As Tim Watts, Hugh Martin and Steve Vizard have noted, the delegates of last years population summit have produced a proposal for a shift in the way population policies are set. Not surprisingly, Philip Ruddock, refuses to sign the proposal. What is surprising, however, is that so few of the so-called leaders at the population summit were women, Aboriginal people, migrants and refugees.
From my perspective, as a member of the audience, the population summit was just another ‘talkfest’ by an in group of ‘key stakeholders’. With audience participation kept to a minimum, there appeared to be a lot of talk but not much dialogue.
Nevertheless, the organisers should be congratulated for bringing the issue of a population policy to our attention. But now that the position statements, political postering and media grabs have finished, the real work of developing a responsible population policy begins,. And women, Aboriginal people, migrants, and refugees have a substantial contribution to make to Australia’s future policy on population. It is time for a more inclusive conversation to begin.
First published as a letter to The Age on 8 April 2003