Prime Minister Scott Morrison has signalled plans to slow the intake of some temporary migrants and to encourage new arrivals to settle outside of the congested major cities.
Mr Morrison has also suggested there could be a case for cutting the number of overseas students coming to certain universities as he confronts surging population growth in Sydney and Melbourne.
“I’m happy to have a fair dinkum conversation about population,” he told Fairfax Media on Sunday.
The government is working on a region-by-region approach which would funnel migrants into parts of the country that need growth, including some capital cities.
Mr Morrison said the composition of the annual migration intake was more important than the total number.
“You can have very low levels of immigration and the effect can be very positive. You can have high levels of immigration and the composition actually means it is not good for the economy,” he said.
“The real question is about the composition and how it’s implemented.”
The government has for months been floating the idea of encouraging migrants to settle in regional areas, but is yet to explain how, given that all permanent migrants are free to move where they wish.
One idea is a points system to fast-track temporary workers who go to smaller cities or regions.
However, Labor frontbencher Andrew Leigh said he was not sure how the prime minister’s “thought bubble” would work.
“Yes, we need to get our migration mix right, but it’s currently true that you get additional points for having studied in a regional area,” he said.
“The Department of Home Affairs says you can’t compel people to live in particular cities. So, let’s wait and see where he’s actually going with this.”
© AAP 2018