Federal Election 2019: Meet # Sustainable Australia


Website: https://www.sustainableaustralia.org.au/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VoteSustainable/
Better, not Bigger
Secure Jobs. Affordable Housing. Better Planning.
Themes: ‘Sensible centre’ party, chiefly interested in overpopulation, sustainability, the environment, job security.  Worried about immigration.
Upper House: ACT, NSW, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, WA
Lower House: Berowra, Bradfield, Cunningham, Fairfax, Farrer, Flinders, Goldstein, Higgins, Hotham, Kingsford Smith, Lindsay, Mackellar, Macnamara, North Sydney, Richmond, Robertson, Shortland, Warringah, Whitlam
Preferences: Sustainable Australia is giving us no clues to who they prefer.  Their HTV cards for each Senate region read: Vote 1 above the line, then number at least 5 other boxes in order of YOUR preference.
Previous reviews

Policies & Commentary

I reviewed # Sustainable Australia back in November for the Victorian State Election.  They didn’t have a hashtag at that point, so that’s a thing.  As with other recently-reviewed parties, I won’t be doing a complete review here, but will instead focus on their recent news and media releases, of which there are five since last November.

The first one is quite a surprise to me personally – apparently Kelvin Thomson, who was previously my local Labor member, has joined # Sustainable.  I’m a bit flabbergasted – he always struck me as rusted on Labor, but the rust appears to be coming off.

Mr Thomson said, “I first joined the Labor Party in 1975. It was an honour and privilege to represent the Australian Labor Party in two Parliaments and three levels of government for a total of 35 years. To say the Labor Party has been my life is putting it mildly. So I have submitted my resignation from the Labor Party with a very heavy heart.

“For a decade now I have set out what I believe to be the myopia, greed, vanity and ecological illiteracy that drives Big Australia, Australia’s policy of rapid population growth. I have arrived at a point where there are irreconcilable differences between the course I believe Australia and the world needs to chart, and the course that the Australian Labor Party is charting…

“What this world needs now is not more people, but more courage.”

I have to say, I have no idea what I was expecting from # Sustainable’s News page, but it certainly wasn’t that.  Good grief.

Their next news item is also about Kelvin Thomson, who has apparently overcome his grief at leaving the ALP, or at least feels that all is fair in love and elections, since he is being interviewed on 2GB about wage growth:

The opposition leader said this week that the next Federal Election will be a referendum on wages & the Reserve Bank Governor was saying he couldn’t understand why wages weren’t going up more given the underlying strength of the economy.

This seems a remarkable thing for him to say given that the answer is obvious… that Australia’s high migration program of the last 15 years has provided a pool of surplus labour which is used by employers to keep wages down.

I think it’s a little more complicated than that, though I am pleased that they have moved away from the ‘migrants stealing our jobs’ rhetoric and more towards ‘exploitative employers using migrants to screw us all’, which I like to think speaks to Kelvin’s ALP routes.

Also, this led me down a fascinating rabbit hole about relative net migration for different countries – ours is high, but fascinatingly, the countries with the largest net migration per capita are all the countries bordering Saudi Arabia and Syria, which tells you some interesting things about the situation in that area, and is not really relevant, but I thought it was interesting…

News article number three is about one of their members, Dr Cameron Murray, joining the Stop Adani Convoy.  I am definitely in favour of stopping Adani, and I agree that the ALP *must* differentiate themselves from the Liberals on this.  Murray points out that we need value-added jobs in regional Australia, and that this will require investment.  And he has a point – there is no long-term future in pinning our entire economy to things we can dig out of the ground.  Keating was right about the Clever Country, I think.

News Article four links to a report on ‘Three economic myths about ageing: participation, immigration and infrastructure’.  This report reframes the ageing population as a success story rather than a problem .  It claims that ageing countries have higher economic growth, and the improved health and longevity of older people means that more of them stay in the workforce.

Ageing does not lower workforce participation in general. Since 2012 there have been more full-time workers aged over 65 than under 20.

