Here’s to a Big Australia; there is something rather sad about the movement led by the Greens and supported by some commentators and intellectuals to keep Australia small.
It is also dangerous.
The idea has been around for a while. Environmentalist Tim Flannery some years ago was calling for Australia to actually reduce its population.
But it came into clear focus in 2009 when Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister declared himself a true believer in a Big Australia.
The backlash from the elitist coterie was so rabid that he almost fell over himself retreating – indeed fleeing – from his sincerely held view.
He even created a ministry of population designed to smother his critics with pabulum about “sustainability”, a word that should be expunged from the language. (The second law of thermodynamics renders it meaningless).
And sadly, his ignominious retreat not only gave heart to the small-minded elitists, it undermined those of us with a little more optimism and foresight about our country’s future and its capacity to influence events in the neighbourhood.
Julia Gillard, of course, walked away from the entire debate. But the simple fact is that it will not go away; and it’s time the Big Australia advocates were given a fair go.
This is a vast land, a continent, with the capacity to support five times its present population.
The elitists argue that we have neither the water nor the arable land to support such a population.
And while I am a passionate supporter of the Government’s action to reduce human-induced climate change, I don’t accept the forecast that it’s going to mean lower rainfall.
On the contrary, all the indications are that the lucky country will once again hit the jackpot and the last two years of above-average rainfall will continue.
The tropics are gradually moving south and bringing tropical rain where it’s most needed.
And even if there are droughts, there’s a massive inland sea of fresh water continually refreshed in the artesian basin that we haven’t even touched yet.
Increased population west of the divide brings more intensive farming and more food.
In any case, the development of GM foods is just beginning. World food shortage is an elitist myth.
The arguments for a big Australia are compelling. Economies of scale lower unit production costs.
They allow us to sustain our own cultural identity, to innovate and develop the products of our own inventive genius.
At the same time, the NBN will allow us to spread our population across the landscape instead of the present concentration in the crowded cities.
Size matters in international trade negotiations.
Better deals follow. Size permits us to project our own values and priorities into the international community, especially in our own region where our future resides.
And as America retreats into its shell, we need to be able to defend ourselves, mostly by extending the hand of friendship but also by keeping the wherewithal in our back pocket in case of bullying.
Only a big Australia can afford to fill that pocket with an effective deterrent.