Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott couldn’t resist having a dig at Malcolm Turnbull in a new op-ed, in which he discussed the “unprecedented population boom” being driven by the number of legal migrants settling in Australia.
In the opinion piece, published in The Australian, the Liberal backbencher credits himself for stopping the boats during his stint as PM, adding that the Coalition must now “urgently get legal migration back under control”.
“Although my government stopped the boats and prevented illegal migration by restoring control over our borders, when it comes to legal migration it’s still not really the government that’s in charge,” he said. “Legal migration is largely determined by businesses that want to bring in temporary workers to keep wages down; universities that want to bring in overseas students to boost their incomes; and the Treasury, which insists that permanent migration stay high to improve the budget.
“This means immigration numbers can only ever ratchet up, not down. Having stopped illegal migration, it’s legal migration that the government must urgently get back under control.”
Abbott, who held the top job between 2013 and 2015, also claimed to have reduced net overseas migration from 230,000 to 180,000 while he was in The Lodge. He said: “Inevitably, the question will come: ‘Why didn’t you do this when you were PM?’ Actually, I did.
“Net overseas migration fell from 230,000 in 2013 to 180,000 in 2015 before rising again to 245,000 last year. Sure, critics will denounce any change as ‘populist’, but that’s what snobbish elites always say about something the public wants but they don’t.”
He went on to say that his problem is not with immigration, having been born in London, UK, himself, but with the rate of immigration. However the 60-year-old pollie praised the work of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton for “tightening the system”and lowering the number of permanent migrants, following recent news that permanent migration figures had reached their lowest point in more than a decade.
Abbott said: “To his credit, and against the wishes of his senior colleagues, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has tightened the system to cut permanent immigration by 20,000 this year, but that won’t stop “temporary” business and student numbers from keeping total migration at near-record levels. People coming on short-term business and student visas don’t all become permanent migrants but they all need housing, seek work and have to move around our cities.
“There are more than two million people here temporarily, about 10 per cent of our population, and they all have to live; which means a much greater need for jobs, accommodation and infrastructure. And when almost a million don’t speak much English, there’s inevitably more pressure on services, and some don’t fit in.”
A total of 162,417 people entered the country under the migration program during the last 12 months, which is down from 183,608 in 2016/17 and 189,770 the year before. The cut is the biggest single-year reduction in more than a decade, after numbers soared to 190,000 under the Rudd and Gillard governments.
Abbott also addressed the “African crime wave” in Melbourne, and blames increasing immigration figures for the problem, along with unaffordable housing, stagnant wages, busy roads and jammed public transport.
He fired up about the same issue earlier this week in an interview on 2GB Radio, in which he said: “The Victorian socialist government should get real and own up to the fact that there is an African gang problem in Melbourne. I guess the big question now is why do we store up trouble for ourselves by letting in people who are going to be difficult to integrate.”