Peter Dutton promises to slash migration and spending in Budget reply

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Katina Curtis
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has unveiled an election pitch based on slashing migration numbers, nuclear power and stronger laws to protect community safety.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has unveiled an election pitch based on slashing migration numbers, nuclear power and stronger laws to protect community safety. Credit: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images

Slashing migration to free up houses, $400 million to convince trainee doctors to become GPs and tougher laws on knife crime and domestic violence are central to Peter Dutton’s budget reply — and election pitch.

The Opposition Leader used his speech on Thursday night to promise to get the country “back on track” – a slogan made to be splashed across every Liberal Party communication for the next year — and to make life easier.

He pledged to wave through the $300 household power bill rebates from the Government’s budget but is baulking at the production tax credits for critical minerals processing and green hydrogen, labelling them “corporate welfare”.

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Mr Dutton accused Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of breaking promises that people would be better off under Labor.

“Ask yourself: Are you better off today than you were two years ago? Do you feel safer or more secure than you did two years ago?,” he said.

“Prime Minister, Australians are genuinely hurting under your Government – they’re not ‘Chicken Littles’.”

He strongly attacked the high migration levels of the past two years as student and tourism numbers rebounded after the COVID-era border closures ended.

He linked record immigration with the struggle for many people to find a house to buy or rent, saying changing the settings could free up as many as 100,000 homes over the next five years.

The Government has promised to build 1.2 million homes over that time but experts warn it is likely to fall short.

A Coalition government would cut the permanent migration program by a quarter to 140,000 for two years, then gradually increase it, and similarly cut the number of refugees Australia takes in each year.

There would be a two-year ban on foreign investors and temporary residents buying existing houses.

It would also cap international student numbers – something the Government is doing – and make those who switched providers to extend stays pay higher visa fees.

But in an effort to deal with workforce pressures, it would let those international students work an extra 12 hours a fortnight, and offer larger incentives to pensioners and veterans to also work more.

He pledged a “back-to-basics” economic plan with six elements: reining in spending, winding back regulation including environmental approvals, dumping industrial relations changes, lowering taxes, changing competition laws to benefit small business, and offering cheaper energy.

On the energy front, Mr Dutton again spruiked nuclear power but stopped short of unveiling a full, costed policy, despite promising earlier in the year to do so before the Budget.

He said nuclear power offered the best yield of energy per square metre and minimised environmental damage.

“We do that by putting new nuclear technologies on — or near — the brownfield sites of decommissioned or retiring coal-fired power plants using the existing grid,” he said.

“Making Australia a nuclear-powered nation is right for our country and will secure a future of cheaper, consistent and cleaner electricity.”

In the past Mr Dutton has drawn on his pre-politics career as a police officer to demonstrate the empathy he felt for victims of crimes including domestic violence, but on Thursday he used that and his experience as Home Affairs minister to say he knew how and when to make tough decisions on community safety.

He promised his government would push the States and Territories to develop uniform knife laws and tighten bail laws for domestic violence perpetrators. It would also crack down on technology-assisted abuse including threats, spyware or stalking.

“I made our country and citizens safer. As Prime Minister, I will do it again,” Mr Dutton said.

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