Riverina MP and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has backed further migration and population growth due to the needs of regional areas.
Mr McCormack made the comments to ABC radio on Tuesday, the day that Australia’s population was forecast to hit 25 million at about 11pm.
Mr McCormack declined to name a population level that Australia should maintain but said the nation needed more people.
“Australia needs more population; many of our regions are crying out for more people to be able to fill the jobs and take advantage of trade opportunities (in Asia),” he said.
“To make sure sure we can grow the food and fibre once the rain returns.
Once the drought is over, we are going to be a nation that goes so far ahead in so many ways, but we need a population and that can only come through good immigration polices, which we have.”
The NSW government has set a 100,000 population target for Wagga to hit by the year 2038.
Mayor Greg Conkey previously said the city can reach that level but would continue to rely on overseas migration.
Australia’s population milestone has prompted debate about how many more people capital cities like Sydney and Melbourne can support without massive infrastructure upgrades.
Mr McCormack said the federal government had a “10-year pipeline” of infrastructure projects to ease congestion and cuts taxes.
Amid complaints about urban traffic jams, crowded trains and unaffordable housing, the debate has at times touched on claims that Australia is admitting too many migrants.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott has called on Australia to cut its immigration intake, which was backed by NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley but rejected by federal Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Treasurer Scott Morrison.
Federal Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge told Sky News on Tuesday that 87 per cent of people in the skilled migration program end up in Melbourne or Sydney.
“The issue of population is partially a distribution issue and we’re working hard to make sure more migrants settle in smaller states and in the regions,” he said.