Opposition seeks migration rethink
January 24, 2010
AUSTRALIA should consider whether immigration levels can continue to remain at existing levels as part of a comprehensive population policy to determine how many people the country can support, the federal Opposition says.
Infrastructure, housing and environmental sustainability should be considered when setting the numbers of people allowed to immigrate each year, immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said.
”Population policy is a legitimate debate we have to have and it should be free from any suggestion that it’s related to race,” Mr Morrison said.
Population policy was a ”void” that needed to be filled, he said. ”It’s getting to the point where we can’t afford not to [have one]. We can’t just keep going as is.”
Treasury modelling released last year forecast that the population would increase by more than half to 35 million by the middle of the century.
The increases will come from migration, more women reaching child-bearing age and higher fertility rates.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd welcomed the modelling, saying he was in favour of a ”big Australia”. But it prompted criticism from Labor backbencher Kelvin Thomson, who has asked whether Australia can support such a large number of people. Mr Thomson has called for dramatic cuts to immigration levels.
Mr Morrison said he did not believe Australia should ”shut the door” to immigrants but ”given that immigration accounts for almost 60 per cent of population growth, we can do something about it”.
He acknowledged population was a difficult issue because it was often railroaded into a debate about racism. ”I don’t want to see it frustrated by people either bringing that element to the debate or trying to stop that debate by attributing that motive to people,” Mr Morrison said. ”The debate is so tough because it’s so easy for people to bring that element into it.”
Mr Morrison’s comments follow a speech given by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on Friday night in which he said Australians were worried about the rise in the number of boat people, the ability of migrants to obey the law and the strain arrivals put on the nation’s resources.
Mr Morrison called on state and local governments to take a greater role in planning for the numbers of people living in their areas. ”The Federal Government has to take responsibility for (immigration numbers) but state and local governments need to be more part of how that decision is made because they’re the ones who have to live with it,” he said.
Concerns about roads, housing, the strain on the health system and environmental sustainability all needed to be considered as part of a population policy, he said.