Carr wants to hit the brakes on our ballooning population
There has been much fun for many going through Bob Carr’s writings to embarrass the incoming Foreign Minister by highlighting his private citizen notions about Barack Obama, the Dalai Lama and others.
But so far no one has pointed to the passionate campaign which gave Mr Carr when NSW Premier the nickname of The Malthus of Macquarie Street.
Bob Carr is against a big Australia. He wants a national population smaller - much smaller - than some projections indicate it will be by 2050.
This has been a consistent part of his political and social philosophy. It’s not a cheeky line designed to brighten up a blog. Thomas Malthus died in 1834 after gaining fame from his argument that if population grows unhindered it eventually will be checked by famine and disease.
Robert Carr’s arguments are not that severe, but he does insist that rapid and substantial population growth will make cities unlivable and further damage the environment.
And he gives a 21st century stab at Malthus’ dark warnings, heading an article written while Premier in 2000, “The Doomsday Millennium”.
The Gillard Government, particularly Sustainability Minister Tony Burke, has a more optimistic view of accommodating a “big Australia” and accepts at least the gist of the argument from business that a larger population is an economic and security necessity.
Mr Carr was patron of Sustainable Population Australia because he was “an outspoken advocate of the need to end population growth”.
Elsewhere he said, “Certainly I am angry at people who say let’s go for 50 million. That’s what business is saying.
“That means 10 million people living in the Sydney basin. It’s hard to move in our traffic as it is; they want to more than double the population.”
Bob Carr doesn’t confine himself to worrying about Sydney.
In April last year he wrote: “[Liberal] Ted Baillieu was elected Premier of Victoria promising more urban sprawl…
“Melbourne of course is already the urban sprawl leader in Australia with a disgracefully low level of its new housing being provided in built-up areas and a shamefully high level being squeezed out to the urban fringe.
“No one should forget that when you pump up population growth, the city either goes up or out. And Melbourne is really going out.”
And not just Melbourne. Last December Tony Burke and NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell agreed to a program for “30 years of sustainable growth in western Sydney”.
It included environmental protection, but the chief aim was for development of 2500 ha of housing land for about 180,000 new homes for at least 360,000 extra people - much like the Carr doomsday sprawl nightmare.
In April 2010 Mr Carr wrote that his position was not against immigration of multiculturalism. It was about a nation’s capacity to support a viable population.
“It’s about whether we end up with a population of 36 million in 2050 in contrast to the previous expectation of 28.5 million,” he wrote in a piece for Crickey.
“But our cities will be more congested with 36 million, no matter how much goes into public transport. The arguments over sprawl and higher densities will be more intense.
“There will be environmental loss and a loss in quality of life: the beaches choked, the adjacent national parks degraded by force of numbers, the congestion of peak hour more intense (there is no public transport system anywhere in the world that avoids peak hour congestion).
“The cities will work. They will be different cities and it would be a brave person who would promise they’d offer a better quality of life.
“Yet I’m far more worried about water—that is, about Australia’s erratic rainfall as a constraint on the over-ambitious population growth we seem locked into.’‘
Minister Tony Burke is of course aware of Mr Carr’s views. He appointed him head of a panel reporting on sustainable development.
But the two might have to have a chat soon about where the incoming minister stands on Government policy.
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