Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Migration intake fuels Asylum Seeker conflict

Wednesday 21st December 2011/mt

Migration intake fuels Asylum Seeker conflict

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that, with the exception of Singapore, during the last 5 years Australia ran far and away the biggest per capita migration program in the world – 11.1 migrants per thousand people per year.  After us came Italy, with 6.7, Canada 6.6, Sweden 5.8, Hong Kong 5.1, the United States and the United Kingdom 3.3, and New Zealand 3.1.

I believe the Australian people are instinctively generous and good-hearted, but their tolerance has been stretched to breaking point by the quadrupling of the skilled migration program over the past 15 years, which has generated competition for jobs and housing and put pressure on family living standards.

As a consequence the debate about asylum seekers is very divisive.  It is doing nothing for our sense of national unity and respect for each other.

We should not expect the Australian people to accept an increase in the refugee intake in isolation.  It should be part of a package where skilled migration is cut by 50,000.  There are many good reasons to cut our migration program, and one of them is that it is likely to lift public support for an increased refugee program, which I think it’s something we have to bring to the table when we are working with our regional neighbours on the asylum seeker issue.  Furthermore the Australian people have said over and over that they think our migration level is too high, so cutting our massive migration rate is giving the Australian people what they want. 

In fact we could cut our migration program to 74,000, rather than 174,000, and we’d still be running one of the biggest per capita programs in the world – as big as the  UK, Italy and Sweden, and bigger than the US and New Zealand.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Overseas Student Visa Breaches

Thursday 2nd June 2011/ac

Kelvin Thomson MP
Federal Member for Wills

Overseas Student Visa Breaches

An investigation by the Audit Office has discovered that in March 2010 a backlog of 350,000 non-compliance notices which had been issued concerning international students for breaches of their Visa conditions. Breaches relate to things such as when students fail to start a course, fail to attend classes, or fail to pass subjects. It is fair to say that many of these breaches would be regarded as not very serious. It is also fair to say that by March 2011 that 145,000 of the non-compliance notices had been resolved by departmental staff.

Nevertheless 350,000 breaches of Visa conditions is way too many when we remember that there were 400,000 overseas students living in Australia in 2009-10. It is a matter of real concern that the Auditor-General Ian McPhee found it was “not feasible for the department to actively monitor if all 400,000 students has breached their Visas”, including whether they had worked more than 20 hours a week. This is still more evidence that the doubling of overseas student numbers from 204,000 in June 2002 to 467,000 in June 2009 gave us an overseas student program which got quite out of control. In 2001 the Howard Government changed the rules to allow overseas students to remain in Australia after completing their courses in Australia, rather than requiring them to return to their home country as was previously the case. This turned the focus of the overseas student program from getting an education to getting permanent residence in Australia.

The fact that the Department cannot successfully monitor whether the conditions of student Visas are being adhered to indicates either that the number of student visas is still too high, or that we need to put more money into Departmental monitoring. Either way, the benefits of overseas student programs have been exaggerated, and the costs underestimated. Student visa conditions such as actually undertaking a course, and not working more than 20 hours a week, go to the heart of the purpose and integrity of the student visa program. They must be complied with.

Kelvin Thomson MP
Federal Member for Wills

Saturday, May 14, 2011



The Government’s population strategy represents a missed opportunity to put Australia’s population on a sustainable basis and curb our rapid population growth.

The failure to set targets means we are still on our way to Big Australia, with net overseas migration tracking at 180,000 per annum, the number Treasury says will see Australia’s population rise to 36 million by 2050.

I remain concerned that the present rate of population growth – a 60% increase in our population over the next 40 years – will put upward pressure on the cost of housing, electricity, water, food, council rates, and upward pressure on interest rates.

The impact of a 60% increase in Australia’s population on our native wildlife will be catastrophic. Then there is the issue of carbon emissions. The government has promised to cut carbon emissions by 60% over the next 40 years. How are we supposed to cut emissions by 60% if our population is rising by 60% at the same time? It’s pretty hard to reduce your carbon footprint when your keep adding more feet.

I am pleased that the strategy acknowledges the challenges faced by our major cities, such as declining housing affordability and increasing traffic congestion.

I hope that all levels of government – federal, state and local – and all political parties – Labor, Liberal and Greens – will acknowledge the reality of life for people living in the big cities, and abandon plans to grow these cities still bigger. If all levels of government now work together to stabilise the populations of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, this strategy will have achieved something worthwhile.

