Is immigration too high in Australia?
CUTTING immigration into Australia may improve living standards and housing affordability for residents but there are also trade=offs that need to be considered.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott has called for Australia to drastically reduce immigration levels from 190,000 to 110,000 people a year.
"My issue is not immigration; it's the rate of immigration at a time of stagnant wages, clogged infrastructure, soaring house prices and, in Melbourne at least, ethnic gangs that are testing the resolve of police," he said during a speech at the Sydney Institute on Tuesday evening.
"It's a basic law of economics that increasing the supply of labour depresses wages; and that increasing demand for housing boosts price."
THE ARGUMENT FOR LOWER IMMIGRATION
Population expert Bob Birrell, a former Monash University professor and now head of the Australian Population Research Institute, said net overseas migration was responsible for half the growth in households in Melbourne and Sydney.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said today it was temporary migration driving population growth up, so the government had tightened controls on 457 visas and extended the waiting list time for migrants to be able to claim welfare.
But Mr Birrell said he thought dramatic cuts could still be made to the skilled migration program.
According to 2015-16 statistics, almost 130,000 people enter Australia every year under the "skills stream", a substantial number of the total 190,000 granted permanent visas. Most of the other places are granted under the "family stream".
"That could be slashed because the so-called skilled migrants it is attracting - very few have skills that are in short supply in Australia," Mr Birrell said.
"Employers would hardly notice the difference if the skills stream was slashed."
In a report published in December 2016, Mr Birrell highlighted rorting of the previous 457 visa system (which has now been replaced) among three popular occupations: IT professionals, engineers and accountants.
"Competition from the migrant influx is part of the problem."
But Mr Birrell said changes announced in April last year to abolish the 457 visa and replace it with a new Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa was a significant reform.
Unlike the 457 visa, the two-year TSS will not allow migrants to apply for permanent residency once they expire. The government also slashed the number of occupations eligible to apply for the visa.