Scott Morrison is promising to freeze the annual refugee migrant intake at its current rate of 18,750 a year for the next three years if he wins the election.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the cap on Sunday as part of proposed adjustments to Australia’s immigration system. It is a direct challenge to Labor leader Bill Shorten, who plans to gradually lift the humanitarian intake to 32,000 a year.
Labor is planing to increase Australia’s humanitarian intake from 18,750 to 32,000 by 2025-26, with 27,000 government-sponsored places and 5,000 community-sponsored ones. Shorten describe the move as “strong, compassionate, and sustainable.”
But Morrison has challenged Labor’s policy, asking Shorten to explain how he would pay for the planned increase and to say who he would be allowing to come into the country.
“It’s time for Bill Shorten and Labor to front up and tell Australians about their $6 billion plan to massively increase immigration and where they’re going to house thousands of extra people,” he said.
“We’ve been upfront with Australia, we’re reducing the cap on our migration intake and capping the numbers of people we let in under our humanitarian program that’s one of the most generous in the world,” he said.
“We’re telling people where we’ll be taking migrants from, who they will be, the skills we want them to have and working with regions to settle people in towns that want and need more workers, skills and students.”
Labor says the coalition has actually budgeted for an extra 155,000 migrants, students, and temporary workers to arrive on top of original forecasts.
After budgeting for a migration decline in 2018, Labor says the 2019 budget predicts an extra 155,000 migrants will arrive on top of what the coalition originally expected.
The Coalition pledged last month to slash the nation’s immigration levels from 190,000 a year to 160,000 a year to “ease the pressure on the big capitals.”
“We’re freezing the immigration levels at the level we’ve reduced them to,” Morrison told ABC radio on Sunday.
“That’s because we’ve got to keep population growth under control in our big cities.
“It’s putting a lot of pressure on people, particularly in the outer suburbs and we need to invest in the infrastructure and let the population growth get under control so we can catch up a bit.”
The capped refugee intake will include an offshore component target of 60 per cent for women, up from 50.8 per cent in 2017/18.
The Women at Risk Program will be increased as a proportion of the offshore component from 14 per cent to 20 per cent.
Morrison says a coalition government will aim to get 40 per cent of refugee arrivals to go to regional areas—but they won’t be forced to go to places that can’t support or accommodate them.
Along with the refugee intake cap, Morrison will announce $167 million worth of road and car parking upgrades in Western Sydney.
“This is about taking Western Sydney from being just about growth, to an even better place to live and get around,” Morrison says.
“We’ve got our borders and the budget under control. We make decisions about who comes here based on what’s in Australia’s interests.
“Our plan for Australia’s future population is about busting congestion, ensuring our economy has skilled employees and helping those towns and regions crying out for workers, skills and students.
“Australia isn’t just about growing our population, it’s about quality of life.”
By Angus Livingston. With additional reporting by Epoch Times staff.