and planned society.
Of course, population “…growing forever” it is never going to happen, but what we have to determine is the nature of the process that stops it: will we choose that process or will nature? Some real long-term planning is required here. Our would-be “rational and planned society” only looks at solving medium and short-term problems.

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