All talk? She’s been saying this ever since she got the top job but no details so far on how she will do it

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is set to deliver a speech in Brisbane today to quell concerns surrounding the stresses on Australia’s cities from a rising population.

There is likely to be a major focus on Australia’s population and immigration levels during the five-week election campaign….

When Kevin Rudd was prime minister he said he made “no apologies for a big Australia” but Ms Gillard has already made it clear that she is not in favour of that.

Today Ms Gillard will use a speech to the Eidos Institute in Brisbane to state Labor’s case for a sustainable population that would support people’s quality of life.

She will say that it is “no surprise that people living in the suburbs of Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and the Gold Coast are concerned by the talk of our population rushing to 36 or 40 million.”

Just days after she took over the prime ministership from Kevin Rudd, Ms Gillard changed the title of Tony Burke’s portfolio from population to sustainable population.

This morning Mr Burke told ABC1’s Insiders that there are serious issues of congestion in Australia’s cities. “There has been a practice for years in Australia that will just keep packing more and more people into the same handful of cities,” he said. “The word sustainability actually gets us back to the core principle of asking the question, it’s not just about constant economic growth driven by property prices continuing to soar.”

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has told Sky News the Government is panicking on the issue. “Julia Gillard says she is against Kevin Rudd’s big Australia. She never said that when Kevin Rudd announced it,” he said. “It does look like a panicked change of policy with the election in the offing.”

Mr Abbott also says a Coalition government would take a different approach to the immigration intake. “I’m not against a higher population,” he said. “What I completely reject is that we should just take for granted that we’re going to bring in 180,000 or 300,000 [immigrants], which are the current figures, year in year out, come what may come 2050 and beyond.”

Mr Abbott did not specify what he the immigration intake would be under the Coalition but said it should be reassessed each year.

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