I’m not sure that this is actually a good thing, to be honest.  People should be allowed to rest at some point, and I’ve noticed that it is very hard for my younger friends to get secure employment.  If nobody is leaving at the top, it’s hard for others to move in and up.  Anyway, apparently immigration just makes this worse, because it provides a short-term solution and increases the ageing population in the long term.  The report recommends reducing our migration drastically, mostly by targeting skilled visas, which are viewed as advantageous only to those on said visas.  They suggest increasing salaries for skilled migrants, in order to discourage employers from hiring them, which is quite clever.  (Once again, this sort of thing is bad for medical research, and other research areas which are strongly predicated on people moving to different countries for years at a time to both teach and learn.  This is something that any such policy *must* take into account.)

Finally we have an article titled

AT LAST! A party willing to tackle rapid population growth that’s non-racist.

The Sustainables (new band name) are really, really tired of people thinking that they are racist:

Importantly, the party supports:

  1. A non-discriminatory migration program.
  2. Support for Australia’s refugee intake.
  3. Strong action to tackle climate change.
  4. Strong action to address indigenous disadvantage.

But we don’t agree that rapid population growth is healthy. Not for the world. Not for Australia. And certainly not for Melbourne and Victoria.

They want to return our migration program to what it was in the 80s and 90s, and they point out that nobody would call Gough Whitlam or Paul Keating racist, yet they let in far fewer people than we do now.  The Sustainables are worried about our environment and our quality of life, and they can’t possibly be racist, because their candidate proudly lives in ‘an inter-racial, multicultural family’.

I wonder if racism is one of those things where the more you argue that you aren’t, the more you sound like you are?  I’m beginning to feel sorry for them.

I said in my last commentary that I thought the Sustainables’ policies played into racist narratives about the world, and that they seemed to have unintentionally integrated a number of racist dog-whistles into their policies.

Well, it seems that the whistles were not just my imagination, and the dogs have arrived.  Both One Nation and Australia First have put # Sustainable Australia high on their How to Vote cards.  Whatever the Sustainables actually think about racism – and I believe that they are sincerely against it – their phrasing and their policies are clearly leading actual racists to believe that they are on their side.  And that’s a big problem.

And that’s all for now.  The Sustainables are still looking solidly centre-ballot to me (as befits a centrist party?).  They have some good policies and some good intentions, but they also have some problematic ones.

Eurovision Theme Song as determined by me, very objectively

I have been trying to figure out all week what song I could possibly give # Sustainable Australia, because once again, Eurovision is not that rich in songs about population control.  And then, my friends, I was *inspired*.

Because the Sustainables are worried about immigration.  Not all immigration, of course.  Some immigration is fine.  They just don’t want hordes of people coming here.

Or should that be Hordes of people?

(I won’t lie.  I’ve been trying to find an excuse to get Dschinghis Khan into one of these posts for weeks, because it’s such classic Eurovision, but have found myself foiled, largely by the fact that the words are nonsensical, and not even nonsensical in a way that reflects our political parties.  I freely admit that this is a pretty tenuous connection, but I don’t care.  It’s close enough for me, and you can’t tell me that our lives are not all improved by watching that guy in the gold lamé trousers leap around like a maniac.)




16 thoughts on “Federal Election 2019: Meet # Sustainable Australia

  1. Cate, thanks for this posting on Sustainable Australia – I really like your approach in casting the net wide over party policies, materials and background connections in preparing your review. But I’m puzzled – your blog ends on a note of ‘guilty by association’ when you write “Both One Nation and Australia First have put # Sustainable Australia high on their How to Vote cards.”

    It doesn’t surprise me that this would happen. Surely we would expect the right-wing parties to preference Labor, the Greens, and any overtly socialist parties last. So Sustainable Australia was preferenced above what? Conservative Christians? Clive Palmer? (Now that would make me worry!)

    Dare I say, it’s not really fair to charge a party, as you kinda do, with being covertly racist because of the actions of other parties. Pauline Hanson used to run a fish’n’chips shop. Does that mean anyone who likes fish’n’chips is racist too? Do be careful, because it’s really important that we can conceptually split the issues of immigration and racism in order to have a frank discussion about population growth issues, in Australia and, of course, globally. If we can’t split the issues, we can’t get this vital discussion off the ground.

    For what it’s worth, I listened to the maiden speech of the fellow Sustainable Australia got elected to the Victorian Parliament and heard nothing to make me feel anxious he was hiding racist views.

    Keep up your informative blogging!

