‘Populate or perish’ still a strategic imperative

Last week we passed the 25 million population mark. (See the ABS media release and fact sheet.) Apparently early this century we were forecast to add an extra million every seven years. Now we are doing it every two and a half years. Earlier this century we were told we’d hit 25 million in 2051. We got there 33 years early, and are told we’ll be at 40 million by 2048.

Some people are uncomfortable with this, but defence specialist Andrew Carr says that few acts would do more to undermine our long-term national security than cutting the number of migrants we take in. ‘Populate or perish’, he says, is still a strategic imperative.

He is saying that the changing strategic order in Asia makes population growth vital for our long-term security. We have tended to have two separate conversations, one about the strategic order in Asia, the other about population. Time we saw them together.

Australia has this problem of defending a large, sparsely populated country. During WW2 we had the dilemma of putting men in uniform or manning factories. In our history we have depended on hegemonic powers, such as Britain and America. Britain has gone, and the Americans are no longer to be relied upon unless it suits their own national interest.

Our own relative power is changing. Carr says:

    By the 1970s, Australia’s economy was one-third larger than all of the ASEAN countries combined. Until 1990, Australia and China had almost equivalent GDPs and we were the 10th largest in the world. All that has changed. Australia’s economy is less than half of ASEAN’s. Our global economic ranking could slide to 28th by 2050, with neighbours like Indonesia moving into the top 10.


    We have 57,000 people in uniform compared to 247,000 for Japan, 395,000 for Indonesia, 625,000 for South Korea, and just over 2 million for China. Yet in Australia, we struggle to provide enough people to staff six submarines and modest peacetime deployments.

Cutting immigration will cut our economic power, our people power, and diminish our voice internationally.

National Party leader Michael McCormack likes 25 million and looks forward to 30 million. However, 67% of us live in capital cities now, compared with 63% in 1970 and 37% in 1901. I’m sure McCormack is not pleased with the trend towards favouring the big cities.

I’ll just point out that Tasmania has a population of 522,000 while the Gold Coast has 638,000. Seems right and proper.

Brisbane’s population at around 2.5 million, within the SEQ region of about 3.5 million, has always seemed about right to me. I don’t like to see the country chewed up by suburbs, but the extra population seems to bring more services with greater sophistication and vibrancy.

If you want to hear about the migration issue in full there is an excellent discussion at ABC RN’s The Roundtable – Is Australia’s migration system working as it should?

Often overlooked, about a million Australians decamp overseas each year.

Our fearless philosophers, Waleed Aly and Scott Stevens, had two goes at it:

One of their more important insights was that if the people already here, and their government acting on their behalf, actively selected who came in, the place would be far less interesting.

Update: The featured image at the head of the post is from the first Minefield link:

It’s not specifically identified, but I think it shows Syrian refugees up against the fence built by Hungary to keep them out.

We spent a few days at the end of our 2015 trip in Budapest. Fascinating place.

According to Wikipedia, it is a member of the Schengen Area, which allows free passage across borders. Hungary has borders with seven countries, not all Schengen members.

Wikipedia says:

    Following centuries of successive habitation by Celts, Romans, Germanic people, West Slavs, Avars, and the Huns the foundation of Hungary was laid in the late 9th century by the Hungarian grand prince Árpád in the conquest of the Carpathian Basin.

Then in the 13th century came the Mongols, and half the people in Hungary died. Then they came again.

Then in the 17th century:

    The Austrian-Habsburg government settled large groups of Serbs and other Slavs in the depopulated south, and settled Germans (called Danube Swabians) in various areas, but Hungarians were not allowed to settle or re-settle in the south of the Great Plain.

Then in July 1849, the Hungarian Parliament proclaimed and enacted the first laws of ethnic and minority rights in the world.

The main language is Hungarian (Magyar) which is a Uralic language from the east. Other than English and German, recognized minority languages in Hungary include Armenian, Bulgarian, Croatian, German, Greek, Romanian, Romani, Rusyn, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, and Ukrainian. German probably appears twice because there is probably more than one variety of German.

So it’s a highly multicultural place, but obviously now threatened by people they see as ‘other’. I think we are going to have more fences in the future, both literally and figuratively.

17 thoughts on “‘Populate or perish’ still a strategic imperative”

  1. I’ve done an update on the highly multicultural nature of Hungary. Hoping Australia will remain open to all races and cultures.

  2. Here’s an article at Macrobusiness.com.au headlined Water security should be front and centre of population debate, dated March 20, by Leith van Onselen.

    The carrying capacity of Australia needs to be determined in terms of infrastructure for energy, water and food production/distribution.

    Sydney’s water storage capacity has fallen from 91.4% (same time last year) to 69.2% now (Aug 13) – a fall of 22.2%. Three more years of drought could see Sydney reservoirs near empty.

  3. During WWII Aus mobilized about one million people for the war. On the other hand, GM points out from time to time, we currently have only a few weeks worth of fuel. Our defence is a lot more complex than populate or perish and may relate to our ability to deal create durable relationships with other countries rather than our fighting capacity.

