Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten

Refugee plan a multibillion-dollar Budget blow

LABOR's plan to increase Australia's refugee intake by 70 per cent will cost the Budget more than $6 billion over the next decade and then blow out to $1 billion each year.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann will today slam Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for having his priorities wrong by spending more on an "already generous" refugee program, yet failing to support a multibillion-dollar drought fund for farmers.

The current composition of the 18,750 humanitarian intake is 17,750 government-funded places and 1000 community-sponsored places.

Labor plans to increase the government-funded humanitarian intake from 17,750 to 27,000 a year in 2025-26, including an increase of the community sponsored refugee program intake from 1000 to 5000 places a year.

It will also dramatically increase funding to the United Nations' refugee agency from $25 million under the Coalition to a whopping $500 million in the first five years of a Shorten government.

Per capita, Australia settles more refugees than the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Belgium and several other countries.

Government costings obtained by The Courier-Mail show Labor's humanitarian increase will cost more than $600 million over the forward estimates and then sky rocket to more than $1 billion a year from 2028-29.

 

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten

 

 

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann

 

 

It comes as Labor has described Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Future Drought Fund as "Nationals slush fund" and is refusing to support it.

The fund is a key plank of Mr Morrison's recovery response to help farmers respond and prepare for drought. Labor said it would fund its own drought response.

Senator Cormann questioned Labor's dedication to Australians.

"Australia is already one of the most generous countries on earth when it comes to welcoming genuine refugees and indeed migrants from all corners of the world to Australia,'' Senator Cormann told The Courier-Mail yesterday.

"Labor's push to increase the intake further will cost the Budget more than $6 billion over the next decade. At the same time, they are blocking our $3.9 billion Drought Future Fund to support drought affected communities across Australia.

"Our Drought Future Fund would grow to $5 billion over that same period Bill Shorten wants to spend more than $6 billion on further increasing our already very generous refugee program.

"He is standing in the way of $100 million a year in additional funding to drought proof communities across Australia.

Australia's strong border protection policies have allowed us to offer more resettlement places.

Australia's Humanitarian Program increased to 18,750 places in 2018-19, our largest intake in 30 years. Labor has got its priorities wrong."