STEVE AUSTIN: So what are the alternatives when we apparently need to import skills to fill the skill shortages, yet in the very process we put extra pressure on everything from inflation to the housing situation. The Federal Opposition describes Australia's post-pandemic immigration rate as out of control. The person who said this is the Liberal Party Senator Jane Hume. Senator Hume good afternoon to you, Senator Hume.
JANE HUME: Hello, Steve, how are you?
STEVE AUSTIN: So what pressures are being created by our immigration level currently that you describe them as out of control?
JANE HUME: Well, first of all, let me say that a well managed immigration policy has been a key pillar to Australia's growth and Australia's prosperity for decades. But the key there is well managed. We want a good migration program to underpin our very successful economic growth and multicultural society. But you do have to manage it carefully, and quite frankly, the numbers that we're seeing now, somewhere between half a million and 600,000 new migrants in a year, means that it's just impossible to absorb that into the housing market without adding to demand, pushing up inflation, pushing up rents, and pushing up housing prices. I mean, let's face it, it's 600,000. Even 500,000 - we are talking about nearly the whole population of Tasmania in just one year.
STEVE AUSTIN: Why is that? What created that post the pandemic- it is abnormally high.
JANE HUME: It is abnormally high and it's really about managing the components of your migration program. What component of your migration program is skilled labor? What is family reunion? What is international students? Now, the government will tell you that this is all demand driven and that they have no control of it. Well, that's not the case. We have actually managed our migration program for decades. But now it does seem that the floodgates have been opened, and of course, we're paying a price for that. Economists, everybody from, you heard Shane Oliver just there, but also UBS and ANZ, they're all saying that this record boom in migration is supporting aggregate demand, and that is directly contributing to inflation. There has been a clear impact, particularly on the housing markets, driving rents higher and of course, rents are a very large component of inflation, the second largest contributor to the CPI. They're growing at their fastest rate in 14 years. So what do we do about something that we need to consider?
STEVE AUSTIN: So what do we do about it? Everyone knows what the problem is. But the difficulty is that business has been asking the government to bring in the skills that they need to do everything from the massive infrastructure projects in Australia, to build the houses, a whole range of skills for the aged care workforce and more. But no one seems to have a clear solution to the problem.
JANE HUME: That’s right. It does sound somewhat like a Ponzi scheme, if you're bringing in migrants to build houses to have migrants, doesn't it? And quite frankly, the economic growth that we're experiencing at the moment is something of a Ponzi scheme, because we're actually going backwards.
STEVE AUSTIN: So productivity is going backwards?
JANE HUME: Well, productivity is going backwards. But economic growth is also going backwards, too. We are in a per capita recession. If it wasn't for migration, we would have negative economic growth, which is why it's so important when you're running your migration program that you match what it is that the country needs, with what it is that is coming over our borders. We want to make sure that those skills that are in need are being matched by the migration program and it isn't simply just a free for all. That does seem to be what the government seems to be running right now. They have a lack of agenda and particularly their inaction on some of these policies means that housing continues to be out of reach for so many potential homeowners, that rents continue to go up and you know, look, it's great that our employment is sustained at the moment. We have record low unemployment, but quite frankly, there are a lot of pressures beginning to take effect in this economy. Inflation is still way too high, and bringing that back down while you have high migration that's pushing up aggregate demand makes it just that bit harder.
STEVE AUSTIN: So what are the solutions? You're highlighting the problems that we already know we have. What I'm asking you is what are the solutions? And it doesn't seem to me that while the Opposition is critical of the government, you actually don't have a solution.
JANE HUME: Well, in fact, the Opposition doesn't pull the levers of government the way the Government does, neither does it have the benefit of a department that can manage these programs. It doesn’t have control over the conditions of particular visas and how many visas are issued. What an opposition can do is say to the Government, well, how are you managing the intake? What is it that you're doing about the number of international students and the pressure that they're putting on housing? What are you doing about building infrastructure to make sure that there is capacity in the economy for these large number of migrants that you're bringing in. At the moment, we're seeing the Government actually cut productive infrastructure, productive capacity, which means that we can't absorb the migrants without the houses without the infrastructure to do that. Now, that seems to me to be a terrible mistake. If we can't add to the productivity of our economy we're actually going to see ourselves going backwards with our standards of living going backwards. High inflation, low productivity, and high migration is a recipe for a lower standard of living. The exact opposite of a successful migration program.
STEVE AUSTIN: I'll leave it there, Senator Hume. Thank you.