Opposition Signals It Is All At Sea On Immigration

Opposition signals it is all at sea on immigration

By Katharine Murphy and Andrew Heasley
The Age (Melbourne), April 9, 2010

He has been spruiking the idea for days, but opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison now admits cutting the migration intake is not Coalition policy.

Mr Morrison has had to climb down in the wake of a business backlash and internal party unease, arguing yesterday that his comments on cutting the intake were not ''wholesale policy'' but ''simple observation''.

Mr Morrison has been arguing the current intake of 300,000 is too high, but experts have queried his use of a figure that includes foreign students and temporary workers.

The government is also sounding a cautious note following a poll showing that a majority of Australians do not like the official Treasury forecast that the population could be 36 million by 2050.

Population Minister Tony Burke told reporters he would not be setting a population target. He stood by arguments he made to The Age this week that it was not possible to cap the rate of population growth.

Mr Burke said the government would not be in a position to set a concrete target for population growth in the future. ''I don't see how any modelling would be capable of providing that level of precision.''

The Treasury figure of 36 million was a forecast only, ''not an ambition, not a policy''.

As controversy increased and Coalition spokespeople publicly contradicted one another, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott confirmed that there had not yet been a shadow cabinet deliberation about migration policy.

But Mr Abbott backed his immigration spokesman, saying he was doing a ''terrific job in that portfolio''.

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey used a separate radio interview yesterday to differentiate himself from Mr Morrison and telegraph a more positive message.

Mr Hockey said that Australians needed to ''embrace'' new arrivals, and the immigration program had made the country a better place.

The government has jumped on all the backflips and contrasting messages from the Coalition.


Coalition 'flip-flopping' on population
By Samantha Hawley
The ABC News (Australia), April 9, 2010

Morrison migration remarks 'not Coalition policy'
By Emma Rodgers
The ABC News (Australia), April 8, 2010