Australia is a vast country. I’ve lived, worked and travelled in regional and remote Australia all my life. Its size is almost impossible to fathom.
But, in many ways, we’re a tiny country. Nearly half of all Australians live in three cities – Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Include Perth and you have 55 per cent of the population. Compare this to the USA where the four largest metropolitan areas - New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas – are home to just 15 per cent of its population.
Two-thirds of Australians live in just eight places. In the USA two-thirds of the population are spread across 100 US cities and towns.
Australia’s concentrated population impacts our economic strength. It’s a key reason housing is so expensive in Sydney and Melbourne. Job creation in Australia is also concentrated, with half of all jobs growth within a 2 kilometre radius of Melbourne and Sydney’s CBDs. It’s all very well to tell young Australians who can’t afford a house to move to regional Australia. But not everyone can find work there.
Australia lives on the doorstep of the fastest growing, most highly populated region in the world – Asia. And we’re huddled on the side of the continent that is furthest away from it.
I believe Australia’s future depends on building out our regions. It’s essential to our engagement with Asia. It’s essential to building an economically strong nation where home ownership and job opportunities are readily accessible and people have real choices where to live, study and work.
But regional development will be stopped in its tracks by the Green-left agenda which is fundamentally founded on the idea Australia shouldn’t be touched beyond its current level of development. The acronym for this is BANANA – build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything.
This agenda is tying Australia in knots. Regulations are impossibly complex. Every rule, every protection, every requirement is another hook for cashed up Green groups to attack economic development through the courts. And if that doesn’t work they will attack via crippling public campaigns.
The Indian government saw this movement for what it is a few years ago when it banned Greenpeace from receiving foreign donations and froze it bank accounts because it was prejudicially and unlawfully affecting India’s economic interests. A report by India’s Intelligence Bureau found foreign-funded NGOs were “negatively impacting economic development” in India and Greenpeace was “a threat to national economic security”.
The report listed seven areas that have been stalled due to NGO campaigns, including nuclear power, uranium mines, coal-fired power plants, farm biotechnology, mega-industrial projects, hydroelectric plants and extractive industries, with India’s technology sector a future target. It estimated this could have a negative impact on India’s GDP growth of as much as 2-3 per cent per annum.
We see the same influence of foreign-funded activism in Australia, frequently using Aboriginal groups as a front for an anti-development agenda. This includes Green opposition to recent changes to native title laws to facilitate traditional owners approving land use agreements. The anti-development agenda means Aboriginal people living on traditional lands won’t have an economic future; they’ll either continue to live in poverty or they’ll have to leave their lands and move to the cities and towns.
The centre right and left of politics are too cowardly to counter this. They want it both ways. Privately they understand our economy needs industry and development. Publicly they pander to an urban electorate who think electricity comes from power points, meat comes from the supermarket refrigerator and Australia can be anti-development and prosperous at the same time. We can’t.
Then there’s the corporate sector who supposedly supports economic development and commerce but whose corporate social responsibility and corporate affairs teams are stacked with Green-left sympathisers who think development is bad. To improve corporate brand, they create an image of businesses who don’t do any business. They tell their executives they must do this to stay on pace with competitors. Their competitors, in turn, have corporate social responsibility and corporate affairs teams telling them the same thing. It’s corporate group think.
So AGL, which makes the vast majority of its profits from coal power, runs ads demonizing coal. AGL isn’t the only company to let the fox into the hen house. The internal rot has set in and will be hard to eradicate.
The Green-left movement is committing economic vandalism, aided by their appeasers within politics and business who should know better. We’ve already seen it bring Australia’s electricity system to its knees. Many other industries will follow suit if governments and the corporate sector don’t wake up and show some courage to say publicly what they know very well privately.
This is an edited extract of Nyunggai Warren Mundine’s speech to the Pastoralist and Graziers Association WA’s Annual Convention on 27 September 2017.
Let's stop kidding ourselves
5 October 2017
By Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO