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PM pushes mixed messages on migration


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come to Adelaide to spruik moves to grow South Australia’s population, while at the same time again raising the spectre of cutting Australia’s migration cap.

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Morrison signed a so-called “city deal” with Premier Steven Marshall today, which is designed to grow Adelaide’s innovation economy, culture and tourism sectors, and manage and support population growth in the city and across the state.

While defending the need for a national debate on immigration levels, he also explicitly linked a growing population with economic growth.

Morrison told radio station FIVEaa today that the health of the building sector depended on a growing population.

“We want to support a migration program that supports South Australia,’ he said.

He said the South Australian housing sector had been weak “for many years”, due to stagnant economic and population growth, but that the Marshall Government was reversing this trend.

However, this week the Prime Minister also revived the broader “population growth management” and immigration debate, without revealing the size of his Government’s proposed cuts to the nation’s migration cap.

Today he defended doing so soon after the Christchurch terror attacks, where the alleged gunman is accused of harbouring hate against Muslim immigrants.

“It’s always the right time to be addressing the issues and needs that the Australian public are concerned about and want addressed,” he told reporters in Adelaide.

“This debate about population growth and migration has nothing to do with those other issues that have been the subject of recent focus.”

The prime minister said discussions about population should not be “hijacked” by other debates on race or tolerance.

“We’ve seen what happens when these important practical debates are hijacked by these other extremist views, which occur from both the right and from the left,” he said.

“I’m determined to not see the serious population growth management issues taken off course, to be hijacked by those who want to push other agendas.

“I have no purchase in those agendas, I have no truck with those agendas, and I denounce them absolutely.”

For many months, the government has floated plans to reduce Australia’s migration ceiling by 30,000 from its current level of 190,000.

This new cap would almost match last year’s actual intake of 162,417.

However, Morrison is still reluctant to confirm the proposed figure.

“When I’m in a position to announce our migration cap, I’ll do it then,” he said.

The government has also been hinting at spreading migrants across the states and territories to ease pressure on infrastructure, without outlining any concrete details about how this would work.

Its policies are expected to centre on forcing skilled migrants to live for at least five years in cities other than Sydney or Melbourne, and enticing university students into regional towns.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale questioned the timing of the debate on cutting the migration cap, which has re-emerged shortly after 50 people were murdered in New Zealand mosques last week.

“Three days after a massacre the prime minister decides to land this into the national conversation,” he told ABC News Breakfast.

Meanwhile, the heavily signposted “city deal” for Adelaide includes a total of $551 million in funding. Some will be used to help transform the Lot 14 precinct on the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site, where the new Australian Space Agency headquarters will be housed alongside a national Indigenous art and culture gallery, an innovation hub and other facilities.

The Federal Government has also earmarked $194 million to “bust congestion” in Adelaide, announcing new jointly-funded road projects with the State Government.

The projects included the upgrade of the Cross Road and Fullarton Road intersection and widening Portrush Road on approach to the Magill Road intersection.

The total $194 million funding includes the $35 million already tagged by the federal government for the Goodwood/Springbank/Daws intersection upgrade – in the heart of the Liberals’ most marginal South Australian federal seat, Boothby.

InDaily with AAP

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