But I continue to be convinced that another 13 million people will not give us a richer country, it will spread our mineral wealth more thinly and give us a poorer one.

Our aim to lift the participation rate and find work for people who are presently on Job Search Allowance or Disability Support Payments would be much more easily realised if we reduced skilled migration to the level of the mid 90s to give us a net overseas migration level of 70,000.

Member for Wills

Friday, May 6, 2011


I welcome reports that the Government intends to introduce a single 20% fringe benefits tax rate for company cars in next Tuesday’s federal budget.

This would mean taxpayers who are given company cars would be in the same position regardless of how many kilometres they drive.

At present cars which are driven more kilometres incur less fringe benefits tax. This is an incentive to drive company cars further, which is not what we want when we’re trying to cut Australia’s carbon emissions.

Changing the Fringe Benefits Tax rules for company cars is something I’ve previously called for on several occasions. It was one of the recommendations of Ken Henry’s review of the tax system.  I’m pleased at these reports which show the Government plans to move to improve the health of both the Budget and the planet.

I also welcome the Defence Minister’s announcement concerning Defence spending cuts. It seems to me that the Howard Government’s 3% real increase every year in Defence expenditure has led to a massive increase in Defence expenditure over time, which has contributed to a culture within Defence which is extravagant, and does not represent the best use of scarce taxpayers’ dollars.

Member for Wills
Friday 6th May, 2011


Australia’s resources have taken thousands of years to accumulate and are of immense value.  They should not be squandered.

There is no prospect that they will diminish in value in the years ahead, so it seems to me that we do not need to engage in a headlong rush to dig them up and sell them off as fast as possible.  Indeed I think there is a perfectly respectable case for leaving at least some of these resources for our children and grandchildren.

But seeing as we are digging them up and selling them off as fast as possible, we must at least ensure that Australia and Australians are the beneficiaries of this.

I am therefore disappointed to learn, from the Western Australian branch of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, that WA Premier Barnett not only allowed most of the engineering and fabrication for the Oakajee project to be done in China, but is now allowing major resources companies to send their work offshore too.

The union writes “While there are jobs up north while our major projects are being  built, most local workshops are empty, apprenticeship numbers are falling and unemployment in places like Kwinana is rising.  And, if our engineers want to help design our major projects, they have to move overseas, leaving our young engineers without senior people to learn from.

Colin Barnett talks a lot about how much our major resources companies are spending in WA, but he is very quiet about how much of this is being spent on creating skilled jobs and apprenticeships for locals.

The legacy from this new resources boom should be a highly trained and highly skilled workforce that can provide engineering and fabrication services to resources projects around the world and work together to create future industries and new jobs here in WA.”

The AMWU has a campaign slogan to go with their concerns – WA jobs from WA Resources. What Can Be Made Here, Should Be Made Here.

The resources boom presents a once in a lifetime opportunity. The WA Government has no business wasting it.

Member for Wills
Friday 6th May, 2011

Thursday, May 5, 2011


The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs has released population projections for the year 2100.

They say the world’s population is likely to grow to 10.1 billion by the end of this century.  Much of this increase is likely to come from high-fertility countries, which comprise 39 countries in Africa, nine in Asia, six in Oceania and four in Latin America.

When we bear in mind the fact that it took us the whole of human history until 1900 to reach 1.6 billion people, and we are now likely to reach 10.1 billion by the end of the century, little wonder the UN describes current growth rates as too high.

The director of the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Hania Zlotnik, says a 10 billion population has “serious implications” for the ability to provide food, water, energy, education and employment for millions of people in the poorest nations.  Absolutely right, to say nothing of the consequences of poverty and conflict over access to scarce resources – war, terrorism and millions of refugees.

Member for Wills
Thursday 5th May, 2011


The Australian Workers Union has launched a campaign to raise worker and community awareness about the damage illegal dumping is doing to Australia’s manufacturing industry.

The AWU says there has been dumping of a wide range of “finished” goods competing with Australian producers.  It says products like solar panels, rail track, wind towers, mining infrastructure equipment, steel frames etc are being produced overseas, primarily by China, and dumped on the Australian market.

The AWU has resolved to call on the Federal Government to establish an independent commission to investigate dumping allegations and legislate to enable affected groups and unions to ask for investigations to be undertaken by this body.

The union says that the US and Canada have more transparent laws and regulations on dumping, making it more likely that free trade will improve our living standards rather than lower them.

