Comparing population, globalisation and social justice in Australia and Indonesia

“Taking the three components of the course title: population, globalisation and social justice, write an essay of 2,000 to 2,500 words comparing their application in Australia and Indonesia”. Questions of population, globalisation and social justice are helpful in comparing a wealthy, western country; Australia, and a developing and somewhat poverty-stricken country; Indonesia.

By looking at similar problems that both countries share, but also looking at the differences in the problems and also in the way in which the countries handle these problems, one can appreciate the inequalities that exist between developed and developing countries, as well as examine some of the difficulties that face humanity. In recent times issues concerning population have been prevalent in both Indonesia and Australia, especially regarding immigration, refugees, carrying capacity and specifically in Indonesia; transmigration.

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In Australia, much news has been devoted to issues of race, especially the immigration policy of the Australian government. There seems to have been somewhat of a consensus reached that a population of 23 million is the optimum population that Australia’s resources can currently handle, (Foran and Poldy, 2002:12) and given the one to two percent population increase each year and the current large amounts of refugees applying for temporary and permanent residence in Australia, this figure is estimated to be reached by 2010.

The Australian government’s immigration policy is vitally important as it will play a major role in determining the quality of life of all Australians, however Australia must address the fundamental issue of the ability of the environment and to cope with population increases. Australia must weigh up the cost to the environment and social infrastructure, and the quality of life of the average Australian but also take into account its obligation and responsibility to the global society.

One argument is that Australia should be proceeding slowly with population growth because it will only exacerbate current environmental problems highlighted by Foran and Poldy in ‘Executive Summary’; pollution created by traffic, dependence for personal mobility on continuing supplies of oil and natural gas, loss of land in agricultural heartlands, increasing salinity, greenhouse gas emissions, per capita levels of material flow underpinning the economy, and the transition from an old ‘physical’ economy to a new ‘brain’ economy. Foran and Poldy, 2002:13) As the world’s driest continent, constant reliable water supply is one of Australia’s major problems. As a country that not only experiences low rainfall and high evaporation rates but which also lacks any permanent snow fields, the preservation of its main river system, the Murray Darling is a major area that will allow Australia to cope with its future population needs (Goldie, 2002).

There needs to be an overriding legislative power that protects the Murray-Darling basin as well as water regulations that were seen in early 2002 in order to strengthen the Murray River to help supply the agriculture that centres around it. (Davis, 1992:42) In Indonesia, issues surrounding population are also important and a prominent issue. Due to the large and dense populations in the inner islands such as Java, Bali and Madura, originally the Dutch colonialists and later the independent Indonesian government sought to relocate large numbers of people from the crowded inner islands to the outer islands.

Known as transmigration, it was seen as a way to not only achieve a more balanced demographic, but also as a way of alleviating poverty and exploiting the potential of the outer islands. Whilst this relocation process seemed practical, it proved disastrous, with devastating affect. The transmigration program brought to the surface issues of indigenous control and assimilation and many saw transmigration as ‘forced assimilation’ and a violation of customary land rights (Adhiati, 2001). Many also saw the transmigration program as simply a redistribution of poverty and failing to alleviate it in any way.

In recent times the Indonesian government has introduced a different form of transmigration whilst attempting to distance itself from the previous transmigration programme that has devastating consequences. There has been some ground made in this issue of transmigration as a way of solving the many population issues that enshroud Indonesia, “[w]ithout question, the programme has yielded many success stories; proud land owners earning more… than they ever did as wage grubbers back home” (Cohen, 2000:37).

Another central issue of population in Indonesia is problems regarding immigration especially refugees from East Timor. Whilst many East Timorese were granted refugee status in Indonesia in 1999 following increased violence in the area, the Indonesian government is grappling with permanent solutions to over population especially in the main islands. Transmigration is seen as a solution to this problem, but the infrastructure required to support large numbers of immigrants is an unwelcome strain on the Indonesian economy and society.

Issues of population are important in Indonesia and Australia and the central population questions are integral to the well being of both countries. Indonesia’s battling economic situation and Australia’s rural-urban divide are important social justice issues for both countries. Australia’s economy is reasonably stable and due partly to the benefits of global activity enjoys periods of growth in comparison to Indonesia which has consistently struggled to overcome debt and have a structured and stable economy.

