SYDNEY - The premier of New South Wales (NSW) wants immigration to Australia's most populous state halved, insisting that it is buckling under the pressure of too many people. Gladys Berejiklian is blaming successive federal governments for 'losing control' of migration.
Gladys Berejiklian is the daughter of Armenian migrants but says that Australia is opening its doors to too many new settlers.
She says she is an enthusiastic supporter of multiculturalism in a country where more than a quarter of the population was born overseas but stresses that the number of immigrants arriving in New South Wales has more than doubled in a decade. She wants that figure cut in half.
The premier insists that it is unsustainable and is putting an unrelenting strain on the state's roads, hospitals and schools, which can't cope with the influx.
"What I have said is we definitely need to take a breather. We need to look at the numbers, the numbers have gone up from about 45,000 [migrants] about ten years ago to now 100,000. We are welcoming about 100,000 to New South Wales every year. I am suggesting that number needs to be reduced, we need to take a breather. The states have never had a voice when it comes to immigration or population policy. I think that needs to change," said Berejiklian.
Earlier this year Australia's population hit 25 million for the first time. The debate is divisive. There is an argument that because of congestion in the major cities and unaffordable housing that immigration should be scaled back. Then there is the view that migrants reinvigorate the economy.
The population is increasing, on average, by one extra person every 83 seconds. The largest groups of new migrants are coming from India and China.
The latest official prediction is that the number of people here will double to almost 50 million over the next 40 years.
Another key part of Australia's immigration policies surround refugees. Unauthorized migrants who arrive by boat have been detained in controversial offshore processing camps in the South Pacific.
An Australian-sponsored facility in Papua New Guinea closed last year, but asylum seekers and refugees are still being held on the tiny island of Nauru. They have no prospect of being resettled in Australia under tough measures that the government in Canberra insists protect the nation's maritime borders. Critics, though, say that indefinite offshore detention is 'cruel and inhumane.'