I support the AWU campaign. I believe national self- sufficiency is important, and I want Australia to continue to have a vibrant manufacturing industry. It is therefore important that our “level playing fields” are genuinely level.

Member for Wills
Thursday 5th May, 2011


The Master Builders Association of Victoria has asked the Victorian Government to create as-of-right development zones where developers would not need Council approval, and development such as dual occupancies, low-rise townhouses, apartments and other medium-density housing would be fast-tracked.

I urge the Victorian Government to reject this try-on.  Residents don’t have enough say in planning issues as it is, and are being forced to live next to buildings they have objected to, and live in increasingly crowded and congested streets and neighbourhoods.

The housing shortage is a consequence of Melbourne’s rapid population growth. If the Master Builders Association really wants to see this problem resolved, they should be advocating for a return of migration to 1990s levels.  Back in 1996 the Victorian Government’s Department of Infrastructure did an extensive report setting out population projections for the state for the next 25 years.  They estimated that Victoria’s population would grow on average by 30,000 – 40,000 per year.

If that had been right, we wouldn’t have a housing problem, but it wasn’t right.  Migration has increased rapidly over the past decade.  Melbourne’s population grew by 79,000 last year – more than twice what the Department was predicting for the whole of Victoria!

The Department predicted Melbourne’s population would be 3.8 million by 2021.  In fact we passed 4 million last year, over 10 years ahead of schedule!

Stopping Melbourne’s growth, not taking away residents’ rights, is the solution to the housing shortage.

Member for Wills
Thursday 5th May, 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011


The Institute of Public Affairs faithfully runs out the agenda of big business on all things – relentlessly anti-union, anti-environment, anti-government. Not surprisingly it is a strong supporter of Liberal Party personnel and policies.
The Liberal Party likes to project itself as ‘tough on border protection”.  John Howard famously said “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”, and even now Opposition spokespeople accuse Labor of being “soft on protecting our borders”.
It was fascinating, therefore, to read Institute of Public Affairs Spokesman Chris Berg suggesting recently that there shouldn’t be any borders at all – that Australia (and other countries) should allow anyone who wants to come to do so.
He said in the modern world “Goods move easily – Money moves easily. That’s all great. But the situation for people is very different. People don’t move around the world easily at all. With its quotas, plodding bureaucracy, and more obviously, all the smuggling, immigration today looks strikingly like the restricted and protectionist global trade of yesterday”.
He is in favour of dismantling immigration controls: “All the same principles which make free trade a win-win apply to free movement of people – large scale immigration allows people to work where they can be most productive”. 
He says “The biggest idea in development no-one has really tried is allowing large scale immigration from the third world to the first”. [Drum opinion,  Chris Berg, 9 March 2011].
It is an astonishingly revealing article. First it explains the paradox that the Liberal Party talks tough about border controls, but in Government runs high migration programs – it is because their big business supporters insist they run high migration programs.
Second it shows that the Institute of Public Affairs and its business backers have such an extreme hostility to government action that they do not even believe governments should be allowed to stop people coming to countries en masse! Their answer to the refugee and asylum seekers issue is to simply let everyone come.
The electorate will need to be vigilant. Already this idea is influencing policy makers, as can be seen by the large increase in migration over the past decade.  If voters do not actively tell politicians and media that this is unacceptable, then no doubt this is the direction in which we will head.
Monday 2nd May, 2011

Monday, April 4, 2011


The BS detector went into overdrive in the Australian Financial Review’s report of Wednesday 30 March pp1 and 4, “Skills suffer as migration dives.”
It said MacroPlan Australia’s Jason Anderson “warned” that if these trends continued, net annual overseas migration might decline to 150,000 people in the year to June, “half the number of two years earlier”.
Neither Mr Anderson nor the article pointed out that until 2007, 150,000 had only been passed once in over 30 years.  It’s an historically very high number, not a low one.
Moreover we remain well above 150,000 – the year to September 2010 saw net overseas migration at 185,00 – more than enough to deliver the Big Australia of 36 million which most Australians don’t want.
It quoted the Commonwealth Bank’s Michael Workman saying there is a demand for people not only in the mining sector, but also utilities, construction, engineering and labour services.   “They are all going to grow strongly and they will need to get people from somewhere.”   Why shouldn’t that somewhere be Australia, Mr Workman?
Greg Evans from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said if we don’t have more skilled migration it will “delay important projects and expansion opportunities.”  Sounds terrible, but is it?
Resources aren’t going away, they are likely to be worth even more in future.
We don’t need to blow what is a once in a lifetime inheritance – we can let our children and grandchildren have a bit too. If we try to expand too fast, we hurt manufacturing with a rising dollar, and we run the risk of the Reserve Bank stepping in with interest rate rises to slow the show down – the public policy equivalent of driving a car with one foot on the accelerator and the other foot on the brake.
Member for Wills
Monday 4th April, 2011


