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Live. Today at the National

Press Club an election campaign population debate as Australia

experiences a record population

boom both sides are running

hard on the issue. Shadow Immigration Minister Scott

Morrison and Minister for

Sustainable Population Tony

Burke in the Australia Votes 2010 population debate.

Welcome to the National Press Club in Canberra Club in Canberra and to today's

debate sponsored by the

National Australia Bank. I'm Heather Ewart from the ABC's

'7:30 Report' and I'll be '7:30 Report' and I'll be the moderator on a topic that has

been fiercely contested on both

sides in the election campaign - immigration, asylum seekers, offshore

processing, these are all areas

we've heard a lot about,

certainly in the first part of

the campaign. Today we're going

to hear more. We have with us

the Minister for Sustainable

Population, Tony Burke, and on

the Opposition side we have the immigration spokesman Scott

Morrison. Please welcome them. APPLAUSE

Now before we start I'll

briefly run through the rules

of this debate which have been

set by the National Press Club.

Each speaker will have 5

minutes each to make opening

remarks. There will be 2 minute

closing statements, answers to

questions should not run for

longer than 2 minutes and will be 1 minute will be 1 minute rebuttals. Now

the toss has been won by Tony

Burke, so he's going to start

proceedings. Thank you, Tony.

Thanks very much, Heather

Ewart, Ken Randall and my parliamentary colleague Scott

Morrison. I think it was water

when this debate changed. I

think it was when our urban population started to deal with

what our rural and regional

populations had always dealt

with, that people started to

question how population question how population was distributed throughout

Australia and whether we needed

to coordinate these issues more effectively in the future than

we have in the past. That then

combined with questions of

congestion and combined with a

need to consider more than skills shortage need to consider more than skills shortage when we considering the issues that

related to our population. This

debate at its core, the sustainable population debate

comes down to a question of

quality of life. Those quality

of life issues reach into

almost every portfolio and they

reach to every level of government. Immigration is one

of the relevant levers in this

debate but this debate is about so much more than just

immigration. The key to understanding policy for a sustainable Australia begins

with a principle of regional

difference because the people

who frequently argue for population growth at all Are

often telling a very true story

about their part of Australia

just as the employer who refers to

to a chronic lack of skilled labour in their part of

Australia is telling a true

story about the need for a better population spread better population spread where they are to get major they are to get major projects

off the ground. The quality of

life issues for Australians

that go beyond the economy in

how our population is spread

throughout the nation go to the

sustainability issues of the

air we breathe, the parkland we

enjoy, they go to how much of

our lives we lose to traffic

gridlock, time that

productivity figures say could

be better spent at work but realistic ally I think people

would want to spend a whole

host of those hours at home. I

was given a task some months

ago for a 12-month time period on putting together a sustainable population

strategy. If we were to ignore

regional difference you

probably wouldn't need a

12-month time line but if you ignore regional differences

then you ignore what the needs are in Australia. We have massively different challenges

in Penrith compared to what we

face in the Pilbara and if we

only look at this in terms of total national numbers we get the answers wrong. When

attempts have been made to simplify sustainable population

down to just a total national

number, which is what I believe

my political opponents have

done, the responses have been

all over the place, from support for 36 million to

support for as many people as

possible, to decisions to be made by the Productivity

Commission, to support for 170,000 people

support for a 1.4% annual

increase which would take us to

39 million, to a position circulated in Victoria last week of alleged Coalition

policy of 29 million for Australia. And all of these answers only make sense if we

can work out how it applies

region by region throughout

Australia. That means that a

sustainable Australia does

involve a level of detail that

will not be solved by finding a glib magic number. But there

are things that can be done now

in advance of formal

development of the sustainable

population strategy and they

are being done. This Government

has doubled roads funding, increased funding for rail by a

factor of 10. We have

implemented housing programs

which deal with

decentralisation in a new way

and decentralisation has a different complexion today than when these issues were discussed some 40 years ago and

we also need to look at how we

find a way with dealing with an ageing population other than

the short-term immigration fix

of believing that will solve

all our problems. Productivity

lies at the core of it and

making sure people are better

prepared for their retirement.

That's why any sustainable population strategy should

properly involve the increase in the superannuation guarantee, should involve the

increase in the guarantee

retirement age and also needs

to look at the skilling of our

work force. APPLAUSE Tony, Heather, friends, colleagues, immigration has

made the Australia we know

today. It has made us a

stronger Australia and growth

is good when it is managed

well. A successful immigration

program is characterised by a

fair and orderly process, rigorously rigorously administer ed with clear objectives that serve our

national interest. This

approach inspires community confidence in immigration and

provides the foundation for

social harmony. According to Monash University when the

Coalition was elected in 1996

almost two thirds of

Australians thought immigration levels

levels were too high. At that

time our permanent intake was

around 80,000 people per year.

When we left office in 2007

just over a third of

Australians thought those

levels were high at that time.

Yet our permanent immigration intake

intake had double and the

proportion of permanent skilled migration had increased from less than 30% to almost 70%.

