Sky News First Edition – Migration Review & Housing




Topics: Migration, housing

PETER STEFANOVIC (HOST): Alright, let’s keep that conversation going with Labor MP Peter Khalil and Liberal Senator James Paterson. Peter, we’ll start off with you. Is our migration system failing?


Yes, it’s broken. Good morning, Peter. Good morning, James. The migration system is broken. It’s in need of systemic reform. It’s unstrategic. It’s slow, it’s unplanned. Over the last nine years, under a Liberal government, it’s become a dog’s breakfast, frankly, and one of my main criticisms of the migration system – and I’ve written about this in op-eds – is the creation of what I would call permanent temporary workers, where there’s been an increase of temporary visas for temporary workers, whereas permanent migration has remained pretty much steady and unmoved. And these temporary workers have been underpaid, they’ve been exploited. And for me, the real problem with this is that Australia, when we had a migration system where we were having migrants come here, settle permanently, put a stake in the ground, start businesses, commit to becoming Australians like my parents who came here some 50 odd years ago – these are the types of migrants we want. They built Australia effectively post-World War Two. We haven’t seen that, that hasn’t been encouraged. So we’re losing people as well in a competitive sense to other countries where we don’t have a migration system that captures the best skilled migrants, those who want to become Australians.

And I heard what Sussan Ley said, and very quickly, I’ll say this: please. Please. They increased temporary migration numbers. They effectively doubled under the previous government. And they talked about congestion busting – they did a small cut to permanent migration, but temporary visas doubled, and 87% of those temporary visas, those workers, were in Sydney and Melbourne. So talk about congestion. The previous government actually added to that with their smoke and mirror play about the migration system. So we are seeking to fix this. There’s gonna be some major overhaul, and the minister’s gonna be talking about that today. 

STEFANOVIC: There is that, but also you had the issue of COVID which basically reduced migration to zero, James, and now we’ve gotta play catch up, don’t we? But what’s the ceiling here? Because you let too many folks in, rents jack up – housing continues to become more unaffordable. So again, what’s the number here? 

JAMES PATERSON, SENATOR FOR VICTORIA: Well, Peter, there’s no question, as Peter Khalil said, that migration built this country. We’re a stronger, richer country today than we would otherwise be if it wasn’t for the millions of migrants who’ve come from all around the world and chose to make Australia home. But the size and the composition and the timing of that migration intake are legitimate areas for public debate. And the government has been very critical and have had a lot of rhetoric about the migration system. It’s time for them to front up and provide some answers. What is their plan? How many people do they intend to bring? How are they going to reduce the numbers of temporary visa holders while also solving the skills shortages? And how are they gonna house the people that want to come here when we are facing the housing affordability and rental crisis? If Claire O’Neill isn’t able to provide answers to that today, then really I think we’ll all be wondering what the government has been doing for their first year in office if they’re not coming up with answers to those problems.

STEFANOVIC: We had this story a few weeks ago: 650,000 was gonna be the number this financial year and last. Is that gonna be too many for those reasons, Pete – rent and housing prices?

KHALIL: Yeah, there’s no doubt there are pressures on infrastructure, on housing, rental pressures as well. And James is right in the sense that you’ve gotta get the balance right. My argument, of course, is that the previous government increased temporary work visas and actually added to this problem to a certain extent, while not increasing or reducing permanent skilled migration, which is what we actually need to drive not just our economy, but our community. As we said, we both agree that it was built on migration, but the type of migration is really, really important. And so, yes, investment in housing: we’ve got a $10 billion housing fund, ask James why they’re opposing it. I think it’s coming up to the Senate. We’re trying to find and push through policies that will address some of these pressures and yet we’ve got an opposition that will not support that. 

STEFANOVIC: Well, why not support it, James? 

PATERSON: Well, because we have a very serious budget situation and the government is engaging in a whole series of off-book transactions where they’re gonna take on billions of dollars of debt for uncertain benefit at a time when interest rates are increasing and rising repayments on that debt is one of the greatest pressures on the budget. I’m very skeptical that that will make any material difference to the housing challenges we face. And it might make the fiscal problems that we face even more serious. I mean, this government’s gotta be serious about these issues if they actually wanna increase the supply of housing, what are they doing to do that, other than just spending more money, spending more taxpayer’s money in an inflated, overheated economy that we’re already struggling with the cost of living?

KHALIL: With all due respect, James, what it actually is, is 30,000 new houses, social and public housing. It’s hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade and maintain public housing. It’s thousands of new homes for vulnerable Australians, like women and children, who are fleeing domestic violence, and particularly, one of the largest increases in homelessness are women, single women above 55. That is real. And I can’t understand – on one hand you’re saying “it’s off-book, it’s uncertain”. On the other hand, you’re saying, “oh, we’ve gotta do something about it, where are these houses gonna come from”? They’re gonna come from legislation that we’re trying to get through the Parliament so that we can get on and invest in those new houses and you’re blocking it.

PATERSON: I’m interested to hear, Peter, that legislation can build houses. Last time I checked, it was people that build houses, and we’ve got a massive shortage of workers who build houses. We’ve got a shortage of the key supplies that go into building houses and that’s why that building industry is on the brink. I don’t think a new bill to the Parliament is gonna build a single new home.

STEFANOVIC: Alright, we’ll leave it there. We could keep going, but it’s good to have this debate about migration. It’s a timely one, but we’re out of time, James. We’ll see you soon. Talk to you soon. Coming up.