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Please explain ‘sustainable population’? says NFF

19 July 2010

WHAT exactly is a sustainable Australia? Yesterday Prime Minister Julia Gillard picked up on the National Farmers’ Federations (NFF’s) 2010 Federal Election Policy Platform, specifically the peak farm body’s population issues.

Ms Gillard’s speech to the Eidos Institute noted:

“The direction I choose for Australia is the path of sustainability, taking the pressure off regions under stress and supporting regions that need and welcome growth.

“The NFF is one of many voices contributing to this debate and has put population sustainability at the centre of their priorities for this election. They say for too long, not enough has been done to help regional towns and cities to grow. To quote the NFF’s election platform:

“Future governments will need to address this country’s perennial failure to develop and service major population and commercial centres outside of capital cities.”

“Without any shadow of a doubt – the farmers are right.”

“Clearly, Prime Minister Gillard is moving away from Kevin Rudd’s notion of a big Australia,” NFF President David Crombie said. “But it was the Government’s own Inter-Generational Report that projects population growth taking us to 36 million people by 2050 in the first place.

“To a significant extent, population growth is organic and beyond government influence. Therefore, if the Government is to intervene in limiting or reducing population growth, how will it do so and what constitutes a ‘sustainable population’ target?

“To the extent that population growth, at whatever rate, is inevitable, what will the Government do to make good on the NFF’s call for ‘major population and commercial centres’ in regional Australia?

“It is pleasing the Prime Minister recognises the issues we raise, however, we’re looking for more rigor... we need clear intent backed with clear commitments.

“Ms Gillard’s notion of a sustainable Australia needs explanation. We’re only days into a five-week election campaign, so we anticipate significantly more detail from all political parties in the days ahead.

“Our policy platform articulates a suite of initiatives to tackle population and the suffocating impacts already being experienced in metropolitan areas, including:

  • Worthwhile tax breaks for businesses and families in regional areas,
  • infrastructure investment to making living and working in regional Australia attractive and viable,
  • genuine telecommunication investment and services that provide clarity today and into the future (this is lacking in the National Broadband Network rhetoric), and
  • a major rethink on workforce skills and capacity, to fill chronic job shortages in regional Australia.

“Almost 90% of Australians are crammed into 3% of the country – that’s anything but sustainable.”

[ENDS]

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