Interview with Keiran Gilvert and Laura Jayes, Sky News

Kieran Gilbert: First though, Laura, the focus on cutting the immigration intake, the Population Minister will be with us in just a moment.

Laura Jayes: Yeah, absolutely. The Prime Minister has flagged possible changes to Australia’s immigration ceiling, addressing the annual Bradfield Oration in Sydney, Scott Morrison said the rate of population growth is putting pressure on infrastructure in our major cities. Joining us now is the Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, Alan Tudge.

Minister, thanks so much for your time. The Prime Minister has flagged this possible permanent reduction. What visa category would lose out?

Alan Tudge: Well, what the Prime Minister flagged last night was that instead of us setting the migration levels top down, we’re going to reverse that and do a bottom up approach by asking the states and territories what are their population plans, what carrying capacity do they have in their big cities and in their states and then we’ll aggregate the migration figures from there.

Now, we expect as a result of that process that the overall cap in the permanent migration intake will be lower than what it has been but let’s go through that process first.

Kieran Gilbert: So, when you look at this being the message from Scott Morrison, it does seem to be contradictory with his position in February of this year when he was arguing very strongly the Treasury position that you cut migration, there’s a hit to the budget. What’s changed?

Alan Tudge: And in fact last night in his Bradfield Oration, he still did discuss the economic benefits that we get from migration and they assist us growing our economy, they assist in terms of per capita growth as well.

But we’ve got to get the balance right and in part we’ve got to get the balance also in the distribution of the growth because nearly all the population growth has been in our three big capitals of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane whereas there’s other parts of the country who are crying out for more people.

And so that’s why we’re saying we need a much more nuanced approach to this population discussion and indeed to the migration discussion and understand exactly what the aspirations are and the carrying capacities and the desires of each of the big cities in the regions and try to build our population to support those aspirations in carrying capacity. And that’s quite a different approach to what we’ve done in the past.

Laura Jayes: Well, temporary and permanent visa categories would need to be considered according to the Prime Minister. So, what does that mean, would that potentially include limiting the number of student visas or tourist visas, do you rule any category of visas out here?

Alan Tudge: Well, this is part of the complexity of our migration program, when some people have come out and just argued, just straight out let’s just cut the migration program. You’ve got to consider the fact that half of the people who- about half of our permanent migration intake are from people who are already in the country on temporary visas and then they transition into permanent migration.

And so, we’ve got to be thinking about those temporary migration settings as well when we’re considering our overall migration settings which of course then goes into our population discussion. And so, that’s what we’ve been foreshadowing to the states and territories as well.

Think very carefully about this, let’s be careful that we don’t interrupt very significant industries such as our international export industry, let’s think about the businesses who need people and are sponsoring people in, the essential services that wouldn’t be able to operate unless we had migrants coming into the country.

At the same time understanding the fact that if everybody’s coming into Melbourne and Sydney – and the vast majority do – it puts enormous pressure on those cities and we absolutely hear that. There is very significant congestion problems in those two big cities particularly.

Kieran Gilbert: Okay. Ideally would you keep the- ideally would the government keep the immigration numbers where they are, the cap where it is, if you could ensure those coming into the country were settling outside of those two major cities?

Alan Tudge: Well, certainly one of the problems, Kieran, is that we’ve had nearly all of the population growth in those three areas; Melbourne, Sydney, South East Queensland – where other parts of the country actually want to grow more quickly. In the regions today there’s 46,000 job vacancies today and that’s grown by 18 per cent over the last two years.

So, the distribution of that growth is a key part of this. And what we want to do is that bottom up approach and have a much more tailored approach to our population and migration settings to cater for those different needs in different parts of the country.

Laura Jayes: You as the Population Minister, Alan Tudge, can’t identify- easily identify a category of visas that should be reduced, how do you expect the states to?

Alan Tudge: Well, some of the states have been calling publicly for a cut to the migration intake and we’ve said- well, we’re asking the states and territories what are your population plans? What are your aspirations? What are your carrying capacities in your big cities? And let’s then have that discussion as we aggregate then up our overall migration program.

Now, we- at the moment we set a cap on the permanent migration program but most of the temporay migration programs are demand-driven; if we have more international students coming, they get an international tourist visa, or more tourists, more Kiwis, et cetera. So, these are the discussions which we have to have and it’s not a straight forward discussion.

We’ve set the cap at the permanent level but we want to most importantly understand the carrying capacity of those two big cities – Melbourne and Sydney – who are absolutely feeling the congestion pressures at the moment and slightly ease the pressure on them.
Kieran Gilbert:

Is it likely that the government will just simply reduce the overall cap to the current intake? As we know, the government through the minister, Mr Dutton, have already reduced the numbers arriving nowhere near the cap of 190,000 a year. Will you just reduce it to the current intake and say you’ve done that and then you’ve matched your rhetoric with some action on that front?

Alan Tudge:

No. We've announced we'll go through a process, and as the result of that process is likely going to be a reduction in the migration intake. But we'll go through that process and then determine it from there, Kieran.

Laura Jayes: So are you saying then it will be up to the states to, I guess, dictate the level of humanitarian visas? How is that- how should that be up to the states?

Alan Tudge: Well, in part, we- the key problem at the moment is in our federation in relation to this area is that we've got the main lever for population growth – being the migration lever – but the states and territories are responsible for delivering the infrastructure, the schools, the hospitals, the housing approvals, et cetera to cater for that growth. And what we're trying to do with this new approach is blend those two things together much more tightly so that you don't get a disconnect between population growth and the service delivery and the infrastructure delivery on the ground.

And that, in course, includes all or all of the visa classes, Laura, and that's the discussion which we want to have. We want to listen to what the states have got to say in relation to that and that will input into our final decision. At the end of the day, we will determine the migration settings but they will have a much stronger input into our settings.

Kieran Gilbert: I want to ask you, just finally, before Laura and I let you go. In relation to this breaking news we've got for our viewers at the bottom of the screen they can see that Victoria Police have arrested three men in Melbourne over allegedly preparing and plotting terrorist acts.

This comes on the day that Melbourne sadly farewelled Sisto Malaspina, the victim of the most recent attack in your city. Have you got any reaction to that breaking news this morning?

Alan Tudge: You’re telling me this for the first time, Kieran, and I’m glad the security agencies have caught these guys. These are really serious issues which we have to face and we have to work together on.

And it’s particularly, I think, poignant today given that we’re having a state funeral for Sisto and while Melbourne is still mourning over his loss and still dealing with the consequences of the Bourke Street massacre.

Laura Jayes: Absolutely. Alan Tudge, thanks so much for your time this morning.

Alan Tudge: Thanks very much, Laura and Kieran.