Victorian Senate Group L: Stabilising the Population

Was our population about to fall off the table, do you think? Sorry, couldn’t help myself.  I am approaching the Stable Population Party with neither expectations nor prejudice.  With a name like that, they could be all about environmental issues and population control, or they could be all xenophobia, all the time, stopping the boats and making me excessively cross while they do so.

Which will it be?  Only time – and their alarmingly green and gold website (now there’s a bad omen) will tell.

Let’s start with their Group Voting Tickets, of which they have three, because they are just that helpful.  (Don’t they realise that I have a very small screen, and comparing three voting tickets side by side is a right pain?  I’m beginning to develop a prejudice against any political party with more than one group voting ticket…)

The top of all three tickets is the same: they preference the Animal Justice Party (first people I’ve seen who do that) Senator Online, Motoring Enthusiasts, Bullet Train for Australia and the Democrats.  It’s hard to do much with that – the Animal Justice Party suggests a greenie-vegan tinge, and the Bullet Train is also a bit environmental, but the Motoring Enthusiasts aren’t, and Senator Online could go in any direction.  They are also anti coal seam gas, but pro marijuana prohibition, opera, and bank reform.  OK, it’s possible that I’m lying about the opera part, but I like to think of the Australian Voice Party as being a political party full of singers.  But it’s always possible that they prefer jazz…

Preferences then flow towards Family First and then the Australian Sex Party, with One Nation following a few lines later.  At number 66 on their ticket, they finally get to the major parties, and yes, Labor, Liberal and the Greens get one each… though it’s notable that in two out of the three tickets, Labor winds up ahead of Liberal.  The bottom four slots on the ticket are held by the Climate Sceptics, Rise Up Australia the Citizens Electoral Council and Stop The Greens.

I couldn’t agree more.  Well, I could agree a little bit more, but those parties do all appear to be very good choices for the bottom of a ticket.

Incidentally, their website has a whole section on Senate preferences, explaining why they made the choices that they did on the ticket, but also encouraging people to vote in an informed fashion and below the line.  A nice touch, in my view.

Their website tells us that they are about being Better, Not Bigger.  Then they say it in even Bigger Letters, because they want to be Bigger At Being Better, or something along those lines.  They also think that boat people are The Big Distraction.  It’s all Big Stuff, let me tell you.  And did I mention that it is very, very yellow and green?  Also, population is the Everything Issue.  That’s pretty Big, if you ask me.

They are ‘committed to a stable, sustainable, open and tolerant Australia’, which, to be fair, so am I, I just don’t feel the need to be so Big and Yellow about it.  (I’m only mocking them because their website gives me a headache)

Settle down, Catherine.

Right, then.  The Stable Population Party’s view is essentially that we are now on target to have a population of 40 million by 2050, and we need to slow down:

In a finite world, more people means less resources per person. Australia’s finite natural resource base is the true source of our wealth – not our rapid population growth that both dilutes and erodes it. To meet the huge costs of population growth, Australia is using finite and non-renewable resources that should be saved for our children and grandchildren.

Population growth is now the underlying issue linked to all of Australia’s major problems.

Nice little appeal to greed there.  And I really do mean that – I’ve spent the morning hearing members from Labor, the Greens and the Socialist Alliance explain why I should vote for them, and while I love the ideas of the latter two parties, a lot of them rely on most people being just as idealistic as they are.  The appeal to an ideal is a fine thing, but in the real world, people are worried about their own quality of life, and appealing to them on a more practical level is a sensible notion.

Onward!

A stable population will help:
  • Relieve overstretched infrastructure including hospitals, schools, roads and public transport
  • Ease cost of living pressures including housing, energy, water and transport
  • Protect our environment including food, water & energy resources, native bushland and animal habitats
  • Promote education and training to increase job opportunities for all Australians
  • Minimise overdevelopment including high-rise and sprawl
  • Create a more resilient economy to sustain and enhance prosperity

Population is not a single issue, it is the everything issue.

Doesn’t ‘everything issue’ sound nice?  The Stable Population thinks it sounds nice!  That’s why they like to use it wherever they can.  Its the everything phrase.

On to the policies!