The Rudd Gillard Government

inherited an immigration

program that Australians

trusted. In less than 3 years

Labor has broken that trust.

During the last 6 years of the Coalition Government there was

an average of just 3 illegal

boat arrivals each year. In

2010 they have been arriving at

the rate of 3 per week. More

than 7,000 people including

more than 500 children have

risked their lives in the hands

of people smugglers in the past

two years. We understand at

least 170 people have perished at sea during this time. There

are now more than 4,100 people

being detained, the highest on

record and the costs have blown out by more than

out by more than $1.1 billion.

There is nothing compassionate

about policies that encourage

people to risk the hands of people

smugers. Given there are 10.4

million refugees in the world

today and less than 1% of them

will set until a country like

Australia it is only right we

have an orderly and fair process to make these

life-changing decision. refugee who arrives illegally

by boat takes the place of another refugee whose

application continues to gather

dust on an official's desk. To

accept one will deny another.

This is the crucial - cruel truth.

truth. There are no decisions

in this debate free of moral burden. Being Minister for

Immigration is about making

these decisions. The Coalition believes refugees who come

through the orderly through the orderly UNHCR offshore process should

preferably, from the country of

first asylum, deserve or first

choice. The Coalition will

remove the people smugglers'

product by denying permanent protection visas to refugees who arrive illegally, whether protection visas to refugees who who arrive illegally, whether

by boat or by air, instead they

will be given temporary

protection visas. We will

restore universal restore universal offshore

processing with all new illegal

boat arrivals processed in a

third country. We will pick up

the phone to Nauru immediately

where Labor have failed to do

so in preference to their never

ever solution in East Timor. We

will turn boats back where the

circumstances permit. We will

not be intimidated by the

threats and criminal acts of

people smugglers. This is a

battle of resolve and we intend

to win it as we did before. We

will improve the integrity of our processing to give

Australians greater confidence

that those who receive our protection are legitimate

refugees. Under Labor Australia's population is

growing at more than 2% per year, higher than our historical average of 1.4% and

almost triple the OECD average.

Two thirds of our current

population growth is now due to

net overseas migration which

has also been running at record levels. Our infrastructure and

services are no longer keeping pace with pace with our population growth. Migration may not be the cause of these problems but

unlike Labor, the Coalition

believes it has everything to

do with the solution.

Australians know that the

infrastructure and services

they need are not turning up

any time soon. Instead, Labor gave them overpriced school

halls, pink batts and a

mountain of debt. They want

this fixed and it should be.

However until it is, they want

to see Australia ease back on

the population pedal. It's

common sense and it's Coalition policy. Responsibly managing

our immigration intake is not a substitute for infrastructure investment or dispersing population growth to recognised regional differences, but

neither, as Labor proposes, are

these strategies a substitute for

for a sustainable immigration program.

program. The Coalition is

committed to reduce net

overseas migration to at least

170,000 in our first time and

put Australia on a sustainable

population growth path drawing on

on the advice of a reconstituted productivity and sustainability commission. This

is a simple and honest

statement about where we stand. Immigration is about deciding

who comes to this country, the circumstances in which they

come and I would argue the

purposes for which they come. Thank you. APPLAUSE

Thank you gentlemen. I guess

what that demen straits is this

is a very contentious irshoe as

you would both be very aware.

We'll now go to questions and

I'll start off with the first one,

community, key business groups

I'm sure you would have both

heard, are alarmed about the

way this issue has been

elevated in the hot house

atmosphere in an election

campaign. They're concerned that

that for the last 25 years

until recent times there was a bipartisan approach to this

area and I wonder how you both

feel about that no longer being

the case? I don't mind who

starts first, Tony. If we can

follow 1-2 I'm easy. When I

held Scott's job there was a bipartisan approach and the bipartisanship broke bipartisanship broke down over

some misinformation about one

statistic and that statistic is

net overseas migration. Now let's

let's be absolutely clear. The

commitment that the Opposition

are claiming they will make on

net overseas migration refers

to a statistic where some of

the elements of it are

completely within the control

of Government and some of the

elements of it outside the control of

Government. The claim that we

just heard about what will

happen with net overseas

migration, which is the core of

the breakdown in bipartisan

consensus, has the Coalition claiming tlai be able to control the figure which

includes how many Australians

choose to move overseas and how

many Australians choose to

home. A statistic which

includes how many visa holders choose to leave Australia

before the conclusion of their

visa. That is the statistic visa. That is the statistic that the Coalition claim they

will be able to control. The

truth is they can't. This is an

area that needs to be well planned, needs to be carefully

thought through, needs to take

account of regional difference.

The glib slogans might be more

forgivable if they were

actually deliverable but until the Coalition can claim that

they can control each element

of net oversea s migration they are putting figures that they have plucked

out of the air with no idea as

to how they can deliver it.

