Courier Mail

More chickens of population growth come home to roost in Queensland

Had the promises of the growth merchants over past decades been realised, Queenslanders, having had their population more than double from 2 million in 1972 to its current 4,258,351-fn1">1, would today be enjoying a blissful carefree existence together with unprecedented prosperity. Somehow, it has turned out differently.

"One of the questions that is not put in the political process by either side of politics, let alone answered, is: Towards what are we striving to grow?" - Brendan Nelson.
for more, read by Ross Gittins

Almost every day of the week, Queenslanders are greeted in the Brisbane Courier Mail newspaper with ever more stories which chronicle their declining quality of life. The Courier Mail of Tuesday 13 May was no exception. Such stories included: on the front page, a related story about the Sunshine Coast, "Coast pays as it gives" on page 4 and on page 13. In the online version of 13 May, is the story about how Lord Mayor Campbell Newman intends to break his election promise made in March not to increase council rates above the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Only on Saturday, yet more stories , "Surgery blowouts hit reform agenda" (page 15) and and a related . Over previous weeks, the pages of the Courier Mail have been full of stories about traffic congestion and skyrocketing housing costs.

Water charges to increase

In the front page story Steven Wardill Rosemary Odgers report:

HOUSEHOLDS will be forced to pay much more on water bills than the Government promised because of a blow-out in the cost of drought-proofing infrastructure.

The Government yesterday revealed average household bills across the region would rise from $483 a year to $750 a year over the next five years to pay off its $9 billion water grid.

The rise in bulk water costs, which are charged to councils and passed on to households, is significantly higher than the Government claimed last year when it estimated the average bill would rise to only $525 by 2013.

Rising council water charges, soaring capital costs, inflation and interest rates have all been blamed for the blowout in the price of turning on the tap.

The story also notes that these costs are in addition to electricity and gas charges which have “both recently risen despite the Government saying that they would probably decrease under regulatory reform.” In fact, these are indirectly related to the population growth as these increases would appear to be a consequence of the privatisation in 2006 of Energex and Ergon the retail arms of the respective publicly-owned electricity and gas utilities. The reason proffered at the time by the then Premier was that the sales to pay for the which was necessary to solve the water crisis. So, in addition to the loss of the rich agricultural soil of the Mary Valley, the destruction of a rural community and the of the the Mary River Cod, the Mary River turtle and the lungfish, Queenslanders are expected to also pay for population growth by selling off ever more family silver.

A related story "Coast pays as it gives" on page 4 tells of how, according to Sunshine Coast Mayor Bob Abbot, his constituents are to pay icreased rates to have their water piped off to cope with the water requirements of Brisbane's additional population. Annual rates for Caloundra will jump from $356 to $386 in 2009-2010 and to $550 in five years. Noosa's will skyrocket from $407 to $601, and Maroochy's are expected to be $584 in five years' time.

The public transport crisis

Melanie Christiansen reported that last month 1800 buses left commuters because they were full. This was a jump of 60% up from 1128 in March, although Council's public transport chairwoman Councillor Jane Prentice attributed this spike to a new accounting system, which made it easier for these statistics to be recorded by bus drivers and that 30 buses had been taken off the road in April rising to 63 in May as a result of a gas cylinder explosion at a major depot.

To this the Opposition transport spokeswoman Victoria Newton responded that as April was a traditionally a quieter month, so the 60% spike was still alarming.

With 63 buses off the road in May, Jane Prentice warned that this month's figures are expected to be even worse.

Financial crises driven by population growth and resource-shortages

In the online version of the Courier Mail, presumably to be printed on the 14th, is the story about how Lord Mayor Campbell Newman intends to break the solemn promise he made during the election Campaign of March 2008 not it increase council rates above the CPI.

Lord Mayor Campbell Newman has backed away from promises he would not raise rates above a low single digit, claiming after learning of the new forecast for inflation, "all bets are off".

