Time To Tackle Migrant Debate

Teams to tackle migrant debate

By Patricia Karvelas
The Australian, June 17, 2010

Three teams of experts with strongly opposing views on a Big Australia have been called in to help map out the issues around population growth.

Former NSW premier Bob Carr will head a panel which will say the population is heading towards unsustainable levels.

A business team chaired by Heather Ridout, of the Australia Industry Group, sees high growth as the key to prosperity.

The third panel, to be headed by demographer Graeme Hugo, has no strong opinion on numbers but wants better planning.

Population Minister Tony Burke yesterday said the three would draft an issues paper on population growth.

The government has been trying to ease the concerns of Australians opposed to rapid population growth and immigration as they see resources stretched, and those who want more immigration to fill skills shortages.

Mr Burke, who was appointed in April as the first population minister, said yesterday he wanted to include the various views being expressed in the community on population and to create calm and 'mature' debate.

Treasury has estimated that the population could grow to 35.9 million people by 2050, a figure from which the government has been keen to distance itself.

Mr Carr told The Australian he welcomed the news that the government was planning on creating a population policy. He said up until now the only policy on population had been 'more'.

Mr Burke said the issues paper would form the basis of public consultation on the future population strategy, and cover 'different and contradictory' aspects of the debate.

'The contradictions might be apparent when you're dealing with the total national figures,' he said. 'But once you get down to a regional level, we need to be able to have the policy flexibility to connect the measures to the levers on a regional basis, and then provide the planning which we haven't been able to provide . . . in the years gone past.'