There are two population debates going on in Australia.

The first is the public debate that has inundated the media in recent weeks; all about forecasts, sustainability, infrastructure, economics, demographics and really serious-sounding matters.

The second is the subterranean debate that’s rarely discussed in public because it contains two unpalatable truths that require … oxymoron coming … really careful handing by politicians and media.

Unpalatable Truth #1: The majority of Australians are opposed to meaningful population growth, dislike the idea of high levels of immigration and want political refugees refused entry. These unfortunate attitudes are supported in poll after poll — this one and this one in recent days and weeks.

Unpalatable Truth #2: There is private acknowledgement among government and strategic decision-makers that Australia has a moral responsibility, as the richest and most underpopulated nation in the Asian region, to be seen to be growing its population and assuming its share of humanitarian migration. This is partly because of the terrible optics of a fortress Australia approach, and partly because such an approach is so out of sync with population trends in our region that it could generate enough resentment among our neighbours to present a serious security risk to Australia.

Of course our political leaders are aware of these unpalatable truths, and talk about them privately. But they also know they are dynamite issues that, if raised in public, need to be handled with care so that they don’t incite the wrong kind of populist debate that wedges politicians into make the wrong kinds of decisions for Australia’s long-term interests.

The unnerving part of where we are now is not the existence of the unpalatable truths. It’s the spectre, six months or so from a federal election, of the growing temptation on one side of politics to deploy the dog whistle for a purely electoral dividend.


Congratulations to all our Crikey 10th Birthday Extravaganza winners!  We’ll be in touch with each of you to organise your prize shortly.

Here’s the list of everyone who won:

Daemon Singer, Doug Hyslop, Elena Block, Robert Pullan, Leah NIchles, Daniel Kogoy, Parry Aliferis, Tim Wells, Laura Simes, peter lawrence, Anthea Gunn, Jarod Burns, Sue Boyce, Samantha Gelfand, Jags, Piers Verstegen, Peter Wheatley, Philippa Dunstan, Brent Blackburn, Diane Hood, John Clements, Michael Rocke, Rhonda Fadden, Michael Klapdor, John Fryer, Kathryn McCallum, Roger de Robillard, Ross Caston, jean McLean, Sue-anne Parker, Virginia Nightingale, Simon Niemeyer, Chris Vickers, Joanne Smethurst, Beth Neate, David Hollyman, Anthony Radford, Matthew Yates, Michael Livingston, Iona Silver, Wesley Pryor, Anthony Spencer, Roger Clifton, Ross Gilmour, Michael Harden, Stephen James, Anthony Spencer, Howard Galloway, Tony Theodore, Deborah Roczo, Owen Pierce, Mike Murray, Madeleine Boulton, Peter Treloar, Alistair Adams, Bryan Seymour, Phil Aynsley, Greg Fowler, Elizabeth Simpson, Margie Smithurst, Jason Scullin, Bridget Griffen-Foley, Ian Buchanan, Yossi Goldfarb, Vince Brennan, Matthew Remphrey, Robin Garden, Alexandra Lamb, Rohan Baxter, Fiona Lee, Ross McDermott, Iain Little, Justin Perelberg, Peter Calder, Niall Johnson, Paul Armstrong, Narelle Walker, Anthony Pawelski, Roger Le Mesurier, Fran Silk, Christian Cassar, Brad Gathercole, Greg Borchers, Pat Garcia, Kate Deakin, Ryan Webb, Peter Griffin, Roy Bray, Kasi Reynolds, Richard McKellar, Peter Adams, Graeme Richardson, Greg Wicks, Nicole Howard, Phillip Campbell, Ubaldo Formica, Robert Hogg, Aban Contractor, Scott Harden, Bev Clark.

Authorised under NSW Permit No LTPS/10/01236, ACT Permit No. TP 10/00594.1 , VIC Permit No. 10/471, & SA Permit No. T10/313

* Apple was not a participant in, or sponsor of, this competition.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey