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How much space is enough? Aussies ask.

Australia's population is set to grow 65 percent by 2050, a prediction that has many worried.

A monorail travels past the Sydney skyline, March 15, 2010. Australia's population, now at 22 million, is expected to rise to 35 million by 2050. (Daniel Munoz/Reuters)

SYDNEY, Australia — Australians, let it be said, like their space. Which is just as well, as they have more than most. But recent angst over projected dramatic population increases have many wondering how much space is enough for the average Aussie?

By 2050, Australia’s 22-million population is projected to grow to almost 36 million, an increase of 65 percent — making it the fastest growing industrialized country in the world, according to the Population Reference Bureau in Washington.

The rate of expansion will be even higher than India’s, and almost double the world’s average, which is predicted to be 38 percent. The only country whose population is growing more than Australia is Saudi Arabia.

After Australia’s Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan announced the projection in September 2009, the government was enthusiastic about the expansion: "I actually believe in a big Australia I make no apology for that. I actually think it's good news that our population is growing," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told the ABC 7.30 Report in October.

In 2007, Australia’s projected population in 2050 was just 28.5 million. Many were shocked at the potential increase and it didn’t take long for critics of a “big Australia” to appear.

Ken Henry, the Secretary Treasurer said in a speech in October that “we are not well placed to deal effectively with the environmental challenges posed by a population of 35 million.'' Prominent businessman Dick Smith told ABC News in January that Australia would run out of food.

The backlash against a “big Australia” has been strong enough to spur the creation of two anti-growth political parties: The Stable Population Party of Australia and the Stop Population Growth Now party.

The opposition party is using the contentious issue to gain votes in the up-coming federal elections, claiming that they will set target bands for population growth. “We simply cannot sign up Australia blind, as Kevin Rudd has done, to a population of 36 million by 2050,” said Tony Abbott the leader of the Liberal Party.

In April, Rudd created the position of a population minister, appointing Tony Burke to quell the opponents of Australia’s growth. Burke’s role was to set out a strategy for handling the rise in inhabitants by setting out infrastructural, environmental and economic targets.

Statistically, Australia has the space for more inhabitants. Its population is ranked as the 55th highest in the world, despite its substantial physical size — the sixth-largest country. However, 80 percent of its residents live on the coast, and only 6 percent of the country is considered arable.