Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he believes in a “big Australia” and that the population forecast is good news for the country, but he does concede that it poses complex challenges.
“That is why we’re taking a leading position on climate change but also the long-term sustainability of the Murray-Darling and the proper provision of water supplies for the future.
“This Government is building for the future – we call it nation-building for the future. But let’s be optimistic about the fact this country’s growing, so many around the world are heading the other way.”
Mr Rudd says the Government is developing long-term plans for health, the environment and infrastructure.
“I actually believe in a big Australia I make no apology for that. I actually think it’s good news that our population is growing,” he said.
“Contrast that with many countries in Europe when it’s actually heading in the other direction. I think it’s good for us, it’s good for national security in the long-term, it’s good in terms of what we can sustain as a nation.”
Federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull says investment in water infrastructure will determine whether Australia can sustain 35 million people.
“I do welcome a larger population, but so long as we have the infrastructure to enable us all to live here in a sustainable way,” he said.
“And the great thing that is missing from Mr Rudd’s enthusiasm is any coherent long-term plans for water.”
And the Opposition’s sustainable development spokesman Bruce Billson says the Government has made big promises but doesn’t have a big plan.
“[It is] quite bitsy. They’re not connected to a strategic plan for our major cities,” he said.
“The Prime Minister might be excited about a big Australia but what I think Australians are concerned about is the Federal Labor Government has no plan for coping with this enlarged population.
“We’ve seen no coordinated strategic plan about how the population will be settled, no consideration about what extra pressure that will be putting on our environment.
“What concerns me is the lack of plan to accommodate that growing number of people in a sustainable way and in way that we can point to still maintaining and improving a great quality of life, prosperity and standard of living that’s the envy of the rest of the world.”