National Pride – not a numbers game

Australia day is here. 

Like most Australian’s I greatly value everything our country has to offer – its quality of life, its opportunity, freedom and general value of fairness.

I also struggle with some aspects of our national day.  For example, we are told to celebrate the “Australian way of life” without actually being told what the Australian way of life is.  We attach cheap flags (made in China) to our cars, and buy Australian flag merchandise as the sole sign of patriotism.  We also honour a few of our achievers.  However we do little to reflect on Australia’s place in the world, and its national ambition to contribute to global development.

In fact, when the real talking starts, it is evident that the Australian message to itself and its surrounding nations is that we are quite selfish. 

I was listening to respected Dick Smith on the radio this morning, discussing the dangers of an increased population.  The “research” that supports him claims 90% of the population do not favour immigration.  Mr Smith suggests that Australian’s will be starving in the streets in future decades as we cannot sustain a population growth.  We do not have the food base to support it.

Concurrently, we have our Prime Minister using the occasion of our national day to warn of fiscal instability.  Our population is aging, and the solutions are to either reduce health costs, increase revenue, increase the population, or increase productivity.  Some of these depend on the other in accordance with basic economic theory.

It could well be that some of the very real problems impacting other countries (their ability to feed and sustain their population) are starting to impact on Australia in such as way as to suggest we can no longer ignore the problem of world hunger.  Could it also be that Australian society has been living beyond its means and expects too much through its high standard of living?  Is it really about an aging population?  When the demography is analysed it is not so much about numbers, but about the distribution of resource.

Consider that rural Australia (our food basket) is neglected and dying.  Consider that we have more than enough land to sustain large population centres in areas that are currently completely undeveloped.  Consider also that our healthcare is already under-budget, and that proactive lifestyle considerations could far more effectively deliver lower health costs than Government interventions.  It’s about changing the culture, not about changing the system.

Population control and border security is not the answer to the long term sustainability of the Australian population. 

Overall, it is the quality, and not the quantity of our population that counts.  It is a pessimistic and ethically abhorrent view to say that we should not bring future generations into the world because we can’t guarantee the affordability of their care.  It is also a self-defeating way of guaranteeing regional instability.

When I heard this discussion on the radio, I again reflected on the societal differences and cultural values of Israel, and how they differ to Australia.  Israel, as a Jewish country, has a love of life. It prides itself on technological development and advancement.  It has a population about one third of Australia on a land mass that is hundreds of times smaller.  To meet the food requirements of the country it uses agri-science – the use of greenhouses, hydroponics, genetic modification, and other means to provide ample food for its own needs and an export market, despite shortages of water and farmland. 

Australia seems content on resisting change and advancement.  It seems happy to live in a time cocoon, keeping large numbers of the population in jobs that are “artificial” (ie – they contribute nothing in the way of production or economic growth).  We sustain three tiers of Government to do the job of one.  We do not develop skills, potential or competitive markets.  To prove my point, go to a foreign country and ask what Australia’s contribution to the world is.  The answer is sun, sand, and a little bit of iron ore. 

There is a lot to be appreciative of and thankful for in Australia.  However we are kidding ourselves if our future is to be defined by rejecting immigration, curtailing population growth, and attempting to maintain an economic equilibrium based on negative cultural leanings.