First, they want to limit government birth payments to each woman’s first two children.  The idea here is not to restrict family size – but not to provide incentives to have large families.  The payments they are thinking of are both the Baby Bonus and paid parental leave.

I am ambivalent about this, to be honest.  On the one hand, I think they’ve been reasonably clever in finding policies that might discourage people from having huge families (emphasis on the might – I’m not sure how much difference this would make if someone really wanted a large family, as these incentives only really help in the first year, so if you had a plan to get through that, then you’re probably fine), without going all One Child Policy, Chinese style.  On the other hand… we’ve only just brought in paid parental leave, damn it!  This is not something I want to see taken away under any circumstances, as it really is one of the foundations of helping women stay in the workforce – and I do worry that taking it away under some circumstances could be a gateway to removing it all together.

Peripherally, I’m also not entirely sure that this wouldn’t place more of a burden on women than on men.  I do get that we want to discourage people from having that third child, but it would be nice if the ‘punishment’ was likely to be more equally distributed.  We already have a problem with women retiring much poorer than men due to time off work for childbearing and childraising.  It would be nice not to add to this inequality.

Their next policy is zero net migration, with permanent immigration being equivalent to permanent emigration.  Some of the ways they would do this would be by abolishing the Trans Tasman Travel Arrangement with New Zealand and reduce the numbers of 457 visas.

They would, however, support an annual refugee intake of 14,000 – 20,000, which would fall within the permanent immigration quota, and they reject ‘any selection of immigrants based on race or religion’.

On the whole, I like this.

Another key value of the Stable Population Party is overcoming racism:

The Stable Population Party strongly believes that the lack of reasoned debate on population growth fosters emotive responses of racism and intolerance. First and foremost, we must have evidence-based public discussions around the critical issue of finite resource sustainability (water, land, food, energy, etc) and therefore intergenerational quality of life. We simply must face the fact that we cannot grow forever in a finite world.

This need for a mature debate is why we started a political party, for all Australians. Our community party proudly includes Australian migrants born in every inhabited continent on Earth.

And, hello, we have a shout-out to my very own local member, Kelvin Thomson, who is quoted on a recent trip to England as saying that “Europe’s leaders need to develop a more sophisticated approach to the many challenges posed by economic migration if the extremists are not to continue to prosper”.  Go, Kelvs!

There is an entire page devoted to debunking “the big distraction” – asylum seekers, and particularly boat people.  A big header informs us that “The population issue is NOT about asylum seekers or refugees”, thank you, Stable Population Party.

In particular, they point out the average number of asylum seekers who are arriving by boat in recent years, and compare that to other sources of population growth… in context, it really isn’t very much.  Also, they believe that ‘overpopulation drives the resources scarcity behind most current conflicts and forced migration – overpopulation drives boats!’.

I think they are missing a definite article there, but I do appreciate the mental image.  And have you noticed that if you are in the Secular party, Refugees are caused by religion, but if you are in the Stable Population Party, they are caused by overpopulation?  I look forward to an explanation from the Smokers’ Rights party of how excessive anti-smoking legislation leads to asylum seekers.  Turn back the Smokes!

Oh, shut up, Catherine.  Here’s some actual policy, for those of you still reading:

The Stable Population Party supports a generous intake of around 14,000-20,000 refugees per annum, depending on circumstances. But this should be within a balanced migration program, where total permanent immigration equals total permanent emigration. In recent years total permanent emigration has been around 80,000 per annum…

Australia is not a boundless nation with infinite resources. We should not be manipulated into using Australia as an overpopulation safety valve for the rest of the world – this has no real impact on global overpopulation. Our primary and overwhelming moral responsibility to pass on a sustainable Australia to our children and grandchildren.
 
Australia should move from a policy of resettling increasing numbers of refugees, to helping people live sustainably, and in peace and harmony in their homeland.

I’m not too sure what I think of this, actually. My head says that it’s probably a reasonable compromise (though the last paragraph is definitely in the realm of ‘easier said than done’), but my heart is uneasy about the bit about manipulation.  It’s one of those words that people often use when they would rather ignore an appeal to conscience.  I’m not saying that’s what is going on here, but, as I said, I’m just not entirely sure about this.  Though it is a massive, massive improvement on the xenophobic scare-mongering we’ve been getting from the major parties.

