Growth, but properly planned - LGAQ population polling

Views on growth in Queensland are diverse within the community. Roughly half are happy with growth in their area and half unhappy, but their perceptions of what sort of growth is occurring impact on this judgement. If they favour low growth and are in an area where low or nor growth is occurring, then they will be happy with their local area.

Regionally there are differences. Brisbane, which is relatively settled, and the regional areas outside the south east, where there are smaller populations, are generally happy with the growth they are experiencing. Most of the concern occurs in the areas surrounding Brisbane in the south east corner.

Where there is concern it is most likely to be centred on lack of sufficient or appropriate infrastructure rather than the number of people. In this context infrastructure includes roads and dams as well as a perceived failure to plan adequately for traffic. The term also covers social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals.

While increasing numbers of people in an area are seen to impact infrastructure, so is failure to invest and incompetence of government. The unpopularity of the current government therefore appears to have an impact on perceptions of the effects of growth.

Other concern centres around loss of amenity and a resistance to change partly based on the feeling that legitimate expectations about the sort of community that someone had moved to were being destroyed by population growth. This seemed to be particularly evident on the Sunshine Coast.

There does however seem to be an acceptance across all points of view that growth is a good thing, either for its own sake, because it represents progress, because it brings more diversity or choice into life, or most importantly, for its economic benefits.

Concern about the environment is not a big consideration, and there does not appear to be a strong no-growth position.

Underlying responses was that respondents overwhelmingly expect growth to stay strong in Queensland, believe that growth can be handled with appropriate policies, and that anyway there is very little that can be done to stop population growing. But these positions come with a caveat – over 80% believe that significant investment in infrastructure has to be made upfront.

Respondents were prepared to countenance measures to encourage people to move away from the south east corner. There is a fairly common perception that diversification is a good idea. But they would reject measures which raise taxes preferring those that provide benefits or incentives. What benefits might be provided would, however, need to be substantial. There was no support for the provision of a $4,000 first home owners grant top-up by the state government with 31% heavily criticizing the amount as being too small.

The second strongest criticism was that people move for employment and economic reasons, so a grant that had no impact on these would have no impact on migration patterns.

For a state government looking for ways to finance without raising taxes the mining industry provides some possibilities with most respondents being in favour of encouraging the resources boom, and also believing that resource companies do not contribute enough to social and economic infrastructure.

Another source of funds is developers, particularly on the issue of transport infrastructure. Respondents overwhelmingly believed developers should pay more. However there was a fairly even division between whether general revenue or tolls was an acceptable second option.

Governments should not look to taxpayers to meet the shortfall. Despite our question suggesting that an additional $250 p.a. would be an appropriate increase in taxes, almost half preferred to pay just what they are now, or less. Only 17% were prepared to pay at the nominated hurdle, or higher.

Opposition to paying higher personal taxes was not driven to any great extent by ability to pay but to the greatest extent by concerns that the government already has enough but can’t meet its commitments because of waste and mismanagement. Others thought that the money would be raised, but not spent on roads and transport, or just that taxes were already too high, or high enough.

Those who would pay more tended to express it as a consumer transaction where if you needed a good you had to pay for it. There was some political influence on the difference between those two positions with LNP voters much more resistant to higher taxes.

We also asked a question looking at taxation more generally. There was general opposition to increasing taxes to pay for social services with the greatest portion favouring the status quo, followed in fewer, but almost equal numbers by those wanting an increase, and then in still significant numbers by those wanting a decrease.

Again waste and incompetence featured highly in opposition to increasing taxes as did the idea that individuals had a duty to look after themselves and not expect the state to do it for them. Those who wanted an increase tended to talk in terms of equity and fairness.

The last thing we tested was whether respondents would prefer stronger population growth and a stronger economy, or slower population growth and a weaker economy. Many of our respondents, particularly those favouring slower growth, thought they were being forced into a false dichotomy by this question. This carries a message for anyone trying to use this argument for stronger population growth – it will produce strong cognitive dissonance in perhaps a fifth of the population.

