The Federal Government will slash Australia’s migration intake over the next four years as part of a policy to manage the nation’s population.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will unveil the policy on Wednesday that will include a permanent migration intake and new regional visas for skilled workers.
Under the plan, permanent migration will be capped at 160,000 from 190,000 last year, reducing it by 30,000 places.
New skilled workers will be also be introduced covering 23,000 entrants, requiring them to live in the regions as a pre-condition for securing permanent residency.
The government will also offer scholarships to try and encourage foreign students to study outside the cities at regional universities.
1,000 scholarships worth $15,000 will be available to locals and overseas students, with an additional year in Australia available to overseas students studying at regional universities on a post-study work visa.
Mr Morrison said it was about improving the nation’s population management.
“This is about managing populations, it’s about infrastructure investments, it’s about congestion-busting on our roads,” he told the Seven Network on Wednesday morning.
“It’s about having cohesion programs…which is more about bringing Australians together.”
However, he denied that the policy was fuelled by racism and religion, rejecting reports from 2011 that he had sought to curb growing concerns about Muslim migration.
“It’s an ugly and disgusting lie and I reject that absolutely,” Mr Morrison told the ABC.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said federal Labor was willing to lower the annual migrant intake, but said the proposed cap was “dog whistling.”
Mr Shorten said that he did not have issues with the policy itself, but disagreed with the timing in the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attack.
“The dog whistling by political leaders about immigration and asylum seekers must stop,” he said.
“The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. So I repeat, as leader of the Labor Party, one of the two parties who can form a government in this country, dog whistling about immigration and asylum seekers needs to stop.”
“It needs to stop because the crazies, the extremists, they take comfort when there is approval given to go down this slippery path of starting to bag immigration.”
However, Mr Morrison said it was about “congestion busting.”
He said he wanted ordinary workers in capital cities to spend less time stuck in traffic, while helping inject life into regional towns.
“It’s a plan to work with the states and territories who will get an increase say about the intakes from less than on fifth to more than one quarter,” the PM said.
“I think to conflate it with other issues is very disappointing.”