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Australian Agenda -

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PM Agenda

19 July 2010

DAVID SPEERS: One of the big issues dominating the early days of this campaign has been population.
Julia Gillard was in Townsville today again talking up her promise to spend $200 million on
affordable housing in regional centres. It's a policy aimed at addressing overcrowding in the big
cities she says. Tony Abbott meanwhile was in one of those big cities, Melbourne, where the Abbott
and Costello show was rolled out. The former treasurer was there. He gave a killer of a speech;
we'll hear more about that later. On population Tony Abbott says migration has grown far too high
under this government and Australians want greater control over their migration and over their
borders. And joining me now is the Shadow Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison, Scott Morrison
thanks for joining us. Can I ...

SCOTT MORRION: Hi David.

DAVID SPEERS: ... before we get to population and migration, the polls, Labor being 10 points clear
in a couple of polls is that a worry?

SCOTT MORRISON: Oh look, it's very early in the campaign and I think things are moving around quite
a bit. Others will commentate on this, I'll leave that to them but look there's a long way to go
and look, at the end of the day, you know, people are going to make a judgement on policy and at
the moment there's a bit of theatrics around the personalities but as the choice firms up then it's
our hope it will focus on policy.

DAVID SPEERS: And just another political question, the preference deal between the Greens and Labor
struck today, ...

SCOTT MORRISON: Shock horror ...

DAVID SPEERS: Yeah ...

SCOTT MORRISON: ... it's not a big surprise ...

DAVID SPEERS: It's not a huge surprise ...

SCOTT MORRISON: ... hold the front page.

DAVID SPEERS: ... but does it make life harder for the Coalition in some of those marginal seats?

SCOTT MORRION: Look, I don't think there's, that's changed anything, I mean, effectively what Bob
Brown has said is he's done a deal with the Labor Party to shore themselves up in the Senate and a
vote for the Labor, the Greens is a vote for Labor it would seem. But look I think Greens voters
are far more independent than that. I think they'll form their own judgements, they'll look at the
policies, they'll look at the candidates and they'll form their own view.

DAVID SPEERS: You think you'll get a better flow from the Greens than you did the last time around?

SCOTT MORRISON: Oh look, we'll wait and see and see what happens, I mean the topic we'll talk about
today is sustainable population policy is one that we were talking about some time ago as opposed
to the government who are just election eve converts apparently on this and Bob Brown and I were
saying the same thing, you know, back in January.

DAVID SPEERS: You and Bob Brown ...

SCOTT MORRISON: There you go.

DAVID SPEERS: ... who (inaudible) there you go.

SCOTT MORRION: An unlikely alliance on that matter.

DAVID SPEERS: Population, Julia Gillard was, as I said, there in Townsville again today. What do
you think of her policy? This $200 million fund to encourage more housing developments in regional
centres like Townsville to get people out of the big cities?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, affordable housing has never been so much the challenge for people going into
regional areas. The challenge there is economic opportunities and employment and jobs and things of
that nature. I mean when you're taking a net 300,000 people into the country they tend to gravitate
into the major cities where there's services and employment and things of that nature. I mean
that's been the pattern for centuries ...

DAVID SPEERS: But you do have the ...

SCOTT MORRISON: ... let alone the last 20 years.

DAVID SPEERS: ... demand for labour in a lot of these regional centres now with mining and other
industries.

SCOTT MORRISON: Sure and people are going there to the extent that there are those opportunities
there but so long as we have the pattern of settlement that we have today then the cities will bear
the major burden. I don't think a few houses built in a few regional areas is going to change a
century old population movement (inaudible).

DAVID SPEERS: So, you wouldn't go ahead with that $200 million (inaudible)?

SCOTT MORRISON: Oh look, I'll leave that for the Shadow Housing Minister to make those sorts of
judgements on the policies but I mean that's not going to change how many people are coming to
Australia, it's not going to change what should be a sustainable rate of population growth and on
the government's policies we're heading to 42.3 million.

DAVID SPEERS: Well, what is going to change? The population growth is clearly tackling migration
numbers. Now, you've been saying that 300,000 which is the current net overseas migration figure is
too high, what's a more sustainable figure?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, just to get to what the intergenerational report was saying for 36 million
requires you to get to a 180,000 by 2012 and, of course, there is great unease about that number as
to whether it's sustainable and we don't believe it is. So, that's why our policy and the
difference between us and the government on this issue is we actually have a policy. We committed
ourselves to a population growth cap in April which would be set by the Independent Productivity
Commission and so Australians could have confidence that whatever our migration intake was it was
set within a sustainable growth path which was independently set.