The Government claims, whether

it's on boats or whether it's

on population, that all the

forces are out of their

control, they are a victim of

forces that impose themselves

on Australia. Well I think

Australians expect their

governments to deal with that

uncertainty and provide them with some certainty. What we

will do as a Coalition is

address the issues of migration, that's something we have a control over. This

consensus changed after the release of the third intergenerational report when

we understood that the

infrastructure and services were simply not keeping pace with population growth. There

was some consensus around the

second inter generational

report but by the third intergenerational report we

formed a different view and

back in April when I said net back in April when I said net

overseas migration levels were

too high I was castigated by

the Government as an knhick

vandal where today they say

they're heading in that

direction anyway. They can't

have it both Ways. I'm either an economic vandal or I'm a

Prophet one or the two. We can

manage these issues, we can

move forward on these issues,

we can deal with migration programs

programs and the Government

needs to be prepared to make a

commitment and we have made a commitment and I think the

Australian people know where we

stand. They don't know where the Government stands.

before we go on, I'd like you

both to feel free to ask

yourselves questions as well if

you'd like to. Each other

rather than - Each other or yourselves, whatever you prefer. OK, but for now the

next question is from Paul Maley.

I just wanted to ask a

question about boats. The

Coalition earlier this year

famously promised to start

towing boats back to sea if

it's elected. I note, maybe

it's my imagination, but I note

that the Coalition seems to

have backed off that a little bit recently since Julia

Gillard attacked

which was so hedged with qualifications in the first

place that if you're a cynical

person, which I am, you would

be - you could be forgiven for be - you could be forgiven for

thinking you were never going

to do it. Can the Coalition

commit to overcoming the

hazards that we all know exist or are inherent to this

practice and turn boats back practice and turn boats back or

was it just a stunt? And to

Tony Burke, you were Shadow

Immigration Minister in 2007

when Kevin Rudd promised to do

exactly the same thing and

didn't do it. Now as Shadow

Immigration Minister at the

time did that pledge enjoy your time did that pledge enjoy your

support at the time and if it

did what's changed? The

Coalition is committed to

turning boats back where the

circumstances permit. I made

that clear in my opening

statement. That has been our

position since Tony said this

back in December/January, some months back. are very clear. There needs to

be a situation where the safety

of those on board and the

nature of the vessel and how it has has been secureside

appropriate. You need to be

able to take boats back to the

port where you have the

agreement of that Government

where you can do so. These are important commitments and the

third one is that you need to be assured that the people who

are taken back to that port

will not be returned from the country from which they're

seeking asylum. They're the condition, they have always

been the conditions. They were

the conditions when we were in

place in government and boats

were turned back. What we won't

do is just allow people

smugglers to determine how our

policy is framed. This is a

battle of wills. It's a battle of resolve. If there was one thing more than anything John

Howard did when he was prime

minister is the people smugglers understood he was

serious. The people smugglers have this Government's measure

and the statistics show it in

terms of the rate of unprecedented rate of illegal boat arrivals to Australia. On the the issue of going back 3 years, at that point we didn't

have the advice that we have

now, which is Coalition had

when they were in government

and we got as soon as we came

in, which was that the first of

all if you try to turn a boat

back there is no country that

will accept them and the moment you start to the

history has been for some years

now that the boat will now that the boat will start to

sink, that that's what happens

on each occasion. That creates

a danger for the people on

board and creates a serious danger for the Australian

personnel involved and once

that advice was made clear to

us you would have found a very

sharp turn in our language.

That advice had already been

made well and truly clear to

the Coalition before they ever came forward with the stunt that they would turn boats. Where did the advice

come from? Well given the room where some of these pieces of

advice come through there's

some limits on what I can say

but certainly NORCOM, the

northern command northern command and the

defence, it's a joint agency of

a number of different

departments, the work that's done

done there, you will find

whenever an Australian vessel

goes out you have a number of

different agencies on board. So

the Government has received

advice from NORCOM or Defence

indicating this practice is not

possible s that what you're

saying? The advice I described

to you I received personally, I received personally as well in

my capacity as fisheries

minister where a lot of action happens happens in terms of illegal fishing vessels as well. The principles that I The

principle s I outlined earlier in the conditions in which a boat can been known for a long time.

They were established under the

prin pls of convention in terms

of what you're required to do

and there's no great secret

about the fact that people

smugglers will do and try

anything to frustrate

government policy, that's how

they make their money. They

made about $30 made about $30 million last year and for the Government to

claim it all suddenly

afrd 2007 I think portray aslack of understanding of the

issue at the time. We know what we're committing to and we're

very resolved to do it. OK,

let's go to the next question


Mr Burke, I just want to pick

up on that previous comment.

You said that upon coming into

Government you received advice

about the feasibility of

turning back boats, on what

advice did Mr Rudd act then

when he advised the 'Oceanic Viking' Viking' to take back the 78 asylum seekers back asylum seekers back to Indonesia? You're referring to

decisions there that I wasn't

part of. You want me to bluff

an answer, I'm not going to do

it. You're asking about

information and advice that I

wasn't part of so I'm not sure

what I can offer you there

given the way you phrased that

question. The Government, you say, had received advice that

it is difficult to turn back

boats upon coming into office.

