Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hanson and migration

All sides of politics appear to be agreed that:
  1. A big Australia is not a good thing
  2. Stopping or reducing migration is not a good thing
  3. Filling up regional centres (ie anywhere other than the East Coast conurbations) is a good thing.
Good politics bad policy.
To win government you need to win the majority of seats in the major cities - the areas that are already bursting to capacity. So you adopt a not in my back yard (nimby) approach. Nimby politics makes sense - it creates a win/win situation in the big cities - they do not want more people so they are opposed to population growth - you have catered for their needs.
Then there is the concern that stopping migration might be racist - so you allow migration but put them in regional Australia - you can now oppose population growth in part of Australia without having to explain why stopping or limiting migration is not necessarily racist.
The other benefit is that by no means all people in the regional centres are opposed to population growth - there are many small communities that would love to have more people so that they have the critical mass to keep their local bank, school, doctor and post office.
So it is easy to see why all three parties are rushing to embrace the soft option and advocate population growth in regional centres.
Good Politics bad Policy.
Why is it bad policy?
  1. Some regional centres (by no means all) can do with a greater population but perhaps it is time to make hard decisions. Which communities are genuinely viable? If they are potentially viable then there is the need to develop programmes that encourage internal migration.
  2. We need to bury the idea that stopping migration is necessarily racist. Hanson was not opposed to migration but opposed to the sort of people who were coming in. Until we have some real idea of how many people can live on this continent we should be calling a halt to all migration other than asylum seekers.
  3. Not one of the parties has joined the dots between depletion of natural resources (eg peak oil), climate change, growth economics and population. Good policy demands that we develop a strategy for making the transition to a low carbon , renewable economy. That strategy will dictate what sort of population numbers are genuinely sustainable.

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