News National PM’s own expert slams plan to cut migrant numbers

PM’s own expert slams plan to cut migrant numbers

scott morrison peter mcdonald immigration
Demand for workers is so high that capping immigration numbers won't work, the PM's own expert says. Photo: AAP
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Scott Morrison’s hand-picked immigration expert has slammed the Prime Minister’s plan to put a new cap on arrivals, warning it won’t make any difference to congestion in Sydney and Melbourne.

The architect of the original modelling that determines Australia’s immigration cap of 190,000 a year, Professor Peter McDonald, told The New Daily that demand for labour was so strong in the two big capital cities that Mr Morrison’s plan to cut immigration to 160,000 would not work.

“I don’t think it will make a difference,” he said. “I think the demand is so strong for labour they will get it from somewhere, perhaps New Zealand.”

Professor McDonald is the emeritus professor of demography at the ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy. He was asked by the Prime Minister to brief COAG on the issue last year.

While Australia currently has a cap of 190,000, the actual intake is much lower with the government cutting migration by stealth in the past year to 168,000. As such, a formal cut to 160,000 – as the government is understood to be considering – does not represent a significant difference.

Perhaps of even greater concern, Professor McDonald warned that any new cap would also flow through to family reunion migration and could open the door to legal challenges that could cost taxpayers millions.

The number of people that can migrate to Australia each year under family reunion provisions is linked to the skilled migration intake. If the overall intake goes down, it will cause further blowouts to waiting lists.

“There’s currently 80,000 people who are waiting to become a permanent resident,” Professor McDonald said.

“They have paid $500 million in fees to the government and they are still waiting.”

Asked if he believed these people could consider a legal challenge against the government, Professor McDonald said: “Yes, I do”.

“The cap was put on children as well originally, and that was taken off by the courts,” he said.

If you read the Migration Act, it says no cap on spouses. Well, effectively by linking family reunion to skilled migration they are setting an effective cap.”

“As the pipeline continues to grow, it will blow out waiting times. People are already waiting for two years.”

There are also different rules for the spouses of Australian citizens than for permanent residents.

“We are running a discriminatory immigration program because spouses of permanent residents get permanent residency automatically but spouses of Australian citizens have to wait,” Professor McDonald said.