As a citizen, nobody has been able to explain to me clearly why Melbourne, and Australia for that matter, should be absorbing so many new people every year, at a rate far higher than the OECD average, faster than other developed nations, with no feasible plan to cope with it. …
Dear old Melbourne added a quarter of its population in just 10 years to 2016. At this rate – and projecting population growth is a wobbly science – it will be home to nearly 8 million by mid-century, overtaking Sydney as the country’s largest city.
I’m one of these newcomers, although “new” is increasingly a stretch: we moved here this week ten years ago.
My dad moved to Hobart recently, and was interviewed by Good Weekend last month because he is leading a community campaign to preserve his new home’s character. I’m the opposite, pretty much. I love Melbourne’s growth, I love new buildings and tall buildings and more and more people.
I think Alcorn’s concern that Melbourne is growing “with no feasible plan to cope with it” sounds reasonable, except that I think there is probably no plan that would satisfy her.
Because here’s the thrust of her complaint:
What is immigration for? Who is it for? The most curious argument in favour of large population growth is that, somehow, Australians – those here for generations and those recently settled – owe it to the rest of the world to populate quickly. … Really? Says who?
That’s the nub of it: you either believe we should share what we have to improve the lives of everyone we can, or you pull up the drawbridge with a grunt of “says who?”
Alcorn claims “The case for easing immigration is compelling“, but doesn’t make it out. She offers two complaints. The first, that “We are stuck in traffic”, is rubbish, based on tabloid spin.
The second, that there are too few schools available, is more legitimate — but it’s the result of deliberate decisions. The Kennett government closed public schools for ideological reasons, and sold off the land to make them hard to reopen.
Alcorn’s “says who?” mentality is the other side of Kennett’s coin. He responds to the challenge of planning by denying responsibility, she responds by turning away migrants. They are both superficially appealing, but short-sighted and harmful.
I’m not on Kennett’s side, but I’m not on Alcorn’s either. Of course governments should invest in infrastructure and schools — but we shouldn’t scapegoat our new neighbours when our governments let us down.
We should instead welcome them, and make them our allies in our demands for a better city.