Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

Subjects: Migration levels


BEN FORDHAM: As we go to air this afternoon there have been tense talks in Adelaide as state and territory leaders debate whether to cut our migration intake. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has declared she wants to halve the state's intake temporarily to allow infrastructure to catch up. She's made her position crystal clear as Scott Morrison hosted his first COAG leaders meeting in Adelaide. But leaders across the country don't all agree with Gladys Berejiklian - South Australia wants to attract more people and the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is against a cut to migration. It comes as former Prime Minister John Howard declares: we should be able to cut immigration without being accused of racism.

David Coleman is the federal Immigration Minister. He joins me on the line. Minister, good afternoon.

DAVID COLEMAN: Afternoon Ben.

BEN FORDHAM: So who do you agree with Gladys Berejiklian or Daniel Andrews?

DAVID COLEMAN: Well Ben, the PM's already flagged that there'll be a reduction in the overall immigration intake. But it's important that that is done in a sensible, planned way and that's why consulting the states on their needs is so important. As you said, South Australia's got very different needs than New South Wales has, and Victoria's different again and the regions - there are a lot of regions that are actually crying out for people.

So the PM's made it clear that the current cap which is 190 will be coming down but you know, we'll be having more to say about the number, the composition, and how we get people to the region.

BEN FORDHAM: Should the states be able to say how many people they want to accept? Because as you point out, New South Wales has different needs to South Australia for example; should Gladys Berejiklian be able to say that she wants to halve the state's intake temporarily?

DAVID COLEMAN: Well we need to get as much input as we can from the states. I mean in the past to be frank, Ben, there hasn't been enough; there hasn't been enough collaboration between the states and the federal government. Immigration decisions are ultimately the call of the federal government and will continue to be, but we can do a better job of getting that input, making sure that the states can cope with the infrastructure needs of population growth. I mean obviously in New Wales under Bob Carr and others there was a complete lack of infrastructure relative to population growth and we want that to stop. We want there to be proper long term population planning and it would be foolish of the Commonwealth not to properly involve the states in that because they hold a lot of the levers when it comes to infrastructure.

BEN FORDHAM: Alright, I know there's a news conference on at the moment featuring the Prime Minister and state and territory leaders. They've had all day to discuss this but at the end of the meeting they've agreed to come back in January to discuss it all over again. I mean how hard is it to make a decision?

DAVID COLEMAN: Well we've got to get the input of the states Ben, so the states will be coming back and saying this is what we think the level of population growth should be; this is how we, the states, will plan for that infrastructure; this is our capacity to take on more people and that's – that's sensible Ben. That's what a proper orderly process should involve. That's what we're going to do. We'll work through that. We'll work constructively with the states and the federal government will put together the ultimate plan and as the PM said, the cap will be coming down but it'll be being done in a sensible way that has regard to our need in different parts of the country.

BEN FORDHAM: Just briefly with a final message to those stuck in traffic in Sydney this afternoon, relief is in sight?

DAVID COLEMAN: Well look as I said, the PM's made it very clear that Sydney is under enormous pressure in terms of congestion. I mean my own electorate of Banks in St George and Bankstown area, Ben, I mean we know it here probably better than just about anyone in Sydney. So it's a real issue and people should be allowed to frankly discuss it and the PM's made that very clear. But the issues vary around the country and South Australia is saying we need more skilled migrants to help grow our economy and that's sensible, that's what a proper structured discussion should be about and that's what we're going to do.

BEN FORDHAM: Good to talk to you, Minister. We'll chat next year. Thanks for your time.