The free enterprise think tank the Centre for Independent Studies has given the game away in a report titled “Droughts and Flooding Rains: Water Provision for a Growing Australia, released last Thursday.
The report says that Australians should pay more for water in order to accommodate population growth.  The report says that on average Australians pay about $1 per kilolitre of water compared with up to $2 in Europe, and recommends that households should pay more when dam levels are low and less when they were high.
The study author Rebecca Gill said “Scarcity pricing could enable us to avoid a costly overhaul of water systems or the reintroduction of stringent water restrictions, while still meeting the water needs of a growing population.”
Ms Gills rejects the alternative approach, to stabilise water prices by stabilising Australia’s population levels, saying “The way forward is not to cut population growth, which is inevitable, but to consider a range of water sources to meet the growing demand.”
The fact is that population growth is not inevitable at all – it is a consequence of our high net migration levels, and it would stabilise if we cut those levels back.
The Centre for Independent Studies would like us to think its inevitable, because its big business backers profit from the extra demand and downward pressure on wages which comes with population growth.  They are happy for ordinary Australians to pay the price for their increased profits in the form of higher water prices as well as higher house prices, rents, electricity prices, food, petrol, council rates etc.
The statement in their report that Australian water prices are half those of Europe indeed bears thinking about. Do Australians really want to achieve Europe’s population and congestion levels,  and the pressure on water supplies which comes with that, and the doubling of our water prices? The Centre for Independent Studies might think that’s OK, but it’s not.
Member for Wills

Friday, April 1, 2011


Kelvin Thomson, MP
Friday 1st April, 2011

I agree with Brian Boyd, who said it’s all very well for the Labor Party Review to focus on our structures, but at the end of the day, what really matters is our policies. I also agree with Luke Foley from New South Wales, who said about the NSW result – we were a party formed to look after outsiders, but we have become a party that looks after insiders .
It’s true – we are looking after property developers, and big business, when we should be looking after workers, we should be looking after pensioners, we should be looking after students.
We have been accomplices in this high population, high migration, growth at any price strategy which pushes up house prices and makes housing unaffordable for workers, fits up students with sky high rents, and pensioners with rate bills so high so they can barely afford to stay in their own homes.
It is noteworthy that Barry O’Farrell’s victory speech said he was going to stop overdevelopment in Sydney, repeal Part 3A and rewrite the Planning Act – the point is we should be on the side of residents in planning matters – it’s their lives, it’s their neighbourhood, it’s their community.
Professor Garnaut has found that electricity distributors are gouging households, and profiteering from the distribution of power from generators to homes. He’s pointed out that from 2007 – 2010 electricity prices have risen 32%
I talked about this in Parliament last year – I pointed out that in Melbourne electricity prices have gone up by over 100% in the last decade, and by over 50% in real terms.  Ross Garnaut says electricity prices are going up with or without a carbon price.
We have to do something about this – I think electricity prices rises should be pegged to, for example, the rise in the pension – to give pensioners and ordinary households a break.  If the electricity companies say they need to build extra infrastructure, well the beneficiaries of that extra infrastructure – property developers and business – should be the ones paying for it – not ordinary households.
Ian MacFarlane fro the Liberal Party has come out and attacked Ross Garnout over this – it shows the Liberal Party is not on the side of ordinary people – the Liberal Party cries all these crocodile tears about rising electricity bills, but when  someone steps up and says yes, let’s do something about it, he gets attacked! Mr MacFarlane takes the side of the electricity companies, not the side of customers.
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows Australia’s population growing at a rate likely to exceed Treasury forecasts of 36 million by 2050.
Net overseas migration in the year to September 2010 was 185,800. While this is significantly less than the runaway numbers we had for the last 2 years, it is higher than every number we had during the previous 30 and more double the numbers we had in years like 1995, 1997 and 1998.
It is higher than the net 180,000 Treasury has been using to calculate our population by 2050. Further the natural population increase – birth over deaths – is rising, and is now 160,000. So we have annual population increase of 345,000, which is close to 1000 new people every day or 40 extra people every hour.  We have to build a new home in Australia every 4 minutes just to keep up. No wonder we never make any impression on things like homelessness or indigenous housing. No wonder rents keep going up.
I am concerned about reports that employers are rorting sub-class 457 visa conditions – in the words of an email reported on ABC radio Wednesday morning, “creating phantom roles, providing false or misleading information to the Department,” then once the visa is gained, not using the worker in the way they said they would.
The number of 457 visas has skyrocketed in recent years – there is no cap on the number of 457 visas that can be issued, and I think that temporary entry work visas are a tool for undermining the wages and conditions of Australian workers, and a recipe for exploiting overseas ones.
I support the calls by the Manufacturing Workers Union for a National Skill Register, and by unions in Western Australia for a National Register of Workers who want to work in the resources sector.
Before we resort to sub-class 457 visas and bringing in overseas labour we should make absolutely certain that there are no Australians available to do this work.
We should cut back the number of 457 visas so, amongst other things, we can properly monitor that the conditions under which they came to Australia are being complied with.
Kelvin Thomson MP
Federal Member for Wills