As one source rather bluntly states, “the (Indonesian) economy is barely treading water with the Rupiah plunging and the stock market hitting record lows” (http://news. bbc. co. uk/hi/english/world/asia-pacific/newsid_1357000/1357539. stm). Other sources points to the 1997 Asian economic crisis as a reason for Indonesia’s poor economical state; “Indonesia was by far the worst hit country in the Asian economic crisis” (http://www. aph. gov. au/library/pubs/cib/1999-2000/2000cib10. tm#tasks), “the crisis that began in late 1997 is the single most devastating blow to the Indonesian economy in the last thirty years” (Maxwell, 1999:20). Whilst the interference of global companies has had some negative affect on Indonesia and its economy, it is argued that the attraction of these global companies is a key to Indonesia’s flailing economy improving, “Indonesia must continue to create a system of Government that plays an active role in regulation of the economy, while building itself from the inside and making itself attractive to international investment” (BBC News, ibid).

One factor that does not appeal to many international companies is Indonesia’s strict environmental regulations, however the government must maintain these strict, yet necessary standards to preserve what is left of their environment. The corruption that plagues Indonesian politics is also a factor in the country’s economic problems. The infamous Bank Bali scandal was so extreme that the IMF stopped giving its money to Indonesia until Indonesia promised that it would put its police to work on solving the scandal.

The eighty million dollar payoff to politicians and the people of the country came from money that was obtained through the IMF’s 43 billion-dollar bailout package, which makes the situation even more tenuous (Bloomberg News, November 1, 1999). The impact of the economic crisis in Indonesia has been devastating, not only has the Rupiah struggled and blown out, but levels of poverty, according to studies appear to have increased as a result of the economic crisis.

Lesley Potter in an article, ‘From the grassroots; the continuing impact of crisis on export crops, farmers and forests in outer Indonesia’, she discusses the vulnerability of the Indonesian people who whilst not being ‘chronically poor’ are vulnerable to poverty due to the variation in their consumption pattern, which is a result of globalisation. In Australia the urban-rural problems that are often associated with population control is a burning social issue which must be addressed.

New South Wales Premier, Bob Carr says we should actually reduce immigration levels, not that he necessarily agrees with the Federal Coalition but because he thinks Sydney is getting too crowded. With one fifth of Australia’s population squeezed into the Sydney basin, it is a legitimate observation and revelas Australia’s major social justice issue. People in general and in this case, the Australian people are naturally drawn to centres of economic activity because of the instinctive infrastructure that occurs to support economic and commercial activity.

There is also a large market catchment where competition is greater and prices are tailored accordingly. Due to these factors in recent years there has been a continual shift of the population from rural centres to urban regions, that cannot cope with large populations. Australia’s rural centres are left small and without; commercial activity or opportunity, centralised skilled workers or competition with a subsequent increase in prices and cost of living.

The ‘exodus from the bush’ as the National Party calls it, whereby young poeple living in rural and regional centres have to realistically look at moving away if they want to get better employment opportunities is also a major problem and similarly adults too are finding they cannot afford to live in the country. As one source argues, “one of the keys to effective decentralisation options is the stimulation and maintenance of economic activity” (Connell, 1998:24).

The Australian government can certainly ‘kick start’ economies and have in the past by injecting larges sums of money. But in the end, Governments cannot continue to spend more than the budget allows and at the moment it is not considered economically of great importance to do so. In the end, for decentralisation to work in Australia and Indonesia, the attraction of the megacities like Sydney and Java must be made less appealing and economically it must be viable and competitive to relocate to rural centres or outer islands.

The rural-urban debate is one such burning social issue that is very relevant in Australia, as we cope with population shifts to the major cities. The term ‘globalisation’ describes the increased mobility of goods, services, labour, technology and capital throughout the world. Although globalization is not a new development, its pace has increased with the advent of new technologies, especially in the area of telecommunications. (http://canadianeconomy. ca/english/globalization. tml) Globalisation is an issue which has differing impacts on Australia and Indonesia. Indonesia has been greatly affected by the globalisation that occurred during Suharto’s dictatorship, in antithesis to Australia who, apart from global concerns are not directly affected by globalisation. During Suharto’s 30-year reign, a cataract of global capital poured into Indonesia and global companies have enjoyed increased influence and control in Indonesia and this has resulted in the exploitation of a large percentage of the poverty-stricken population.

John Pilger, an anti-globalist discusses the breakdown that has subsequently occurred in Indonesia and how ‘sweatshops’ and factories continue to exploit the poor and at the same time ruin any chance subsistence. Describing the urban streets as enclosed by “hundreds of factories that make products for foreign companies: the clothes you buy on the high street, from the cool khakis of Gap to the Nike, Adidas and Reebok trainers… n these factories are thousands of mostly young women working for the equivalent of 72 pence per day… they count themselves lucky: they have jobs”. A greater problem exists as discussed by Brink Lindsey in ‘Against the Dead Hand: The Uncertain Struggle for Global Capitalism’, “the sweatshop workers migrated from rural areas, having been impoverished largely by World Bank programmes that promote export cash crops over self-sustaining agriculture”. In Indonesia, globalisation has differing meanings to different groups.