Lastly, we have my absolute favourite bit, which is their Global Aid policy:

Tie foreign aid wherever possible to the improvement of economic and environmental sustainability, with a particular focus on female rights and education, and on opportunities for women and couples to access reproductive health and voluntary family planning services to help prevent unwanted pregnancies. Some 222 million women who would like to avoid or delay pregnancy lack access to effective family planning. Our aim is to help stabilise global population at the United Nations’ ‘low variant’ peak estimate of around 8 billion by mid century.

Yes, please.  I’d vote for that.

The Stable Population Party is effectively a one issue party, and they are entirely comfortable with that.  From their point of view, you need to solve the population problem before addressing everything else.  Do you know why this is?  It’s because Population is the Everything Issue!

More sensibly, here’s what they actually say about other policies:

As outlined in our website, population growth is now linked to all of Australia’s major problems. Yet no other political party is tackling this critical issue. This is why population needs its own platform, and why it is important to not dilute the message with other important but lower priority policy positions (e.g. republic, NBN, marriage definition, etc). If elected, prior to forming policies on such areas we would properly consult our membership and all community stakeholders. Some decisions may also come to a conscience vote, if a majority of party members require this.

We won’t resolve any of Australia’s major problems until we first resolve ‘the everything issue’ – population.

(drink!)  (I’m afraid that Everything Issue just became a drinking game over here).

Having said that, they do have five core values:

  • Sustainable living
  • Egalitarian democracy
  • Fiscal responsibility
  • Global citizenship
  • Productive innovation

These might also be indicative of where their votes would be likely to go on other issues.

All in all, this is a really interesting political party, with a lot more going for it than I initially expected.  Interestingly, their policies seem to me to be more scientific – more logically thought out and founded in fact, if you will – than any other party I have read about so far, including either the Secular Party or our good friends the Climate Sceptics.  I’ll be interested to see how they go in the election – my feeling is that they need to publicise themselves better, or the left-wing environmentally-friendly voters who should be their base might take one look at that name and the patriotic green and gold of their website and think that this is another anti-boat-people initiative.  Of course, they might then pick up some equally confused right-wing voters, but that probably isn’t the goal, either.  Definitely another one to watch for in the count – I can’t see them getting anywhere near a seat, but every party has to start somewhere, and I’ve definitely seen worse.

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25 thoughts on “Victorian Senate Group L: Stabilising the Population

  1. “Australia is not a boundless nation with infinite resources.” it’s not but the anthem suggests it is (2nd verse)

    “For those who’ve come across the seas we’ve boundless plains to share”

    Then again maybe that’s why we don’t sing that verse so much…

    You’d think a political party could have a passing familiarity with the national anthem.

  2. Tackling climate change, energy crisis, food crisis, asylum seekers, etc. These will all be the biggest challenges to face the humanity in the decades to come, surely real progress can only be made when the global community acknowledges that these challenges are all symptoms of the same issue! The everything issue! Population.
    (I do agree that they should change their websites colour scheme though)

    • I do agree that it’s a very important issue, and this is actually one of my preferred parties so far. I’m just a bit frivolously amused by the whole ‘everything issue’ statement. It’s a by-product of reading so many political websites in a row – without a bit of silliness, I’d be tearing my hair out!

  3. Wow I totally didn’t get that from the name. I assumed more STB nonsense. Definitely in need of a bit of PR to get more votes.

  4. Pingback: My personal How to Vote Card… | Cate Speaks

    • Interesting. I presume you mean this link, specifically? I don’t quite know what I think of this. I admit, their preferences did not fill me with joy, but then again, I did find their policies quite sound (they specifically argue against racism and for refugees, which seems like a pretty good combination on the surface of it) – and I understand that the uncle of a friend of mine is one of their candidates, which biases me a bit towards them. Noted for future reference, in any case, so thank you!

      (this is also why I only comment on the printed policies of a party – I do not, alas, have enough time or knowledge to go hunting for motivations, links, or suggestions of what they *really* secretly want…)

  5. Michelle Kingston, Malcolm King has a track record of puerile attacks on anyone opposing population growth. The underlying theme he espouses is that population is not a problem; despite the growing evidence human overshoot on this planet is creating some very serious problems.