Monday, March 21, 2011

Committee for Melbourne Stooges ABC

Committee for Melbourne Stooges ABC

Last week the ABC News 24 Breakfast Program interviewed Andrew MacLeod about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster, describing his as a disaster relief expert.

The Program didn’t know, or didn’t mention, that Mr MacLeod is the Executive Officer of the Committee for Melbourne, an organisation of large business and property developers which runs a high population/high migration agenda.

Mr MacLeod didn’t let the chance go by. He said the disaster was a reason to ramp up skilled migration. He said Japan would experience more hardship as a result of its ageing and shrinking population, and that it should have more skilled migrants to help with the recovery effort. He even managed to find a way to use the Japanese earthquake/tsunami disaster to attack my proposal to reduce Australia’s skilled migration to levels we used to have in the mid 1990s.

The Committee for Melbourne apparently thinks that Japan would now be better off if only it had brought in more people to augment its workforce from, for example, China and India.

I wonder how many Japanese people today, as they sit in makeshift relief shelters without enough food, water and electricity, as they wait in queues for the limited petrol that is being rationed out, unable to leave their suburbs, as they wait fearfully for the latest in radioactive fallout from the malfunctioning nuclear reactors that they live nearby, are thinking to themselves – if only there were more people here things would be so much easier! The proposition is farcical. If Japan had had a bigger population, it would be experiencing even more misery and hardship than it is now.

The fact is Japan has a very high population – Tokyo alone is 36 million- and is overcrowded. That is why it has had no choice but to use nuclear power and to have millions of people living in close proximity to nuclear reactors and earthquake zones. But it has managed its population pressures more successfully in recent times than many other Asian nations. That is a key reason why its living standards are higher than its Asian neighbours. If its population had gone the way of those Asian countries hit by the Boxing Day tsunami, then the damage done by the Japanese tsunami would have been all the greater.

Kelvin Thomson MP

Friday, March 18, 2011

Daniel Andrews: Melbourne Growth Got Away From Us

Josh Gordon reports in today’s Age that “Daniel Andrews has conceded Labor lost government because it failed to meet community expectations as Melbourne’s runaway population growth ‘got away from us’.”

He reports that the Victorian Labor Opposition Leader has told The Age that a failure to properly manage Victoria’s strong population growth contributed to Labor’s defeat at last year’s state election, as services failed to keep pace with Melbourne’s expansion. “We just couldn’t keep up”, he said.

Daniel Andrews acknowledgement and understanding of the problem and its role in Labor’s election defeat is good news. I raised the need to curb Melbourne’s runaway population growth at ALP State Conference and in detailed submissions to the State Government concerning Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary, the future of the Edgars Creek Parkland, and the Kodak site. Unfortunately the previous State Government dismissed concerns about Melbourne’s population growth and in so doing got out of touch with voters.

Daniel Andrews statement that “We just couldn’t keep up” is true, but should not be regarded as a sign of failure. No governments or councils successfully manage growth at this pace – the problems are the same in Sydney, South-East Queensland, California, and every other urban centre experiencing rapid population growth. It is not that the State Government was lazy or incompetent – in my dealings with them I found them to be extremely hard-working and conscientious. It is simply that the infrastructure task of a rapidly growing big city is incapable of being successfully managed. There is no sign that the Baillieu Government will have any more success at making housing affordable, reducing crime, containing the cost of living, tackling traffic congestion etc.

