A big, dry, Australia
Just under 20 years ago I came across a small, sad statistic while doing some research in the National Library of Australia. For 126 years, from white settlement in 1788 until 1914, Australia’s population had been lopsided, with more men than women. The gender ratio had been gradually improving, but in 1914 there were 103 men for every 100 women in a population that stood a touch under five million.
By 1918 the ratio was 98 men to every 100 women, in a population that had only just crawled above five million. In December 1917 the population was actually lower than it had been three years earlier. World War I had levelled us in many ways and buried in those numbers were tens of thousands of individual tragedies.
There is no count of the population prior to 1788, but there is plenty of tragedy to be found in the estimates of what the Indigenous population was and what became of it.
But, since settlement, Australia’s history has been entwined with immigration, and save for the Great War, its population has been growing.
At times that growth has been dramatic. It took 60 years for the population to approach half a million but the discovery of gold drove a rush that has never been matched – from 1850 to 1890 the population exploded from a touch over 400,000 to more than three million.
In my 49 years the population has more than doubled from 10.3 million to an estimated 22 million today.
Where to from here? Well in September the Treasurer Wayne Swan released the latest Treasury take and it projects a population of 35 million by 2050. That’s a 63 per cent increase on today and seven million more than Treasury estimated just two years ago.
Questioned about it by Kerry O’Brien, the Prime Minister declared that he’s a believer in “a big Australia”.
"I make no apology for that. I actually think it's good news that our population is growing", the Prime Minister said.
Those words echoed as I watched environment minister Peter Garrett announce that he would block the building of the Traveston Crossing Dam near Gympie in south-east Queensland.A couple of other questions bounced around as well. Like, where will we get the water for the big Australia? And, where will we get the power for the big Australia?
this article continues at the ABC blog..