    Thanks Catherine for profiling the party. The mainstream media, the Greens, Liberals & Labor suppress (dare I say it) the ‘everything’ issue.

    Despite a ‘massive thumbs down for big Australia’,with 70 per cent hoping the population does not hit the 40 million mark projected by 2050, no major party will raise population as a campaign issue.

    It is therefore big news that a political party has formed around a major policy goal of achieving a stable population. They will get my vote.

  6. Hi Catherine,

    initially, you had me worried, but in the end, I realised you were actually taking the reader through your journey. I ended up liking your article very much. I am with SPP (Stable Population Party) so certainly not without a stake in this. As it appears you’ve been through our website, The SPP fully supports changes in behaviour (to stabilise and reduce total ecological impact to sustainable levels), but is mainly focused on population right now because no-one else is addressing this critical issue!

    We are aware of Malcolm King, but it is expected that there will be those that misunderstand us and Malcolm may have his reasons for continuing to attack the party 🙂

    And as you gave a shout out to Kelvin, it is worth nothing that he is regarded as the maverick MP that speaks out about population. His thoughtful article “Witches hats theory of government” is a great work to appreciate the relationship between population growth and civil unrest. And indeed, if you look at the situation in Egypt, Ireland, Syria, Turkey and so many other countries where there is extreme unrest from a population to resource ratio perspective, it is very easy to see a high level of consistency. For instance, Egypt in around 1950/1960 was growing at our current rate of around 1.8% while starting to move to more dependency on importing oil and food. Now Egypt are almost entirely dependent on oil imports and 50% dependent on food imports. Ethiopia has it’s own problems having doubled in population since Band-Aid and have been making noises about damming the Nile which could have drastic consequences for Egypt.

    I could practically write a novel but instead, I thought I’d furnish a number of references which help broaden the debate. I won’t add any links on wildlife other than to say we lead the world in wildlife extinction (due to introduced species but also due to our expanding footprint), including extinguishing our delightful Numbats and Koalas and we are over-allocated in water with all major cities now having one or more billion dollar desalination plants (with Perth on it’s 3rd) – I do note that some are just rusting but this should be a clear indication that we are increasingly over stretching water resources here (and the resulting salt concentrations are also environmentally destructive).

    An analysis of cities with stable populations vs fast growing ones:
    http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=11491

    Roy Morgan, our real unemployment rates 2001-2013:
    http://www.roymorgan.com/morganpoll/unemployment/estimates-detailed

    A dated but useful overview of our geography:
    http://www.australianpoet.com/boundless.html

    Macro Business, Population Growth Juices GDP:
    http://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2013/09/population-growth-juices-australian-gdp/

    The long-term impact on our true dependents, our young when unable to take on unskilled positions and get their start in industry:
    http://www.monash.edu.au/assets/pdf/news/cpur-immigration-overshoot.pdf

    SPP’s foodplan submission:
    http://www.daff.gov.au/nfpold/process-to-develop/issues-paper/submissions-received/stable-population-party-of-australia

    How we could put AusAid behind independent bodies such as these programs run by Population Media Center yet we’ve delayed increases in foreign aid due to the costs of population growth (I use costs very broadly but I hope the picture will become clearer if you look at the following links):
    http://www.populationmedia.org/2012/08/29/greetings-from-nigeria/

    While we are for population stabilisation, an interesting case study of Japan’s declining population puts worker to dependency ratios to shame in the USA, Europe and here:
    http://letstalkbooksandpolitics.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/economic-advantages-of-declining.html

    Why small businesses, the bread and butter of our economy are closing down in record numbers:
    http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=11141

    kind regards

    Matt

    • Thanks for the very detailed response, Matt! Yes, this was perhaps one of my more frivolous policy reviews (you can sort of tell which reviews were written in an advanced state of sleep deprivation, though I try to keep the content as fair as possible).

      Since this post seems to be attracting quite a lot of comment and debate, I’m encouraging people to come back and look at the comments.

