Labor claims ‘biggest cut to migration in Australian history’. Peter Dutton says it’s still too high

Ellen Ransley
The Nightly
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said Thursday’s figures showed the Government was on track to deliver its promise to undertake “the biggest cut to migration in Australian history, outside of war or pandemic”. 
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said Thursday’s figures showed the Government was on track to deliver its promise to undertake “the biggest cut to migration in Australian history, outside of war or pandemic”.  Credit: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Australia’s population grew 2.5 per cent in the final three months of 2023, and while the bulk of that was made up of migrants, there are early signs the net overseas migration rate is stabilising.

In new figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday, net overseas migration (arrivals less departures) was 107,300 people in the December quarter — down 13.9 per cent from the previous quarter.

While over the entire 2023, net overseas migration was 547,300, the Government says the slowdown in the final quarter is a sign its work to stabilise migration is working.

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A post-pandemic surge of international students and temporary skilled visas led to a then-record high number of arrivals in 2022-23 of 518,000, but the Government forecast that to fall to 395,000 in this current financial year, and then 265,000 in 2024-25.

The Government has announced a series of measures designed to bring those forecasts to fruition, including cracking down on international students and capping temporary skilled visas.

plane, airport, transportation
There are early signs the net overseas migration rate is stabilising.  Credit: JFK_Photography/Pixabay

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said Thursday’s figures showed the Government was on track to deliver its promise to undertake “the biggest cut to migration in Australian history, outside of war or pandemic”.

“Migration is too high, and we’ve taken real action to bring it back to sustainable levels,” she said.

“Migration is coming down from the post-COVID peak, and we are on track to halve net overseas migration.

“We need a migration system that is sustainable but still delivers the economic growth and skills that we need. That’s what we’re building.”

The Coalition’s immigration spokesman Dan Tehan said Labor was responsible for bringing more migrants to Australia than any other Government.

“As Australians struggle with finding a place to live, with congestion on our roads, and with pressure on services like seeing a GP, Labor’s record pace of migration is not sustainable,” he said.

“Australians don’t trust Labor to manage immigration, and for good reason.”

Opposition leader Peter Dutton used his Budget reply speech last month to announce a Coalition government would reduce annual permanent migration from 185,000 to 140,000.

Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor then said the Coalition would look to cut net migration by 25 per cent over three years, contradicting the figures put forward by Mr Dutton.

Nevertheless, Mr Dutton on Thursday said Australians expected the Government to better manage migration, which if too high risked exacerbating the housing crisis.

“The (migration figures) may have come down slightly, but they’re nowhere near what’s required to answer the question about what do we do about housing,” Mr Dutton said.

“We need to manage migration.”

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