Bigger or Better?: Australia's Population Debate
University of Queensland Press
Publication Date :
1 Jan 2012
When Kevin Rudd responded to a government forecast that the Australian population could reach 36 million by 2050 by saying he believed in 'a big Australia', there was a strong public reaction. One insider said that 'the focus groups went ballistic'. Julia Gillard renamed the relevant minister's portfolio 'sustainable population', implicitly criticising pro-growth policies of previous governments. Tony Abbott vowed to 'stop the boats' if elected (thus limiting immigration), despite generally supporting a population growth agenda and clearly having no way of stopping the boats. The Murdoch press attacked both major parties, accusing them of pandering to base prejudice by discussing the social impacts of immigration or suggesting that population growth had negative environmental impacts. It urged politicians to champion what it claimed were the self-evident economic benefits of rapid population growth. The issue is clearly a political hot potato. This book clarifies the subject, as the debate has been confused by serious misconceptions. It provides a historic account of Australia's population growth and an analysis of the data. It looks at the components of the growth, such as birth rates and immigration, as well as the more recent trend of our ageing population. It also analyses the motives of different interested parties, both those who promote population growth and those who argue against it. Bigger or Better? makes the complex and controversial issues around population accessible to general readers and will contribute to public debate about this important topic.