Population debate

The Australian Government has announced the new role of Minister for Population, to be filled by Tony Burke.

The fact that Tony Burke also holds Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry portfolios leads me to think that this announcement might be followed by new policies on the future of food and agriculture to met the needs of a growing population. This represents a gap in policy debate as climate change, water and housing already get a run. It also follows a recent rejection of turning the Northern Territory into Australia’s, and South East Asia’s, food bowl. If I’m correct, let’s hope it considers demand side (us) issues, and not just subsidies for agribusiness (them).

The Energy White Paper could be revived under the banner of population requirements. The need for infrastructure planning has been bandied about a fair bit, and this might help back-up some of that long-term planning with better data and cohesiveness. The Commonwealth has also been sidling into the urban development space, encouraging the states to get cracking on housing and other development (to the detriment of local planning controls and democratic oversight).

I suppose my basic point is that Burke’s work will intersect with a number of portfolios.

Of course, the announcement bought out a lot of strong statements from both sides of the debate and claims of racism have been bandied about. Hopefully, once the initial excitement dies down it will allow the Government to facilitate a reasonable debate, based on data and evidence, providing arguments for and against different population scenarios. Following this, the public just might be better placed to ensure that State and Commonwealth underspending on infrastructure seen through the late 90’s and 00’s is not repeated. An optimal outcome would be for the public to know what level of spending is required, and keep the Government of the day accountable for providing/facilitating that spending.

If I find the time, I’ll try to post a few thoughts on what the increasing population might mean for existing communities, and for planning regulations.

Oh, and like Possum said, the politics of this is going to be tricky for everyone. Unless they resort to lying.

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