Sustainable Population Australia

May 21, 2012 • News

Sustainable population advocates ought to make a habit of looking towards Australia, where activists there have been remarkably successful in making population growth a national political and electoral issue. Below is the annual report of Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) for your review.

Sustainable Population Australia

President’s Report

Annual General Meeting — April 14th, 2012

In the past year the world reached an incredible milestone, that of recording the existence at one point in time of seven billion people on this planet. We in Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) know that this is not something to celebrate, yet most politicians and decision-makers fail to even begin to understand its implications.

SPA Strategic Plan

A most exciting and major achievement of the Executive in the past 12 months has been the creation of a five year Strategic Plan for SPA. Members were asked to let us know what they thought were the strengths and weaknesses of SPA and we received a strong response. We formed a Strategic Plan Working Group which met regularly (via Skype) leading up to a two-day meeting of Executive held in Sydney in November to develop a draft plan. Michael Banyard has been particularly helpful in pulling this together in its written form and I pay tribute to his tenacity in keeping us on track with it. It has been hard work and it would have been easy to give up.

We are now in the early stage of implementation, and as a consequence the following working groups have been or are being set up to provide us with more focus:

  • Communication/Media liaison
  • Newsletter and eNews team
  • Web and IT
  • Membership and Marketing
  • Constitution, Government and Compliance
  • International Projects
  • Finance and Donations
  • and an ongoing Strategic Plan and Strategy group

Each group is expected to regularly report back to meetings of the Executive and other groups may yet be formed. We believe that SPA has not ever had such a comprehensive plan – most certainly it has been a new experience for those of us in the current Executive and some thought we couldn’t possibly do it in the time-frame we had set ourselves. We know the plan will need a bit of tweaking from time to time, but it is now a map we can use to ensure we are on the right path.


Membership feedback during our Strategic Plan consultation gave a very strong message of support for our newsletter as a primary means of communication, and it was good to have that positive feedback. But coming out of our planning weekend was the determination to also produce an e-newsletter that can provide links and feedback about what is happening on the population front both here and internationally and to do so more quickly than the newsletter. This was one of the first recommendations of the plan to be put into action with our first edition out in January this year.

External communication

Via media releases SPA has offered comment on a number of issues in the past year including the advent of the world’s seven billion population, the need for Australia’s international aid to provide family planning and contraceptive advice, predicting the failure of the government Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme because of population growth and attacking so-called demographer, Bernard Salt.

The Federal Government’s population inquiry produced a disappointing result and we issued a media release asserting that the whole process was only ever for show. Because it relied on moving population to other parts of the continent, we labelled it the “shifting deckchairs on the Titanic” solution. After months of huffing and puffing by government, nothing has changed and Government and Opposition continue to use that oxymoronic term ‘sustainable growth’.

SPA also wrote a submission in response to the “Issues Paper to Inform Development of a National Food Plan”.

In June we were fortunate to be able to co-opt Nick Car to the Executive and he implemented a change from our old membership database to a modern web-based one. He also redesigned the SPA website, making it more interactive, with links to Facebook and Twitter, which are important tools in engaging a younger audience and membership.


Membership recruitment and retention is an important part of the Strategic Plan with particular emphasis on gaining younger members. As you will have observed from the number of various new working groups we have just set up, we will need more members to bring in fresh ideas and enthusiasm (and to spread the load which our Executive members carry).


It is disappointing to record that the North Queensland and Tasmanian Branches did not succeed in holding a quorate AGM over a period of two years. In both cases the problem was the wide geographical distribution of its members. At its March meeting the Executive moved to merge the members of the NQ Branch into the SEQ Branch to form the one Queensland Branch, and to merge members of the Tasmanian Branch into the Victorian Branch to form the Victoria-Tasmania Branch. Our Branches are very important in getting out the population message and in recruiting members, so we plan for this to be a short-lived phenomenon and look forward to the re-establishment of those two branches.


At the beginning of last year we were delighted to have the ex-Premier of NSW, Hon. Bob Carr, accept our invitation to be one of our patrons. When he was recently appointed to the Senate we wrote to him to offer our congratulations on that elevation and asked whether this would conflict with his patronage of SPA. We heard the answer via ABC TV’s Lateline: when asked if he would have to drop his objections to the idea of a big Australia, Senator Carr strongly answered “I will stay patron of Sustainable Population Australia. I believe in the cause of linking population growth to our key environmental indicators”. It is good to have one of our patrons active at the highest level of government where he will be able to argue the case in Cabinet.

We thank all our patrons for adding their good names to our cause and organization.

Political activity

In reference to our patron, Bob Carr, we were pleased to have him speak to us at the beginning of our planning weekend giving us great encouragement and more ideas. As a consequence, we have included in the Strategic Plan a priority objective of meeting with two key politicians in each state. The (the) South-East Queensland Branch has already set this in train with a meeting with Greens Senator, Larissa Waters, to discuss her party’s stance on population policy.

A significant number of Executive and Branch Committee members are politically active. It is not unexpected that people with such high levels of environmental knowledge and commitment would be so. Within our Executive we have members who belong to five different political parties. However I assure you that SPA remains politically neutral and most capable of analysing and criticizing when necessary the population policies of any and all political parties.

International Presence

In the Strategic Plan, we have set ourselves an objective of having population included in key international conventions. As part of this:

  • Jane O’Sullivan and Jenny Goldie have represented us at a number of international conferences in Bonn, Durban, Washington and London (see Treasurer’s Report for more details).
  • We have joined or retained membership of the Population Sustainability Network, Sustainable Population Earth, the Millenium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere, and Climate Action Network Australia, which in turn gives us access to Climate Change International. We have now achieved NGO observer status in the United Nations Economic and Social Council, in addition to our ongoing and similar status with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
  • Jane O’Sullivan and Nola Stewart continue to liaise with the Population and Climate Change Africa Forum.
  • On our behalf, Jane O’Sullivan sent a SPA submission to the UNFCCC Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform.


The Executive continues to meet via phone hookup once every two months – usually a 2½ hour call – with important or controversial decisions being made in the interim via e-mail polls. We are all volunteers, balancing our contribution to SPA with our personal/professional/activist lives. At the conclusion of another year I thank all the Executive members and particularly thank Jill Quirk and Paddy Weaver, who are stepping down, for their unstinting efforts.

Thank you to all members of SPA for what you do. Activity at the Branch level, financially contributing to SPA, writing letters to the editor, and simply getting our message out there are vital undertakings not only for SPA but for our continent and our planet.

Hon. Sandra Kanck – National President


Current World Population


Net Growth During Your Visit