Carr wants migrant intake cut to curb growth
By Yuko Narushima
The Sydney Morning Herald, March 25, 2010
Bob Carr, the former Labor premier of NSW, says Australia's immigration intake should be slashed by half to slow population growth.
The population is set to reach 35.9 million by 2050, prompting the Greens to demand a national inquiry. The proposal has Coalition backing but is yet to win support from the Prime Minister.
''The only population policy we've currently got from Canberra can be expressed in one word: more,'' Mr Carr said yesterday. ''A halving of the current rate of immigration would do nicely.''
Cuts should be made to skilled migration and not interfere with the number of refugees, he said.
''The economic arguments don't stack up. Leave aside the environmental concerns, increased immigration adds more to the demand for labour than it does to supply,'' he said.
A better way to counter an ageing population was to find ways to keep people healthy, productive and engaged in the workplace, he said.
The population grew by 443,000 last year and now sits at about 22.2 million.
The demographer Bernard Salt said last year's spike was a one-off triggered by the global financial crisis, which forced many Australians home from abroad.
''It was double our long-term average and will reduce quite significantly,'' Mr Salt said.
Strong growth generates the taxes necessary to sustain the baby boomers dropping out of the workforce, he said.
A new party pushing for a stabilised population capped at 23 million was gathering support, its Sydney convener, William Bourke, said.
The Stable Population Party of Australia wants to keep the national population static despite a projected population increase to 9.2 billion globally, from 6.8 billion now.
''Australia's extreme population growth is either causing or exacerbating our economic, environmental and social problems,'' he said.
The main problems were housing affordability in cities, soaring power prices, scarce water resources and a straining health system, he said.
Migration and inducements for families to have more children were contributing, he said.
Mr Carr said Australia should show an ''enlightened lead'' to the rest of the world.
''Just because other countries are on a tragic path of population explosion, doesn't mean Australia's got to degrade its environment as well,'' he said.
The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said last year that he believed in a big Australia and was optimistic the nation's infrastructure and environment would cope.