Mass Immigration: Undermining Australia's Way of Life

Section Two

The Environment

Attention must be paid to the ability of the environment to sustain the population for ever. "Even the present population is rapidly degrading the environment and is therefore not sustainable in the long run" - Australian Conservation Foundation submission to the FitzGerald Immigration Enquiry, December 1987. This is to say that our material/economic demands made on the environment need to be curbed if Australia is to have a sustainable economic system even for its current population, without even taking into account the rapid increases which flow from mass immigration.


Australia is a large country, but with limited renewable resources. Of a total land area of 768 million hectares, 500 mha are arid or semi-arid, and only 77 mha are suitable for agriculture. That is, only 10% of our total land area is arable. Those who like to compare Australia's population (about 18 million) with that of the United States should be made aware of the fact that the area sown in crop in Australia (21 mha) is the equivalent of the crop area in just two states of the USA (Iowa and Illinois - which have a combined population of only about 14 million).

In agricultural terms, Australia is only about the size of France, but with soils that are much less fertile. The first national study on the extent of the degradation of Australian land and soil resources (published in 1978), estimated that 66% of cropland has already been degraded by erosion, compaction, acidification, and rising salt levels. France produces over 44 million tonnes of cereals a year, compared with Australia's 15 to 20 million tonnes. If we had the population of France (50 million) we would have to import food. Because of the 1991 drought in the Darling Downs, Australia imported bread-making hard wheat in 1992.

In Australia, for each tonne of wheat grown, tonnes of top soil are lost. Grains are packed with nutrients from the soil, which must be replaced in poor Australian soils if fertility is to be maintained. The 1988 wheat crop of 12.5 million tonnes removed 250 000 tonnes of nitrogen, 23 000 tonnes of phosphorous, and 48 000 tonnes of potassium. These nutrients must be replaced by imported superphosphate, which in turn leads to acidification of our soils, which in turn decreases plant growth. We must minimise further impact now that we are aware of the environmental problems.

Maintaining healthy agriculture is not merely a matter of providing irrigation and fertiliser as the Murrumbidgee, Murray, and Ord River schemes have shown. Soil degradation is a continuing process due to our overuse of the land.

Thus - with soil erosion; salinity problems from irrigation and tree removal; acidification; and encroaching urbanisation - the agriculturally suitable land area and its fertility can be expected to decline.

The expansion in fisheries, agriculture, and forestry is ending both here and world wide.

In the two centuries of the European settlement of Australia:
  1. 19 vertebrate species have become extinct.
  2. 17 vertebrate species are endangered.
  3. 2000 native plant species are at risk.
  4. One-half of the nation's top soil has been lost by erosion and continuing unsustainable agriculture.
  5. Two-thirds of the temperate forests have been destroyed.
  6. Wet-lands, rivers, and seas are being polluted and destroyed.
  7. Our greatest river system, the Murray/Darling, is being turned into a polluted drain with salts from adjacent irrigation areas. It is likely to be a dead eco-system within 40 years.


To understand how people affect the environment it is only necessary to look at one's daily activities:

On getting out of bed one steps on the wooden floor (made from trees), turns on the light (which requires coal to be dug up and burnt to generate electricity), goes for a shower and uses the toilet (necessitating that rivers be dammed, and diverted from some other use, and that the waste water and sewage be disposed of in an environmentally sensitive way). All food comes from the land, so a breakfast of milk and cereal is not simply obtained from the supermarket and refrigerator, but is produced and grown at environmental cost. We then get into our car which uses fossil fuel and results in pollution. One may swap and substitute fuels and materials, but all our needs are met by Mother Nature, one way or another.

Our imports - cars, TVs, computers - are bought with the income earned from our exports. That is, using our land's renewable and non-renewable resources, once again, at environmental cost.

In short, even city dwellers are totally dependent on, and interrelated with, our natural environment. Even if we could create an environmentally aware community, we must face the fact that our increasing population will have an increasing environmental impact. Technological tinkering and marginal efficiencies in consumption are no match for the relentless compound increase in population. The population curve is rapidly increasing, and getting steeper and steeper. More and more Australians tread heavier and heavier upon the earth.

This largely infertile land cannot be flogged to produce more crops, logging, woodchips, agricultural products, and mining, without severe environmental cost.

It is essential that we realise that the rapid environmental destruction of our urban and rural environments is a consequence of the pressure of our rapidly increasing population.


Most migrants will come to the major cities. Given current immigration policy, by the year 2020 Melbourne and Sydney are likely to have grown by approximately 2 million each - Melbourne increasing from 3 to 5 million and Sydney increasing from 3.4 to 5.4 million. This population explosion is already seriously lowering the quality of life in these cities as their pollution and congestion increases with the cities' sprawling size and high density living. Bumper-to-bumper traffic jams are a very visible sign of our already failing urban infrastructure.

The pressures on water supply and the increasing demands for transport, roads, sewage disposal, and energy supply will be extreme and expensive as our cities grow up and out. This is inconsistent with the Australian dream of owning one's own house and having space in which to live.

Real Estate prices are held high, pricing young people out of the home market. Our politicians are already telling us we must accept urban consolidation (crowding) and a lower standard of housing. Also, Australian mothers now have to face the problems of raising children in a high density pressure-cooker environment.

The use of our recreational environment will become increasingly difficult with increasing travel time needed to reach the country or beach, and with shortages of space at these venues. For example, to stay at Wilson's Promontory National Park, in Victoria, one already has to book many months in advance.

The wealthy insulate themselves with their private facilities, pools, clubs, country and beach properties. Once again, the average Australian is hardest hit by the results of the immigration policy, and has to live day to day with the consequences. We cannot be expected to believe the promises of politicians and bureaucrats that their so-called "better planning" will ease the strains which an increasing population will inevitably place on our natural environment and urban infrastructure.

We believe that the environment and native animals have a right to exist and not be exploited and destroyed whenever economic gain, greed, or enterprise so dictates. We feel this generation has no right to exploit and over-populate this land and leave a legacy of polluted air, water, and land for future generations.

In contrast, those who want increasing immigration seem to think we have no moral right to this nation and its resources unless we immediately over-exploit it, as is happening in the rest of the world.

The consequences of our actions, and of changes in climate, as expected from the greenhouse effect, are often uncertain, and we should proceed slowly whilst caring for this arid, vulnerable land. We cannot solve the world's population problem (there are an extra 95 million people born into the world every year!) but we can escalate the environmental damage being done to Australia with no global benefit.

Mass Immigration: Undermining Australia's Way of Life

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