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Your views: on infrastructure for now and tomorrow

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Today, readers comment on the need to upgrade existing services before considering the future infrastructure demands of a rising population.

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Infrastructure not keeping up with rising population

Commenting on the story: Population growth plan “risky, costly and problematic”

So South Australia’s population is stagnant? It’s a nice emotive term.

No matter who in the development lobby coined this clever spin, the aim must be to say it often enough to make journalists repeat it so that decision-makers believe it is the case.

Yet it flies in the face of the latest ABS figures (3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics Sep 2018) showing growth in SA over the previous year totals 13,700 people.

Like the rest of Australia, a majority of that growth is a consequence of immigration and more than 90% of those will most likely have settled in greater Adelaide.

South Australia is not coping with the present demand for hospital and health services. Hardly surprising when you consider that in 2007 – when the new RAH was announced – SA’s population stood at 1.58m compared to almost 1.75m now.

Those extra 170,000 have created intense pressure for expanded services, and effectively another hospital. Despite the evidence such a project is not even on the horizon. It should be.

Our new South Australians are needing schools, and we’re not managing that either. Transport infrastructure is also lagging, and has been for years.

The lobbyists are correct that the government hasn’t got the policy settings right. But the reason is not that the immigrants want to be paid a decent wage – hardly an unreasonable expectation for a qualified immigrant to have. Rather, the infrastructure is trailing way behind the demands which extra population creates.

We are playing a never-ending game of catch-up, at which we dismally fail.

That’s the policy setting which needs to be addressed: ensure the infrastructure is meeting the needs of the current population before bringing in more people. Sandra Kanck

Those benefiting the most and fastest from ever more growth are fond of talking about ‘sustainable population growth’. Jodie Vandeventer from the Committee for Adelaide is reported using the phrase in the Indaily article on April 4.

But what exactly is meant by the term? And how does it square with the fact that continuing to grow Australia’s population at the current rate will mean that we will exceed 100 million within the lifetime of some children being born today?

Is this ‘sustainable’? Is it necessary? Is it even desirable? Why exactly are we doing this anyway? We don’t have to. Most of our population growth is now coming from immigration, which is simply a policy setting.

Of course, the main driver is the idea that population growth leads to economic growth, as measured for example by GDP. The assumption here is that the benefits of such growth are shared evenly by all, and that they greatly outweigh the array of associated environmental and social disadvantages.

The trouble is that assumption is probably wrong. Anyone who reads an official State of the Environment Report will know that economic growth and consumption continue to degrade our environment. The global biodiversity crash and climate change, to take just two examples, are both being driven by ‘economic growth’.

In many countries, the benefits of this growth are mostly going to an already wealthy minority, who are comfortably sheltered from the inconvenience of congestion or flat wages. Of course, through all sorts of mechanisms, this minority get to ensure that what suits them becomes government policy.

All three main Australian parties are in favour of high population growth. They are all wrong. The only sensible and ultimately achievable goal is a ‘steady state economy’, in which the destructive nonsense of endless growth is scrapped, and replaced by policies aimed at (1) a stable population (probably lower then today’s), (2) a truly equitable distribution of wealth, and (3) systems of production, consumption and waste disposal that preserve the quantity and quality of our natural capital.

This includes 100% renewable energy. Population growth brings very few net benefits to most people, and makes any attempt to arrest environmental decline more difficult and more expensive. And we don’t need to pursue it.

The only form of ‘endless growth’ possible in the long term will be in quality, not quantity – for example, in the quality of human endeavour, such as our science and technology, or our knowledge and skills, or in the quality of our life experience, or of our environment.

It no longer makes any sense for any society to continue increasing its numbers in order to increase the quantity of goods and services consumed (ie GDP) – that is very clearly an unsustainable pathway. Try asking a scientist for a change, instead of an economist, or a business leader, or a migration agent. Peter Martin

As a new, and grateful, reader – we get so little SA news on this side of the border – I am inclined to agree with Graham Nixon about a need for greater transport infrastructure.

The Western Highway is ‘my’ road. I use it twice a month these days and I first agitated my local MP for a dual carriageway after attaining my P plates in the 1980s while growing up in the Adelaide Hills.

I’m not a driver of Mark Weber’s calibre but I entirely agree with his comments about Australia’s unpleasant mix of cars and trucks. Yet when I read that the S.A. government isn’t supporting the Overland I have come to believe that the disconnect between politicians and the public is now complete.

My 80yo mother can’t manage a drive to regional Victoria and somewhat ironically after a decade abroad at far greater speeds the A8 fills me with a special dread when I have my family onboard.

In 2016 I was driving at 140 to 160kph on similarly smooth roads in Europe feeling quite safe. So apart from my incessant nagging about ‘Aussiestyle’ drivers and single carriageways on such a major road, rail transport is a real moot point.

Trains work. People like rail, not buses. I know personally that people in my town, Hamilton, Horsham, Nhill, Kaniva and Bordertown really do want more intercity services. Yet no one on North Terrace is listening and I fear those in Spring Street will also soon go deaf.

Adelaide is great, but not all of us wish to live there, or can. Yet the railways exist. We don’t need fast trains – the existing ones are fast enough.

It is truly staggering that two major cities and the large towns between Adelaide and Melbourne are so poorly serviced. It’s a real ‘pub laugh’ when you try explaining this infrastructural joke to a foreigner! – Simon Inglis

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