PRIME Minister Julia Gillard announced on Saturday that the 43rd federal election will be held on Saturday 21st August and took no time to reiterate her sentiments that Australia's population growth must be sustainable.
At a speech in Brisbane the following day, Ms Gillard told how she did not believe in the idea of a 'big Australia'.
"My position on our nation's future sustainability is plain and clear. I do not believe in the idea of a 'big Australia', an Australia where we push all the policy levers into top gear to drive population growth as high as it can be," Ms Gillard said.
Saying that Australia "should not hurtle down the track towards a big population," Ms Gillard said the goal was to create a sustainable Australia, while stating that Australia should not "cease to be a nation that embraces diversity or welcomes newcomers."
Australia's first ever population strategy, being developed by Minister for Sustainable Population Tony Burke would be completed early in the Government's next term if re-elected, Ms Gillard said.
Highlighting the issues facing cities such as water insecurity, road congestion and housing affordability, Ms Gillard said there are other parts of the nation where "growth is both possible and necessary."
"Indeed some parts of our country are crying out for more workers regions that can expand sustainably with the right planning, services and support to do so."
An announcement at the speech was the creation of the Building Better Regional Cities program, which Ms Gillard said would fund local councils to invest in infrastructure to help overcome housing shortages.
"Building Better Regional Cities will help change situations like that [housing shortages] by enabling councils to fast track existing plans to build housing for families in well designed sustainable neighbourhoods. That will help relieve the nation's housing supply deficit and take pressure off our bigger urban centres such as Brisbane and Sydney."
The program is proposed to fund about 15 regional centres, with each receiving approximately $15 million, from a total funding pool of about $200 million. The proposed program would be budget-neutral, with funding coming "from a reprioritisation of existing funding for housing."
Presenting the plan as a key to achieving a sustainable Australia, Ms Gillard said the program was about partnerships.
"I say to regional Australia, let us use common sense and hard work as our compass and partnership as our way ahead. I want to work very closely with you. I want to help you achieve your goals so that together we can build a sustainable Australia."
To secure funding under the Building Better Regional Cities program, eligible councils will need to put forward proposals for infrastructure projects that will help to deliver affordable housing. Councils will also be required to demonstrate availability of land for housing, community support for new development and strong projected jobs growth.
In addition, Councils will need to demonstrate good urban design and environmental improvements and meet appropriate planning benchmarks.
Cities eligible to be involved in the initiative -
Tweed Heads (NSW)
Wagga Wagga (NSW)
Coffs Harbour (NSW)
Port Macquarie (NSW)
Gold Coast (QLD)
Sunshine Coast (QLD)
Hervey Bay (QLD)
Mount Gambier (SA)