Victorian Labor can successfully win back voters by action on three fronts: -

·         Planning. Restore planning powers to the local communities. Get rid of planning appeals to VCAT, and let Councils do what residents want, not what property developers want.
·         Cost of living. Peg electricity prices in particular (and possibly gas, water and Council rates) to the amount by which pensions rise. Electricity prices in Melbourne have doubled in the past decade, and risen by over 50% in real terms. This should stop. Electricity companies should be required to recover the costs of new infrastructure from the property developers who are the beneficiaries of it.
·         Big Australia. Victoria Labor should distance itself from the high migration policies of the past decade which have fuelled Melbourne’s rapid population growth. While business lobbies for high skilled migration on the basis that workers are needed in Western Australia, in reality Melbourne remains a major destination for migrants, keeping unemployment in Broadmeadows, for example, above 15%. We should stop boasting about Melbourne’s growth rate, and aim to stabilise Melbourne’s population.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

World Population Growth Not Slowing Down

The view that the world’s population is going to level out of its own accord is in doubt following a new United Nations Report. The world’s population is set to reach 7 billion later this year, and the UN’s Population Division say this figure could double to 14 billion by 2100 if action is not taken.

The UN Population Division has produced six projections of potential future population change based on different changes to fertility level and other factors. The report says that “even with significant fertility reductions Africa’s population will likely increase by 150% by 2100 and many of its countries will see their population increase four-fold or more”. It warns that considerable effort over the next few decades is required to achieve a reduction in fertility levels.

To have a reasonable chance of stabilising world population, fertility must drop below “replacement level”, and then be maintained at that level for an extended period, says the report.

If fertility were to remain mostly between 2.2 and 2.3 children per woman, we would have a world population of nearly 30 billion in 2300. This clearly is unsustainable.

Ken Henry has good advice on population but the Baillieu Government hasn’t noticed

It was pleasing to see Treasury Secretary Ken Henry promoting the need for an environmentally sustainable population. He said it was very clear that the population growth we have experienced to date has not been sustainable. He estimated that a sustainable population for Australia given present arrangements was 15 million.

The Baillieu Government State Treasurer Kim Wells obviously missed the speech. He said the government wanted to encourage more people to Melbourne, despite conceding booming population growth has been eroding living standards for years. He believes living standards can be maintained through better planning and higher productivity.

The magnitude of the problem of rapid population growth in Melbourne when it comes to planning, however, is illustrated by the Melbourne 2030 planning framework developed by the previous Victorian State Government for the period 2001-2030. It was based on a population of five million by 2030. It is now projected that Melbourne will in fact reach 5 million by 2020, and could reach as high as 7 million by 2030.

The Victorian Treasurer is wrong to want more people to come to Melbourne. The previous government found, to its political cost, that it’s just not possible to effectively meet the transport, health, education, housing, infrastructure etc needs of a city growing by 1500 people every week. If the Baillieu Government doesn’t work this out, the political goodwill they have as a new government will quickly vanish.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Price on Carbon 4/3/11

A Price on Carbon 4/3/11

The Leader of the Opposition says he would repeal legislation for a carbon price should such legislation go through this Parliament and should he be elected to be Prime Minister at the next election.

But is this to be believed? This is an Opposition Leader who has had numerous positions on this issue. In July 2009 he described emissions trading as a “plausible means to limit carbon emissions that doesn’t impose any obvious costs on voters”. Not only did he endorse carbon emissions trading that month, in the same month he also endorsed a carbon tax, saying “I also think that if you want to put a price on carbon, why not just do it with a simple tax?”. “Why not just do it with a simple tax?”- the words of the Opposition Leader in July 2009. Little wonder that Malcolm Turnbull lamented in a blog on 7 December 2009 that “Tony himself has, in just four or five months, publicly advocated the blocking of the ETS, the passing of the ETS, the amending of the ETS and, if the amendments were satisfactory, passing it, and now the blocking of it. His only redeeming virtue in this remarkable lack of conviction is that every time he announced a new position to me he would preface it with “Mate, I know I am a bit of a weather vane on this”. A weather vane indeed.

