THE LOADED DOG

With a nod to Henry Lawson's popular tale of the same name, today we launch The Loaded Dog - a forum for readers to debate an "explosive" subject each week. Every Wednesday we will post our topic on smh.com.au - and every Sunday we will publish the best entries here. Our first topic: is Sydney full?

With a nod to Henry Lawson's popular tale of the same name, today we launch The Loaded Dog - a forum for readers to debate an "explosive" subject each week. Every Wednesday we will post our topic on smh.com.au - and every Sunday we will publish the best entries here. Our first topic: is Sydney full?

BOB CARR, back when he was the premier, reckoned the city had reached its population limit. But Barry O'Farrell is having none of it. The Premier wants to open the door to more skilled migrants and international students to revive the state's economy. He blames poor planning - not immigration - for population pressures. Is he right? Can Sydney cater for more immigrants? Or can it afford not to?

Of course Sydney isn't full. We are in fact quite thinly populated for a major world city of our physical extent. Very liveable cities with about our population at higher densities include Berlin, San Francisco and Barcelona. We could double and double again, without paving over another single field in the Sydney basin, and still not be in the top 20 most densely populated cities. There may be good arguments against further growth, but being "full" is not one of them.

Andrew Taubman, Queens Park

Bob Carr and Barry O'Farrell are both correct. Carr is correct that Sydney cannot support a much larger population O'Farrell is correct that the problem is poor planning. The ridiculous road system and laughable public transport create congestion many suburbs lack adequate green space or adequate services new suburbs are built without decent telecommunications and the general effect is a shambles where the detritus of slaughterhouses flows unhindered down the roads, covering everything in offal. The problem with O'Farrell's position is that he wants to boost the population before fixing the problems. "Chuck another couple of million into Sydney," cry the population-boosters, "and planning problems will take care of themselves!" It's going to be harder to fix the problems if the population increases.

James Pearce, Cuernavaca, Mexico (originally from Drummoyne)

Sydney is not full - it has a great hole in the middle of it, big enough to build another city. Town planners, the government and real estate agents will be over the moon with this audacious plan to fill Sydney up. The first step is to fill in the polluted harbour with rubbish and fill from building sites and motorways. The Parramatta river can flow through pipes out to sea carrying the new city's sewage. This will create a large expanse of land ready for building. I can't wait to buy a townhouse next to the Opera House and take advantage of the Botanic Gardens and city shops. The Coathanger can stay for fireworks displays.

Anthony York, Rooty Hill

Sydney is full until the government bites the bullet and borrows to construct a second rail harbour crossing, completes the F3, M4 and M5 extensions and the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link. Increasing immigration before the necessary housing is built, and before the transport links are put in place, will only exacerbate the population pressures we are already subject to. Deficit is not a dirty word when it removes transport bottlenecks and increases our quality of life.

Tim Casey, Ultimo

From another perspective the question might be: "Is the bush empty?" Concentrations of population can have some advantages in terms of economy of scale in providing a wider range of services. Or so the myth goes. But when the result is that Sydney has the highest accommodation costs on the continent, you have to ask: is adding to an already crowded city economically justified? As a refugee from Sydney who "went bush" to a regional city I have found that the range of services is almost as good as in Sydney and much more accessible and cheaper. Not to mention the lower cost of living. Some facilities are better, not to mention the lifestyle.

Peter Hitchcock, AM, Cairns

Deep in the bowels of a grimy state government hive, a soot-blackened drone sweats nervously over a glowing red spreadsheet. Grubby, desperate fingers check and review the figures. Spin, tweak and arithmetic massage are liberally applied - but with a racking sob and squeal of capitulation, the analysts surrender to the perfidious looming truth: NSW is in deep economic trouble. Howls of fury reverberate down the black halls as word reaches the antechamber of the Premier. The man himself stands swollen with rage, every pore radiating menace into the trembling forms of his hastily marshalled employees - puffing ever larger with the threat of violence. A calming, spidery hand alights on the Premier's shoulder. The Deputy - his voice liquid reassurance: "Don't worry, we'll create a diversion - something divisive. Yes, and sensational." For a second his black, shark-cruel eyes light up with inspiration and the word escapes like a hiss: "Immigrantssss." And all across Sydney, from the marbled east to the gardened west, Sydneysiders, tired of the rhetoric, ask themselves not so much whether Sydney is full, but what its government is full of.

Dan Watson, Chippendale

Consider a balloon as infrastructure. Fill that balloon with water (the population) and the infrastructure automatically grows with it to contain and service that water. In Sydney, our infrastructure is not a balloon, but rather it is the internal wax, watertight lining of a small cardboard box. We keep adding water to the box, but the box cannot grow and when water is added to the box, it overflows above the wax lining, down the uncoated outside of the box. Eventually the unlined cardboard breaks down and can no longer support the water it holds. Until we build a flexible infrastructure, we need to protect what little we have and the population it miserably serves.

Justin Ibrahim, Abbotsford

The current NIMBY-ism of Sydneysiders and the pandering of the O'Farrell government (in switching development to greenfields rather than building up in the inner and middle suburbs) simply perpetuates our congestion, pollution, distance from our jobs and lack of decent public transport. Taking prime farming land and turning it into "McMansion" subdevelopments simply repeats the errors our previous governments made in the past 30 years which left us with the public transport-starved and car-dependent north-west. Until the approach changes, we should all shout from the rooftops: "WE ARE FULL!"

Matthew Skinner, Georges Hall

Is Sydney full? It's a leading question along the lines of how long is a piece of string, leaving the airwaves open to all manner of xenophobic diatribe. In truth, however, Sydney is too full - not enough rental properties reasonably priced not enough jobs for qualified professionals, driving salaries down and an overabundance of highly qualified and experienced people in less than satisfying jobs. Wouldn't it be against human rights to subject or actually invite people into this miasma? However, come and visit, we need the tourist dollars.

Ramona Blaquiere, Lavender Bay

Sydney isn't even close to being full. "Full of it" maybe, but not full.

Alison Fowler, Alexandria

Email your views to loadeddog@sunherald.com.au

No-grow zone

Dick Smith: entrepreneur, philanthropist

Sydney could easily have 7 million people, but the disadvantages for typical Australians of a population that size would be immense.

For wealthy people like myself, we'd have more customers to buy our goods so we'd make more money, but for just about every other Sydneysider it would be all downhill.

We could end up like Mumbai or Tokyo.

How is it that leading world cities such as Geneva and Amsterdam, with just half a million people, stay the same size and maintain a great quality of life, yet we are told Sydney has to keep growing?

Sydney is now at a population sweet point where we have a very good quality of life. We can consolidate now to provide better transport and infrastructure. If we raise the population, we'll never catch up.

One day we have to stop growing before we only have one square inch each . We should do it now.

Taxing times

James Allnutt: director, Deloittes Access Economics, with interest indemographics

NSW's population growth is below the national average, rising just 1.4 per cent in the last year, and has been for a long time.

Since the population stopped growing, NSW and therefore Sydney has consistently struggled economically. The main reason people are against population growth is that they see more people means more crowding. But a broader view might say that having more people provides a base for more economic growth, more opportunity and, on another level, a more cosmopolitan attitude.

Last year marked 65 years since the start of the baby boom. That generation is starting to enter retirement age. We are getting to the point where the taxpayer base will not grow as fast as the population base.

You will have more people to fund services but fewer people paying for it.

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