April 27, 2023

SUBJECT | Overseas Migration | 27 April 2023

KIERAN GILBERT: Thanks for your time. The Home Affairs Minister was quite scathing of the Coalition, says the government, the former government, of which you were part, dropped the ball on a whole range of issues. What's your response?

DAN TEHAN: Well, I mean, Claire O'Neil wants to focus on the past we want to focus on our future. And what I say to Claire O'Neil is that I'm very happy to work with you to make sure that we get the system right, because what she outlined at the Press Club today raises many more questions than there were any answers to. And the simple things, like, we know that net overseas migration is going to hit 650,000 over the next two years and today she seems to have announced even more people coming to Australia. What's the impact that’s going to have on inflation and therefore on interest rates? We need to have that answer. What's the cost of bringing in these 650,000+ more people? What's it mean for infrastructure? We know in the budget we're going to see infrastructure cuts in Melbourne and other cities - so how's that going to work? The increase of the TSMIT to 70,000, can she explain what the impact that's going to have, especially in rural and regional areas? When it comes to the care sector, in particular the aged care sector, we would like to see that question answered. We do think that the ICT system needs to be improved and therefore, if you can do that you continue to build integrity into your system. Now, I think, Claire O'Neil and Andrew Giles need some help getting money out of the budget process for that, they couldn’t get it in May in this coming budget, she's said that at her press club. So, I look forward to working with them to get money in the Budget after to improve these IT systems. That's what we've got to be focused on, the future in this nation.

GILBERT: When you spoke about that, let's just pick up one of the things you mentioned there. The temporary skilled migration income threshold has lifted from 52 or 53000 to $70000 as a minimum. Are you worried that some businesses, organisations in the regions, as you said in the aged care sector, will simply have to let people go? Is that your fear because they won't be able to pay that level?

TEHAN: Well, we want to look at the full report, it's obviously 200 pages, and we would like to ask some questions or at least see that the government has done some analysis as to what this will mean, in particular, in the regions. We don't think it will have such an impact in the cities, but we do think it will have an impact in rural and regional Australia, and in particular in those care sectors where we need people. And we'd like to see whether the Government's looked at this and whether they've done an analysis and whether it will have a real impact in those areas. People that I’ve been speaking to since Clare O’Neil’s speech have raised this as a concern. So we want the analysis from the government and then we can have a look at this proposed change. But once again, we don't seem to have got any of these important details. A $16,000 increase in a wage, especially in rural and regional areas as a one off, could have a big impact. So we want to know whether the government has looked at this and has considered it.

GILBERT: The skilled migration list, those priority areas to fill the labour shortages, has that been left idle and has that been unchanged for too long?

TEHAN: Obviously, we, during the pandemic, we had to change the way, the very nature of our migration system. We had to close our borders and then as we were coming out of the pandemic, we had adjusted some of those skills. Now we're happy to work with the government to make sure those skill shortages are addressed. But once again, what we're seeing and what I'm hearing on the ground, we've seen a 650,000 people increase in our net overseas migration yet everywhere I go people are still crying out for those skill shortages to be addressed. So it doesn't seem like what they're doing is addressing the skills shortages. Claire O'Neil was asked at the Press Club today, what specifically are you doing for the aged care sector? And she said, well, I can't answer that, and yet we're meant to have those ratios in place for nurses in the aged care sector on July 1. We're about to head to the May budget and she couldn't answer that simple question. So, look, I don't know when they're going to provide the detail, but I've got to say her speech today - and I think the absence of Andrew Giles, I think he's out of the country, really meant that a lot of the detail just couldn't be answered. And I think next time they do something like this it would be good if Andrew Giles was in the country as well so we could get some of those specific answers. I don't know why it was sent overseas when this was going on, but I think that would have helped because we might have got some of the answers to simple things, like how are we going to make sure that those aged care ratios are met.

GILBERT: The skilled migration path to permanent residency has been opened up in a big way by the Minister and the Government. You said there wasn’t much detail that was certainly part of the detail, do you support that move?

TEHAN: Well, once again, we're not quite sure how it's going to work. And does that mean now that when it comes to temporary skilled migration, that we're going to see that lowered? And once we've added those temporary skilled migrants to the permanent residency pathway, what's then going to happen when it comes to temporary skilled migrants? That question has just been left unanswered. We don't know for those who are here on those temporary skilled visas, if they're earning below 70,000, if the employer can't lift their wage to 70,000, do they then have to leave the country? So what is meant to be, as far as we can tell, addressing skill shortages might actually, in some areas, make it worse. Once again, none of the detail there and I think that's why, the next time I think it would be good if Andrew Giles did it with Clare O'Neil so we could get some of these specifics answered, because at the moment it just looks like we're adding to that 650,000 net overseas migration number with no plan. No plan to address the impact on housing, on rents, on congestion and on inflation, and that, I think,...

GILBERT: But you would have heard the minister say it's her view that if they can achieve what they're setting out here, the system, the overall migration intake, would be lower. That was her argument.

TEHAN: Yeah, but how? So, what they've been doing is going along on a big Australia pathway by stealth. And if you listen to her speech, once again, she seemed to be adding more numbers and yet there she is saying, Oh no, we actually think that this will reduce the numbers. It was very confusing and the numbers just don't add up. She's announcing we're going to put more people on a permanent pathway. We already know that net overseas migration is going to hit 650,000 in the next two years. She seems to have added more to that number today and yet she's saying, oh, no, we think that it will lead to a reduction. My question is, how? And where is the data? Where is the analysis? Where is the numbers that they think will be lead to the forecasts that will be able to point to the fact that she stated that it will actually occur. Now maybe this will be all laid out in the budget. But from the speech today, all we got was, once again, a very confusing outlook and it doesn't seem like there is a plan. They've had this report commissioned; they couldn't even agree to the recommendations of the report. They've just said that basically, oh, yes, we think they sort of head us in the right direction.

GILBERT: Shadow Immigration Minister Dan Tehan, thanks for your time.

Media contact | Cate Mercer-Grant 0408 564 232