Half of Australians want to seen an end to the nation's immigration programme because they believe the country has too many people, according to a national poll.
Some 51% believe that with a population of 23 million compared to 19.6 million a decade ago, it is too high, the poll for the Sydney Daily Telegraph newspaper found.
The government has set its immigration programme for the year ending in June at 185,000 places, with another 13,750 slots available to refugees on humanitarian grounds. The immigration and refugee programme for 2012/13 is expected to reach a record 203,000 people, similar to the mass migration intakes of the 1960s.
But in the poll only 32% of respondents felt Australia should welcome more immigrants and almost two thirds, some 65%, said migrants should do more to adopt the Australian way of life.
Just a third of the 2,000 people questioned by Quantum Market Research for AustraliaSCAN believed overseas migration made Australia a more interesting and exciting place, down from almost half in 1995.
The number who believe the country has room to accommodate more people also plunged to less than a third, down from 42% a decade ago.
The responses revealed a marked swing away from the more tolerant attitudes of previous surveys conducted in 2005, 2001 and 1995, the newspaper said.
Bob Birrell, co-director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research and Reader in Sociology at Monash University, said fears over job security in the shaky global economy and local pressures on infrastructure were most likely behind the shift in opinion.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said migration had brought substantial economic and cultural benefits to Australia, but net overseas migration numbers had blown out under the Howard government due to an influx of low skilled workers who abused the system.'I think they are right to be worried, we have record levels of immigration and as a consequence we are allowing 100,000 migrants to enter the workforce at a time when employment growth is at a level lower than that,' he told the newspaper.
'People are concerned that the present rate of population growth is not sustainable and is going to make Australia a poorer place to live rather than a better one,' he added.
'Our immigration reforms are delivering a sustainable level of migration, while responding to labour market needs,' he said.