April 3, 2010 / 4:14 AM / in 9 years

Australia to appoint population minister; develop strategy

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia is to create a new government post of minister for population tasked of developing an official population strategy, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Saturday.

Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd waves to members of the public in Melbourne March 31, 2010. Australia is to create a new government post of minister for population tasked of developing an official population strategy, Rudd said on Saturday. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas

Tony Burke, currently minister for agriculture, forestry and fisheries, will add the new job to his current portfolio, Rudd said. The new strategy is expected to take 12 months to develop.

Recent estimates have suggested Australia’s population could grow by more than 50 percent to around 35 million in the coming decades, from its current level of around 22 million, fuelled largely by immigration.

This has prompted concerns about whether such an increase is sustainable in the world’s driest continent.

Rudd said the objective was to look at the challenges and opportunities population growth would bring, examine its likely trajectory, minimise the risks and consider what infrastructure would be needed.

“The strategy will also seek to address the challenges associated with population growth, including the impact on the environment, water, and urban congestion,” Rudd said.

An election is due later this year, but Rudd said he hoped development of a population strategy would continue whether the Labour government or conservative opposition won it.

(Editing by David Fox)

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