Australians wary of 36m population target
By Sabra Lane
The ABC News (Australia), April 8, 2010
A survey by the Lowy Institute says almost three-quarters of Australians want to see the country's population grow, but not by too much.
The Lowy Institute surveyed more than 1,000 people last month and found that while there is support for increased immigration, Australians are not quite prepared to embrace the Government's prediction that the nation will reach 36 million people by 2050.
The poll shows 72 per cent of people support a rise in Australia's population, but 69 per cent want it to remain below 30 million people.
Lowy Institute executive director Michael Wesley says most Australians are concerned by the Government's predictions.
'Thirty million doesn't seem to be that much different from our current 22 million; it seems like a natural progression,' he said.
'I think most people see 36 million as really quite a substantial increase.
'Some of the concerns about overcrowding, about house prices, about the environmental strain that 36 million Australians would cause, are also starting to bite.'
The Federal Opposition says the poll results underscore the need for a debate about a sustainable population and immigration rates.
Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says it shows most people want to make sure population growth is sustainable.
'The Coalition believe in having a sustainable growth path for our population and this survey shows that many Australians support that view,' he said.
'But they're not prepared to sign up to the level of growth that Kevin Rudd is championing.
'What I'd like [the Government] to do is engage in the debate with the rest of Australia.'
But Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has played down the results, saying it all depends on how the survey questions were asked.
Ms Gillard has joked in the past about being a '10-pound Pom'. On Lateline, she cautioned the Opposition against linking the debate on population to immigration.
She specifically singled out 2001, the year former prime minister John Howard stopped the Tampa freighter from landing asylum seekers in Australia. The issue was potent at the ballot box and many say it cost Labor the election.
'I think there are some dangers here for the Opposition of trying to pull an election slogan from 2001 and hope that it will work for them again,' she said.
'We obviously believe that there needs to be a discussion about population. [Population Minister] Tony Burke will lead it.'
Ms Gillard stresses the 36 million forecast is just that – a forecast and not a target.
'We can change that future. I think a key question for the nation is about population distribution,' she said.
One in two say current immigration levels about right – poll
The Australian Associated Press, April 8, 2010