I'm just wondering how you now

can substantiate or legitimise

that decision that was taken by

Kevin Rudd? Look, you're referring to the specifics the

oceanianic Viking rr which is

not the turning around of a vessel, it was our vessel. You're referring to specific

points of advice in that

instance where I don't know the

answer to those. I was not in the

the room, I was not part of

that decision making process.

My responsibilities at the time

were as the minister for

agriculture, fisheries and forestry. If I can make a

comment. It's a shame Minister evens isn't here to answer the

question but prior to the 'Oceanic Viking' turning up #48

49 boats have arrived, since

then over 100 have turned up.

The Government's lack of

resolve in dealing with the

'Oceanic Viking' resulted in 4 individuals failing an ASIO security clearance when they

left that vessel and are still on Christmas Island spoke volume about the Government's

lack of resolve and willingness

to roll over and that probably more

more than any one event

telecast to the people smugglers that their business was back in control. OK, next question is

question is David Denham. David

Denham from Preview magazine.

I'd like to ask a question to

both participants in this

debate. Back in 1994 a working

group was convened by the

Australian Academy of Science

on population. It included such

people as Allan Jones and Tim Flannery, etc, etc, and they

said in that report if

said in that report if our

population reaches the high end

of the feasible range, 37

million, the quality of life of all Australians

all Australians will be lowered

by the degradation of water,

soil, energy and biological

resources. Cities such as double or triple in size,

multiplying their current infrastructure problems and

their impact on the surrounding

regions of the continent. Now

that seems to me to be a pretty

important statement that they

made so what I'd like to ask you

you two is what does it say

about the political process of

this country when such important things like that have

taken so long before they appear on the national federal election scheme?

Scott. Whoever? I think in

this area there's no doubt that

both sides of politics have been way behind the Australian community in acting in this community in acting in this

area of public policy. I don't

think there's any doubt about

that and and I by both

politics have a responsibility

to fess up on that one. It's

also in an area where for so

long but neither side of

politics has caught up with

what some of the issues that

need to be handled in this

debate, that's also why I don't think parties should pretend

that in a couple of months they

can arrive at some sort of

magical figure and the whole

thing gets solved. There are

things being done now that are

being done more effectively

than they have in the past and

the push towards regionalism and decentralisation actually

has a market driven focus for

the first time now which it

hasn't had previously. So there are opportunities there now

that we haven't had because of the movement of

retirees, because of the mining

boom and also because of the

roll out of the national

broadband network. There are opportunities in

decentralisation that haven't

been there previously. So I do

believe there's a new way of

looking at it but I think in

terms of the essence of that question why did long? It ought not to have. When Peter Costello commenced

the process for the

intergenerational report I

think we have reached the

inevitable conclusion of that

process. He put the issue of

demogify and population on the

agenda in a formal policy sense

and as these forecasts and

projections have come across

we've come to better understand

the implications of these things for public policy and

where we are now I think is as a result of that. What we've

focused on, when I became the Shadow Minister for

Immigration, I began to raise these issues because I understood that people were

very concerned about

and services and the fra scriel

nature of our environment and

our resources and the rate of population growth. These had population growth. These had to be brought back into balance.

What we've suggestside that

this has to be put in the hands longer term of the productivity

and what we would call the

productivity and sustainability commission to provide us with

guard rails of how we can sustainably grow our population

and we set our policies to make

sure we work within those guard

rails. That makes it an

independent process, it makes

it an informed process, but at the end of the day a minister

has to decide how many people

are going to come. So if I

could just ask one extra

question at that point f you

both agree that this is an area

that's very important to

Australians and that you've

been slow to catch up on it, is

this un one area that you

should be taking a bipartisan

approach on? I wold hope there

would be some chance in that

but if it means public plucking numbers out of the

air, ignoring regional difference and having net

migration figures where there

are components of it that no government has any control

over, and nor should they, I

don't believe governments

should take control of when

Australians leave or return to the country or when a

visaholder wants to leave

early, I don't think we should

complain about that, but if that's the that's the policy approach that's being offered by the Opposition I can't see it as

being good for the nation, I

can't see it as being capable

of being implemented in any

way, nor have the Opposition suggested what visa classes

they'd deal with and how they'd

implement it and I'm not

offering bipartisan support for

that. That's disappointing. I

mean I think Tony could take a

more generous approach here.

