Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended his new national population plan that he says will encourage immigrants to settle in regional centres rather than seek to live and work in major cities.
Speaking at a World Harmony Day picnic event in a Sydney park today (main picture), Mr Morrison was quick to explain the plan was not just pre-election “dog whistling” when asked if he was simply appeasing far-right opponents of Muslim immigration.
“No. Muslim immigration is what I’ll deliver,” he responded at the launch of the population plan.
Mr Morrison was also quick to answer a question about whether, as one of Tony Abbott’s shadow ministers in 2010, he proposed that the Coalition take a blatantly anti-Muslim immigration stance in a bid to secure political advantage over the then Labor Party government.
“No. Muslim immigration is what I have always supported,” he declared. “My record of working with the Muslim community and knowing exactly where they are needed most speaks volumes of my track record and any suggestion to the contrary I find utterly offensive.
“It’s black and white. People should be free to come and live in Australia.”
When asked to nominate the regional centres likely to benefit from the new population policy, Mr Morrison mentioned three – Manuseyelan, Nahroo, and Krissmasseyeland – as being typical of the towns listed in the new policy document.
He then abruptly ended the news conference but as he walked briskly to his car, chasing reporters pointed out that the document only mentioned those three places.
“All I want is to see immigrants go to places where I know the Australian people think they are needed most and not to our marginal..…I mean, not to our big cities,” he said through the window of his official limousine as it drove away at high speed.
A staffer of the Prime Minister left behind accidentally after Mr Morrison’s car sped off explained to reporters the new population plan would not only help revitalise the three regional centres mentioned but also reduce congestion in metropolitan areas.
“Especially the congestion and early-morning queues we are forecasting at polling booths on election day in May,” he said.