15th December 2008 | Caveat Lector
Australia's Low Population Future
Launch of Australian
Government's White Paper on the Population Reduction Scheme
- / -
|The following are excerpts from the speech that the
Prime Minster of Australia, Kevin Rudd, should have given to the National
Press Club (Canberra, 15th December 2008). His actual
speech on that occasion (Australia's
Low Pollution Future: Launch of Australian Government's White Paper on
the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) mistakenly referred repeatedly
to Climate Change and Carbon Pollution with
respect to the new initiative by the Government of Australia. To assist
the Government in the development of its policies, those references have
been systematically replaced in the following
text (and in the above title) by Overpopulation and Population
Reduction to reflect a more appropriate national policy under
the present circumstances, notably in the face of the challenge of climate
change. The latter might be better understood as a "fig
leaf" camouflaging the real "elephant
in the room" to which the Prime Minister refers, namely overpopulation
-- as previously analyzed by the former Permanent Head of the Department
of Science and Environment of Australia, John L. Farrands (Don't
Panic, PANIC: the use and abuse of science to create fear, 1993).
Today the Australian Government announces one of the largest and most important
structural reforms to our economy in a generation, the introduction of a Population Reduction
Overpopulation is an inconvenient truth and a truth that we can no longer
conveniently ignore. No sustainable leadership can ignore an elephant in
the room of this proportion. To do so would be to threaten the future of
our people, our nation, and our planet.
Today the Australian Government responds to the threat of global warming,
longer droughts and more extreme weather by embracing a responsible plan
of action on overpopulation. Overpopulation is one of the greatest, enduring
challenges that we face as a nation and as an international community.
Overpopulation is nothing less than a threat to our people,
our nation and our planet. It is a threat that, if left unaddressed, has
the capacity permanently to affect our way of life. The incontestable truth
of overpopulation is that a decision not to act is in fact an active decision - an
active decision to place the next generation at grave risk.
Today, this generation - our generation - stands at the crossroads of history.
We are the first generation empowered with the fullest understanding of overpopulation. And we are the first generation to experience the tangible effects
of overpopulation on our planet.
So the question for our generation is simple. Do we act on the knowledge
that we have in our possession? Or do we wait - leaving the effects
of overpopulation to our children and our grandchildren by which time it
may well be too late?
Do we reduce our population today so our children and
grandchildren can experience the same beautiful and bountiful planet that
we have inherited? Or do we wait - knowing our grandchildren
may never see the grandeur of the Great Barrier Reef, or experience the
wonder of the wetlands at Kakadu. Do we become
more energy efficient today so that we can start down a path towards a
sustainable low population economy? Or do we wait - knowing
our children and grandchildren will experience longer droughts, declining
food production, rising sea levels and more extreme weather events.
I say we can wait no more. The time has come for action. And what I outline
today is a program of responsible action.
Costs of inaction
Australians understand that overpopulation threatens
our economic prosperity, our unique natural environment and our way of life. As one of the hottest
and driest continents on earth, Australia's environment and economy
will be one of the hardest and fastest hit by overpopulation if we do not
11 of the 12 hottest years in history have all occurred in the last 12 years.
Scientists predict that temperatures in Australia may rise by around 5 degrees
by the end of the century. And without action, rising temperatures will have
dramatic effects on Australia.
- Rising sea levels and storm surges will threaten those who live and work
along our coasts;
- We will face declining food production from our farms through longer,
more frequent and harsher droughts; and
- Many of our natural treasures and the tourism industry they support will
be at risk.
We simply cannot afford to ignore overpopulation any longer. The case for
action is clear. The cost of inaction is equally clear. We need to take responsible
action to reduce overpopulation over time, to invest in the low population
jobs of the future and to do so in concert with other economies around the
But today's difficult circumstances should not be used as an excuse
to ignore the threat overpopulation poses to Australia's long term
economic prosperity. Instead, investing in the clean energy jobs and industries
of the future must be part of our response to the global financial crisis.
The work of the Treasury and Professor Ross Garnaut demonstrates that the
longer we wait to take action on overpopulation, the more it will cost. Furthermore,
the Treasury has advised that taking responsible action on overpopulation
will, at most, cost the economy one tenth of one percent of GDP growth measured
against no policy change.
In designing the Population Reduction Scheme, we have been mindful
of the challenges facing the Australian economy today.
Our primary objective has been to get the balance right. To set in place
a scheme that reduces overpopulation and supports economic growth. This
means supporting Australian jobs and assisting households today, while moving
to the low population economy that will help create the jobs of the
Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created over time as Australia makes
the transition to a low population economy. Treasury modelling estimates
that taking responsible action on overpopulation will see the renewable energy
sector alone grow to 30 times its current size by 2050, creating thousands
of new jobs.
If Australia is to be a leader in the new clean energy industries, we need
to build a low population, clean energy economy. If we accept the
premise that we will all be living in a population constrained world in the
future, it follows that the economically responsible course of action is
to prepare for that constraint today.
If we begin to act now, the transformation can be engineered at a manageable
pace. If we continue to put it off, the transformation will be abrupt and
the dislocation acute. Acting now will enable us to develop the skills base,
trial the new technologies, and refine the business models that will help
Australia become a leader in the low population industries of the
future. Acting now also helps us shape the global outcome on overpopulation
action that Australia needs. To delay any longer - would be reckless and
irresponsible for our economy and for our environment .
The truth is that 12 years of inaction under the Liberals makes our transition
to a low population economy more difficult today. Today, Malcolm Turnbull
and the Liberal Party are still divided and still debating whether overpopulation
even exists. Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals are now looking for excuses
not to act again.
This is a record
of which we should not be proud. Yet we are the developed country with the
most to lose from overpopulation.