The excuse given by Newman was that soaring costs of infrastructure exceeded the CPI. However, this should have come as no surprise to Newman. On 15 Feb 2008, Prior to the 2008 election, the local government association. that council costs were rising in excess of the CPI and during the election campaign as an independent Mayoral candidate I ">warned both in an interview given to the Courier Mail newspaper and in that after the optimum population size, long ago surpassed in South East Queensland, had been reached, population growth actually causes per-capita costs for services to be increased.

Opponents of Newman's extravagant white elephant projects such as the and the North South Bypass Tunnel have for years that these projects had not been properly costed and that costs were likely to escalate due to increasing costs of petroleum and other increasingly scarce commodities, but Newman together with the Labor Council majority and the State Government, ignored these warnings and continued both to encourage population growth and in the construction of infrastructure ostensibly aimed at alleviating the symptoms of population growth and Queenslanders continue to pay the price.

In spite of the copious evidence of the harm caused by population growth, even within its own pages, the Courier Mail adamantly refuses to point out the obvious link to its readership. Instead, it relentlessly propagandises in favour of population growth-fn2">2. In its editorial of 10 May , referred to above, can be found an example of the more subtle and insidious form of propaganda, with which the Courier Mail, the rest of the Murdoch newsmedia-fn3">3 excel, that is, to pretend that population growth is a given over which none of us have any choice:

Furthermore, the health system is struggling simply to keep pace with the strain caused by a rapidly growing – and aging – population.

During this time, the population increased by some 100,000 people.

In fact, it is the Courier Mail, together with the pro-growth politicians and the land speculators and property developers whom they all serve, who have decided, behind our backs, to promote the population growth, without which the health-fn4">4 and other crises that the Courier Mail regularly rails against with seeming indignation, would not even exist.


-fn1" id="main-fn1">1. See population clock on -fn1-txt">[back]

-fn2" id="main-fn2">2. Some examples of overt propaganda (although dated by now) are to be found in the article originally written in January 2007. -fn2-txt">[back]

-fn3" id="main-fn3">3. See also -fn3-txt">[back]

-fn4" id="main-fn4">4. A letter in the Courier Mail of Tuesday 13 April, whilst not arguing against population growth, pointed out: “ … the tables you published confirm the excellent job being done by Queensland Health. They show the health budget per-capita has grown from $1190 in 2004-2005 to $1673 in 2007-2008. There are more doctors, more nurses and more allied staff. The fact that Queensland's population has grown exponentially in the same period has not been given the weight it should be to make the article a balanced or reasonable critique. … ”
Comment:In fact, this still begs the question as to why, if per-capita spending has increased, the waiting lists are still growing. It would seem to lend further weight to the argument ">put above that per-capita costs of services increase rather than decrease as population grows beyond an optimum size.-fn4-txt">[back]

The Courier Mail beats the drum for more Queensland population growth

This article was written in January 2007 and published in the March 2007 Newsletter of the South East Queensland branch of Sustainable Population Australia. I was moved to republish the article on this site on 30 April 2008 after I read a story "Wanted: a room to rent" in the Today section of Brisbane's Courier Mail newspaper of 29 April 2008. The story is yet another about one of many aspects of the crisis in the supply of rental accommodation in South East Queensland. Now, more and more people, who could once afford to rent whole units or houses are, of necessity, rather than choice, seeking shared accommodation. (In Sydney there have been, in recent times, still more disturbing reports about shared room accommodation becoming more prevalent.) This is all a direct and predictable consequence of the Courier Mail's own past encouragement of population growth that this article documents. In spite of the rental crises and many other problems caused by the increase in population, the Courier Mail continues to peddle pro-population-growth propaganda.

by James Sinnamon

Brisbane's Courier Mail newspaper has been running an hysterical campaign for further population growth, seemingly oblivious to its many other stories, some of them on its front page: the water crisis, threatened power blackouts, hospital crises, housing accommodation shortages, community struggles against overdevelopment and the destruction of bush-land; traffic congestion, bus stop rage and crowded trains. All primarily the consequence of that same ongoing population growth that the Courier Mail apparently aims to perpetuate. Examples include :

