A state Liberal leader is downplaying his own suggestion that Australia could be invaded if it failed to maintain high population growth.
NSW Opposition Leader Mark Speakman says it is in the country’s best interests “economically and strategically” to have “sustained but sustainable population growth”.
The country’s booming population since World War II had made it a stronger nation, including having a larger tax base in order to afford a strong defence force, he said.
“I’m not suggesting we’re going to be invaded in the next year or five years or necessarily at all,” Mr Speakman told Sydney radio 2GB on Wednesday.
“I’m just making the point that, in the long run, you have a stronger economy and a stronger country if you have a steady increase in population.”
The former attorney-general’s comments came after he told the Daily Telegraph there was a risk Australia might not be able to “securely maintain occupation” of the continent without significant population growth.
He noted that Australia was “lightly populated … at the bottom of Asia”, which was home to half of the world’s population despite “incredible” strains on resources and the potential for widespread displacement due to climate change.
In contrast, Mr Speakman’s federal colleagues have accused the Albanese government of a “big Australia by stealth policy” that had worsened housing shortages through high immigration.
NSW Health Minister Ryan Park called on the opposition leader to explain exactly what he meant.
“They’re bizarre comments, very bizarre comments,” he said.
Mr Speakman later said his comments were “a bit too colourful” and part of a “free-flowing conversation” with the publication and he did not believe Australia’s immigration rates were appropriate.
Australia’s population grew by more than 550,000 people, or a rate of 2.2 per cent, in the year to the end of March 2023, four-fifths of which was driven by net overseas migration.
“That’s way over the 250,000-a-year average we had pre-COVID, so I think there’s a case for taking the foot off the accelerator a bit at the moment because we’ve got enormous problems in housing,” Mr Speakman said.
(Australian Associated Press)