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Population growth is one of Australia's political hot potatoes. In his new book, Bigger or Better? Australia’s population debate, Professor Ian Lowe — author, pre-eminent scientist and president of the Australian Conservation Foundation — answers the questions at the root of the debate, and provides a comprehensive analysis of the issue.
Recognised for his commonsense, Lowe unravels the misconceptions and urban myths about the controversial debate and the choices we are making about Australia’s future population
When Kevin Rudd responded to a government forecast that the Australian population could reach 36 million by 2040 by saying he believed in ‘a big Australia’, there was a strong public reaction. One insider said ‘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.
Much of the 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 and urged politicians to champion what it claimed were the self-evident economic benefits of rapid population growth.
In this timely book, Lowe calls for all Australians to realise the future is not somewhere we are going but rather a place we create by our own actions — or inactions — now
In Bigger or Better? Lowe categorises the various contributors to the debate, those voices urging further growth and those wishing to see growth slowed or the population stabilised.
As he states, ‘there are humanitarians on both sides of the debate, there are racists on both sides of the debate, there are totally misinformed people on both sides of the debate and there are well-informed professionals on both sides of the debate.’
He looks at how population growth is affecting the environment of our major cities, the Murray-Darling Basin and South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, and raises the prospect of ‘Noosangatta’ in south-east Queensland — one continuous urban sprawl from Noosa, through Brisbane to Coolangatta and the NSW border.
Lowe makes the complex and controversial issues around population accessible to general readers who he hopes will contribute to an informed discussion about the issue and the sort of future we want for our country
* Bigger or Better? Australia’s population debate is published in Australia by UQP.