Gillard signals change in direction for population policies

NEW Prime Minister Julia Gillard has signalled a change in direction for population policies. Distancing herself from the "big Australia" comments of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Gillard said "Australia should not hurtle down the track towards a big population. I don't support the idea of a big Australia... We need to stop, take a breath and develop policies for a sustainable Australia."

While not discouraging population growth, Gillard has softened the government's approach by aiming for 'sustainable' growth that is achieved in a steady pace, as opposed to 'hurtling'.

As part of the shift in direction, the recently created Minister for Population has had a change in name to Minister for Sustainable Population. Tony Burke will retain responsibility for the portfolio.

On Tuesday, Mr Burke told a population summit in Sydney the Government is taking a new approach and will not be rushed into putting out policies. "The consultation is real, Julia has set a clear starting point on that, which is different from the starting point of where Kevin Rudd was at," he said.

"I think it's important for the community consultation for that message to be given very clearly by the Prime Minister as to her starting point and her thinking," Mr Burke said.

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