Angus Taylor muddies Coalition’s migration message, proposing smaller cut than Peter Dutton

Jack QuailNCA NewsWire
Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor delivered his official budget reply address to the National Press Club on Wednesday. NewsWire / Martin Ollman
Camera IconShadow treasurer Angus Taylor delivered his official budget reply address to the National Press Club on Wednesday. NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor has muddied the Coalition’s message on migration, appearing to contradict his leader Peter Dutton when claiming the Opposition would slash net overseas migration by a further 25 per cent than Labor if it won government at the next election.

Speaking at the traditional post-budget reply address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Mr Taylor said the Coalition would cut the net migration intake by a quarter over three years, indicating a smaller cut than the Opposition had previously announced.

Net overseas migration refers to the difference between the number of international arrivals staying in Australia for longer than 12 months, and the number of long-term and permanent departures.

Camera IconShadow treasurer Angus Taylor appeared to contradict Opposition Leader Peter Dutton over the Coalition’s net-migration plan. NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

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But last week, Mr Dutton said a Coalition government would target a figure of 160,000 per year, equating to 480,000 over three years.

That figure is a 34 per cent reduction on Labor’s forecast intake of 725,000 over the same period.

Asked to clarify how his claim of a 25 per cent cut aligned with Mr Dutton’s plan of a cut to 160,000, Mr Taylor dug in despite the Opposition leader’s previous comments.

“Over the coming years, over a term of government, there will be a 25 per cent reduction. That is the plan,” he said.

Mr Taylor insisted there was no divergence between him and Mr Dutton, and urged reporters not to confuse a separate pledge made regarding the lesser permanent migration intake.

“At the end of the day, we think we can free up 100,000 homes for Australians, and it is not hard to work out the calculations to support that,” Mr Taylor said.

Responding to Mr Taylor’s remarks, Treasurer Jim Chalmers labelled the speech as the “most shambolic appearance by a senior politician at the National Press Club in memory”.

“The centrepiece of Peter Dutton’s budget reply is now a smoking ruin because of Angus Taylor’s speech,” he said.

Camera IconTreasurer Jim Chalmers labelled the budget reply address as “shambolic”. NewsWire / Martin Ollman. Credit: News Corp Australia

“The only thing that Peter Dutton wanted you to know in his budget reply was about migration, and Angus Taylor has completely and utterly stuffed up today in Canberra.

“Peter Dutton lowered the bar and Angus Taylor has tripped over it.”

Mr Dutton and Mr Taylor did not respond to requests for comment.

Coalition’s new bid for spending, tax caps

Earlier in the address, Mr Taylor pledged to reintroduce a 23.9 per cent cap on tax receipts as a share of the economy that was self-imposed by the former Coalition government during its nine years in power, while also committing to stop real spending outpacing GDP growth.

Ahead of an election slated for May 2025 at the latest, the shadow treasurer will seek to reframe the debate over fiscal management, arguing that the Coalition will deliver structural reforms to the budget and ensure surpluses over the medium term, while Labor will not.

“Labor has no fiscal guardrails and has abandoned the rules that have supported every budget since Peter Costello established the Charter of Budget Honesty,” Mr Taylor said.

According to the budget papers, the total federal tax take is set to hit an 18-year high of 23.8 per cent of GDP in the current fiscal year, the highest since the Howard government’s penultimate budget of 2005-06.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has previously declared the tax-to-GDP cap as an arbitrary figure, motivated by political rather than economic reasons, and does not feel constrained by the limit despite meeting it in each of his three budgets.

The tax-to-GDP is expected to fall over the four-year forward estimates period, as the stage three income tax cuts, falling commodity prices and a weakening economy reduce the federal tax take.

Camera IconSpending and tax guardrails would be reintroduced by a future Coalition government, Mr Taylor pledged. NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Also hinting at changes to income tax relief for those high income earners left worse-off by the Albanese government’s overhaul of the stage three tax package, Mr Taylor indicated the Coalition would ease the income tax burden if elected.

“Jim Chalmers and Anthony Albanese are the first Treasurer and Prime Minister to add a tax bracket into the law since 1993, and the first to lower the top tax threshold since 1984,” he said.

Analysis released by the Treasurer’s office on Tuesday claimed that reinstating elements of the Morrison-era stage three tax package would cost the budget bottom line an additional $38.9bn.

According to Treasury estimates, the Albanese government’s amended stage three tax cuts, which is skewed towards supporting those on low- and middle-incomes, is already set to cost $150.7bn over the forwards.

Signalling the Coalition would oppose Labor’s changes to tax superannuation balances above $3 million, Mr Taylor argued the measure was “unprecedented” as it taxed unrealised capital gains.

“It adds complexity and inequity – unevenly, and unequally taxing people on the basis of their career, their fund, and their age,” he said.

While railing against much of the additional spending announced in last week’s federal budget, Mr Taylor said the Coalition would support some of Labor’s measures.

The establishment of a financial services regulatory grid, the mooted one-stop-shop for investors and streamlined foreign investment board approvals would not be opposed by the Coalition, he said.

Originally published as Angus Taylor muddies Coalition’s migration message, proposing smaller cut than Peter Dutton

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