Page 3251 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 23 August 2017
amendments is that economic growth driven by population growth and consumption is unsustainable. I think it is a very important point and one that is not often raised in these sorts of discussions. I think it is very valuable that Ms Le Couteur added it to the discussion today.
Certainly here in the ACT, as Ms Le Couteur touched on, we have managed to make some progress in terms of decoupling some issues such as energy usage growth and population growth, and certainly with our investment in renewable electricity we have done a lot to clean up that sector. Nonetheless, the ACT continues to have a very significant environmental footprint, and certainly a large part of that goes to the heavy consumption of what is a relatively affluent community. That consumption side of these discussions simply cannot be ignored.
As a community with a strong degree of disposable income, we have a footprint that is significantly higher than that of many other people on this planet. That is played out in issues such as waste, where our stockpiles continue to grow, and it has been difficult for the ACT government to turn that issue around. I think there is a lot more that we can do.
It is important that we also have a discussion about alternative approaches to prosperity. We must think carefully about what we measure our success by and I think it is fair to say that simply assuming that a larger economy is the answer is a narrow agenda and a narrow measure that we should not solely rest on. A bigger economy is not in itself a straight out gain. Traditionally economies are measured by GDP and like measures. I believe that GDP is a flawed measure of prosperity. It was created during World War II to measure how much production could be diverted to war. Certainly it was never intended as a measure of quality of life. It certainly does not include environmental services like rivers flowing into our dams and it certainly does not count environmental damage like pollution.
I have always been struck by the fact that the inherent flaws in a measure like the GDP are best exposed by the example of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in the 1990s—help me, colleagues; I think it was the 1990s—anyway, well before the turn of the century. In that case, the measured GDP of Alaska actually went up, despite the enormous environmental damage caused by that oil spill. Because of the arrival of a significant number of people in Alaska to run cleanup crews and the significant funds that had to be expended on it, the actual GDP of the territory went up, despite that enormous environmental cost of the spill and the impact on wildlife and water quality and a range of other very important measures. That example classically highlights the shortcomings of GDP as a measure. It counts only money and not wellbeing.
Similarly, redundancy payments count towards GDP, despite the personal impact that that can have on people. The casualisation of jobs boosts profits and, therefore, GDP but causes inequality, hardship and uncertainty for individuals.
I think it is incumbent upon us to consider alternative approaches to measuring progress in what we consider to be prosperity. There are serious efforts internationally towards a better system. There are examples such as the human development index,