Australia Considers Migration Cuts to Ease Strain on Clogged Cities

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government is considering cutting the cap on Australia’s migrant intake by 30,000, saying the pace of population growth is clogging roads, trains and schools in the nation’s biggest cities.

While migration has underpinned economic growth, it has created “pressure points” in housing and infrastructure as 75 percent of all migrants head to Sydney, Melbourne and the southeast of Queensland state, Morrison said in a speech in Sydney late Monday.

Minister for Cities Alan Tudge said the federal government would consult with state leaders, who are responsible for infrastructure development, on the optimum population levels. He told ABC radio Tuesday he expected the annual cap, currently at 190,000, to be reduced to 160,000.

The influx of immigrants is causing a backlash in the biggest cities. The flood of arrivals has swelled the population by 50 percent over the past three decades and underpinned economic growth. But many residents are frustrated that their quality of life has been compromised, with house prices too high, increased congestion and wages stagnant.

With the government trailing in opinion polls before elections expected in May, the government’s handling of migration could be an important vote-winner for Morrison, especially in the cities.

“Population growth has played a key role in our economic success,” Morrison said. “But I also know Australians in our biggest cities are concerned about population. They are saying: enough, enough, enough. The roads are clogged, the buses and trains are full. The schools are taking no more enrollments. I hear what you are saying. I hear you loud and clear.”

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