Tony Abbott delivered his much anticipated speech to the Sydney Institute last night where he called Australia’s annual immigration intake to be cut from 190,000 a year to 110,000 as a way to ease employment, welfare, housing affordability and integration pressures. An advance of the speech was reported by the Daily Telegraph and Tony Abbott also appeared on the Bolt Report that night to promote his proposal.
Abbott also attacked what he was seeing as the political establishment becoming more detached from Australia at large. He called this the “insiders versus outsiders” phenomena pervading western democracies and also the emergence of a “talking class” and “working class”.
Not surprisingly then today his speech was not received well by the political establishment from both sides of politics. Labor’s Penny Wong dismissed Tony Abbott’s contribution entirely and claiming it was “more Tony Abbott attention seeking”. She went on to state “My view on immigration, Labor’s view, is you have a level of immigration that government judges is right for the country including the right mix of skilled migration, the right mix of humanitarian migration”.
But it was the rebuke from his own side that was more scathing. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann himself an immigrant to Australia spoke of the virtues of migration “Every young migrant that comes to Australia to make Australia his or her home and takes a job, pays taxes to help fund the services provided by government”.
Scott Morrison who was Immigration Minister under Tony Abbott claimed his proposal would cost the budget $4-5 billion per year because it involved cutting skilled migration. He claimed the government was getting the migration balance right “People should come to make a contribution, not take one. That’s the immigration policy we’re running”. He also questions Tony Abbott’s sincerity in promoting this policy stating that as Prime Minister “I don’t recall at any time there was any discussion that that should be lowered at that time”.
Even Peter Dutton during his appearance at the National Press Club today who only last week on 2GB appeared to be receptive to the idea of cutting migration now said “I want to bring people in as young as possible, as highly skilled as possible so they’re paying taxes for longer, they’re contributing to Australian society and they’re helping build our nation” repeating the line that the government has got the balance right.
The current rate of immigration is an issue concerning the Australian public at large. Victoria is suffering currently from an African youth gang crime wave and our security agencies are repeatedly thwarting Islamic terror threats. But by today’s responses to Abbott’s modest proposal it would appear the current bipartisan approach to immigration is not going to be changing anytime soon. The only real difference in immigration policy between the major parties regards people coming to Australia by boat.
It is clear the Australian public is going to have to make a lot more noise about issue of immigration before either of the major parties start listening.