I regard Dick Smith to be a fairly smart fellow. His wealth and notoriety are testament to his intellect and deserved success. To get where he has he would have had a lot of smart ideas and made a lot of smart moves, but I think his latest idea falls well short of something that has been thoroughly thought through. Believing that Australia’s population is too high, he has offered $1M to any young person who designs what he thinks is the best population plan for Australia.
It is apparent that having wealth in this country provides one the privilege of having an opinion that can be thrown out to the masses. It also can give one an ego:
Mr Smith, fiercely opposed to immigration, said he would devote the rest of his life to educating other Australians, including politicians, about the need to keep the nation’s population from exploding.
The above comment displays a man who believes that his own ideologies should enter into the public discourse plus be adopted as Government policy. That appears to be the aim of his message.
There are now 22 million Australians and . . . if that number grew beyond 26 million, the nation could struggle to feed its own people.
The fact is, that eventually, our population will pass 26 million. One day it will even pass 35 million. It will never be stagnant. Whilst I see his point I do believe that the figure of 26 million is open to debate and I am certainly unaware of how this number was produced. Or if it is credible. Or if it is just pie in the sky. One or more of you dear readers may be able to shed some light on this.
Nonetheless it is an issue for the future. But not now. To start implementing population control measures within the next 10 years would create an economic (and perhaps social) catastrophe for this country, and one that we are already headed for.
I pay a lot of attention to Australia’s most respected demographer, Bernard Salt. Salt points out the obvious fact that over the next ten years the last of the baby boomers will retire from the workforce.
. . . baby boomers have been in the workforce paying taxes for 40 years; the premiums have already been paid; now it’s pay-back time. The problem is that much of the tax paid by boomers since they entered the workforce in the 1970s has been spent. Future retirees must rely on current workers to fund their lifestyle. This system worked well enough for 40 years because the worker base was always expanding. But from 2011 onwards the rate of growth in the working age population of Australians slows: more boomers exit at 65 than Gen Ys enter at 15.
In a nutshell, how are we going to fund their retirement if there are less taxpayers in the workforce? What economic pressures will this put on Government? Where else will the money have to come from? What services would need to be cut? These situations can only be avoided if the workforce were able to increase, thus increasing the number of tax payers and Government income.
In Canberra alone, there is expected to be a labour shortage of 30,000 people once the last batch of baby boomers have retired. In such an environment where will business owners find staff? How will some businesses survive?
Tony Abbott’s much ridiculed suggestion that Australians should have more babies and let in less migrants offers no short-term solution. More children would also place pressure on the welfare system. People who complain now about a 50 cent flood levy are in for a horrible shock when the news filters down that the country will run out of money unless taxes are raised to fund all the new retirees (and zillions of babies under the Abbott plan).
I would ask Mr Smith if he has an answer to the impending financial problems that slow population growth would attract, or better still, if he is even aware of the economic ramifications.
There is only one answer. We need more workers migrating to Australia, skilled or unskilled. Ignore the shock jocks or the emails from the right-wing scaremongers who tell you the horrifying news that immigrants are handed pensions or income support payments the moment they step foot in the country. This is simply not true. Have a look at the eligibility for Centrelink payments and you will see that the scaremongering is a great lie. The current Government is committed to bringing workers into this country and not providing them with a pension, but spending money on providing them with work and job ready skills.
Every one of us relies on the success of this program. If we cannot attract people to this country, whether they come by plane or boat, and we cannot have a job ready workforce built up over the next decade, then the economic and social fabric of this country will undergo a horrible change. Rich people, meanwhile, offer $1M for someone to come up with a model to ensure that this change could soon be a reality.
As Zachary used to say: “Never fear, Smith is here”. This claim was always followed with a debacle.
And again, so it will be.