Sky News Live interview with Laura Jayes

Laura Jayes: And on that note, let's go to Alan Tudge now. He's the Minister responsible, he'll be making the announcement later today. Alan Tudge, thank you for your time. What is wrong with the data you have at the moment? What information don't you have available to you? What resources don't you have to make these decisions?

Alan Tudge: G'day, Laura. In essence, what the Centre for Population will do is aggregate a lot of the different data sets that we already have. Now, we have about eight different data sets within the Commonwealth Government which aren't integrated at the moment. So the first step is going to be to integrate that data. And then ideally we integrate the State Governments' data as well that concerns population. Second, we do want to have better forecasting capability. Typically, at the moment, we've actually done more projections rather than forecasts, and what I mean by that is that you tend to look backwards as to what's occurred, and then model that going forwards, rather than actually forecasting precisely what might likely occur based on your policy settings going forward. And then I think thirdly Laura, it's about having greater transparency for everybody to see, so that we can then integrate our population forecasts, what's occurring around Australia, with the infrastructure, with the housing approvals, with the services et cetera.

Laura Jayes: What's the end game here? Is it less overseas migration or just more managed?

Alan Tudge: No, in some respects, there's a few objectives here. The most important objective still is to support our growing economy, and population is a very important driver to that. Not just in terms of overall GDP, but GDP per capita i.e. our population settings make a difference in terms of how individually wealthy we are. But secondly, we do want to ensure that our cities maintain their liveability. And previously over the last couple of decades, we've had tremendous growth in our big capital cities but very little growth in some of the smaller cities and the regional areas. So our objective is to take a little bit of the heat out of the big capitals and support the growth of those other areas, particularly the regional areas actually, which are struggling to find workers. And then the third objective really, Laura, is to ensure that Australia maintains its harmony and stays together. So those three things have to come together in our overall population plan. We've already outlined the initial steps of that, but there's obviously more work to be done.

Laura Jayes: Just this week, we saw the skills shortage data for the last financial year as well. There's now 39 skills on that list, that's three more than the year before. How are you putting that data into this research and collaborating that?

Alan Tudge: So that a key thing which is done and updated every six to 12 months in terms of what the skills shortage lists are, and that determines whether or not a business can sponsor somebody into the country. But we've certainly been leaning more aggressively in, and I know that Pete sort of raises this, how do you manage population? In some respects, we've linked in much more heavily already over the last six months on this by, A) actually reducing the migration rate down by about 15 per cent on a permanent migration. Second though, we've created a lot more incentives for new migrants to come into the country, to go to some of the smaller cities and the regional areas. This includes international students, which are a very big part of the of the incoming people coming into the country. But as well as for permanent migrants to go to some of those other areas, because the default position typically is that most people come into Melbourne and Sydney, and to a lesser extent Brisbane. Those three locations have 75 per cent of our overall population growth right now, whereas ideally we'd have a slightly better distribution of that growth.

Laura Jayes: As we just mentioned immigration is intrinsically linked to the growth of our economy. Is part of your remit here to, I guess, decouple that into the future, albeit slowly? Because it was Scott Morrison as Treasurer who said a cut in the migration intake, I think the suggestion from Tony Abbott at the time was around 90,000 as an annual cap. That would cost our economy about $3 billion.

Alan Tudge: Well, population is a critical component to our economic growth. I mean there's three big levers to economic growth. They're the three P's as people might know: Population, Participation and Productivity. So population is one of them, but it doesn't just support overall GDP growth for the country, but it supports GDP per capita growth because it does critically support our participation rate, because we tend to bring in people who are on average 26 years of age which is much younger than the overall average age for Australians. And that means we've got a larger working-class population to support the ageing of the population. It also supports productivity as well because typically people that come into the country have higher skills or at least they've got higher qualifications than the average Australian, so it does support productivity as well. So it is critically important. But we also need to make sure that we maintain the liveability of the cities, that we support the regions that need more people and that's where we need to balance that out and lean more strongly in. So our population settings though just aren't about immigration, they also are about other factors that we can put into place; the infrastructure to be aligned, working with the states and territories so we're planning better, faster rail to some of the satellite cities so that we can get growth in those satellites cities and economic growth is central in those smaller cities.

Laura Jayes: Are you not thinking about limiting how many children we can have here in Australia are you? Just checking.

Alan Tudge: No Laura, so we're all safe on that count, but immigration does constitute about 60 per cent of our overall population growth; natural factors about the other 40 per cent.

Laura Jayes: Just finally, perhaps looking at a scenario where you link the annual overseas migration intake to progress in infrastructure or to those skills shortages, so could there be a scenario where that cap, and I know you're not meeting the cap at the moment, that cap changes perhaps on a two yearly or five yearly or even annual basis?

Alan Tudge: It's a good question Laura, and it's almost precisely what we're endeavouring to do, is much more closely match our population growth with the infrastructure and housing approvals in the cities and the regions and we need to do that with the states and territories. So I'll be meeting up along with the Treasurer, with the other treasurers later this month and then it will be at the leaders, we'll be talking about what we're calling a population planning framework and it's deliberately designed to do that. This Centre for Population though becomes the key repository of the information to support that effort.

Laura Jayes: Alan Tudge, appreciate your time this morning.

Alan Tudge: Thanks very much Laura.