  7. Overall a very fair and sensible review Catherine. It is refreshing to come across thinking people like yourself.

    * in order to be transparent, I am involved with the party. I want a better future for all, including our wildlife.

  8. They sound alarming to me. Stabilising the population is important, but they don’t seem to be primarily about doing that. Otherwise their principle focus would be improving access to contraception, both domestically (which they don’t discuss at all, at least that you’ve mentioned) and worldwide.

    Instead, they want to penalise families with more than two children, which doesn’t persuade anyone to have a smaller family but does increase poverty (particularly unfairly for families already over the two-child limit), and as you’ve observed, makes women in particular worse off and thus less likely to be able to access education and work. I can’t remember whether the UK is actually doing this or whether it’s just been raised as a possibility, but it’s one of the signs of how badly things are going here, where the government is supposedly saving money by taking it away from the poor and giving it to the rich. No one here believes for an instant that it’s about reducing overpopulation. It’s transparently obvious that it’s being done because the government is demonising poor people and scraping money off them any way it can. Families with more than two children are joining the disabled and unemployed as targets for government-led hatred, and the level of resentment that’s being normalised is terrifying. Trust me, you don’t want this happening in your country.

    As for the net migration policy, it sounds rather like they just want to shut the rest of the world out and let them go to hell. That’s not how you tackle the worldwide population problem. The UK is supposedly anti-racism as well, but have you heard about how the Tories have set up vans to drive around with “Go home” written on the side? Or how vile they are to asylum seekers? 95% of LGBT asylum seekers are turned away from the UK on the grounds that they aren’t really LGBT, which means that they often face torture and even death on their return. Sending someone to their death because your nice rich country wants to stay a nice rich country is not a humane policy in any way.

    • I don’t think you’re being entirely fair, not least because the shape of politics in Australia is different to the UK. We are differently vile to our asylum seekers, for one thing, and this lot are actually saying we should let the asylum seekers in and have fewer work visas and economic refugees.

      Also, they do want to increase contraception access worldwide – they have a whole thing about educating girls in third world countries and making sure they have access to birth control, so they aren’t really telling everyone else to get stuffed. As for locally, I think access is actually not too bad here. And they aren’t talking about getting rid of tax breaks etc, just the baby bonus and maternity leave for those later children. It’s worth noting that for the last decade or so, the government has been positively *encouraging* larger families. (I think it was Peter Costello who came out with the infamous line that women should have ‘one for mum, one for dad, and one for Australia’). In many ways, they are simply pushing back at this idea.

      So I’m not totally happy with them, but I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think they’ve thought through the consequences of all their policies, but I don’t think they are as malicious as you suspect.

      • Cate, unfortunately, because this is such an expansive subject, there are vast amounts of evidence to cover and the party does have to present information in a more readily digestible way, In relation to us not having thought through our policies feel free to elaborate and we’ll present our case. That I feel is more functional than assuming that we’ve been lax. 🙂

        • Hi Matt,

          Thanks for your response (though please don’t go assuming that my English friend can’t read – it’s rude. And inaccurate, because I guarantee you she read this post before writing. It’s more that she is coming from an entirely different political context and is making assumptions on that basis. And I do recognise that this is frustrating, but I also value people not sniping at each other on my blog!).

          Honestly, my chief concern was that cutting the maternity leave payment for kiddo number three (I’m presuming that if pregnancy number two is twins it doesn’t count – and apologise if you said that already, I have read *so many* policies over the last few weeks that they are blurring together a bit) could unfairly disadvantage women. It takes two to make a pregnancy, after all… but if dad disappears for whatever reason, he’s not the one left holding the baby.

          Excuse me. I am unable to formulate this argument or this question properly because I am extremely tired (this blog is a hobby in addition to my actual job, and I didn’t expect it to get this much attention). Feel free to respond or not, if you have time – I promise to read, though perhaps not to respond tonight.

          Good luck tomorrow!

          Catherine

          • Hi Cate, yes, I apologise for that. It was a thoughtless comment. If you can delete, feel free. I do appreciate you’re thoughtful response to your friend also 🙂

            We support maternity and paternity leave for all children. It’s just removing the government incentives to have children. My information is that the baby bonus may have increased our TFR from around 0.2% but was largely regarded as a failure while also costing billions. Indeed, our young are our true dependents.