What we've said and when I raised this particularly in April and we said that

immigration levels were running

too high on those net figures,

I said they needed to come down

to more sustainable levels. The Government attacked me for it and now they're saying they're

doing it anyway. So I can't Government wants to sit doing it anyway. So I can't really work out Government wants to sit on this

issue. They're happy to have a population minister who doesn't really want to taub about immigration. The Coalition has

a very different view. We'd

welcome support for our productivity and sustainability

commission model that would

take these questions and put

them in the hands of a respected economic advisory body that could give us good

guard rails for growth in the

future. I think that's a

proposal that deserves the support of the Government but

they don't want to fess up to

their views on immigration on these matters. They say they're changing it but then they deny they're changing it when we put

out a policy on it. So I think

it's for the Government to take

a more generous approach to the

Opposition where I think we've put something forward quite

sensible. Can I just methodically explain why I'm saying that

saying that the 170,000 figure

is something that the way it's

been described by the Opposition can't be implemented.

implemented. We are projected

to end up there anyway but as Government policy that will be

demanded, which is what Scott's

saying, the reason you can't do

it is really simple - there are

three key components that make

up that figure that they're

saying they will control. The

first is the permanent migration migration intake where Government has direct control

of the permanent migration

intake and announces those

figures in the Budget each year

and are well and truly a decent

area up for public debate as to

what those numbers should be.

The second area is the

temporary migration which did

have a massive increase in

numbers but mind you, an

uncapped set of visas, largely

students and 457 visas which

were made uncapped by the

previous government, we hadn't

change nid of those uncapped

rules when the number s blew

out and the reason they're

coming down is because we have

now restored some integrity to those component is Australians

leaving, returning home and New

Zealanders coming here which is

part of an agreement between Australia and New Zealand which

has been in place for 40 years

that New Zealanders can come

and go as they please. Now unless the Opposition are claiming they

of Australians moving to and

from Australia, they want to challenge the 40-year agreement

with New Zealand, or they want

to cap uncapped temporary

visas, then I don't see, and

they can't tell me, how they'd

implement this. The Government

claims it can have a Budget

surplus in 3 years but yet it

doesn't control commodity

prices but yet they're happy to

say they can give an iron-clad guarantee about a Budget

surplus. There are lot s

uncertainties in the world

today, of course there are, but

it's the Government's job to deal with those uncertainty,

manage programs effectively, to

make sure regulation is

oversighted and make sure we have an orderly and faired and

managed program of my graition

and the inflos and indeed the

outflows where possible. That's

what we've committed to. The Government Government has basically been a

no show on this. They've been

happy to step back and say

we'll just deal with what comes

our way, whatever that might be. I think the Australian

people are looking for a Government, not Government, not for someone to express an opinion. Are you say 170,000

170,000 is a projection not a

commitment We've given a

commitment. You're the one who

won't give a commitment. You

want to claim forecasts as

government policies. They also forecast the price of barbecues

but I don't think that's

government policy. I want to know what the Government's

projection is for that year and

will they commit it to as a matter

matter of policy. On the

projections you will find for

the Shah rap Nell predictions

you can go to are the you can go to the Access are the Government projections? This is what I'm saying. You get the projecks on

your permanent intake, you get

the projections tooz what the

impact will be as to improving

the integrity of visas but the net overseas migration figure involves people leaving as

we. I understand it very well, Tony. I wish you did. Now what

happens - Well, there we

go. What happens with net overseas migration, for example, with 457s, why did

they blow out? Why did they

become such an easy visa to

get? Because under the previous

government they interacted with

Work Choices and they became a

way not of filling skills

shortages, but of undercutting

rates of pay here in Australia.

That's why it became such an

easy visa to get and what you

can do is you can restore, as

we have, the integrity of that

visa class. That then causes

the numbers to go down and

initially you get a bigger dip

because the numbers coming in

go down but the number of go down but the number of people

veez arkszs are expiring, are

based on the numbers who

entered a few years ago and

that's where you get your fluctuations but that's how those statistics work. An

argument about permanent visas,

integrity of visas is all good

public policy and make sense

but to control the things that are

properly beyond control like

the Australians' movement or the agreement with New Zealand I think is a con on Australian people. I'd argue it's an

excuse on the part of the

Government to not to do the thingings it knows it can do

and to walk away from an issue

the Australian people know are

concerning them and as you say

affecting their quality of

life. They don't want to hear

it's all too hard. They expect

the Government to do its job and that's what the Coalition is committed to do, to control

the things we can control, the

work towards the commitments we

have made and achieve them and we're committed to that. Let's

move on with question. Next

question comes from Lucy knooigted. Lucy knooigted from

Rural Press. Mr Burke you

referring to water and you

obviously wear two ministerial

hats being agriculture and

sustainable population. Can you

explain what you would do if you're returned to government

in terms of giving farmers the

tools to properly feed and

clothe a sustainable population given that they're staring down

the barrel at looming water

cuts in many areas and also

urban encroachment and property

rights questions?

Thanks very much, Lucy. If I

can first of all refer to the

importance of research and

development. There is no doubt

that our farmers are faced with

two key challenges. One, the

demand for food production both

in Australia and in our export markets around the world is

going to keep going up. Two, the tools that they have

available, particularly in

terms of tools such

and for fr what we see

available land are under very

much under challenge and under threat. Research and

development is the key to being

able to do more with less and

agriculture has a productivity

story to tell way in excess of

the rest of the economy. Continued

research and development is a

big part of that. Improved efficiency and the work that's

being done through Penny Wong's

department with water for the

future is a way of making sure

we harvest and use water more

effectively in the future than we

we have in the past. On the

issue of arable land, I don't

have a quick fix on this but I

do think one of the issues we need

need to address in a

sustainable population policy

is whether or not we will

continue to find our best soils

and put suburbs on top of them because that's what because that's what Australia's

always done and there has to be

a point where we start to look

at our land mass strategically

and say isn't it important to keep some of that land for

production. Do you have a quick response? Fine. Next question, Michael Keating. Michael

Keating, Keating Meezia. My

question is addressed to the Minister. Minister, when will the Government's 3 expert panels and yourself release your sustainable population

strategy? Well first of all I

think it's important that the

strategy, the ownership of the strategy is taken by the

Minister, not by expert panels.

