Here is why:
1. What do we mean by big?
Australia needs to question what it would mean to be big and why this is desirable. Do we mean a big population to increase global influence instead of educating bigger brains to be respected for smarter ideas? Do we mean bigger immigration so we can expand the working population to feed our bigger waistlines or to generate more consumers for bigger corporate profits? These aren't good enough reasons for a big Australia. Or could we mean a bigger heart for refugees and a bigger vision for Australia's future?
2. Reduce footprint before feet
Our world needs to embrace more ethical and sustainable patterns of living; the impacts of our consumption are too high and others have too little. Population growth is only half the story – both what and how much we consume have a huge influence. Did you know that Australia's carbon dioxide emissions are about the same as Indonesia's? Indonesia has more than 230 million people and we have almost 23 million but our footprint per person is ten times higher. We must acknowledge our history of how we got to where we are today – will we always seek to define our status by what we buy?
3. Older, slower, exhausted in 2050
In 1990 a typical Australian was about 32 years old, in 2010 they're 37 years old. Together with an ageing population, our cities are increasingly choked in traffic and we don't have a strategy for putting money from the mining boom into infrastructure and innovation that will underpin the prosperity of our cities and regions beyond the boom. What will Australia be good at in 2050? Where is our vision for the future? In the short term, urban and rural Australians need better planning for transport, energy and water services – doubling our population would increase challenges we are already struggling to meet as well as further degrading our environment.
4. Creating a resource efficient future
The simplistic days of bigger meaning better are fading – from the excesses of Wall Street to the limits of one planet – tomorrow's money will be made by finding new ways to do more with less. Promoting a bigger population for Australia is like trying to solve our problems by doing more of the same. For Australia to be a wise and nimble player in the transition to a new and resource-efficient global economy, we must seize the initiative on pursuing excellence, beginning with education. History and language should be prioritized alongside science and technology, recognizing the strength in our cultural landscape to generate and implement ideas which help us prosper in tomorrow's world.
5. Australia Unlimited
Creativity and wisdom, leadership and opportunity, ingenuity and resilience – rather than a big population – let these be the qualities which underpin and define the future we share.