Saturday, May 01, 2004
Population Debate Welcome
The Business Council of Australia as well as Paul Kelly in the Australian have had some welcome input into the population debate. As Paul Kelly says, this usually is the reserve of the left-green end of the political spectrum who want to limit the population rather than enhance it. Jocknessmonster is of the opinion that Australia (especially the regions - NOT Sydney) should aim for increases in population to secure their future, rather than limiting it and descending into the economic doldrums. I recommend that you have a read of the above links and let me know what you think. The BCA basically calls for a population of 30 million by 2050 with concentration on the regions along with other infrastructure building.
Arguments on environmental grounds are usually put forward to limit the population. This can only be regarded as another form of fearful isolationism, similar in form the the American Hard Right, who want to hide behind missile shields and disengage from world affairs. Surely, as a nation, with all our technological ingenuity, we can develop the ways and means of living with a population of 30 million by 2050. It may even provide a new industry or two. Population limiting is also a form of responsibility shirking as our region is growing fast and we have bountiful plains to share, as they say.
It is no secret that our population is ageing and fertility is dropping. Hence, to even maintain our way of life, increased immigration is required. Recent talk of increasing the retirement age and 'working till you drop' is usually met with dry scepticism or despair - working till 70 or 80 doesn't fill most with joy.
Population boosting via increased immigration seems a sensible approach and criticism based on idealogical grounds (quasi-racism from the right and environmental retreatism on the left) should always be challanged.
Thursday, April 29, 2004
Mitsubishi Blues for SA
A couple of nice articles appear in the AdelaidePundit and Public Opinion blogs on the Mitsubishi Mess that's been unfolding in SA over the last 8 years. I totally agree with comments about developing new, broad based, higher tech industry base rather than maintaining the status quo as has been going on. However, we have left our run a little too late. Nothing like a challenge, eh?
What may be a good, long term solution for SA is the development of a viable Intellectual Property industry. This would not help our current set of extremely skilled manual workers but may offer a blue-print for the future. It would mean heavy investment in education and research labs and a large amount of faith in SA ingenuity but the rewards would be fantastic. Such an "industry" would provide an income through royalties from others who use the technology in their products that would be made where labour rates are low. A highly paid workforce would result, without the economic burdens of manufacturing plants with expensive assets that can become obsolete. The industry would be highly flexible as it would be constantly turning out new ideas and would eventually fall into niche areas where we would become the leaders, thereby creating the situation where we have very little competition. Money for Jam as they say. As good ideas accumulate, so would good people, ready to live and invest in the state as they would be provided with a stimulating rewarding work and a great lifestyle.
Sound fanciful? Maybe, but only we can take control of the future and we don't have to look very far to see other economic miracles that started from much more adverse conditions. Take Singapore for example, whose population were transformed from poverty to an economic tiger through embracing advanced manufacturing technology.
This may seem far-fetched to some but its at least a guiding point and possibly one of many good ideas for the future of SA.
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Red & Blue America
Interesting but lengthy set of articles in the Washington Post on Red and Blue America - that is the dichotomy of right-wing red suburban types and their inner city cafe loving blue cousins. While totally American, I can't help thinking that this is a ready made template for politics that some less than inventive Australian politician would love to import. You can already see the Right gay marriage debate and similar left anti-globalisation etc templates well and truely established here. It would be nice for our leaders to think for themselves and apply Australian ideas to Australian problems.
Monday, April 26, 2004
Trouble for Labor Ahead
Recent events have seen Labor soar ahead in the opinion polls. Mark Latham's curious mix of popularity and policy sense has elevated it from being a lacklustre opposition to a credible alternative government.
However, recent events may spell disaster for Labor. Curiously, the departure of Dr Mahatir from Malaysian politics might be one of them. The transition to a new Prime Minister has enabled a rapid thawing of relations with Australia - leading to the invitation for Australia to be present at next ASEAN meeting and to work on a new free trade zone of South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Despite the fact it is yet another preferential rather than multilateral trade agreement, this new FTA will be important because of its symbolism as well as the practical benefits of increased trade. It will also represent a huge achievement for the Howard government in Australia and provide a stockpile of ammunition for the those for deride it as being anti-Asian. Thus this can only add to the perception that Labor is not the only party that can deal with Asia. Recent trade deals with China and Thailand are also examples that reinforce this perception.
Another potential show-stopper is the Latham decision to withdraw troops from Iraq by Christmas, regardless of the actual situation on the ground. While initially popular, the such a stance is at odds with a large number of western governments and oppostions, including the American Democrats and of course, Tony Blair's New Labour. The voting public may not of liked how the Iraq war was sold but they realise the obligations as an occupying power and the need to maintain the US relationship in order to ensure Australia's long term security. In uncertain times, jepordising this relationship may seem reckless.
There are some early indications of voter backlash for Labor. While a recent Morgan Poll shows Labor would win an election if held now, individuals indicated that they thought that the coalition would win despite their own voting intentions. What is this saying? Could it be that voters want the social message of Labour of better schools, hospitals, etc but don't want to sacrafice their security by voting in a leader who is anti-US?
Makes you wonder why Latham brought up Iraq at all. The next few polls will be very interesting indeed. If the polls show a serious backlash against Latham - a perfect opening would appear for Kim Beasley to return. His security credentials would placate a concerned public and the Labor machine would ensure the right social policy message was projected.
Mark Latham may be riding high at the moment but he will need to do some serious policy work in the coming months if he is stay in the top job.