Labor States hold PM hostage over migration policy
State Labor governments may thwart Prime Minister Scott Morrison's attempts to work out a new migration policy by ignoring their responsibility for the issue while Labor controlled Western Australia is seeking to hold the process to ransom to extract more federal money.
Mr Morrison has asked Australia's premiers and two chief ministers to tell him whether they want to reduce or increase their intake of overseas migrants and which of their regions have differing population needs.
Each state and territory has been asked to detail the "population carrying capacity" of its existing and planned infrastructure and services with this information to be used at next month's Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting to begin discussions on slashing the migrant intake.
But COAG deliberations are only successful if every state and territory agrees to the resolution.
Mr Morrison said Tasmania, South Australia, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and communities in North Queensland all wanted to increase their populations.
But West Australian Labor Premier Mark McGowan yesterday demanded more federal government cash.
"Obviously we can't allow the Commonwealth to provide more migrants to Western Australia without commensurate increase in funding for things like infrastructure," Mr McGowan said.
He said the federal government needed to "better communicate" the issue to his state.
"They have an election coming up shortly and they're trying to win votes in Sydney and Melbourne and we want to ensure in that process WA interests are properly considered - making sure we are properly supported with money for infrastructure if there is a change to migration policy is very important."
Despite Mr Morrison publicly inviting states to contribute to the discussion, leaders in Labor-controlled Queensland and Victoria said immigration was the federal government's problem.
"It's the federal government's job to manage immigration," a Victorian Labor Party spokesman said.
And a spokesman for Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said: "Immigration is fundamentally a matter for the federal government."
Meanwhile, the Northern Territory, ACT and South Australian governments all want more migrants.
"Anything that gets people out of Sydney and Melbourne and into the Territory is a good thing," NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.
"We call on Scott Morrison to honour his government's own policy to increase the number of migrants moving to regional areas like the NT."
SA Premier Steven Marshall said migration was crucial to addressing low population growth in his state.
"Our challenges as a state are very different to those of the east coast capitals, and we are making that case to the federal government," Mr Marshall said.
Meanwhile, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian thanked Mr Morrison for acting on her call for population policy to be overhauled.
"I've made my views very well known," she said. "I'm pleased the states are finally going to be able to get a say. I've said we need to take a breather - I'd like to see the rates halved in NSW until we determine the population policy."