The Anthony Albanese Labor government will significantly wind back its ‘record’ immigration intake after half a million new arrivals helped fuel inflation and put an extra burden on Australia’s limited housing supply.
In the last 12 months more than 500,000 new migrants flooded into Australia, which is the biggest yearly intake in the country’s history, official figures are set to confirm.
Mr Albanese will announce on Monday a suite of measures designed to reduce immigration, with the focus largely on cutting back the number of international students.
It is understood the government will tighten the rules around English language requirements for foreign students and clamp down on agents who arrange to bring in migrants on study visas but then help them find work.
Education courses offered outside the university system will also be reviewed to consider whether they qualify for student visas.
And it will be harder for foreign students who finish their courses to obtain permission to stay in the country to work, especially for courses where there is lower job demand.
Anthony Albanese will introduce a range of measures to decrease immigration on Monday after numbers ballooned to a record 500,000 adding to cost-of-living pressures
A major focus will be the number of international students with the government clamping down on agents who bring people into the country on student visas and arrange work
Mr Albanese said the Covid pandemic and border closures had significantly disrupted migration into country, with the higher numbers this year a catch-up for years when migration stalled.
‘Over the past 12 months we have put in place reforms to put downward pressure on migration to help bring net overseas migration back to what it was before the pandemic,’ he said in a statement to The Daily Telegraph.
‘Treasury forecasts show that migration is expected to decline substantially over the next financial year (in 2023-24).’
The federal budget in May forecast net overseas migration to hit 400,000 in the 2022-23 financial year.
But former deputy secretary at the Immigration Department Abul Rizvi estimates it hit 470,000 in June and 500,000 in September based on overseas arrivals and departures figures.
Official figures from the Bureau of Statistics are yet to be released.
The budget also estimated migration will fall to 315,000 in 2023-24.
‘I would be very surprised if the government can get down to 315,000. The September quarter is already very strong. It’s starting to turn, but turn very slowly,’ Mr Rizvi told the Financial Review in October.
In the year to August, a near-record 413,530 migrants moved to Australia. Abdul Rizvi, a former deputy secretary of the Department of Immigration, estimated a record 500,000 migrants moved Australia in the year to September
Renters wait in a queue to view a property in Sydney as competition in the rental market reaches fever pitch
The huge numbers are being propelled by international students with ABS figures showing in the first half of 2023 revenue from this cohort hit $21.3billion, the highest on record.
But while universities and colleges are raking in huge profits, ordinary Australians are finding the cost-of-living increasingly tough, particularly for the rental market.
Economist Chris Richardson, who has worked for the Australian Treasury and the International Monetary Fund, said ‘housing affordability is the worst it’s ever been’ and capping immigration ‘for a time’ may be the best way to ease the crisis.
In a recent column for the Australian Financial Review, Mr Richardson wrote that while migration was adding to the problem, the root cause was the fact ‘our overly regulated and high-cost [housing] supply side has spectacularly failed demand’.
‘Although a strong migration intake can make great sense, Australia’s mounting failures on all the other policies that need to accompany that mean we’re in a hole,’ he wrote.
Mr Richardson explained the main bottleneck to housing supply was that every housing development – from a single house, to a subdivision, to a block of units – must be approved by local councils.
Economist Chris Richardson said immigration was adding to the problem of housing supply ‘spectacularly’ failing demand
Experts say Australia’s record immigration in the last 12 months is pushing up inflation and contributing to the competitive rental market (pictured: file image of a Sydney auction)
‘The decades of dumb we’ve chalked up in housing have been as simple as local councils saying ‘no’ to things to which they should have said ‘yes’,’ he wrote.
‘And, on the few occasions that councils do say ‘yes’, the attached conditions burden our construction sector with crippling costs.’
In New South Wales alone, state government data shows council development approval timeframes have blown out when housing supply is desperately needed.
It took councils on average 111 days to determine an application this financial year, compared with 83 days in 2021-22.
This is despite building plans submitted to NSW councils dropping 20 per cent over the same period from 81,158 to 64,980.
Sydney and Melbourne will need to build at least another 1.3 million homes over the next 18 years to accommodate an extra three million residents,
Mr Rizvi said immigration has likely already hit its peak with 120,000 workers on the 408 Covid visa, which the government stopped issuing in August, set to leave when it expires over the next 12 months.
There has also been an 80 per cent decline in the number of state-issued skilled and regional visas for the 2023-24 financial year compared with the previous year.
The new measures to be announced Monday will further reduce numbers.