Australia caps refugee intake as election campaign heats up

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's centre-right government is trailing the main Labor opposition in opinion polls ahead of next month's ballot.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison's centre-right government is trailing the main Labor opposition in opinion polls ahead of next month's ballot.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government has pledged to freeze Australia's refugee intake for the next three years as it thrusts immigration to the heart of its campaign for re-election.

The number of asylum-seeker visas granted each year will be kept at 18,750 for the next term of government if the Liberal-National coalition retains office on May 18, Minister for Cities Alan Tudge said on Sunday (April 28). He told Sky News the announcement was part of the government's overall plan of capping migration to ease congestion in the nation's biggest cities.

Mr Morrison's centre-right government is trailing the main Labor opposition in opinion polls ahead of next month's ballot and putting immigration policy back in the headlines is an attempt to remind voters of its success in managing border security.

With the five-week campaign almost at the half-way mark, the left-leaning Labor party is also playing to it strengths. Leader Bill Shorten will pledge on Sunday to spend an extra A$4 billion (S$3.8 billion) to subsidise childcare if Labor wins, the Sunday Telegraph reported.