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Wednesday, 28 February 1973
Page: 34

Mr LAMB (LA TROBE, VICTORIA) - I desire to ask the Minister for Immigration a question. Now that the question of an immigration policy is seen more in the context of Australia's manpower and economic programmes as well as part of the overall view of population growth and decentralisation, I ask whether the Government has in its long term planning considerations given any attention to long term population targets? Further, will the Minister have examined the range of assessments of the population Australia can support, which have been made by technical authorities, some of those authorities having given estimates as high as 100 million people?

Mr GRASSBY - It is true that many assessments have been made by various agencies of what would be the desirable or optimum population of Australia. I have heard estimates ranging from 20 million to 30 million to 50 million to 100 million people. I have also heard it suggested that we should try to keep our population at exactly its present level, which would impose considerable restraints on those honourable members who are still reasonably fertile. The question posed by the honourable member is one that has real significance because obviously if we are to have long term objectives for the nation we must have some idea of our targets for the future in relation to the size, structure and distribution of the Australian population. There has been under way for some time - and I acknowledge that - a general population investigation and study by a team headed by Professor Borrie of the Australian National University. This study is the most comprehensive that has ever been attempted. It was already under way when I took office. I have conferred with Professor Borrie and asked him as far as possible to speed up the completion of his report so that we can have the raw material for decision making in the future. We have not got it at the present time. I hope we will get it by perhaps June 1974. It might be just as well to acknowledge at this stage that a full and definitive reply will be made to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - I think I am right in using that title - who has placed a very commendable question on the notice paper about the survey. I will be delighted to answer it in full. But that is the state of affairs at the moment. The inquiry is under way. I have asked that it be accelerated. I hope that its findings will be available midway through next year and I anticipate that it will give us the raw material for decision making about the future size of the population of Australia.

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