            I think at the end of the day, if we all sat down, we would agree on pretty much everything.

            The hard part really is on how to achieve it. We try very hard to help people realise that asylum seekers do not actually add to our population but unfortunately, the political rhetoric and the fairfax media, have misdirected public concern/anger on a few hapless boats. We also have several pieces which cover the real issues which force people to flee their homes knowing that the overwhelming preference for people is to live safely and well.

            The other side of the debate is the relentless pursuit of big business for growth. For some time, growth in Australia has simply been population growth which socialise the costs whilst privatising the profits. Indeed, when people in the UK signed the petition to try and keep the population of the UK to under 70 million, David Cameron said something to the effect, we can and we will control immigration, our number one priority is economic growth – you can see the opposing positions of the people in the UK seeing their quality of life degrading and getting increasingly frustrated while Cameron suggests economic growth is a good and necessary thing – but this requires more population growth. In the meantime, you have people desperately trying to get in the UK with the belief it offers a better quality of life, and once there, getting stuck in bureaucratic limbo – a recent article talked of people sleeping in holes in the wall.

            Now, it’s important to reiterate, we are for immigration, but we must balance our moral obligation for the people and wildlife here with the desire of people to come to Australia and our responsibility as a global citizen – this is not obvious and our main opposition comes predominantly from short-term thinking. In Australia, we have the same issue. Our current nominal immigration program from Howard’s time to now has immigration levels that range from as high as our population growth to more than double our population growth and we currently have the highest levels of immigration in Australia’s history. It might seem that it’s selfish to suggest any limit on immigration but when you understand the full repercussions of high population growth fueled by high immigration, you quickly realise that it’s crazy to expect people living in a place to not get concerned, angry and even violent when there is no end in sight. And that is what we are seeing and what Kelvin was talking about in his “Witches Hats” article. But we also need to note that it is more likely that people are migrating to countries where they will be immersed in a consumerism type lifestyle which is destined to fail which increases their footprint IIRC by 3-4 times when what we should be seeking to do is improve their quality of life without the excesses of a western lifestyle. Fortunately, it seems there are some very clever people in these countries that realise there are far too many people to actually achieve this – I think they will become more prominent as pollution increases while water and other resources decline.

            To further add food for thought, firstly, for what we spend on resettling a single person here, we can be immediately helping 1000s in situ and subsequently orders of magnitude more through empowering women and men to make more informed choices on family size etc. Our current population growth rate of just under 400,000 additional people per year, is estimated to give an immediate infrastructure deficit of any where between 80 and 240 billion per year.and we are an estimated 770 billion behind now – this manifests in rather worrying ways – pregnant mothers being turned away from maternity wards, ambulances being passed on from hospital to hospital, overcrowded schools, increasingly environmentally risky decisions e.g. CSG fracking in a desperate attempt to keep the electorate “calm” – but it’s decreasingly effective.

            On the other hand, if we were to allow our population to stabililse, we are then start seeing things happening like housing becoming affordable, more investment in training and education etc whilst also being able to have a national conversation on consumption – with a stable population, per capita cuts in consumption lower our total footprint which is what mother nature cares about. Further, instead of constantly having to make expensive infrastructure expansions and delay or even cut foreign aid, we can ramp it up to programs that we know work very well – see the population media center link I provided earlier.

            So, where the party has positioned itself is in providing a solution that is popular (when understood) to the electorate whilst also addressing the most pressing problems we face globally.

            Well, this is a rather long post isn’t it 🙂 It’s largely off the top of my head so probably not as coherent or consistent as I would like, but hopefully it expands further. There are a whole host of additional considerations but it’s a start.

            cheers

            Matt

            • Thanks, Matt, for your extremely *thorough* response! Nice to see that I’m not the only one who has trouble with conciseness. I’ll have a read through it in the morning, when I’m less sleep deprived.

              Ta,

              Catherine

              • but unlike mine, your spelling, grammar and manners are impeccable 🙂

                Very hard to distill so much information into a few sentences but I will endeavour to be briefer 😉

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