From "Can do better"
Dear Victorian Premier John Brumby,
Candobetter.net (http://candobetter.net) welcomes your statements acknowledging the problems that Victoria now faces as a result of past population growth as reported in the Herald Sun article "Premier John Brumby warns of dangers in growing too fast" of 28 July (http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,24086806-661,00.html).
Indeed, Candobetter contributor, Sheila Newman, who is a population sociologist and past President of the Victorian branch of Sustainable Population Australia, has been warning for years of precisely the problems which you have now acknowledged.
We think, however, that you should have been well aware of the trends:
The government has received submissions and press releases from various groups about petroleum depletion projections and oil prices and there has been a Senate enquiry into oil depletion.
The Australian CSIRO study by Barney Foran and Franci Poldan, "Future Dilemmas: Options to 2050 for Australia's population, technology, resources and environment", published in 2002 (http://www.cse.csiro.au/research/futuredilemmas), was already flagging problematic trends. See Chapter 4, "Natural Resources and the Environment".
The 2007 VAMPIRE study (pdf, 1.2MB) from Griffith University, Queensland, drew attention to Melbourne for its oil-reliant transport vulnerability.
Apart from that, explosive oil prices and depletion fears are constantly in the news. One would therefore be entitled to expect the Victorian government by now to be aware that business as usual has gone completely off the radar.
One has only to go to amazon.com to find a hundred or so books written in the last ten years about the coming energy and fuel crisis, most restating and reaffirming projections made for peak oil production and then decline to start around about now.
If that were not enough, in the past few days, on July 11, 2008, the CSIRO came out again and warned that the cost of petrol could rise to $8 a litre in the next 10 years. “A new report by the CSIRO has warned the cost of petrol could rise to as high as $8 a litre in the next 10 years.” (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/07/11/2300646.htm)
Those are the energy trends.
The trends against democracy have also been more than evident, with a proliferation of groups horrified by Victorians' loss of control over their local and wider environments in the face of corporate backed population growth and its accompanying infrastructure. The changes to State and local government powers have been traumatic to our faith in government and our sense of safety in the long-term.
The trends in housing unaffordability, as land-prices responded to the inflationary pressure of forced population growth, have had profound repercussions socially, creating an asset-rich/poor divide and making life unnecessarily tough for many people, old and young, but especially young people on the threshold of independence, who now find themselves inextricably in debt to HECS, Housing and car purchase for unavoidable commuting in the absence of adequate public transport.
The trends in wildlife and natural amenity loss have been especially grievous. You personally received in 2006 news of how poorly kangaroos near your electorate (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVxjHnSxP1k) were fairing among the industrial estates of Thomastown. Nothing effective has been done by the Government to assist these animals. Did you consider that activists have put their lives and happiness on hold just in order to confront unflinchingly a searing reality which government inflicts through its negligent administration and cognizance of the real biodiversity situation?
Some of us activists have put our lives on hold just to try to combat the policies for population and high consumption which preceded your government in Kennett's, but for which you have had responsibility in the long term in your capacity as Treasurer and now as Premier. We felt a personal responsibility to try to halt by any civil means what we could see was infinitely harmful in the long term to our social and biophysical capital.
Without any government support we have laboured to point out the existence of the lobbies which your government has been responding to, to the disadvantage of democracy.
We would also like to point out that if population were stabilised it would not be necessary for the Victorian Government to take water away from the Goulburn Valley against the heated objections of local farmers (see http://www.plugthepipe.com) or to build an energy-intensive, stupidly located, massive privately operated desal plant on the Bass Coast (http://www.yourwateryoursay.org), or dredge Port Phillip for a growth project for an artificially bloated population, or to deprive city and suburban dwellers of the right to a local solution to the predicament posed by oil depletion, in the right to water for growing food.
Although you are reported to have stated in the Herald Sun article, "I think we are probably at the limits of growth," we feel we must also ask you whether you intend to continue to make the problems worse or whether, from now on your government will abandon its official encouragement of population growth. The first thing your government should do is to remove your http://www.liveinvictoria.vic.gov.au web-sites and related programs, which encourage high immigration.
It seems likely that the corporate drivers of your government's program - such as the banks and the engineers in the Academy of Technological and Scientific Engineering (ATSE), and the developers and their allies in the Property Council of Australia, who have dug themselves very deeply into the housing and infrastructure economy, which is costing the rest of us so much - will continue to try to push the government into more unsustainable growth. We know that the mainstream press will not be your friend if you start to represent the public democratically in this matter. If, however, the government can gain our confidence in its commitment to refrain from talking up or importing additions to our population, then Candobetter and many other organisations and alternative sites will support you solidly in this.
I look forward to your response and hope to be able to publish it on our web site at http://candobetter.net/node/699 so that we can share it with the wider public.
James Sinnamon for candobetter.net, a website for reform in democracy, environment, population, land use planning and energy policy.
james -dot- sinnamon |AT| gmail -dot- com
0412 319669, 07 33690819