Sydney, Feb 21 (IANS) Two senior Cabinet ministers in Australia on Wednesday rejected former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s proposal to cut the country’s migration intake, warning it could cost up to $5 billion over four years.
Abbott had proposed on Tuesday to cut the annual intake of immigrants in a bid to lower the cost of living, reduce pressure on infrastructure and the property market, and reduce crime rates, ABC News Australia reported.
He wants the permanent migration cap of 190,000 people to be reduced to 110,000.
“People who come as skilled migrants pay taxes, they make a net contribution to the economy,” Treasurer Scott Morrison said, adding that a reduction would “cut off your nose to spite your face”.
According to the Treasurer, the suggested cut would affect the budget by a deficit of 4 billion-5 billion Australian dollars over the next four years.
Abbott had advocated cutting the intake until the problems of infrastructure, employment, housing, violence and non-integration were addressed.
“I was the Immigration Minister for Tony Abbott and the permanent immigration intake that we have today was exactly the same that it was when he was Prime Minister (…) I don’t recall at any time there were any discussion that it should be lowered,” said Morrison.
He said that the intake has been stable since 2011 and a recent spike in population in the country was owing to temporary immigration by international students and backpackers with temporary work permits.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton hosed down the proposal, saying he believed the current immigration settings struck the right balance.
“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,” Dutton said.
“That’s been the wonderful history of migration in our country.”
Dutton had previously indicated he was willing to revise the permanent migration cap, but said on Wednesday that was a general comment about ensuring the cap was in the national interest.