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Monday, 25 October 2010
Page: 1403

Mr RIPOLL (10:24 PM) —The Intergenerational report projects that Australia’s population will reach 35.9 million by 2050. In my view, it is only a projection, a model. It is based on sound modelling, though, and is probably a good projection in that we know where we have been in the past, we know where we are today and we have a good sense through economic and demographic modelling of where we might be in the future. So 36 million by 2050 seems like a reasonable number, give or take a few million either side of that. The reality is that population growth is placing pressure on Australian cities, particularly our capital and major cities, at today’s population of 20 million. The real question is: how will we manage at 36 million?

Take my seat of Oxley, for example. It is in the statistical area of Ipswich east and contains suburbs such as Goodna, Camira, Collingwood Park, Springfield Lakes and Springfield Central. This is an area in Australia with the largest average annual population increase of around 7.3 per cent for 2004-09. The greater Springfield and Ipswich areas have about 150,000 people. It took a bit over 100 years to get there, but it is now projected that in the next 15 years we will double that number. It is quite a serious issue for people who live in those particular areas. Any future population strategy or policy needs to take into account the impact on the sustainability of Australia’s cities and the projected population growth. For me, population and population growth are not about a number. There are plenty of examples right across the world of very successful cities, both large and small, where numbers range from one million people to over 20 million—through good planning some seem to manage that number very well.

In July, Minister Tony Burke announced the establishment of three panels to advise the government on sustainable population issues. Those panels are the Sustainable Development Panel, to be chaired by the Hon. Bob Carr; the Demographic Change and Liveability Panel, to be chaired by Professor Graeme Hugo; and the Productivity and Prosperity Panel, to be chaired by Ms Heather Ridout. For me, any model of city population and growth and development can work, but it must be coupled with the policies of sustainability as well.

The advice received from the three panels will form the basis of a public issues paper to be released later this year. For me and for many people, this will truly be an exciting time where the community can get involved in helping shape what the future will look like and what cities will look like in this country. Minister Burke has also said that we need to get beyond seeing this as a debate on immigration. Of course, he is talking about population, and he is right. Population is much more than that; it is about our regions, our cities, our infrastructure and the sustainability that we build into regions and infrastructure. We heard earlier from the member for Maranoa who talked about sustainability in regions. He was talking about the little towns that are disappearing and how people are leaving the towns and heading to the cities. I do not think we can have the debate in two separate spaces. They are the same debate.

With regard to projected population growth, the panels need to understand that a business-as-usual approach when it comes to planning Australia’s cities will no longer do. Our cities today are already choked. Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and even the smaller regional cities are choked. We all face exactly the same problems. For me, sustainable cities will require a decentralisation policy—a policy where we can start to build beyond the cities. Infill in itself is not just the solution, but it seems to be the only approach that our major cities are taking. We need to take a much more holistic approach across all levels of government on planning and on issues of water, food production, energy production and waste. Decentralisation is the key.

We also need to look at coordinating the link between jobs where people live and recreation where people want to play. Often they are in separate places. We drive from where we live in the outer urban fringe areas to the city where we work and then further to somewhere else where we play. This is putting pressure on our infrastructure and this is not sustainable. That is the debate we ought to be having today. That is the debate I believe that as a government we are bringing on this topic. I congratulate Minister Burke in these areas. Of course, a conundrum exists in this area: we need to grow to maintain our standard of living, but at the same time we have to cope with all the problems that it brings.

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 10.30 pm, the debate is interrupted.