Secondly, the Leader of the Opposition showed no compunction about breaking election promises, when he was Health Minister. Remember his rock solid iron clad guarantee?

So if the Leader of the Opposition were to become Prime Minister, it requires little imagination to see him standing before the media or the parliament, explaining that it’s now all too complicated and difficult for business, looking slightly apologetic and sheepish, as he does, saying he’s not going to repeal the carbon price legislation, and saying “sometimes it’s easier to seek forgiveness than permission”. After all, he’s said that before.

Amidst the tumult and shouting and cant and opportunism we are hearing on this issue, one thing matters as far as I am concerned and it is this- Do we need to cut our carbon emissions? And I have no doubt that we do. I cannot believe that anyone watching the world’s increasingly whacky weather- floods, cyclones, droughts, bushfires everywhere you look- doesn’t now understand that climate change is real. We have an obligation to avoid passing onto our children and grandchildren a world in which Lockyer Valley floods, Black Saturday bushfires and Cyclone Yasi are annual events.

Now we have frequent complaints from the Opposition, and quite a few from the media, that the Government is all spin and no substance, and focused on political advantage rather than delivering for the future. But here we have announced a proposal which is substance with a capital S. All about the future rather than about political advantage. Yet we find the Opposition and those same media commentators who’ve complained that we have no substance, trying to scuttle and undermine it. It’s no good complaining that your politicians have no ticker, when if they show some ticker you do your best to cut them down. Now the easy thing would be to walk away from the carbon problem; to leave it to someone else to fix. Leave it for the next generation. Leave it for other countries to tackle. That is the Liberal Party approach. The easy way out. Rank opportunism. But if this campaign stops us getting a price on carbon, I believe future generations will hold such selfishness driven inaction in contempt.

When the Leader of the Opposition had his ‘it happens’ moment with Channel 7’s Mark Riley a few weeks ago, I and we all defended him. We said ‘he would never make light of the death of an Australian soldier’.

But the Liberal Party does not show us the same respect. They come out with these disgusting Colonel Gaddafi jibes about the Prime Minister. You know the French expression “noblesse oblige”- that the people who have the privilege of running the society have an obligation to display high standards of dignity and decency. The Liberal Party has a lot of very powerful people in it, but there is no sign of noblesse oblige- they have no class, no manners, no breeding.

Labor is not going to do the easy, opportunist thing on climate change. We are going to do the right thing.

Kelvin Thomson MP
Federal Member for Wills

Governor of Tasmania Recognises Ageing Myth

I was pleased to hear that the Governor of Tasmania picked up on the theme of the ageing population myth in his recent speech to the 2010 National Conference of the Association of Independent Retirees.

The Governor said in his speech, after referring to comments I have made on the ageing population scare:

“I could not agree more….Is not a long life expectancy a standard measure of a progressive and successful community?”

The Governor went on to say that an ageing population is an opportunity, limited only by an inappropriate attitude to retirement.

The proponents of the ageing population scare devalue older people and the significant contributions older people make to our society. Research constantly shows that older people make a great contribution to our society, providing child care and acting as mentors and role models.

We should recognise that workforce ageing will help us solve some of the most deep-rooted and serious problems we have in our society, and dismiss, to quote the words of the Governor, “the doomsayers who make gloomy predictions upon the basis that living longer means that the extra years of life will impose a financial burden on the younger generation.”

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Clean Up Australia Day 2011

Clean Up Australia Day, is a great opportunity to support the Merri and Moonee Ponds Creeks, wonderful community assets which have been transformed for the better over the past 30 years by efforts of groups like the Friends of Merri Creek and Friends of Moonee Ponds Creek, and other local residents.

Mr Jeff Martin has let me know he is organising a Clean Up on the Merri Creek this Sunday, 6th March, between 8.00am and 12 noon. The location will be Tate Reserve, East Coburg, just south of the suspension bridge.

CityLink Neighbourhood Connections Program in conjunction with Debney Meadows Primary School and 16 other groups is coordinating the Moonee Ponds Creek Clean Up at Debney Meadows Primary School, between 10am and 2pm.

I encourage Wills residents to support these worthy ventures. If you can make it you can either turn up on the day or register beforehand on the Clean Up Australia Day website:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Carbon Price Should Be Complemented by a Population Policy

I welcome the Australian Government’s commitment to putting a price on carbon. Australia has the highest emissions per capita in the world, higher even than the United States. Australia’s households and business are at risk of being left behind in a global economy which is already moving to cut pollution – which will hurt our economy and cost jobs.

