Gillard first to pull population lever



Can you imagine the outcry if John Howard had talked like this?

Gillard is explicit about the turning point she envisages.

“In 222 years of European settlement, Australia has never had a sustainable population strategy,” she said yesterday.

“That is something that has to change — and it will change, if the government is returned on August 21.”

This sounds like a decisive break from the past.

But what does it mean?

Ms Gillard is deliberately vague to maximise her freedom of action yet her signals are a pollster’s dream.

To be fair, Ms Gillard has not committed the Coalition’s folly of wanting a population cap.

So far, she has resisted the absurd notion of defining a population “carrying capacity”.

She has, however, pre-judged the issue of sustainability.

Her entire pitch is to achieve better services and better quality of life by taking “a breath” from population growth.

She says the election should be a referendum on this issue.

Ms Gillard does not say that the 36 million population assumed by the Treasury at 2050 is based upon a slower population growth anyway.

Since its inception the immigration intake has been determined by economic need.

Labor now seeks to change this principle to “sustainability”.

It is bound to be popular but Prime Minister Gillard has a responsibility to spell out what her idea of “sustainability” actually means.