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"No growth" lobby damaging community groups

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Hardline anti-population forces have infiltrated some of Adelaide’s community groups to cast doubt on the economic worth of migrants.

The arrival of the Stop Population Growth Now party (SPGN) and their allies, Sustainable Population Australia (SPA), has introduced a new idea to state politics – people are the problem.

The SPGN will run candidates for the Legislative Council on a zero population growth (ZPG) platform. Retired public servant Bob Couch and former SPA President Dr John Coulter formed the party last year.

Anyone who opposes them is labeled a ‘growthist’, and that includes young people who want affordable housing in Adelaide’s square mile and surrounds. The SPA has latched on to community groups – such as the Community Alliance – like a limpet mine.

The SPA’s constitution declares it wants to “promote policies that will lead to … the reduction of Australia’s population by encouraging low fertility and low migration”.

These groups want to create a one in/one out immigration system, reduce child support and parental leave payments, stop 457 visas applicants and slash international student numbers.

This is very odd as South Australia doesn’t have an over-population problem. Africa does. South Australia has an under-population problem.

South Australia’s population growth is struggling at .9 births per female (replacement is 2.1). In SA, about 400,000 Boomers will also die over the next 30 years. The number of skilled migrants settling in the state is falling while more are leaving. Over the last year, Australian permanent migration fell by 4% to 152,410 while permanent departures rose to 91,770 – the highest ever. There was also an over-count of 294,361 people in the 2011 Census.

To put Adelaide’s growth in perspective – one year’s growth in Sydney is about five years’ growth in Adelaide. While metropolitan Adelaide has some growing areas, the majority of local government areas recorded very modest growth with the cities of West Torrens, Walkerville and Burnside almost moribund.

The anti-populationist groups loathe developers. When did profit become a dirty word? Do they expect developers, architects and builders to not make a profit? As Paul Keating once said, “if there are two horses running and one is called ‘Self Interest’ back him because at least you know he’s trying”.

[Developers have not done themselves any favours either. The Mount Barker rezoning was a fiasco and should never be repeated. Strategic infrastructure plans should be agreed on with bi-partisan political support and implemented irrespective of the party in power.]

Migrants are portrayed as voracious consumers and emitters of pollution, whose economic usefulness is questioned by those who may also fail that test. No wonder Senator Nick Xenophon distanced himself from these groups.

They are fixated by boundaries, systems and limits to growth.

This is instrumentalism and reductionism at its worst. So if your train is packed full of people, it’s the fault of over-population – not that there are too few trains running. If you don’t get that important job, it must be because a migrant took it. If it takes you an hour to get to work, it’s because there are too many people – not because every single person is driving a car.

The brand damage these ‘no-growthers’ do to community groups is lethal.

No government will hold discussions with sectional interests while they represent hostile fifth columnists, committed to ZPG and whose policies would destroy the state’s $1 billion international student industry.

The anti-population growth movement has done nothing to constrain extractive industries or hold polluters accountable, as other environmental groups have done.

It’s a sad state of affairs when political movements advocate fewer kids, families and jobs.

Malcolm King is an Adelaide corporate demographer and writer.

 

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