New prime minister sworn in after intra-party fight

27 Aug 18

AUSTRALIA

IMPACT – MEDIUM

Scott Morrison was sworn in as prime minister of Australia Friday. He replaced Malcolm Turnbull after Turnbull was toppled in an intra-party feud that was sparked by a disagreement on energy policy.

Morrison, who was treasurer in Turnbull’s Liberal Party government and is also a former minister of immigration and border protection, gained prominence for his tough line on immigration, especially toward asylum seekers. Still, he was considered the more moderate of the final two candidates, having faced off against Peter Dutton, an immigration hardliner and home affairs minister under Turnbull.

Earlier this year, Morrison and Dutton both criticized former prime minister Tony Abbot’s plan to drop the cap on permanent immigration from 190,000 to 110,000 per year.

“Migrants make contributions to building Australia,” Morrison said at the time. “Permanent migrants, particularly skilled migrants, start businesses, they get jobs, they pay taxes, they invest in their communities, they run sports clubs, they make things happen.”

Turnbull served as prime minister for almost three years, pushing a set of ‘Australians First’ immigration measures, including replacing the Subclass 457 visa with the more restrictive Temporary Skill Shortage (Subclass 482) visa.

Turnbull’s government also introduced an initiative to provide immigration incentives to companies employing specialists and other high-income foreign employees and pushed unsuccessfully to make it more difficult to become an Australian citizen.

After he was sworn in, Morrison reappointed Peter Dutton as Home Affairs minister, though without direct control of immigration, citizenship and multicultural affairs. David Coleman, a Turnbull ally, was appointed minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs.

BAL Analysis: It is difficult to tell what impact the change will have on high-skilled immigration. Immigration remains a contentious issue in Australian politics, including within the Liberal Party where the conservative wing has pushed for more restrictive policies. While Morrison gained prominence with his enforcement of Australia’s “stop the boats” policy on asylum seekers, he was nonetheless considered the more moderate of the final two candidates. BAL will continue following immigration developments in Australia, especially as they related to high-skilled immigrants, and will provide updates on any significant changes.

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