The expert panels are br there

to provide advice before we go

to full community consultation

but make no mistake, I believe

the responsibility on the strategy is not to have an inquiry and then have

recommendations and work it out

from there, the panels have a

roll in informing the debate.

The panels have a role in

making sure regional difference

is well understood and that for

an area of policy that we that we're not missing an area of policy that we previously haven't dealt that we're not missing elements

of it and their role is very

important but the strategy

itself and the ownership of

that I believe quite properly

is vested as the responsibility

of the Minister. The

Government's proposal for 3 panels is not unlike their

climate change telephone book

focus group process. I mean

this is a kick into touch

before the election to plug

this issue, they hope, at the

time, and they will come back

and say to Australians trust

us, trust us on the other side, we'll get it right. And the

point I made in my opening

remarks is that trust has been

broken under this Government, whether it's how they've

managed our borders or whether

it's been the blow outs in the

program that have occurred on

their watch which they need to

take accountability for. So

that's why we put forward an

actual policy. We released it

in April and ai as I said when

we did we were accused of economic vandalism by the

Government and indeed by racism

by many or e others u but it's

saying exactly what we need and

that is a population for the question. Next question. Mr

Morrison, we've been talking

about the migration rate being

set to fall to 170,000, the humanitarian intake into

Australia is 13,500, 90% of

people that apply for asylum in

Australia are granted refugee

status. Will you explain to the

Australian people why these

people are a threat and if they

are a threat will you be are a threat will you be telling the people of Nauru, the government of the government of Nauru that

they are a threat when you

travel there in the next few

days? Well as you know, I've never said they're a threat.

What I've said, what this

debate is about is about the

fairness and integrity of our

immigration program. Whether Labor is elected or the

Coalition is elected in a

couple of weeks' time there will be 13,750 people, refugees

and humanitarian entrants that

come into our program. It's a come into our program. It's a

question of how they come and

who gets to come. Are we going

to subcontract that process out to rate of illegal boat arrivals

which are unprecedent ed this

year or are we going to do as

we did in government taking 9,000 people out of the Thai Burma people out of the camp

there's. We want to see people

coming out of those camps who

get that get that very rare chance of a new life in Australia under

that program. It's not about the total number are coming,

it's about who gets to come and

the fairness of that process

and a policy that's attracted 7,000 people to get on boats

and as we know, around 170

people perished at sea in the

last 2 years. So whichever way

you make decisions on this

issue there is a great burden

that sits on those who make

those decisions. We believe our

system will be fairer and

ensure that those who get to

come will come from the places

in greatest need and will be

the Australian Government who

makes the decision, not someone

sitting in Indonesia. Dhoni, do

you have a brief response? I do. The question also referred to to Nauru. Can we just not gloss

over this. Nauru became a place

where you would wait on the

bench before you were allowed

entry to the field and the only

field you were going to enter

was Australia. Once the 2004

election was out of the way,

all but 2 of the people who were living in Nauru were

on planes and sent to Sydney

and Melbourne. That is how

Nauru was used and used for the

simple reason that it was not a

regional solution. At the very

beginning of Nauru there was an

agreement with a collection of countries that people would go

to different countries, but

after that, the only place

anyone who was going to once

they were sent to Nauru was

Australia and the timing as to when the previous government

would bring them here was based

on a political cycle and

nothing else. Here I thought

that the Government was

actually in favour of offshore

processing and thought that

this with would actually take

the people smugglers' product

off the table. The difference

between East Timor and Nauru is

this. Nauru will happen, East Timor won't. When we

implemented our full suites of

mesh glurs 2001 the boats

reduced. The East Timor business the Government knows is just a never never plan. What matters is you have

a regional solution where more

than Australia is involved. As long as we're the only country

that's involved then people know

know it's just a holding bay

before you get in the door. But

they're trying - And that has,

and that has no impact and the timing, surely, surely the

Liberal Party aren't going to want

want to argue that the fall of

the Taliban and the reduction

in boats was just a co-ins kens. I

kens. I know that's the

Government's spin, Tony, but

people understand the solution

the Coalition Government put in place did stop the boat and the

second point I'd make is this,

a regional processing centre as

Indonesia have said and others

have said in the region will be

an asylum magnet for this part of not coming out of the region. The not coming out of our regioner thoorks combing out of

Afghanistan. If they put a

regional processing centre they will flock to that centre as

opposed to what we're doing is

to deal with illegal boat arrivals

arrivals to Australia. We'll

deal with our problem and we

are the problem in the region courtesy of this Government's

policies. So you would say you

would permanently hold would permanently hold people

in Nauru and they would not

come to Australia given no other country would take them. As

them. As we know, you're suggesting offshore processing. You have a

regional solution which is a

great big magnet. What we're suggesting is they would be

processed off shore and we're not guaranteeing resettlement

in Australia. We would be requiring applications to be

made to other countries around

the world as we did previously.

