Immigration cuts 'won't slow growth'
Matthew Franklin, Chief political correspondent
From: The Australian
August 18, 2010 12:00AM
JULIA Gillard has emphatically denied a returned Labor government would put the brakes on economic growth by cuttiing migration.
Her plan is to reduce immigration as part of a promise to deliver “a sustainable Australia”.
The Prime Minister has also insisted she wants to deliver skills to Australians first, rather than accepting migrants, and has pointed to her plans for a National Broadband Network and spending on training as evidence of Labor's pro-growth agenda.
And Ms Gillard has declared the opposition's economic policy is in chaos after Liberal Deputy Senate Leader George Brandis said he did not know when a Coalition government would return the budget to surplus, putting himself at odds with Tony Abbott's guarantees of a surplus by 2012-13.
The comments came as economic management dominated yesterday's campaigning, with both sides seeking to discredit the other in the lead-up to Saturday's election.
While the opposition delivered an infrastructure policy in Canberra, Ms Gillard responded to criticism from the business community that her promise to slow immigration — a move targeted at voters struggling with traffic congestion and urban sprawl — would see the nation turn its back on a immigration-fuelled growth strategy that has driven increases in living standards and prosperity since World War II.
Describing herself as a supporter of immigration, Ms Gillard, born in Wales, said targets had to be set according to economic circumstances. She said Labor's policies would fuel growth, while the Opposition Leader's spending cuts would do the opposite.
“There are a number of drivers of economic growth,” Ms Gillard said as she campaigned in Townsville to promote the National Broadband Network. She described it as “a turbo-charger of economic growth, investment in skills: absolutely a driver of economic growth”.
Insisting she did not want to constrain growth, the Prime Minister said the opposition was the real threat to prosperity.
“Let me you tell what's going to constrain it — us falling behind the standards of the world because they've got fibre, they've got national broadband networks and we do not (under a Coalition government),” she said. “What's going to have us fall behind the standards of the world and constrain growth? If we don't invest in skills, which is why, as a centrepiece in this campaign I've talked passionately about my belief that every child should get a great education but also the economic need to invest in skills.”
Later, visiting the Gregory coalmine near Emerald, in central Queensland, Ms Gillard savaged the Coalition's economic policy after Senator Brandis told Sky News that a 1.5 per cent levy on profits of large companies to fund the opposition's proposed paid parental leave scheme would remain in place for as long as the budget was in deficit.
“Now we can't be certain when the budget will be back in surplus,” Senator Brandis said during a debate with Small Business Minister Craig Emerson. “But one thing you can be confident of, given the Coalition's track record of economic management, when we actually got the budget back into surplus after the last Labor government left us with the last pile of Labor debt, it'll be sooner under us than under the Labor Party.”
The comment was a gaffe, with Mr Abbott having built his election campaign around returning the budget to surplus on 2012-13 based on his claim to superior economic management skills.
Ms Gillard pounced. “Senator Brandis has let the cat out of the bag,” she said. “They don't know when it will come back to surplus under them because their costings are full of holes.”
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