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Dutton makes huge migration promise

CHALMERS POST-BUDGET SPEECH
Peter Dutton gave his budget reply speech on Thursday night. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Australia’s permanent migration program would be slashed to just 140,000 per year should the Coalition form government at the next election, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton announced in a pledge to “restore the Australian dream” of home ownership.

As the country grapples with an acute housing shortage, spurring prices for homes and rental prices to record highs, Mr Dutton unveiled a suite of changes to the migration system during his budget reply address on Thursday night.

“The great Australian aspiration of home ownership has become out of reach for so many,” Mr Dutton said.

“But I will never accept a situation where the only people who can afford to buy a home are people with rich parents.”

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From mid-2025, a Coalition government would reduce Australia’s permanent migration program to 140,000.

The program will then increase to 150,000 in its third year, before climbing to 160,000 in year four.

“We believe that by rebalancing the migration program and taking decisive action on the housing crisis, the Coalition would free up more than 100,000 additional homes over the next five years,” Mr Dutton said.

Adelaide Airport
Tuesday’s budget forecasts the net overseas migration number will fall to half of the record 2022-23 figure of 528,000 by 2025-26. Picture: NewsWire / Kelly Barnes

In the current financial year, Australia’s permanent migration program was set at 190,000 places, falling to 185,000 in 2024-25.

But amid continued skill shortages, Mr Dutton pledged that the housing and construction sector would be immune from any migration clampdown.

“We will ensure there are enough skilled and temporary skilled visas for those with building and construction skills to support our local tradies to build the homes we need,” Mr Dutton said.

However, Australia’s refugee and humanitarian program planning level would be reduced to just 13,750. It currently sits at 20,000 places.

A future Coalition government would also implement a two-year ban on foreign investors and temporary residents purchasing existing homes in Australia.

New builds would be exempt.

With the number of foreign students at metropolitan universities reaching “excessive” levels, Mr Dutton pledged to work with universities to set a cap on the foreign student intake.

The Coalition would also alter the student visa program, introducing tiered visa application fees that would apply to students who changed providers.

HOUSING GENERICS
The Coalition raised fears about housing shortages. Picture: NewsWire / Max Mason-Hubers

Mr Dutton stopped short of committing to a hard cap to allow aspiring homeowners to use their entire superannuation balance to buy a property.

He reiterated the Coalition’s pledge to allow Australians access to up to $50,000 of their super to buy their first home, however, argued “more needed to be done” to support older Australians in retirement.

He vowed to triple the existing work bonus from $300 per fortnight to $900 to help supplement pensioners’ incomes.

“Pensioners will continue to accrue unused pension work bonus amounts up to a maximum of $11,800, which can exempt future earnings from the pension income test,” he said.

“We will also lift the number of hours those on student visas can work by 12 hours a fortnight.”

The Liberal leader did not unveil additional details on his long-awaited nuclear energy policy and vowed to develop uniform knife laws to limit and restrict the sale and possession of knives to minors and “dangerous” individuals.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NewsWire Photos JANUARY 20, 2023: Editorial generic stock image of an iPhone with the popular apps: Instagram, Messenger and Facebook prominent on its home screen. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nicholas Eagar
Kids will be be forced to verify their age on TikTok under a Coalition government Picture: NewsWire / Nicholas Eagar

He reiterated the Coalition’s plans to jail people who post crimes on social media for up to two years and said he announced an expansion of the government’s online age verification trial to include social media apps TikTok and Instagram.

“At the fingertips of our children is a concerning volume of sexually explicit and violent material, as well as content designed to indoctrinate,” he said.

Mr Dutton flagged that the Coalition would announce its nuclear energy, tax, industrial relations and competition reforms ahead of the next election, which is due by May next year.

Concluding his address, Mr Dutton claimed the Albanese government had become increasingly disconnected from everyday Australians.

“Labor has forgotten the main principle of governing,” he said.

“It isn’t the people who serve the will of the government – it’s the government who serves the will of the people.”