Saturday, 31 July 2010
Part of a 26th July 2010 7.30 Report interview over at Aunty ABC on the subject of Australia's immigration policy:
KERRY O'BRIEN: Now let's talk about immigration, which you've put further on the map in this campaign at the weekend and where you've been accused of being tricky. Isn't it true that the peak immigration figure of 300,000 in 2008, the calendar year 2008, the first year of the Rudd Government, that you've described as unsustainable, was actually achieved under the immigration policy of the Howard Government?
TONY ABBOTT: But the government that was in charge was the Rudd-Gillard Government, and the following year, 2009, we had 277,000 people come in, and what I'm proposing is that the immigration intake has to be sustainable, that's why I've proposed a maximum of 170,000. And I'm being honest and upfront about this, Kerry. Julia Gillard tried to have a population discussion last week without being fair dinkum with us. She tried to pretend that you could discuss population without also discussing immigration. She wouldn't tell us what she wanted to do with immigration, and I challenge her to specify a figure.
KERRY O'BRIEN: Well, you said last Saturday that immigration in the last year of the Howard Government was actually 200,000, - was about, I think you said, 200,000.
TONY ABBOTT: In the last seven quarters of the Howard Government.
KERRY O'BRIEN: The last seven quarters was 200,000?
TONY ABBOTT: Well, I think it was about 210,000 in the last seven quarters of the Howard Government.
KERRY O'BRIEN: Well according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, it was actually 244,000 for the calendar year in 2007 and rising. Correct? And the Howard Government was in office for 11 of those 12 months.
TONY ABBOTT: I'm not disputing your figures, Kerry, but circumstances have changed. Australia's cities are choking on their own traffic. We were booming in the Howard years. We have gone through a global financial crisis. There has been an economic slowdown since then. The public no longer support immigration the way they did under the Howard Government. We've got to rebuild support for the immigration program, as happened under John Howard. The Australian Government has gotta be in charge and the program has got to be in Australia's national interest and the public have gotta perceive it that way.
KERRY O'BRIEN: But isn't it also true that the immigration figures have already come down sharply from that peak of 300,000, a peak of 300,000 under Howard policies and will keep falling sharply in the next couple of years, probably below 150,000, no matter who is running the government?
TONY ABBOTT: Well, I don't know what's gonna happen under Julia Gillard's policy because she hasn't told us what her policy is. I've told you what my position is. It will come down to under 170,000 in the first term of a Coalition government.
KERRY O'BRIEN: But let's just nail this down, because even if Julia Gillard doesn't change her policy one iota, and they have already changed the policy with regard to intakes of students coming in, they've tightened up rorts that first developed under the Howard Government - and again, I'm sure you'll be honest enough to acknowledge that; they've tightened up rorts so there will be fewer students coming in, looking and assuming that they will get permanent residency. But even if she does absolutely nothing more, isn't it true that immigration will continue to come down sharply in the next two years?
TONY ABBOTT: Well there's a private sector forecast out, but there's no government forecast out, there are no government figures out and that same private sector forecast says it will be back to 250,000 in 2015 under the policies of the current government.
KERRY O'BRIEN: That's five years from now. But according to Immigration Department, net migration into Australia for the financial year just ended, is down to be between 230,000 and 250,000 from that 300,000 figure. According to the BIS Shrapnel report that you've just referred to, net migration down to 175,000 by June next year, 145,000 the following year. So it seems your new migration policy is already - is going to happen anyway, no matter who's in government?
TONY ABBOTT: Well if that's the case, why didn't Julia Gillard tell us this last week when she tried to have a conversation about population, but dishonestly pretended that population had nothing to do with immigration, even though two-thirds of our population increase is via immigration?
KERRY O'BRIEN: But are you prepared to acknowledge that these figures make clear that your policy will make no difference to the figures coming down over the next two years?
TONY ABBOTT: Well, last time I looked, Kerry, BIS Shrapnel don't set immigration policy. It's the Government that should set immigration policy. Under any government that I lead, the Government will clearly be in charge. The numbers'll be set firmly in Australia's national interest, it will be sustainable and there'll be a maximum of 170,000 in the first term of a Coalition government.