Queensland councils reject “big Australia”

By Angela Dorizas

Queensland councils have joined with Prime Minister Julia Gillard in reconsidering Australia’s population growth.

Ms Gillard has revealed that she does not believe in a “big Australia”, signalling a shift in policy on population growth.

“Australia should not hurtle down the track towards a big population,” Ms Gillard said.

“I don't support the idea of a big Australia with arbitrary targets of, say, a 40 million-strong Australia or a 36 million-strong Australia.

“We need to stop, take a breath and develop policies for a sustainable Australia.”

Ms Gillard said the shift in policy was not intended to ignite an immigration debate.

“This is not about bringing down the shutters in immigration,” she said.

“It is a debate about planning affected by many factors – water supply, open space, infrastructure, ensuring the appropriate tax base to support our ageing population, the need for skills and the need to preserve a good quality life.”

The Intergenerational Report released earlier this year predicted that Australia’s population could reach 35.9 million by 2050.  In response to the report, Tony Burke was appointed as Australia’s first Population Minister, responsible for developing a national strategy on population growth.

Ms Gillard announced over the weekend that Mr Burke would now be known as the Minister for Sustainable Population.

The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) has welcomed the Federal Government’s policy shift.

LGAQ president Paul Bell said local government concerns on sustainable population levels were a “major driving force” behind the establishment of an independent inquiry into the need for a Queensland Government population policy.

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