Treasurer Calls Opposition’s Budget Reply ‘Dark, Divisive’

Dutton has pledged to cut overseas migration from 260,000 to 160,000, while Coalition partner Littleproud said it would not affect migration to regional areas.
Treasurer Calls Opposition’s Budget Reply ‘Dark, Divisive’
Newly built houses are seen in the Western Suburbs on January 11, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the Opposition’s plan to reduce migration and impose a two-year ban on foreigners buying Australian homes would hurt the economy and divide the local community.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has promised that if he were elected in 2025, a coalition government would reduce the number of international students and overseas migration from 260,000 to 160,000. He claimed that this move would free up 100,000 houses across the next five years.

However, Mr. Chalmers said this would make “nowhere near the difference” that Mr. Dutton is claiming.

“His budget reply was dark, it was divisive—intentionally so—and the net effect of all that would be that he would destroy the budget and damage the economy,” he told the ABC.

The Labor government has its own plan to halve overseas migration and decrease permanent migration, but Mr. Chalmers said that the economy and skills base were considered when creating it.

The Labor government has taken steps to address the housing crisis. They have established the National Housing Accord, a part of which is the national aspiration target to build 1.2 million well-located homes across the next five years.

The Labor government also has the Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF), an $10 billion (US$6.7 billion) investment fund. The income generated by the HAFF aims to provide disbursements used to deliver 20,000 new social and 10,000 new affordable houses over five years.

A roofer stands on the roof of a new home under construction in a new development in Albany, Western Australia, on April 15, 2024. (Susan Mortimer/The Epoch Times)
A roofer stands on the roof of a new home under construction in a new development in Albany, Western Australia, on April 15, 2024. (Susan Mortimer/The Epoch Times)

Migration to Regional, Rural Areas to Remain Open

In response to whether the cut to migration will hurt regions, National Leader David Littleproud said this plan would address the nation’s pressure points while recognising economic necessities.

“This is about making you use the policy levers ... to make sure we get that balance right,” Mr. Littleproud told Sky News on May 19.

“This is about making the tough decisions that prioritise where the economy needs the support to continue to grow - and particularly in the regions.”

For example, Mr. Littleproud said he and the Liberal Party would work together to ensure that regional universities dependent on international students still receive student numbers and support.

The coalition would also establish an agriculture visa for migrants to work in farming and periphery—marginal or secondary—roles in regional Australia.

“They simply don’t have the labour force without them,” Mr. Littleproud said.

Increasing Retirement Saving Withdrawals

The coalition also plans to allow up to 40 percent withdrawals from retirement savings to buy a first home for a maximum of $50,000 (US$34000).
The plan was met with criticism, with a Deloitte modelling for Super Members Council (pdf) estimating that the plan could cost the budget up to $2.5 billion by 2030.

However, Mr. Littleproud defended the plan as an individual component of a broader policy.

“It’s about buying time to increase supply and also giving that hope to young people that one day they might actually own their home,” he said.

Lily Kelly is an Australian based reporter for The Epoch Times, she covers social issues, renewable energy, the environment and health and science.
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