DAVID SPEERS: But do you give the Productivity Commission an end figure and say we want to avoid
hitting 36 million or 40 million. This is the figure we want to hit now you give us the annual cap?

SCOTT MORRISON: What the Productivity Commission will do for us will say that over a five year
period they will say that it is sustainable based on our current investments and performance of
infrastructure and services, our soils, our food production capacity and things of that nature ...

DAVID SPEERS: Housing stock.

SCOTT MORRISON: ... housing stock, exactly. That you can grown the population in this country at a
rate of between X and Y with that Y being an upper cap and we will keep migration in check to
ensure that we don't breach those sustainable growth path patterns. Now, the government has said
nothing. They've announced three committees and they've changed a minister's letterhead and they've
said they'll announce what they're going to do after the election. Now, that's, I don't see how
people can trust Labor on that when they won't tell you what they're going to do before.

DAVID SPEERS: One of the difficult things that you guys won't say is when you do get that cap what
areas of migration will you cut? If they say here's the cap, you've got to get that migration
number down. Do you go for where the big increase has been, skilled migration?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, it hasn't been in skilled migration. I think that's one of the great
furphies. I mean 457 visas today in this financial year are the same as they were in about 2007,
2006. The big increase has obviously been the blowout with the student's rorts and abuses that the
Baird Report has shown up fairly consistently.

DAVID SPEERS: So, you will cut the student

SCOTT MORRISON: No, what I've said is ...

DAVID SPEERS: ... numbers?

SCOTT MORRISON: ... what I've said is, what we will do is our first priority is skilled migration.
We've given an absolute commitment that two thirds of our permanent migration intake will be skills
and we will work from there.

DAVID SPEERS: What about student migration though?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, that's another thing that its part of the mix as is the family reunion
program and a whole other range of things.

DAVID SPEERS: So, you look all those areas?

SCOTT MORRISON: We'll look at all those but what we've said clearly that our first priority will be
to ensure that our permanent intake, two thirds of it will be skilled migration.

DAVID SPEERS: Now, where does the asylum seeker debate fit into this debate because our refugee
intake is about 12 or 13,000 a year, it's a pretty small compared to the overall migration intake
and of that people who come by boat is about six or seven thousand this year it seems after the
spike in boat arrivals. So, is it fair to link these two issues, these two concerns?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, the only link, and it's been others who have been making this link, the link
relates to ...

DAVID SPEERS: But Tony Abbott did though?

SCOTT MORRISON: ... Well, no, the link relates to a country and particularly a government's
capacity to generate confidence in the Australian people that their immigration program is being
well run. I mean, a community has to feel confident about our level of intake. Under the Howard
government while immigration did increase actually the number of people who have had concerns about
immigration being too high fell, it halved over that time ...

DAVID SPEERS: So ...

SCOTT MORRISON: ... because people had confidence that we were running a program that was fair, the
was robust, the rules were being followed and was under control and that's what we've lost over the
last three years.

DAVID SPEERS: But just to break it down, you're saying the population debate should not really have
anything to do with the asylum seeker debate?

SCOTT MORRISON: Oh well, the number of asylum seekers, refugees, humanitarian entrants we take is
13,750, that hasn't changed, that hasn't contributed to population increase and either the
Coalition or the government aren't looking to change that figure. The asylum seeker debate is about
how people come, about the fairness of that process, about the safety of that process because under
Labor's policies 7,000 people, 147 boats and we believe around 170 people have drowned at sea over
the last few years. We've got a 561 children who have been detained and virtually all of them came
by boat. So, you know, that's their record.

DAVID SPEERS: Just finally Scott Morrison, we've got a question that's come in from someone on
Twitter. They're asking what the Liberal's will do to alleviate the housing shortage in Sydney? And
I'm wondering here where does the urban density question come in to it? I mean we've seen this
incredible sprawl of housing in Western Sydney, Western Melbourne. Do politicians need to bite the
bullet and tell us we're going to have to have more urban density?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, no, look again, that's outside my portfolio area but I'll say this, I mean if
we continue to pile people into Sydney, into Melbourne, into Brisbane in the way at 300,000 net a
year as this government has been doing then we are going to continue to put up pressure on our
housing affordability and on our cities, that the bottom line. So, we cannot continue with our foot
to the floor on population growth. Also, I mean we can't, basically saying, the Labor Party's
saying look, trust us to fix the problems in the cities when it's been state Labor government's
that have had unplanned expansion or lack of expansion of housing across all of our metropolitan
cities, they're the ones who have constrained the ability to deliver affordable housing on the
ground and now the federal Labor Party's going well they stuffed it up be we can fix it. I think
Australians will see through that.

DAVID SPEERS: Shadow Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, thank you.

SCOTT MORRISON: Thanks David thanks for your time.

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