Thursday, November 12, 2009

Throw Another Beer In The Chully Bun

Forget about the asylum seekers. Forget about the boat people. The real problem is the Kiwis! While all of the alarm and all of the debate has focused on about 2000 boat people, Australia is being overrun by about 50 000 New Zealanders moving here to live every year. If there is any drain on the Australian welfare system, any threat to Australian jobs, or any risk to the Australian way of life, it’s the Kiwis we have to watch out for, not a handful of desperate Sri Lankans. But there has been no discussion, no debate, and no alarm raised, because it’s all perfectly legal.

For years now, Australia and New Zealand have had an open door arrangement where visas are no longer required and citizens of either country can reside in the other, and enjoy all the benefits which go along with that. It is a reciprocal arrangement, and Australians are welcome to go and live in New Zealand, but the fact is that the traffic is mostly one way. Of course, our two countries have close ties and shared history, and New Zealand was very nearly a part of our Federation back in 1901. But those Kiwis thought that they would be better off having their own country and have been jealous of Australia ever since.

While it is all very convenient for Aussies who want to go skiing to be able to slip in and out of New Zealand when ever we feel like it, that appears to be about the only benefit for us. The Kiwis on the other hand have been getting the best of both worlds. Until now. You see, the alarm has been sounded by Australian Labor MP Kelvin Thompson, who has pointed out that this uncapped arrangement means that Australia effectively has no control over the total numbers of immigration. That’s a far cry from John Howard’s claim that “we decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”!

Now, Mr. Thompson isn’t as alarmed about being overrun by Kiwi’s as I am, but he is concerned about Australia’s overall population growth which is projected to reach 35 million by 2049. That’s a massive increase from today’s 22 million, and it raises enormous questions about where all these people will live, where they will get water to drink, and what impact they will have on the economy. The projected increase of 17 million is itself more than the population was back when I went to school, which might seem like a long time ago, but still represents massive socio-economic and socio-political changes in our lifetimes.

If we are to sustain a massively increased population it is essential that we plan for it now. Whether that means creating new population centres in the north of the continent where water is more plentiful, or redesigning the existing cities to cope with the growth, we must address the question now. Part of the discussion has to be about whether or not such growth even can or should be accommodated, or, as Kelvin Thompson suggests, we should act to slow down our population growth in the interests of sustainability.

So forget about the boat people undermining the Australian way of life. Before we know it we’ll all start talking about wearing our jandals to the beach and putting our beers in the chully bun. That’s the real threat to Aussie culture.

P.S. To John, Mark, Brad, and all my other Kiwi mates, you know I’m only joking.

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