Australia to cut migrant intake by 15 percent: PM

CANBERRA, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) - Australian Prime Minister (PM) Scott Morrison has flagged permanently cutting the nation's annual migration intake cap by 30,000.


Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. (File photo: VCG)

In a keynote speech delivered on Monday night, Morrison said that he "expects" the maximum annual migration intake to be reduced from 190,000 as his government works to better manage population growth in "clogged" capital cities.

The annual cap has been set at 190,000 since 2011 but under the current Liberal National Party (LNP) government Australia welcomed only 163,000 permanent arrivals in 2017-18, the lowest level in a decade.

"We're running 30,000 below where it has been ... It wouldn't surprise me if any process that we went through would arrive in that sort of territory," Morrison said on Monday night.

"I believe that this is likely to end up in revising down the permanent migration cap in Australia. That would be my expectation."

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in June revealed that Australia's population has grown by 3.75 million, or 17.9 percent, in the 10 years between 2008 and 2018.

Net overseas migration (NOM) was the biggest driver of population growth in that period and the vast majority of new arrivals settled in either Melbourne or Sydney, the nation's two biggest cities.

Morrison's government is currently considering a plan that would force new arrivals to live outside of those two cities for at least five years so as to boost growth in other regions.

The PM on Monday night said Melbourne and Sydney were victims of their own success as cities and called for a "new discussion with state and territories and local governments about how we manage and plan for our changing population."

"In Sydney, migrants accounted for around 70 percent of population growth last year. This has created its own pressure points  and pressure points in population always manifest themselves in housing and infrastructure," he said.

"I'm very concerned about the rate of population growth ... not the existence of population growth, but the pace of population growth. The roads are clogged, the buses and the trains are full, the schools are taking no more enrolments ... We can hear that."

Former PM Tony Abbott, a leading conservative within the LNP, has previously called for the cap to be reduced to 110,000 but Morrison, who was treasurer at the time, said doing so would cost the budget up to 5 billion Australian dollars over four years.

Alan Tudge, the Minister for Cities, on Tuesday said reducing the cap by 30,000 would not have such a significant impact on the budget.

"Of course, the migration number has an impact on the budget figures," Tudge, who has been dubbed the "minister for congestion busting" by Morrison, told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio.

"Migration brings growth, it brings skills, it brings younger people to cater for the older generation. So it's very important we maintain a strong migration intake."

"But that's got to be balanced out with the population pressures, which particularly Sydney and Melbourne are feeling."

Tudge said he plans to reduce his signature population policy early in 2019.