  4. More on Australia not meeting oil reserve obligations:

    It has been six years since Australia last met its global obligations to maintain sufficient oil reserves to last 90 days, a benchmark set by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in 1974.
    Oil stocks currently sit at between 51 and 52 days, and a wave of oil refinery closures in recent years has been blamed for the decline.
    One option being considered is new treaties with countries as far afield as the Netherlands, so Australia can draw from other oil stocks in the event of an emergency.

    Drawing from overseas stocks isn’t going to help much if our enemies are stopping oil tankers sailing to Aus?

  5. Geoff M, SEQ reservoirs diminish by about one per cent each month, so we’ve just gone down through 80%.

    Sydney may have to recycle or use desalination, which are our two main options, since we have no more decent dam sites where it’s practical to build.

  6. There is a program on ABC TV tonight which I think looks at the future of food production in the future.

    When thinking of carrying capacity I think we have to take into account that in the future power will be plentiful and probably cheap. Just how cheap will be critical to certain industries.

    There is also a post I need to write about the future of use of algae.

  7. Brian (Re: AUGUST 14, 2018 AT 12:05 AM):

    Geoff M, SEQ reservoirs diminish by about one per cent each month, so we’ve just gone down through 80%.

    I heard a radio news item today suggesting that if there’s no further rain that it’s possible that Sydney’s water catchment could fall to 60% within 10 weeks, with questions about whether the Sydney desalination plant would be available to operate. The Australian has an article today, headlined Doubts over Sydney’s desalination plant as storage levels plunge, link here.

    Sydney may have to recycle or use desalination, which are our two main options, since we have no more decent dam sites where it’s practical to build.

    The Colo River is the only large-scale dam option remaining for the Sydney water catchment area, but I think there would be huge opposition to it, and it’s too late now for this drought.

    There’s a proposal to raise Warragamba Dam’s wall higher – that’s going to take a few years to do, and Sydney may not have a few years if the drought continues for more years.

    Desalination requires lots of energy, and the current inaction on energy policy has put particularly NSW in a poor ‘firm’ energy generation position as we head into the early 2020s – vis-a-vis Liddell closure.

    Water recycling in future is a ‘no brainer’, but I think it’s too late for this drought.

    So, I can’t see how bringing more people into the Sydney area is a good thing when the basic water and power infrastructure isn’t keeping up. If the drought keeps progressing there could be several million people running low on water in a few years time.

  8. Meanwhile there’s this idiocy.

    South32’s Endeavour Coal is indicated an interest in exploring for coal in a 4087-hectare region just north of Picton on Sydney’s south-western edge, according to the Government Gazette.

  9. John Davidson (Re: AUGUST 13, 2018 AT 10:33 PM):

    Drawing from overseas stocks isn’t going to help much if our enemies are stopping oil tankers sailing to Aus?

    Indeed. With the likelihood of global post- ‘peak oil’ emerging soon every country will be scrambling for dwindling oil/fuel supplies.

    This post at crudeoilpeak.info headlined Peak oil in China and the Asia Pacific (part 2), dated Aug 12, link here, includes these interesting statements:

    According the USGS there is not much oil in the South China Sea. China is securing its oil supply routes as future oil imports are going to increase after production peaked 2010-2015.

    Then scroll down to Fig 11: Australia’s increasing oil consumption vs production decline. And then these statements:

    Since 2004 Australia’s oil production declined by 40% or almost 3% pa while consumption increased by 25% or around 2% pa. As a result, net imports increased by a whopping 134% in this period or almost 10% pa. 3 local refineries have closed, causing fuel imports from Asia to skyrocket…

    And the conclusion is:

    Peak oil in China will change the world. We see the first signs but governments have not woken up yet to the competition for oil in the Asia Pacific region which is supposed to be the global growth engine

    It’s difficult not to think that our governments are asleep at the wheel. So why bring in more people to exacerbate the energy security problem further?

  10. Brian

    Sydney may have to recycle or use desalination, which are our two main options, since we have no more decent dam sites where it’s practical to build.

    There are plenty of sites around Sydney and the rest of Australia that are “ practical “ for water storage.
    It’s just that to be “ practical “ for political purposes, it seems, they have to be devoid of fossil, semi rare trees, any animals ( even ones that live in water ), touched by an Aboriginal in the last 40,000 years, be able to grow anything edible or have Mabel’s cousins great Anty Esme’s childhood shack that’s heritage listed on it.

  11. Her nose was always considered her finest feature. I liked to observe her waddling along in search of the next nest.

  12. Anyway, I’m struggling to find the connection between population growth being driven by immigrants.
    I think birth rates may have more influence.

    You are overthinking the issue, Jumpy.

    Australia’s fertility rate was last measured as 1.79 per female. We need 2.1 to replace ourselves.

    So without immigration our population would be falling year by year.

    However, it grew by 1.6%, that is 145,500 by natural increase, and 240,400 by net immigration. Here’s the graph:

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