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Immigration the key to sustaining Australia's population.

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Immigration the Key to Sustaining Australia's Population MPS 047/2001

Immigration is the key to achieving a sustainable population for Australia, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Mr Philip Ruddock, said today as he announced the 2001-2002 Migration Program.

"Australia's fertility rate is declining and in about 30 to 40 years, deaths will begin to outnumber births for the first time in Australia's history," Mr Ruddock said.

"Without immigration we would reach that point much sooner and our population would begin to shrink and age rapidly."

Mr Ruddock said should that happen, Australia would find itself in the same situation many Western European nations and Japan are facing today.

"They have very low fertility rates and little planned immigration. As a consequence, they are looking straight down the demographic barrel," Mr Ruddock said.

"In contrast, Australia has an orderly Migration Program, which under the current government, has been restructured in a way that is now delivering major economic and budgetary benefits.

"This gives us the chance to achieve a stable population of around 24 -25 million by mid-century, with enormous environmental and demographic benefits.

"Our economy would also continue to grow as productivity increased, and there would be a sustainable balance between the size of the labour force and the population as a whole," Mr Ruddock said.

A demographic soft landing depended on maintaining an annual net overseas migration of at least 75,000, ensuring Australia's fertility rate did not fall much further, and continuing to encourage older workers to stay in the workplace longer.

"If the Migration Program I have announced today is perpetuated over the longer term, it would go some way to offsetting the impact on Australia's net overseas migration from the rising global competition for skilled people and the recent changes to social security access by New Zealanders," Mr Ruddock said.

27 April 2001 Media Contact: Steve Ingram (02) 6277 7860

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