Along with the National Energy Guarantee and corporate tax cuts for the big end of town, immigration was one of the major issues that fuelled the revolt against Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. High rates of immigration had increasingly been linked in public debate with rising house prices, low wages and urban congestion (not least because senior government figures like Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton repeatedly asserted they were connected).
The new prime minister, Scott Morrison, has been one of the few figures on either side of federal politics willing to say anything positive about immigration. As treasurer, he hit back against Tony Abbott’s call for the permanent migration intake to be cut by 80,000 places annually, pointing out that this could blow a $4 billion hole in the budget over four years. He also challenged the connection between immigration and crime drawn recently by Abbott, Dutton and Turnbull.
If Turnbull were still prime minister, he would be presiding this week over a cabinet meeting focusing on how to respond to Australia’s population pressures. Although a truce seems to have been struck among the Liberal Party’s battling factions following the change of leadership, the twin issues of population and immigration are unlikely to disappear from the political agenda.
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