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Gillard talks up sustainability over populati -

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Julia Gillard has talked down the prospect of a "big Australia", but critics say there are few
options to slow population growth.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: One of the new Prime Minister's first priorities has been to talk down the
prospect of a so-called "big Australia".

Treasury's projected a population of 36 million by the year 2050 and Kevin Rudd as PM said it was
good news the nation was growing.

But his successor says she doesn't want to hurtle down that path. There are concerns in Labor ranks
that immigration has become a negative for it in key outer-urban seats. But some experts say
slowing growth in Australia's capital cities will be difficult and a big Australia may be
inevitable.

John Stewart reports.

JOHN STEWART, REPORTER: Last year the Treasury forecast Australia's population could reach 36
million by 2050. It was a forecast welcomed by the former prime minister.

KEVIN RUDD, PRIME MINISTER (October 2009): I actually believe in a big Australia. I make no apology
for that.

JOHN STEWART: But yesterday Prime Minister Gillard was quick to back away from talk of a big
Australia.

JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER: I don't believe in a big Australia. I don't believe in simply
hurtling down a track to a 36 million or a 40 million population.

JOHN STEWART: Two weeks ago the New South Wales Liberal Party easily won a by-election in the
Sydney seat of Penrith.

The Liberal's crushing victory in Sydney's western suburbs rang alarm bells within federal Labor
and concerns about boat people, immigration and jobs were noticed in Canberra.

JULIA GILLARD: And I think if you talk to the people of western Sydney and western Melbourne or the
Gold Coast growth corridor in Queensland, people would look at you and say, "Where will these
people go?"

JOHN STEWART: Most of Australia's population growth is in capital cities: Melbourne, Sydney,
south-east Queensland and Perth are among the fastest growing parts of Australia. But there's
little sign of growth in many rural areas.

Overseas migration levels have been on the rise, reaching about 300,000 last year.

Population experts say that if the Federal Government wants to slow the rate of Australia's growth,
the migration intake will have to be cut.

BOB BIRRELL, MONASH UNI: That can be contracted sharply should we make the regulations on movement
of temporary workers, students, New Zealanders, working holiday-makers tighter and should we run
the ruler over the permanent resident migration program.

JOHN STEWART: But some population experts say that slowing the pace of growth may be difficult and
a big Australia is on the horizon.

PHILLIP O'NEILL, UNI. OF WESTERN SYDNEY: People will continue to grow older, thankfully, because
they're healthier, and people will continue to have children. So the options for an Australian
population target really aren't there. We will grow naturally by 2050 to be somewhere between 35
and 40 million people.

JOHN STEWART: Researchers say that where people live and work will be a crucial part of creating
sustainable cities in areas where transport is already under strain.

PHILLIP O'NEILL: All Australian cities have to play catch-up, which is actually to build their
residential communities around and nearer the places where people work.

JOHN STEWART: Today at a population conference in Sydney, the Opposition called for the Prime
Minister to name specific growth targets.

SCOTT MORRISON, OPPOSITION IMMIGRATION SPOKESMAN: What will be the population under Julia Gillard's
policies? What will the rate of net overseas migration under Julia Gillard's policies? Where will
she make the cuts to migration under her policies?

JOHN STEWART: But the electorally volatile questions of just how big and how fast are the ones the
Government may struggle to answer.

John Stewart, Lateline.