When Kevin Rudd responded to a government forecast that the Australian population could reach 36 million by 2040 by saying he believed in ‘a big Australia’, public opinion polarised. Forecast to create more steam than a pressure cooker, two of Australia’s top political thinkers will toss around this political hot potato during a discussion at this year’s Byron Bay Writers’ Festival.
If Australian identity is hinged on the tenets of both inhabiting a country that affords a sense of space and ‘room to move’, and a fair go for all, then as the world’s population heads toward nine billion by the middle of the century does Australia have a moral responsibility to accept more migration?
Will more people protect us from the pitfalls of the two-speed economy? Can our wide brown land cope? Does our Australian identity need to change? Chaired by ABC’s Richard Fidler, ‘Is the Big Country big enough?’ will bring together big thinkers Professor Ian Lowe and George Megalongenis to weigh up these big questions of our times.
They are questions Ian Lowe, AO, pre-eminent scientist and president of the Australian Conservation Foundation, is well versed in. His recently published Bigger or Better? Australia’s Population Debate unravels the misconceptions and urban myths surrounding the debate about Australia’s future population. A referee for the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, Professor Lowe sounds the alarm on how population growth is affecting the environment, raising the prospect of ‘Noosangatta’ in south-east Queensland – one continuous urban sprawl from Noosa, through Brisbane to Coolangatta and the NSW border.
It is a subject close to the heart of George Megalogenis, senior journalist and political commentator with The Australian newspaper, to which he also contributes the much-respected blog Meganomics. A regular guest on ABC TV’s The Insiders, he spent over a decade in the Canberra press gallery, and is the author of Faultlines, The Longest Decade and Quarterly Essay 40: Trivial Pursuit – Leadership and the End of the Reform Era. Megalogenis’ new book, The Australian Moment, reviews the key events since the 1970s that have forged institutional and political leadership and a canny populace.
The Byron Bay Writers’ Festival takes place 3–5 August. To book your tickets, visit www.byronbaywritersfestival.com or call the booking hotline on 1300 368 552 for further information.