Economics was the strongest reason given for supporting stronger population growth, which is not surprising given the question, but is confirmed to some extent as legitimate by responses to other questions.  Other arguments against were that stronger population growth is unsustainable, that there is not enough infrastructure to cope with the growth we have, and that quality of life will suffer. Other arguments for were that it is inevitable, that Queensland is a big state that needs to be populated, as well as a more generalized idea of progress.

Respondents are generally either reconciled to growth or enthusiastic about it with most of their concerns centreing around how it is handled. Many are actually exhilarated by the increased richness of life that population growth brings. They believe that government needs to improve its provision of services, particularly infrastructure and they are resistant to paying any more themselves to deal with the issues. They will however countenance increases in taxes on others and by and large are keen for economic growth to happen.

This is the analysis from a survey conducted for the Local Government Association of Queensland for their inquiry into population growth. The report can be downloaded by clicking here (PDF 598kb).

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0 #1 Perhaps the most important thing is thatJohn Archer 2010-07-16 13:34
Perhaps the most important thing is that representative government is failing us - not only here in Australia but all over the world. In developed economies, people are now more savvy than ever and should therefore be given greater opportunity to comment on any moves including population growth, structural development, government spending and revenue raising, law and order and so on. It is no longer good enough to let a priveleged few run the Council, State or Nation.
0 #2 The 'cognitive dissonance' has been put S Lunyu 2010-07-19 12:58
The 'cognitive dissonance' has been put in place by those who create the propaganda and state the 'facts', which are not 'facts' at all, just opinions and interpretations . Then those that want a certain answer for a certain agenda just try to find reasons to justify it (i.e. marketing). Ask different questions and you will get different answers. Do the people get a say and access to pure unbiased information to make informed decisions, or is the idea to teach until they get the 'right' answers?
0 #3 Delighted to see John Archer's comment. Dion Giles 2010-07-19 15:09
Delighted to see John Archer's comment. Switzerland is the only democracy in the world as the people decide the important issues. We should work towards being the next. Representative government is the least-worst form of government by proxy (better than gunpoint as in China) but proxies have always gone with the money, always do and always will. In US terms, proxies mean governing for Wall Street and K Street, and democracy means governing for Main Street.
0 #4 People should decide in conducted decisiKen Acushla 2010-07-19 17:43
People should decide in conducted decisions on important issues. It is becoming a dictatorship here in Queensland.
0 #5 There are three categories of informatioDarryl Stewart 2010-07-23 15:41
There are three categories of information - the facts, the true facts and the political spin. All we are getting from all levels of government is the latter in a desperate attempt to twist the available information so that they and their party heavyweights can either gain power or retain power. Government "for the people" has flown out the window. The sad reality is that the vast majority of people are just not interested so we really do get the governments we deserve.
0 #6 Darryl Stewart has put far better than IJohn A Cotterell 2010-07-23 16:19
Darryl Stewart has put far better than I the way I have felt for a long time. I have a feeling though that people are starting to wake up. There appears to be a ground swell of people who are seeing, particularly in Queensland,a proliferation of bureaucracies and quangos that are loading more and more overhead costs on to the consumer. The average Oz may not be policitically sensitive but his hip pocket is.
0 #7 Our education system has not reached thewdberg 2010-07-24 09:54
Our education system has not reached the stage for the people to make sensible decisions. We still have a long way to go. Take the attitude towards assylum seakers or global warming. For a political leader to use the word 'crap' with regard to global wrming is an indication of this. Many journalists still hole the view that China is backward in many areas.China already had wind farms as early as 1985 when we are still dependent on coal for our power. They should just look at the millions of Chinese professionals who are proficient in the English lanhuage area. Where we have made progress is in the area of food and the proof is in the masterchef programme. I am gald we have moved away from the roastbeef era. We need a better system of world education.