Migrant Quotas Blasted By Jeff Kennett and Tim Flannery

Migrant quotas blasted by Jeff Kennett and Tim Flannery

John Masanauskas and Geraldine Mitchell
Herald Sun
November 07, 2008 12:00am

LEADING Australians have criticised the way the Federal Government sets immigration levels, saying the annual intake must be part of a comprehensive population policy.

Former premier Jeff Kennett and environmental campaigner Tim Flannery said the lack of a policy could jeopardise the nation's future.

“It's a tragedy that there's no population policy,” Mr Kennett told the Herald Sun.

“We don't know where we want to be in 2050 and how we accommodate the population we want to have,” he said.

But despite grappling with huge issues like rising congestion and lack of water, Premier John Brumby said he was happy with the current level of migration to Victoria.

“If there needs to be any change that's a matter for the Federal Government,” he said.

“(But) I don't see a need to press the accelerator any faster.”

The Government is reviewing the record migrant intake amid growing concerns about the effect on jobs, crowded cities and the environment.

The Federal Opposition wants the 2008-09 intake of 190,000 people to be slashed by more than a quarter, but Immigration Minister Chris Evans has warned Australia is still desperate for skills.

Mr Kennett said a realistic number could not be set until the Government did a proper review of long-term labour needs.

“In stable and prosperous times I always think the country benefits from a proactive immigration program,” he said.

“I'm not in favour of turning it off or on.”

Prof Flannery of Macquarie University, a leading climate-change activist, said the migration intake was too narrowly focused on short-term economic issues.

“But once you add to Australia's population it's there forever,” he said.

“We've got to balance short-term economic needs with the long-term environmental impacts. We have to look at issues like water, biodiversity protection, the impact of greenhouse gases.”

Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said the current intake should be maintained.

“We are still short of skilled labour,” she said.

“We need a medium-term approach to immigration. This is critical to maintaining a consistently strong intake.”

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said it was too early to tell if the migration level should change.

“While there are jobs and skills shortages in many regions and industries, we should keep it up,” he said.