Population growth and climate change are inextricably interwoven. Population growth increases greenhouse gas emissions, and in turn the effects of global warming are exacerbated by large populations. Australia’s emissions-intensive economy ensures that rapid growth translates into increased greenhouse emissions. Treasury-led modelling indicates that Australia’s emissions will grow from 553 million tonnes in 2000 to 774 million tonnes in 2020 of which 83 per cent is attributable to population growth.

According to a study by Bob Birrell and Ernest Healy, if Australia’s population were to stabilise at its current levels there would be a reduction of about 276 million tonnes in green house emissions, as opposed to a net migration of 180,000 and a projected population of 31.6 million by 2050. This is what is called a base case ‘business as usual’ (BAU) scenario. The Third Intergenerational Report in 2010 has projected a population of 36 million by 2050, and with a net migration of 215,600 in 2009-10, we are currently well beyond ‘business as usual’. It’s pretty hard to reduce your carbon footprint if you keep adding more feet.

Population policy should be a part of the plan to contain greenhouse emissions.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Dispelling the Myth that a Growing Population Drives Prosperity

The release of the Sustainable Population Strategy Issues Paper in December last year was a welcome step forward in the national debate we need to have about Australia’s growing population, and I have responded with a detailed submission outlining my views on the issue and advancing my population reform strategy.

The Third Intergenerational Report, Australia to 2050: future challenges, projected that Australia’s population will reach 36 million by 2050. It is my view that this population projection for Australia is too high and unsustainable. If this is allowed to happen it will have devastating effects on our ability to tackle climate change and protect our unique wildlife and ecosystems. It would exacerbate the diseconomies of scale of overcrowded cities, transport congestion, declining water supplies and housing affordability. It will condemn many to long-term unemployment and underemployment as we flood our economy with overseas labour while neglecting our obligation to train young Australians.

I am of the strong belief that Australia must be moving to stabilise its population in order to secure its social, environmental and economic future. I have released a 14 Point Population Reform Paper plan to stabilise Australia’s population by 2050 which includes the net overseas migration rate being reduced to 70,000.

Unfortunately the Issues Paper by the Productivity and Prosperity Panel shows no understanding of the downside of a Big Australia, and trots out all the discredited old myths about the alleged advantages of population growth. They say it is a myth that Australia can avoid a bigger population.

It is nonsense to imply that we can never stabilise our population. Australia’s population increase is being driven by net overseas migration, and that is entirely a matter of government policy. Population growth is not inevitable.

It is time for the Australian Government and policy makers to take steps to stabilise the nation’s population.  We need better than the ‘she’ll be right’ growth fetish which is making an utter mockery of our obligation to give to our children a nation in as good a condition as the one our parents gave to us.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

AAP Article: 'Aid before guns, Labor MP urges'

FED:Aid before guns, Labor MP urges
Monday, 21 Feb 2011 at 12:12pm;

CANBERRA, Feb 21 AAP - It's much better to spend taxpayers'
dollars on foreign aid than ramping up the defence budget, a Labor
MP says.

People in poor Southeast Asian villages like Australia because
of its aid, Kelvin Thomson has told parliament.

Mr Thomson was a member of a parliamentary delegation to
Indonesia, Brunei and Laos last year.

Poverty was widespread in Indonesia and Laos he said when
tabling the delegation's report on Monday.

The delegation was pleased to see the positive impact of
Australian aid in communities in the two countries.

"We had a fantastic welcome when we visited a village health
clinic and junior secondary school in central Kalimantan, both of
which have benefited from Australian aid dollars," Mr Thomson said.

"We have been having a bit of a debate about overseas aid

"I wish some of the aid sceptics could visit these projects and
see how much goodwill they generate.

"People there like us.

"It's a much better way to spend taxpayers' dollars than ramping
up the defence budget, which brings the opposite circle of
suspicion, mistrust and arms races whereas aid fosters a virtuous
circle of trust and goodwill."

Mr Thomson said 25 per cent of Laotian villages were still
contaminated by unexploded ordinance from extensive American
bombing during the Vietnam war.

"Villagers are sometimes forced to choose between extreme
poverty and risking injury and death through cultivating
contaminated land," he said.

The delegation was appalled by the situation and thought the US
"should match its responsibility for the horror caused by the UXOs
with financial support to reduce the human toll and render the land

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