Transcript - Sky News interview with Tom Connell

TOM CONNELL:

Let's go to our next guest on the program. This is amidst reports of, well, the population outbreak in Australia, remember the carefully calibrated plan from the government to make sure population growth didn't happen too quickly?

It's now the opposite, reports 300,000 fewer people in the country already as a result of coronavirus and that could double by the end of the year. Minister Alan Tudge has been good enough to join me now. Thanks very much for your time.

Can you confirm the numbers we've seen here this morning, that this is a result of temporary visa holders mainly and that we've got 300,000 already going, another 300,000 possibly by the end of the year?

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah, Tom, that's right. So, since the start of the year until now we've had about 300 - we have about 300,000 fewer temporary migrants in the country. Now, the vast majority of those were actually - are actually international visitors.

Now, we typically have a decline from the peak over Christmas until now in any case. We've had a sharper decline this year and for obvious reasons; and that is that people are exercising their choice to go home early where they may be able to get stronger support back home.

And we've obviously been making that message heard loudly and clearly too; that for those international tourists right here, particularly those who don't have family support in Australia, they should consider going back home to their home country where they can get that support.

TOM CONNELL:

So, when you still make that urging, because the Prime Minister made it as well, was it known how many people would leave as a result? Was that decision made despite possible impacts on the economy?

ALAN TUDGE:

We - we obviously are aware of when people's visas expire in any case, so we can see the pattern of the expiration over the months ahead. And so, most visitors who come out here are on a three-month visa, and you can see those visas expiring. 

The issue is that we haven't got any new people coming into the country which typically balances out the people exiting. We closed the borders for a reason, as you know. We initially did that with China and now for the whole world, and only allowing Australians with permanent residence into the country.

So, of course that does have an impact, an economic impact when you don't have the tourists in the country. And on the other side, of course, we want those tourists back. But in the meantime, the decision was made to ask them to return to their home countries because they can't travel in the country in any case.

They may find themselves without a flight to get home at some stage in the future, and so in which case the advice was: get home, be safe, have the support…back in your home country.

TOM CONNELL:

What sort of impact will it have on the economy? There's already talk about housing, for example. Congestion and housing were two of the things you were trying to address. I suppose in one way they'll be addressed, but is there a concern housing will go too far in terms of a correction? We know how important it is for the economy. 

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah, clearly population has been an economic driver for the country and two-thirds of our population growth is driven by migration. So, if the migration rate declines then that will have an overall impact on the economy.

We understand that. That's well known. The precise impact we don't know yet. We'll be making the updates in the budget in terms of what the migration rate forecast will be and the population rate forecast will be. We'll still have population growth because a third of our population growth is through natural growth, people having babies, and the life expectancy extending. 

So that will still occur and that still provides economic opportunities. What our migration program looks like post-coronavirus, though, is really too early to say at this stage.

But we're very much focused on the here and now in terms of focusing on Australians and permanent residents, making sure we've still got sufficient people to work in those critical industries such as health, such as agriculture, and aged care, disability care, etcetera.

TOM CONNELL:

Right.

ALAN TUDGE:

While at the same time saying to those temporary migrants, those short-term visitors --

TOM CONNELL:

Yeah.

ALAN TUDGE:

 -- that if you're concerned about your economics circumstances then you may consider returning home where you can get that support.

TOM CONNELL:

Is there a big concern now for regions in particular? You're already trying to push more people out there. Now the attraction of less traffic, for example, there'll be less traffic in cities anyway, and a lot of jobs as well were tied to tourism in the regions. So, could they suffer more than the rest of the country and do you have a plan for that?

THE HON ALAN TUDGE:

It's, it's a good question, Tom. To be honest, it's really too early to tell the exact economic consequences region by region. Obviously, our - our plan pre coronavirus was to try to grow the population in some of those regional areas, and many of those regional areas wanted to grow; try to grow the populations in places like Adelaide where Premier Marshall was clearly looking to grow South Australia's population more rapidly. 

Now, again, things are obviously different now during this pandemic and it's too early to say what it might look like post the pandemic when we get back to normal. That, in part, will be - at least our forecast will be outlined in the budget in October in terms of what we expect, but then in terms of what that distribution looks like we'll have to consider that in due course as well.

TOM CONNELL:

Yeah, I suppose, look, a lot of things have changed, so a new plan will be needed; population and cities, Minister Alan Tudge, thanks for your time today.

ALAN TUDGE:

Thanks very much, Tom.