Strathfield’s Population Minister

The new Federal Minister for Population, Tony Burke, took part in what may well have been his first election campaign in Strathfield while still a schoolboy.

As vice captain of St Patrick’s College in 1987, perhaps his best-known achievement was when he orchestrated a charity campaign, “Target Ten Thousand” to raise money for a children’s charity.

Morris Iemma, the former NSW Premier, signed him to the Labor Party. Burke went on to work for Graham Richardson, former minister and powerbroker.

 In April he was elevated to the new and controversial portfolio, a post he holds in conjunction with his Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry duties.

Asked why he was chosen for the job, Burke told journalists: “Because I grew up in our biggest city and have spent the last two-and-a-half years in country and remote Australia.”

Whether his knowledge of Strathfield will affect the way he views the growth of Australia’s population, only time will tell.

He lives with his wife and three daughters in the Watson electorate just south of Strathfield.

The Scene asked his office for comment, but at the time of going to press, had not received a reply.

Burke’s job is to try and balance the growth of Australia’s population with resources – a dilemma only too familiar to Strathfield planners.

His appointment has been questioned by political opponents: Opposition leader Tony Abbot said the logical man for the job would have been Immigration Minister Chris Evans.

Present immigration policies are also under attack. The opposition's spokesman on immigration, Scott Morrison, has been quoted as saying the annual intake of 300,000 is too high. A Lowy Institute poll reported that 69 per cent of Australians would prefer a population of 30 million or less, as opposed to the Federal treasury projection that the population would be 36 million by 2050.

Burke says that Australians need to accept that the population will grow, and his position was not one of counting people.

Burke concedes that his main challenge is equipping particular regions, such as Strathfield, with the infrastructure necessary to cope with a projected boom in numbers.


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