Flyer helps take heat out of immigration

THE Gillard government, no fan of ”big Australia”, is bringing all sides of the population debate into the tent as it seeks to manage the issue before the election.Critics of rapid population growth, including the former NSW premier Bob Carr, as well as business supporters of migration have been named on three advisory panels formed to help the Minister for Sustainable Population, Tony Burke, produce a national population policy.The government is sensitive enough about the issue to have sent flyers to the western Sydney electorate of Maquarie reminding voters that Julia Gillard does not support the idea of a fast-growing population.Mr Burke, who had ”sustainable” added to his job title when Ms Gillard became Prime Minister, yesterday named Mr Carr, the Australian Industry Group chief Heather Ridout and Professor Graeme Hugo to help advise the government on population growth issues.Some panel members will have the chance to advance their already established views on the topic.”My record on population issues is pretty clear,” said the national secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union, Paul Howes, who will sit on the productivity and prosperity panel.”I think there’s a very strong economic case to look at how immigration can assist our country. I’ve got a job as a union official to ensure that my members have strong employment for the future. What I know is that for every immigrant, you create three jobs.”On that matter Mr Howes’s views diverge from another union leader, the national secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, John Sutton, who is more circumspect on the benefits of a growing population.”There needs to be a lot of consideration to these things, and not some bull-at-a-gate charge to a big number,” said Mr Sutton, who has been appointed to the panel on sustainable development.”There are certain economists who run a very simple agenda that big immigration is a uniform good and all we need to do is bring in ever-increasing numbers [of migrants] and she’ll be right. I don’t subscribe to that. I and my organisation support immigration … but it has to be looked at in a careful and a planned way.”The panels will report to Mr Burke by year’s end, with a national population policy to be produced next year.
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