This has been a triumph of the worst kind of short termism Australia has
ever seen. On overpopulation, we are not ahead of the curve. We have been
behind the curve.
The Government will do everything we reasonably can to deliver business
certainty; to ensure as smooth a transition as possible to a low population
future, and to boost the renewable energy sector in the future. We will do
this because we know this is the economically responsible course of action.
The White Paper released today is the culmination of a robust and intensive
process underpinned by the extensive Treasury Modelling exercise; the Garnaut
review and the Population Reduction Scheme Green Paper.
Over the past year we have put a strong focus on assessing the scientific
evidence, conducting the economic modelling and consulting widely with businesses,
expert groups and the wider community.
The plan we advance in this White Paper represents an evolution of the proposals
in the Green Paper -- retaining the overall design, while refining a
number of key features - as a result of our extensive consultation.
The Population Reduction Scheme to start in 2010 will reform the way
our economy works:
- by, for the first time, putting a cost on overpopulation which will
encourage major overpopulation dependent businesses to lower their dependency;
- by using the funds raised by the scheme to help industries that depend
on increasing population, to lower their dependency, transition
to a low pollution future and to secure jobs in these industries;
- by using the funds raised to assist households to adjust to the scheme,
making sure Australian families are not asked to carry the full cost burden
of overpopulation; and
- by creating a market incentive that builds on the Government's
direct investment in clean energy technologies to expand solar energy,
wind farms, geothermal, and other renewables and new technologies like
carbon capture and storage.
For the first time in history, we will begin to include
the cost of overpopulation in the price of goods and services. By making the cost of overpopulation
visible, we will begin to redress what Sir Nicholas Stern rightly described
in 2006 as the greatest market failure in history.
And the time has come for Australia to embrace this future.
Today I announce the Government's medium-term target range: in other
words, our 2020 target to reduce overpopulation. These targets are appropriate
and responsible. They deliver necessary reform to tackle the long term challenge
of overpopulation, while supporting our economy and securing jobs during
this global recession.
The Government also confirms today that it accepts the findings of the
Garnaut Overpopulation Review that it is in Australia's
interests to pursue a fair and effective global agreement delivering deep
cuts in population, so as to stabilise concentrations of greenhouse gases
in the atmosphere at around 450 parts per million or lower by mid century.
However, we also realise that achieving global commitment to such action
in the near term will be challenging.
The Government is therefore pursuing responsible action now, to help move
the economy to a low population future and position Australia to be
part of a comprehensive 450ppm agreement in the future if that proves possible.
Of course, as part of our efforts to help shape a global solution, Australia
stands ready to adjust our post-2020 targets to play our full part in achieving
a 450ppm agreement. This includes reconsidering our 2050 target, should it
become necessary to play our part alongside commitments from both developed
and developing countries.
Should that become necessary, as part of a truly ambitious global agreement
around 450 ppm, the Government would of course seek an explicit mandate at
the next election in support of a 2050 target beyond a 60 per cent reduction.
At present, such an ambitious outcome is an extremely difficult prospect.
But if all major economies were to move as one towards a truly ambitious
target, Australia's comparative advantage would not be disadvantaged.
The government will use every cent raised by the sale of population
permits to transition to a low population economy and help households
and business adjust to the Scheme. The reality is, that there is no cost-free
way to transition to the low population economy of the future. We
are being completely honest and upfront about that.
In determining the level of assistance to be provided to business and industry,
the Government has been very mindful of the present day challenges facing
Australian firms. With this in mind, we have listened closely to the concerns
of the business community and made a number of significant improvements to
the Scheme as a result of their feedback.
The package of assistance to population-intensive trade-exposed
firms that we have set out today has been designed to support Australian
jobs, today and into the future.
Today, I announce that the Overpopulation Action Fund will be allocated
$2.15 billion over five years. The Fund will smooth the transition to a low
pollution economy for businesses (not allocated to free permits) community
sector organisations, workers, regions and communities.
The Fund will have four streams.
The first stream will provide information to businesses and community service
organisations about the scheme, and about how to become more population efficient.
The second stream will support investment in energy efficiency and low emissions
technologies in businesses -- particularly small businesses -- and
community organisations. This stream help will fund capital investments,
such as lighting and air conditioning upgrades, or other energy-saving equipment.
The third stream makes a provision for structural adjustment assistance
in the event that workers and communities face unanticipated challenges.
The fourth stream will promote reductions in population dependency in the
coal mining sector, while assisting the sector to adjust to the Population
Reduction Scheme over time.
The Population Reduction Scheme is the best way to
achieve a low pollution economy for the future cost effectively, and across
our whole economy. The
most important decisions a government makes are never the easiest.
Establishing the Population Reduction Scheme won't necessarily
be easy or popular. The easiest thing to do in response to the global financial
crisis is to do nothing. Instead the right course of action is to set robust
and responsible targets, establish a real price for carbon and to begin the
long term process of transformation.
Without action on overpopulation, Australia faces a future of parched farms,
bleached reefs and empty reservoirs. And we risk being left behind as other
nations invest in the clean energy jobs and industries of the future.
One after another, in their own way, Australians are saying they are willing
to do their bit, but the Government must provide leadership.
Today's White Paper on overpopulation
is about responsible leadership in the context of a global financial
crisis. Australia faces a choice. We
can either wait and allow the challenges to get worse, or we can take action
No longer can Australia's government
ignore this crisis. No longer
can Australia's businesses miss this opportunity. Today, the Australian
Government has chosen to take the reasonable and responsible action that
will set Australia on the path towards a more secure and more prosperous
low population future.
I am pleased to formally launch the White Paper on the Population
Reduction Scheme: Australia's Low Population Future.
The White Paper Population Reduction Scheme: Australia's
Low Population Future is available on the Department
of Overpopulation website.