That wasn't our policy that we

released and it together with

temporary protection visas our policies on turning boat bax

where the circumstances permit

and toughening up the integrity

measures is all in place to stop the plan to stop the boats. The stop the boats wesmt have a Government talking to an stop the boats wesmt have a plan to stop Government talking to an

election. The rejection rate I

should suggest, have re cently

fallen but still nobody's going

home. The rejection rates have

risen, not fallen. They've

gone from - the rejection rates

I should say - I should say - sorry, it was

90% acceptance rates before,

they've fallen apparently to

30% but everybody's still here

because they're still appealing

through first the merit appeals

and what is likely to be the

case onshore appeals through our courts. So this Government's policy has created

the mess we're now in. They

can't be trusted to fix it. Next question, Leo

Shanahan. My question is to Mr

Morrison, Leo Shanahan from

News Limited. I just interested

much of your speech today was

devoted to the issue of asylum

seekers and boat people, indeed

the last debate just then. I'm just interested as to why this

is the case given that these people

people make up such a small part of our Is it not the case that part of our immigration Is it not the case that you are

looking to merge the issues of

big Australia or sustainable Australia with that of asylum

seekers and boat people? And Mr Burke, hasn't your Government

fallen for this tactic, hook, line and line and sinker? There are more

than 4,100 people in

immigration detention today

that, is a record. The Budget

has blown out by $1.1 billion

as a result. That is crashing

the Immigration Department's processes and ability to operate effectively. It is a

massive issue for the

management and administration

of that Department which has a

budget of a little over $2 billion. So this is a

significant issue when it comes

to the management of the

integrity of our immigration

program. It's not about the

total volume of numbers of people coming, it is about the integrity of the process and

who gets to come and the

fairness of that process. That's the point along. As I also said in my

opening statement, it is a

question of how the Australian

people have lost confidence in

this Government. They've lost

confidence in this Government

because they had a solution

when they were in Government and they came to Government and they decided to trash it and

when they trashed it the rate

of arrivals has literally gone

through the roof. They've

crashed the confidence and trust that people previously

had in our immigration program

and they've principally done it through their poor handling of

this issue. Tony Burke. Leo, in

answer to your question if you

go back through my opening

statement when I talked about

the issues that cause pressure

on our population throughout

our country, some of it goes to

internal migration of

Australians move, a lot of it

goes to infrastructure,

immigration is a relevant

lever. Scott Morrison has chose

ton focus the entirety of this debate on the one part of the immigration immigration program that by his

own concession doesn't add a nation because you have a cap

on the total number of people

coming through the humanitarian

program. But when it comes to

that final point that that final point that Scott made about the management and integrity of our integrity of our immigration

program, can I just say it's as

though the names Cornelia Rau

and Viv yen Alvarez hardly

existed. The previous

Government hardly ran a system

with a whole lot of integrity

with a whole lot of integrity

when we had Australians locked

up and deported because we had an

an immigration system that just

wasn't functioning. So please,

by all means if you want to

pretend tleaz no impact as to

what happens overseas as to

whether or not we have asylum

seekers around the world, then

make that argument. But please don't pretend that the don't pretend that the system that caused Australian citizen

to be deported and others to be

locked up was somehow functioning properly. This is

where I think the Government is

so out of touch on this issue.

The Government lives in this

dream world where

that between 2002 and 2007 what

what occurred didn't occur and the Australian people were not

pleased with the out come the previous Coalition government

were able to achieve in getting that issue under control and restoring fairness and

integrity in who got to come to this this country under our refugee

and humanitarian program.

That's the result they want

again and this Government is in

complete denial about it and if

Mr Evans was here today he could have

could have answered some of

these questions but I note he's

not. I think we have time for

one more question before

closing remarks and that comes from Sophie Morris. Sophie

Morris from the Australian

'Financial Review'. Mr Morrison

f a Coalition government would determine net overseas migration levels how do you

propose to respond to the flexibility and demand for

labour that comes with changing economic circumstances that

we've learnt in recent years

often cannot be foreseen? often cannot be foreseen? And also you've said you refer Productivity Commission. The Productivity Commission has consistently outlined the

economic benefits of increased

migration and population

growth. If they come back with those findings again will you

accept that or are you asking

them to change their methods

them to change their methods

perhaps? No, not at all. The productivity productivity and sustainability

commission would be tasked to

advise the Government on what the guard rails were for

growth, that's what it says in

our policy. They would be tasked to consider the

sustainability issue, they would be tasked to report on

the delivery of infrastructure

on the ground. I mean the

Commonwealth Government, the

Labor Government today pretends like

like they've laid every single

brick in the country in the last 3 years. The Commonwealth Government

Government and its agencies

account for 5% of growth ficked capital expenditure. They are

not the major player in

infrastructure and the

Productivity Commission would

adviess on how the delivery of infrastructure and services are

being put on the ground to enable our capacity for growth

to be there and we'd be

informed by that. We'd be advised by that and we would make the decision at the end of the day. Sure there variables, sure there aren

certain tis that is true in

framing a Budget as much as

there is in framing a migration

program but presently it is not

done in the context of what is

a sustainable rate of growth.

