Govt MPs At Odds Over Population Growth

Govt MPs at odds over population growth

The Age
November 13, 2009

A row has erupted inside the government over booming population growth forecasts.

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner on Friday suggested population density needed to rise strongly, two days after his backbench colleague Kelvin Thomson called for a cut in immigration.

“The argument that Australia is already overpopulated is nonsense,” Mr Tanner told a Melbourne meeting of the Property Council of Australia.

“Most major European cities are much more densely populated, often housing several thousand people per square kilometre.”

Mr Thomson has called for the immigration intake to be slashed from 200,000 a year to as low as 70,000.

He also wants the baby bonus, established under the Howard government, to be scrapped as an incentive for couples to have children.

However, Mr Tanner argued the problem with major cities was not population but planning.

“The federal government has for a long period been almost completely absent from the urban policy arena,” he said.

“The shortcomings in our nation's infrastructure planning and development are evident.

“The government wants our cities to have strong, transparent and long-term plans for growth and high-quality urban development.”

Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce on Friday offered “partial support” to Mr Thomson's view.

“I do agree, however, with Mr Thomson's assertion that if we keep putting all immigrants into the major capital cities we will create problems for ourselves,” Senator Joyce said in a statement.

“Australia must start moving its people into new areas, and this does not mean the outer suburbs.”

Senator Joyce called for new cities and towns across the country.

“We must come up with the mechanisms to inspire people to move to new areas of our nation and inspire investment of capital infrastructure in new areas, so that we do not destroy the lifestyle and capacity of the capital cities.”