Budget 2024: Peter Dutton’s budget response comes under fire

The opposition’s plans to ban foreign investors from purchasing existing properties would do little to solve Australia’s housing crisis, according to Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton inflamed a political debate over the housing crisis after vowing to slash permanent migration numbers by 25 per cent and ban overseas investors from buying existing homes for two years.

In his budget reply speech on Thursday night, the Liberal leader also signalled that he would drive down the numbers of international students, calling the number of foreigners studying in Australia “excessive”.

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten rubbished the opposition’s pre-election pitch as a “lightweight presentation” after going head-to-head with Mr Dutton during a televised debate held earlier on Friday.

“You said we cannot have those foreigners buying houses. Now that sort of sounds interesting, so I went and checked overnight. How many people in the last two years who are foreigners bought houses in Australia, Pete?” Mr Shorten asked.

“Well, Bill, a couple of points. One is that we say that, in the first year, 40,000 homes will be freed up. That includes the numbers who would be bidding at auctions this weekend against Australian citizens,” Mr Dutton replied.

“If the government had have adopted our policy over a five-year period, you would free up 325,000 homes. So the number of people who are foreign citizens, who are buying houses in our country is low, but nonetheless, it contributes to an overall shortage of housing in our country.”

Mr Shorten later said he had found figures showing that less than 5000 overseas buyers had purchased homes in Australia over the past two years.

Mr Shorten said the country needed to focus on building more homes and building a skilled construction workforce to reduce pressure on rental and house prices.

“These are legitimate issues that we’re talking about … both sides want to reduce the overall rate of immigration, both sides are arguing about how we do housing, but one of the measures which I think we do need to talk about is we need a skilled workforce,” he said.

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley said skilled migrants would not be turned away as part of the Liberals’ plans to cut migration.

“There will still be capacity to bring skilled workers in under our reduced migration numbers,” she said this morning. I want to make that clear,” she said.

Tuesday’s budget forecasts net overseas migration will halve from 528,000 in 2022-23 to 260,000 next year, reducing further to 235,000 in 2026-27.

While Mr Dutton did not commit to a target on net migration, he vowed to slash the permanent migration program by 25 per cent from 185,000 to 140,000 for the first two years, followed by 150,000, then 160,000.

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