We've committed to achieve a sustainable rate of growth and

to keep it at a sustainable

rate of growth I think is needed to protect

the quality of life for future generations. Right, we do

actually have time for one more

question and that comes from

Kenneth Randall. Thank you. I

wonder if both of you would

give us an indication of where

you really think this issue or

the series of issues that you've talked about today rests

with the voting public in this

election campaign? Tony Burke?

I think for the voting public

the issue rests as to what is

happening in their community

and quite properly so. I think people in some of areas where there's people in some of the areas where there's massive skills shortage or even the

agricultural area where they've

lost their labour force because

of the mining boom that many of

these areas look quite properly

to say are we going to be able

to get the people that we

genuinely need where we are and

in areas where there is serious

congestion people will quite

properly be asking the question why

why on earth would you put more

people here? That's why

regional difference is at the

absolute core of the debate and

you can have projected numbers

for the future that are smaller

than what we currently have and

in terms of meeting the needs

of the nation they are meaningless if people are

settling in areas where we already have significant

congestion and we don't have significant employment

opportunity. On the issue of

regional differences, it is a

con to suggest to the Australian people going to solve this problem Australian people that this is going

through dispersal. At best 38%

of people who are overseas born straight after the war 1947

were settled in outside the

major urban areas. More

recently those figures suggest

it's only 10%. So 90% of those who are going to come are going

to be in the major urban

centres. That is a fact. And to

suggest that is going to change markedly

markedly in the short markedly in the short term as

well as infrastructure will be

delivered markedly in the short

term or services are going to prove significantly in the

short term I think is to have a

loan of the Australian people. That's

That's why it's important to

get the overall level of intake under control. Australian

people, to answer your

question, Ken, I think are looking for a government to actually get its hand on this

issue, to get its handle on

this issue, to understand the

concerns people are feeling on

this matter and to take control again.

again. They feel control again. They feel control has

been lost and the Coalition is

ready to take control again as we did last time. We do have

2.5 weeks exactly of this

election campaign to go, I'm wonder fg you both think this

is going to be an issue that continues to dominate the campaign or are we going to

move on to other areas? The Government clearly wants to go

on to the economy. I think what

we've been talking about today is a is a significant economic issue, a significant economic issue.

issue. And to make sure that we

have the skilled work force

that we need, to take into

account the lost productivity

that is caused by congestion, to get a population strategy

right with regional difference

is a very significant part of any economic debate and I

certainly welcome it continuing

in the next few weeks. The

issues about quality of life

and as long as infrastructure and services aren't turning up,

as long as our environment is

fragile, as long as our water

is managed as it is this will

continue to be a very important

issue. That's what it's about.

I think Tony and I agree on

that much that that is what this is about and it will continue, parents, it will concern grandparents, it will concern

the kids because if we rob from

the future on this issue then it is they who will

suffer. Well let's now go to

closing statements, first

closing statement from Tony

Burke. We're We're back here or was I meant to be here. Wherever

you're comfortable. We'll do it

here. OK. Tony Burke now moving

to podium on Twitter. In this

debate right at the end I think

we hit one of the issues which

is at the heart of why decentralisation debate now is

different to what it was 40

years ago. 40 years ago when

people talked about can we take

the pressure off the cities by

people moving to regional areas it

it was all about relocating

government departments. There's

a difference now. The difference now being driven by the market, through the movement of retirees, through the mining

boom, and through the roll out

of the national broadband network which does allow businesses that previously

could only be located in the

heart of the CBD being able to locate to other areas. That's

significant because every local

job you have is a car off the

road, does have an impact on

congestion, does have an impact

on people's quality of life. If

all we do in this debate is

look backwards and say well

because something was difficult

in the past therefore we can't

get it right in the future then this debate will let

Australians down badly. I do

believe we are capable of

having a mature debate on

immigration, I do believe we

are capable of having a mature

debate on the opportunities to

deal with the spread of

population throughout this

nation. And it does mean we

have to be willing to say that

we will deal with

how they've been dealt with in

the past. That creates an

improvement and an agenda for

productivity. It has a way of dealing with our ageing

population and the challenges

there and it says that we will

stop and take a breath and stop and take a breath and not

simply continue to hurtle

towards the old style economics

which says so long as you've

got more people land values go

up, you've got a property

market doing well and that's

productivity because that sort

of image sends short the

concept of quality of life.

Australia is the greatest country on Earth to l