Some would argue that these sweat shops and factories provide work for a large number of Indonesians, whereas the view of Pilger and others is that globalisation in not only exploiting and destroying the local people but preventing any chance for the Indonesian people to enjoy a self-sufficient and controlled economy or livelihood. In Australia, globalisation has a contrasting meaning as to nowhere near the same extent are we subject to the negative side of globalisation that occurs in Indonesia.

If anything, the majority of Australians benefit from the influence of global countries in places such as Indonesia as the prices of many ‘brand name’ clothing and items are cheaper due to the exploitation of workers in countries such as Indonesia. Furthermore, Australia in recent times has benefited as an economy, “the worldwide lowering of trade barriers has helped to increase world trade dramatically. As a result, our exports have grown by 3. 5 times over the past twenty years.

This means more jobs and growth in Australia” (Healey, 2001:7). As Australia benefits from global investment and control in many cases, it has a far different understanding and view of globalisation than that of many Indonesians. The Australian economy is somewhat dependent on global activity and investment and thus, globalisation is viewed in a far more positive light by Australia than that of many Indonesians who are subject to the negative side of globalisation.

In both Australia and Indonesia, issues regarding the environment are issues that must be addressed by the respective governments and subsequent action must be taken. For Indonesia to move forward as a country, they must address the many environmental concerns that plague their country. As Indonesia strives for a viable and growing economy, this has had its costs, most notably in the form of increased pollution.

As with many other megacities, Jakarta faces this serious problem as ambient levels of particulate matter exceed health standards at least 173 days per year. Vehicle emissions constitute the most important source of harmful pollutants and as the demand for motor vehicles rises with economic growth, attendant pollution is likely to worsen and thus, strategies must be put in place to prevent this happening. The combined strain of domestic and industrial pollution is putting increasing strain on Jakarta’s water quality.

An open ditch system that serves as a conduit for all wastewater is the backbone of the river system and clearly cannot cope with the wastes of the current 11. 5 million residents (United Nations, 1995:135. ). In both Indonesia and Australia, there has been a large amount of environmental degredation, and this is where issues of immigration and carrying capacity are of great importance. The impact of population growth on the environmental problem cannot be ignored.

About two-thirds of the current rate of increase in the emissions of greenhouse gases can be attributed to increasing populations, with associated demands for increasing food production and preparation, for housing, for transport and the like. For a country with an established lifestyle, both the resource demands of that lifestyle and its environmental or ecological impacts are directly proportional to the number of people enjoying that lifestyle.

Unless we are able to stabilise the human population, we cannot hope to achieve a sustainable way of life. Once we are able to stabilize the population at approximately 23 million, it is then our responsibility to ensure that we restore and preserve our fragile resource base. There must be a change in policy and focus by the Australian government to think environmentally or at least with somewhat of an ecological viewpoint as opposed to a purely economic outlook.

With this focus we are ready to address the central environmental issues such as the need to reduce the pressure on natural systems by improving the efficiency of using energy and resources, as well as imposing rigorous upper limits on the emission of pollutants. In both Indonesia and Australia environmental issues must be addressed, however Indonesia has a range of equally if not more important issues such as poverty and the economy to focus on. Herein lies a distinct difference between Indonesia; where poverty is absolute and Australia; where poverty is relative.

Due to the arguably affective welfare system in Australia, every person is entitled to some income from the government and has the ability to at least live, in comparison to Indonesia where poverty is life threatening to the weak economy and inability of welfare. In Indonesia and Australia, population issues remain at the forefront of newsand in recent times population problems in Australia have resulted in rural-urban problems, whereas in Indonesia, methods of transmigration have created confusion and accentuated economic and social problems.

The impact of globalisation has been far more prominent in Indonesia, in creating social problems and increasing poverty, compared to Australia where globalisation evokes almost completely different emotions, as global interest and activity is vital to the success and well being of the Australian economy. Whilst many Australians benefit from the influence of global companies with resulting lower prices and a competitive market, Indonesians are forced to work often in poor conditions, long hours for little pay and are often forced to move from their agricultural jobs to seek work in the larger factories.

Indonesia’s economy, devastated by the Asian economic crisis is struggling to grow and raise the currently low standard of living in Indonesia. The issues of population, globalisation and social justice that both countries are confronted with, but also the different problems and methods of resolution sought by the respective governments provides an interesting contrast a wealthy, western country; Australia, and a developing and somewhat poverty-stricken country; Indonesia.

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