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Dutton’s plan to cut immigration would cost Australia’s economy ‘billions’, treasurer says | Peter Dutton


Peter Dutton’s plan to reduce permanent migration into Australia would “cost the economy billions of dollars” before anyone could begin to estimate the damage to the nation’s skills base, the treasurer Jim Chalmers says.

Responding to Dutton’s budget-in-reply speech, where the opposition leader announced a plan to reduce permanent migration by 25% to help ease the housing crisis, Chalmers said Dutton’s proposal would “cost the budget tens of billions of dollars”.

“But even the kinds of estimates that you see are conservative, because it is not possible to fully capture the damage that Peter Dutton would do to the skills base of this country, to our hospitals, to our building sites,” Chalmers said in an interview with the ABC Insiders program.

“These are the sorts of things he hasn’t thought through.”

Dutton promised to temporarily slash the permanent migration program by one-quarter from 185,000 to 140,000 for two years, then increasing it to 150,000 and then 160,000 in the following years.

Labor’s net migration figures, which include people on temporary visas, forecast 1.7m entrants over the next five years.

Dutton said the Coalition would also crack down on international student visas.

After the pandemic border closures, when people on international student visas received no government assistance, the Morrison government put in place a range of measures to encourage students to return, including refunding the cost of their visas and removing the caps on working hours.

The result was a swell of students as longterm holidaymakers also returned to Australia in record numbers. The immigration surge coincided with a domestic housing crisis.

But the Property Council of Australia reported international students only make up 4% of the private rental market. The government said with existing restrictions on foreign buyers in the domestic market, just under 5,000 Australian homes were sold to non-citizens over two years.

The Nationals leader, David Littleproud, said the Coalition would “work through the numbers”.

“This is this is about making sure that the balances are right … making sure that those priority areas are given that priority,” Littleproud told Sky on Sunday.

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Littleproud said the Nationals would work to ensure any future Coalition government maintained international student numbers to regional universities.

The coalition would also set up an agriculture visa that would allow migrants to work in regional Australia in farming jobs and periphery roles.

“They simply don’t have the labour force without them,” Littleproud said.

The Albanese government has also announced measures to cut migration and international student growth, but Chalmers said the government’s plan was considered and methodical.

“We’ve struck the most effective and most appropriate balance, which recognises we need to get the net overseas migration number down and the permanent number down a little bit as well,” he said.

“But we can do that in a way that doesn’t smash our economy and doesn’t smash the skills base of our economy, which is just as important.”



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