RUNAWAY population growth will end the dream for many young Australians of ever owning their own home, says federal Labor backbencher Kelvin Thomson.

Mr Thomson has defied his party by saying Australia’s population should be capped at 26 million, disagreeing with his Government’s projection of 36 million by 2050.

Representing the inner Melbourne electorate of Wills, which is made up of 30 per cent immigrants, Mr Thomson believes Australia’s annual intake of migrants should be cut to 70,000.

Under the Rudd Government, migration has jumped to around 300,000 a year compared to 126,000 under the Howard Government.

Mr Thomson said tackling population growth was necessary to stop the dreams of owning your own from fading away. “Rising house prices and rising interest rates are leading to falling housing affordability and make it impossible for young Australians to own a home of their own,” he said.

He said the appointment of Tony Bourke as Minister for Population was a step in the right direction. “I believe Australia needs to have a population policy … but we still have quite a distance to go,” he said. “We need to take steps to stabilise our population.”

He said the Rudd Government should abolish the baby bonus, which costs around $1.4 billion annually, and put that money to educating and training young Australians and equipping them with skills. “The Government has not been supporting university places, apprenticeships and TAFEs in the way it needs to for over a decade now,” he said. “We’ve had these things flatlining and we need to put greater investment into these areas.”

In an address to federal Parliament last August, Mr Thomson outlined a 14-point plan for population reform which called for an end to the open door policy which allows New Zealanders to move here. In the speech he said the open-ended uncapped program made it impossible for Australia or New Zealand to implement a population policy.

He also called for a cut in the skilled migration program, sending overseas students home for two years for a cooling-off period before being eligible for permanent residence and increasing Australia’s foreign aid.