    • Hi Jessica,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

      Guilt by association wasn’t my intent; rather I was thinking of the last election where I was concerned that some of #Sustainable’s phrasing sounded dog-whistle-ish. I don’t believe that this was the intent, but it rang alarm bells with me, and I had a conversation with another of your members on the subject. And it concerns me, *especially* if you guys aren’t racist, that those dog whistles are being heard by people who very definitely are. If it’s really important to conceptually split the issues of immigration and racism, what I’m trying to convey here is that I don’t think you guys are succeeding yet in doing so.

      Some specifics on those how to vote cards. Australia First is running three candidates in the lower house, and only one of these has a Sustainable candidate (his was the only card available when I blogged about them). He is third on the ballot, directly after the Christian Democrats, and ahead of an independent, United Australia (sorry!!), the three major parties, and Anning’s lot.

      I can’t face looking through all the House of Reps ballot papers for One Nation (especially as they just name candidates, not parties), but I can tell you that in the Upper House, they have put you 6th in Victoria, behind Rise Up, Shooters, the LDP and the Christian Democrats, but ahead, by implication, of parties like the Australian Conservatives and the Yellow Vests (both of whom seem like kindred spirits, frankly), among many other poor choices (our ballot is a cesspit this year). In Tasmania, you are behind the LDP and the Shooters and Fishers, but directly ahead of the Nationals and the Christian Democrats, and, by implication, also ahead of the Conservatives. And in South Australia, you are again behind the LDP and the Shooters, but directly ahead of the CEC and the Christian Democrats, and, by implication, the Australian Conservatives. In SA, I’ll grant you that they don’t have *that* many choices that are right wing but not run by former members of their own parties, but on the other hand, they were willing to bring the CEC into the fold, so their standards are not high.

      So yes, I think # Sustainable does need to look hard at *how they are being heard* by the community, because I think you will agree that this is not company you would want to be keeping. And if someone who didn’t know anything about Sustainable picked up a One Nation how to vote card, they would get some pretty worrying ideas about where you stand.

  2. Cate, thanks very much for this additional information, and for taking the time and trouble to compile it. Hmm, you are right. The order of preferences does not suggest great company, although given our right-wing leaning fellow Australians are not … always educated to a very high level … I’d like to think they just saw ‘lower immigration’ and didn’t wiggle the grey matter further than that.

    But I take your point. I guess the best solution would be to go to a party meeting to see what SA’s scene is really like (a little tricky given where I live). The one thing about them which did cause annoyance is that a majority of their candidates appeared to be men. I expect balanced gender representation as gold star standard, whether or not you’re anticipating anyone to be elected.

    SA’s attention to population and immigration will probably see them still placed high on my ballot. From your posting on ICAN, I note ICAN also calls for population policy (admittedly a step before a policy to do anything) so it might be a toss between them. Given what I observe of constant human pressure on the environment and other species, I am definitely looking for a party prepared to tackle population issues. It’s vital we slash greenhouse emissions, but in the end, humans in sheer numbers are what drives the destruction of the natural world.

    Many thanks again for a terrific, informative (and cheerfully idiosyncratic!) blog.

  3. Excellent commentaries Catherine!

    On this Sustainability lot, I have little dispute with their “Tackle global population growth through increased foreign aid for female education and universal access to contraception” policy.

    But in their list of policies on their website that is preceded by:
    • Lower immigration from its record level (over 200,000 p.a.) back to the long term average of 70,000 p.a.

    That leaves me wondering how one can be in favour of reducing immigration and not be construed as merely selfish, ‘Stop The Boats’, isolationist, or nationalistic in sentiment and practice (and is that not bordering on, or hedging xenophobia?)

    My test is to imagine the ethical dilemma of immigration reduction being applied by every nation.

    We are in a climate emergency and people in the hardest hit areas will need refuge. The humane reaction is to provide it. There will be tough decisions to be made, but surely that does not entail brutally cutting off entry to Australia to those in dire need?

    If they say only countries with zero or negative growth be allowed such a measure (can’t find that amongst their rhetoric)…is that not just NIMBY?

    Even the strictest fertility restraints, worthy as I agree they are, will take more than a generation to reduce population. We don’t have 70, 50, or even 30 years.

    They have not thought this through.


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