NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian with her dad Krikor. She is calling for a “new dawn” on the population policy. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian with her dad Krikor. She is calling for a “new dawn” on the population policy. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

Premier calls for immigration ‘breather’

PREMIER Gladys Berejiklian wants NSW to dramatically slash its overseas migrant ­intake by up to 50 per cent, as she calls for a "new dawn" on population policy.

With Sydney struggling to cope with its ballooning population, Ms Berejiklian has called for a return to Howard-era immigration levels in a dramatic intervention into the divisive debate.

As a proud daughter of ­migrants from Armenia, it is not a position Ms Berejiklian takes lightly.

"It's time to tap the brakes and take a breather on immigration levels to this state. We should return to Howard-era immigration levels in NSW," she said.

Ms Berejiklian’s parents were immigrants themselves but she said the immigration rate has “ballooned out of control”. Picture: Supplied
Ms Berejiklian’s parents were immigrants themselves but she said the immigration rate has “ballooned out of control”. Picture: Supplied

During the Howard years, NSW net overseas migration was steady at an average of about 45,000 a year. But since 2007 this number has risen to about 73,000 and over the past two years has rocketed to almost 100,000 annually.

Speaking exclusively to News Corp Australia, Ms ­Berejiklian said NSW "has and always will be open to new immigrants".

"I'm the daughter of proud immigrants myself, but it's clear that successive federal governments have allowed the rate of immigration to NSW to balloon out of control," she said.

The Premier said cities such as Sydney were forced to "wear the pain" of this.

"My government has been playing catch-ups building the schools, hospitals, roads and transport links our state needs to deal with our growing population after years of do-nothing Labor governments," she said.

"But it's becoming increasingly clear that the current growing rate of immigration to our state needs to be ­addressed. This is an opportunity for a new dawn on this important issue."

Ms Berejiklian said it was time to "take stock" and "assess the situation in a mature way".

"Let's plan properly. I know how much we're building in this state - it's more than any government, but we are still playing catch-up," she said.

Ms Berejiklian's comments come as the federal government prepares to make thousands of migrants each year settle outside Sydney and Melbourne for up to five years.

As it lays the ground work for its new policy, federal Population Minister Alan Tudge declared the pace of growth was resulting in an ­infrastructure shortfall.

 

Ms Berejiklian has called for a return to Howard-era immigration levels. Picture: Hollie Adams
Ms Berejiklian has called for a return to Howard-era immigration levels. Picture: Hollie Adams

 

In May this year, Ms Berejiklian said states needed to have a greater say on immigration levels in the future.

"Our current level of ­migration is about right - but we cannot ignore the reality that communities are feeling growing pressures on local ser­vices and infrastructure," she said in May at the Sydney Institute's annual dinner.

These comments referred to the national immigration rate, but her latest intervention is specifically regarding NSW's intake.

Ms Berejiklian yesterday commended Prime Minister Scott Morrison for his willingness to bring states to the table on immigration discussions.

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has agreed to bring the states together to discuss immigration. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has agreed to bring the states together to discuss immigration. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett

 

NSW opposition leader Luke Foley was slammed when he said “white flight” was taking place in Sydney suburbs. Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins
NSW opposition leader Luke Foley was slammed when he said “white flight” was taking place in Sydney suburbs. Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins

 

"I thank the new Prime Minister for agreeing to my call earlier this year to ­involve the states on the ­important issue of population growth," she said, saying that he was ending a long-held "snub".

Labor leader Luke Foley has previously called for a closer look at immigration, saying "the capacity of our large cities in this country to cope is being severely tested and the greatest test is in Sydney­".

But Mr Foley came under attack in May when he remarked the phenomenon of "white flight" was taking place in Sydney suburbs where huge immigration populations were not matched by growing services such as infrastructure, health and education.

He was accused of making the debate about race.