Australia Caps Refugee Intake as Election Campaign Heats Up

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government pledged to freeze Australia’s refugee intake for the next three years as it thrust 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 Sunday. 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.

Morrison’s center-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.

Australia Caps Refugee Intake as Election Campaign Heats Up

The left-leaning Labor party, which has pledged to boost the annual humanitarian intake to 32,000, is vulnerable on the issue after previous administrations failed to stem the flow of refugees smuggled to Australia by boat.

With the five-week campaign almost at the half-way mark, Labor is also playing to its strengths. Leader Bill Shorten promised Sunday to spend an extra A$4 billion ($2.8 billion) to subsidize childcare if Labor wins.

The pledge is part of a comprehensive program of tax cuts, rebates and greater social spending that Labor is targeting at lower-income voters.

Labor is leading the coalition by 52 percent to 48 percent, according to a YouGov Galaxy poll for the Sunday Telegraph, consistent with the most recent survey by the closely-watched Newspoll.

Australia Caps Refugee Intake as Election Campaign Heats Up

Both parties are seeking an outright majority in the 151-seat lower house. The coalition notionally holds 73 seats going into the race, after boundary changes in some constituencies, with Labor on 72, according to analysis by the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

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