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Labor MP calls for population cap -

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ELEANOR HALL: While the Federal Government scrambles to avoid having to bring the 78 Sri Lankans to
Australia for processing, the Federal Labor MP Kelvin Thomson has thrown a wild card into the
immigration debate.

He says the Federal Government should almost double Australia's refugee intake to 20,000 people.

But he's calling for the country's overall immigration numbers to be slashed from 200,000 to just
70,000.

Mr Thompson said this is part of a plan that he launched today to stabilise Australia's population.

He's warning that recent projections of a population of 35 million would see the nation "sleep
walking into environmental disaster"; and he is also calling for the Government to axe the Baby
Bonus and cut family payments.

Mr Thomson has been speaking to Sabra Lane.

KELVIN THOMSON: I think the first point about the Oceanic Viking is that it reminds us that the
number of people leaving their homelands and seeking refuge is on the increase.

And the underlying cause of this is conflict over access to scarce resources - land, food, water -
and these are portents of global breakdown and they should serve as warning signs of the problems
that rampant global population growth is causing and get us to focus on the underlying problem
rather than the symptoms.

I am in favour of taking in more refugees. I think we could go from 13,750 to 20,000. This needs to
be done through proper international due process and people should not be encouraged to take to
boats. It's simply not safe. But I certainly support the Government's endeavours to achieve that
outcome.

SABRA LANE: You've presented a 14-point plan for population reform of Australia. What's at the
heart of your plan?

KELVIN THOMSON: The present projections are that we will reach 35 million by 2050 and I regard that
as a recipe for environmental disaster, having very adverse impacts on our native wildlife, on our
capacity to reduce Australia's carbon emissions, on the availability of food, water, energy and
land and the impact on our major cities - turning Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane into overcrowded
concrete jungles.

So the plan involves stabilising our population at 26 million in particular by cutting net overseas
migration to 70,000 per annum. That would involve a substantial cut to the skilled migration
program, which is presently in access of 100,000, bringing that back 25,000 where it used to be.

Holding the family reunion program at around 50,000 per annum, but it allows scope to increase the
refugee program, presently 13,750 to 20,000 per annum.

SABRA LANE: They're significant cuts. How do you think that debate will play out in Australia? It
usually gets quite heated.

KELVIN THOMSON: Well it has been a difficult discussion but we need to have it. The truth is if we
don't have the conversation and the discussion about it we will sleepwalk our way into an
environmental disaster.

I believe we have an obligation to pass on to our children and grandchildren a world and an
Australian way of life in as good a condition as the one our parents and grandparents gave to us.

SABRA LANE: You've also suggested abolishing the Baby Bonus and reducing expenditure on family
payments for those couples who have three children or more. Why are you advocating those things?

KELVIN THOMSON: I believe that this money would be much better spent in boosting the levels of
university and vocational education in Australia. The Baby Bonus, if it has any effect, if
encourages women to have children for the wrong reasons.

Children should be loved and wanted and not seen as a potential source of income. I think if we
boost the number of places being offered by universities we have a situation where eligible
students don't miss out on a place, which is presently what occurs.

We could also boost funding for TAFE and boost funding for apprentices. Australia needs to have a
high skilled, high trained workforce.

SABRA LANE: You're also suggesting as part of the refugee component of your 14-point plan that we
should be making room for genuine climate refugees.

KELVIN THOMSON: That's right. There is a distinct prospect that in future, low-lying islands in
Pacific will be rendered uninhabitable by sea level rise and storm surges and I think our refugee
criteria should be altered to enable us to accept people from the Pacific Islands provided they can
demonstrate that their former homes are genuinely uninhabitable as a consequence of climate change.

SABRA LANE: You've called for this issue of population to be on the Copenhagen conference next
month. Is it?

KELVIN THOMSON: At present it does not seem to be there and I think that's a great pity. Al Gore
has identified population growth as one of the big three drivers of increased greenhouse gas
emissions and I believe that any serious attempt to meet carbon reduction targets needs to be
against a background of stabilising global population.

Unless we address the issue of population, we're fighting global warming with at least one arm tied
behind our back.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Labor MP Kelvin Thomson, speaking there with Sabra Lane.