August 18th, 2010 | Published in News and Politics | 8 intelligent opinions | Tags: ABC, Australia, Dick Smith, Dick Smith's Population Puzzle, immigration restriction, overpopulation, Pauline Hanson, population density, Q&A
Dick Smith’s Population Puzzle is a one-hour show about what Dick claims is the ‘elephant in the room‘, which no one wants to talk about – over-population in Australia. By over-population he is, of course, referring to the large number of immigrants in Australia as there was no talk of measures to curb natural population growth in Australia (such as introducing a one-child policy).
Although he’s not claiming to be a racist, I get a strong flashback to the nineties with Pauline Hanson’s cry of being ‘in danger of being swamped by Asians,’ as the effect would essentially be the same. I don’t usually have strong reactions to what I watch but this one had me fired up yelling back at the TV!
Dick Smith the person
To me, Dick Smith was an Aussie equivalent to Richard Branson. He struggled at school yet excelled as a business entrepreneur with Dick Smith Electronics and more recently, Dick Smith Foods. I didn’t appreciate his face on the packet of his food products but did agree with the principles of buying locally produced foods.
I saw him as an Aussie guy with a thirst for adventure and a man at the forefront of technology with innovative thinking. However, I’m sad to discover I’ve been mistaken – his program shows how narrow-minded he really is.
Australian population growth
Dick’s Population Puzzle presents one clear fact: last year Australia’s population increased by 480,000 people. A third were born here, leaving the other two thirds to be immigrants.
We already know how Dick intends for our population growth to stop. In the absence of any talk of a zero or one-child policy, it is obvious from Dick’s narrow-minded view that the only option is to cut down on immigration.
I’m still unclear as to whether Dick views population growth in Australia or globally to be the problem. Stopping immigration in Australia will not help the global issue.
Australia compared to a Bangladesh slum
Dick’s program had footage of a Bangladesh slum which was used as a scare tactic to warn Australians of the future we would be dealing with if our population continued to grow. How one can compare the slums of Bangladesh to Australia (considered the lucky country) baffles me.
Bangladesh is one of the world’s poorest countries and ranked ninth for population density with 1,127 people per square kilometre. Whereas Australia, a developed country, is ranked 233 for population density with 3 people per square kilometre.
Using images of Bangladesh slums to dramatize how living conditions will change in Australia if the population continues to grow is a gross exaggeration and plain ridiculous!
The debate on skilled workers
Dick also contends to stop immigration by stating that we’re doing wrong by other countries in stealing their skilled workers. Then, as an even longer stretch, tries to link this to the reason there aren’t enough training and development programs in Australia to generate our own skilled Aussies.
Skilled workers are in high demand and as far as I can see we still need more of them, which would be possible if we had both skilled migrants and local skilled Aussies. Cutting the supply of skilled workers from abroad will not give us the miracle of skilled Australian workers overnight. That solution would require the right planning and long term programs put in place.
Dick also neglects to acknowledge that skilled Australians too are emigrating, which would further reduce the number of skilled workers in our country.
The REAL elephant in the room
Whilst there was a lot I disagreed with, there was one point he made which I could relate to and agree with. The overcrowding in our bigger cities on the east coast (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane) is making it harder to move around with poor infrastructure and public transport. Anyone in these cities could easily relay their experiences being caught in a grid-lock as it becomes part of our daily lives.
Our main cities are getting overcrowded, but these represent only a small proportion of the land available across the whole country. We are a wasteful country and consume more than our means. By doing some planning to put better infrastructure in place, use resources more efficiently and reduce waste, our growing population could be accommodated.
Why Dick is determined to lead our country astray with talk of population control as the solution, I have no idea. Australia is a very lucky country blessed with an abundance of land and natural resources. Refusing entry to immigrants seeking a better life is not a solution and Dick’s Population Puzzle shows how narrow-minded and unwilling he is to find real solutions to the real issues we face, rather than scapegoating an easy target.
Dick Smith’s Population Puzzle aired on ABC, Thurs 12 August, 8.30pm.