  • 8 July 2006 Banner ad: "Position Vacant - 36,800 workers needed" followed by a list of job vacancies by category and "Apply to the smart state".
  • Headlines shrieking, "We want you!", claiming that, "Tens of thousands more workers are needed to head off a skills crisis which is threatening to strangle Queensland's economy."
  • Further inside, story titles: "Skills crunch slows state"; "It's an uphill battle getting jobless to work"; "Jobs galore but no one wants them".
  • Friday 22 September: "State's people on the up and up"; Baby boom buoys growth against immigration drop". The story here is how a taxpayer-funded baby boom is saving Queensland's population from collapse as new arrivals from interstate decreased. Deeply buried among the photos of new-borns and their parents is a sombre warning from Queensland Academic, Bob Stimson, that state governments aren't providing adequate infrastructure for more people.
  • Wed 8 November: "Migrant workers a last resort in staff crisis". Claiming "Aussie kids don't want to do the job", luxury Hayman Island resort manager calls for more relaxation of immigration rules to fill 30 vacancies in a 500 strong island work force.
  • Friday 10 November: In among "Feast of Jobs", "Business plea: who needs to earn a crust?", the tragic tale of Pizza shops struggling to attract delivery boys and junior pizza makers; and another about advertising campaigns to lure grey nomads and European backpackers into the workforce, were some oddly contrasting accounts of people being unable to find work in fruit growing areas.

Poor pay and working conditions, lack of career path and the long-term economic and environmental sustainability of the service economy are not the stuff to attract your aspiring interstate or overseas immigrant.

Clearly, however, Queensland's booming mineral exports &emdash; coal and aluminium in particular &emdash; cannot be divorced from the many signs of climate change here. Whatever prosperity some Australians may enjoy now from the massive extraction, processing and export of these finite and non-renewable materials is truly at the expense of the planet and of future generations.

What becomes of the extra workers when boom inevitably goes to bust?

Following another hyperbolic campaign about a claimed shortage of computer professionals in this country in 1999, poached IT immigrant professionals proliferated way beyond the moderate amount of work available. Many of those jobs were off-shored to low wage economies, with the result that not a few IT graduates are now marooned as cab-drivers and security guards, with out-dated skills in their rapidly changing profession, according to Labour Market Consultant, Bob Kinnaird.-fn1">1

Clearly, the Courier Mail newspaper will not be the vehicle to help the people of South East Queensland grasp the necessity of stabilizing population to preserve any of their standard of living and environment.

See also:


-fn1" id="main-fn1">1. "Migrants blamed for IT jobs cut" by Jewel Topsfield, The Age January
10, 2006 -txt1">[back]

Letter to Courier Mail: No passenger terminal for Brisbane!

The following letter was posted to the Courier Mail Newspaper in response to its beat-up story (see ) about the lack of terminal facilities for luxury cruise ships on the occasion of the docking of the Queen Victoria near the grain terminals. The letter was not published. Amongst the four short letter published, none raised environmental objections to the luxury cruise industry.

Dear Editor,

Brisbane no more needs a new luxury passenger ship terminal ("Tourists sure to harbour a bit of resentment", 27 Feb) than it needs the North South Bypass Tunnel, the Hale Street Bridge, a second airport runway or any of Lord Mayor Newman's other extravagant white elephant projects.

If the world were not on the brink of environmental calamity, then perhaps a modest upgrade to the facilities near the grain terminal would be in order, however, a far more responsible stance by the Brisbane City Council would be to actively discourage the international luxury cruise industry, with its scandalous waste of non-renewable natural resources and its unacceptable additional output of greenhouse gases.

yours sincerely,

James Sinnamon
[email protected]
Independent Candidate for Lord Mayor of Brisbane