Coalition Looks For A Win On Migration

Coalition looks for a win on migration

Patricia Karvelas, Political correspondent
From: The Australian
April 16, 2010 12:00AM

TONY Abbott has established an opposition sub-committee to design an election strategy on population, an issue the Coalition sees as a winner for it and a political problem for Kevin Rudd.

NSW moderate Liberal Marise Payne is chairing the sub-committee, which includes frontbenchers across a range of portfolios. They include immigration spokesman Scott Morrison who last week controversially called for cuts to Australia's immigration rate.

Senior Coalition sources told The Australian the sub-committee was established before the Prime Minister appointed Tony Burke as his new Population Minister and was intended to ensure the Coalition was on the front foot on the issue but the Opposition Leader was beaten to the punch.

Controversially, Mr Morrison made his comments about cutting immigration before the committee made any decisions.

The committee has met only once but is stepping up its efforts to develop an agenda that appeals to fears of overpopulation.

Senator Payne would not comment on whether she believed current immigration levels should be cut. She said the Coalition wanted to develop a population policy outside the immigration portfolio. “It's much broader than that,” Senator Payne said. “It has implications around commonwealth/state relations, around infrastructure and environment and housing. Virtually every portfolio in one way or another has some impact in this area.

“The focus that Tony (Abbott) is trying to bring to this is a whole-of-the-shadow-ministry-focus — not putting it in the hands of one person and pushing it off to sometime after the election for action.”

Last week Mr Morrison said immigration was out of control and net overseas migration, which was running at about 300,000 a year, should be cut.

ACTU president Sharan Burrow yesterday said Australia must continue to grow and she defended immigration as a way to help that happen. Ms Burrow's views are at odds with those of left-wing union leader John Sutton, national secretary of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union. Ms Burrow said Australia's population would continue to grow and governments must plan for the infrastructure necessary to ensure liveable communities.

“The ACTU supports permanent migration which in turn has contributed to increased GDP, increased numbers of jobs and a rich multicultural nation,” Ms Burrow said. “Tony Abbott must rein in his party's simplistic and divisive views if he is to avoid endangering our economy and creating social unrest.”

But Mr Sutton said Australia was already struggling to provide essential public infrastructure.

“It is hard to see how we can meet the kind of rapid growth big business has been championing without a decline in living standards,” he said.

“The No 1 task should be to reduce our current high youth unemployment rate by training our young people, not just resorting to the importation of skilled workers from overseas. Under-employed sections of the population like women, indigenous and mature aged people should also be given opportunities before turning to imported labour.”


Related Coverage :

Australia becoming a crowded house Daily Telegraph, 3 days ago
Abbott aides play down asylum remarks The Australian, 4 days ago
Regional growth the objective The Australian, 8 Apr 2010
Minister flips on population Herald Sun, 8 Apr 2010
Aussies OK with immigration Adelaide Now, 8 Apr 2010