Q&A: ‘The world will collapse in 50 years’

Ms Lee Photo: ABC

Ms Lee Photo: ABC

There is a 90 per cent chance earth’s civilisation will collapse in 50 years, according to a leading biologist who appeared on ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night.

Paul Ehrlich, an internationally renowned expert on population and earth sustainability, confirmed this belief when it was put to him by the show’s host Tony Jones.

“I think we will be very, very fortunate to avoid a collapse,” Mr Ehrlich said. “You [Australia] are destroying your life support systems here.

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“You are also working to become a third world country.

“Your specialisation of course is to take your raw materials like your coal which will destroy the world of your grandchildren and great-grandchildren and ship off as much of it unprocessed as you possibly can, out to the rest of the world.”

While other panel members did not agree with Mr Ehrlich’s projection, they acknowledged humans must treat the environment better.

Shadow Finance Minister Tony Burke said that water sustainability was a “classic example”.

“The principal issue for capacity of the planet … is the way we live, that’s the principal,” Mr Burke said.

“What matters for Australia – I mean, water, the classic example was having to redesign how we would deal with the Murray-Darling Basin.

“It was possible for the Murray-Darling to be sustainable … in the same way as with pollution – it’s possible to have a limit and a cap on pollution.”

Minister for Education Simon Birmingham said Australia shouldn’t get bigger.

“I don’t think Australia needs to get bigger,” Mr Birmingham said. “We already regulate population because of the way our immigration policies work.

“So governments choose to grow the population of Australia by taking more migrants in, and that’s an essential part, given the nature of our birth rate.”

Liberal gives moderate view on Muslim national anthem snub

One audience member asked a question about Muslim children being excused from singing the Australian national anthem.

It happened at an Australian school earlier this week, because a Muslim religious holiday meant they weren’t allowed to partake in “joyous singing” due to being in a period of mourning.

Mr Birmingham surprised some with his view on the national anthem snub. Photo: ABC

Mr Birmingham surprised some with his view on the national anthem snub. Photo: ABC

Mr Birmingham said no one should judge, or disrespect faith.

“If there is a legitimate reason in terms of somebody’s faith, whether it’s of Islamic faith or Jewish faith or Christian faith or anything else, that for a few days or a few weeks of the year it’s not appropriate for them to join in, singing or other types of activities, then we should respect that,” he said.

Mr Burke was similarly encouraging of the stance taken by the school.

“They viewed our national anthem as something incredibly joyful,” Mr Burke said.

“It was a good understanding of the national anthem that was there, and we shouldn’t start to try to shift this as though this was a community that was being all dark on the national anthem.

“They were acknowledging that this is a really joyful part of Australia and at this point they were in mourning. So I think the debate has got to something that it shouldn’t have got to.”

Government must lead on quotas

Both panel members Wendy Harmer (journalist, author publisher) and Dai Lee (Founder of Diverse Australasian Women’s Network), agreed that government must lead the way on quotas.

Ms Lee Photo: ABC

Ms Lee said the merit argument does not stack up. Photo: ABC

“I think very much we want to see the Government take a lead in this,” Ms Harmer said. “The Government has to really, if we are talking quotas anywhere, it’s got to be within government I think first.

“We have to have the diversity, we have to have jobs for people with a disability and we have to have more women in government and then I think private enterprise can take the queue from that.”

Ms Lee said Australia should set a target for women to join parliament.

“The argument comes forward with the issue of merit,” Ms Lee said.

“Now, I don’t buy the merit debate anymore because I think that – we are not calling to appoint somebody who is incapable of doing the job.”

“There are many capable women, men of diverse background, of Asian background who actually can lead.”

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