Labour’s immigration policy an “attack on international education,” PM says

The Prime Minister went as far as saying an overall 30,000 reduction in immigration right now would “stall the economy.”

Prime Minister Bill English has unloaded on the Labour party’s immigration policy, saying it’s an “attack on international education” and lacks logic.

Labour unveiled its immigration policy in Auckland today, pledging changes to immigration settings that will reduce net immigration by 20,000-30,000 a year.

Party leader Andrew Little also proposed a tightening of rules which will limit student visas, remove work visas for some international graduates without job offers at the end of their course and regionalise the occupation list for all work visas.

Mr English spent almost all of his weekly post-cabinet press conference being asked about Labour’s policy.

He scoffed at the idea of specifically targeting overseas students, saying 70%-80% of them leave New Zealand and go home when they’re done with their studies, so it does not have any impact on the long-term population.

“[International education] is a key part of diversifying our economy, particularly through the difficult times when dairy prices were low,” he says.  

“It employs 33,000 people and generates $4.5 billion in income for the country.”

In fact, he went as far as saying an overall 30,000 reduction in immigration right now would “stall the economy.”

“It would deprive businesses the skills they need to make investments they want to make and the grow New Zealand.”

Labour’s immigration policy will also introduce a “KiwiBuild Visa” to “help address the growing shortages in skilled tradespeople and facilitate Labour’s KiwiBuild housing programme.”

“The number of places will be limited to 1,000 to 1,500 at a given time, which we expect will be additional to the construction work visas issued under the existing rules,” the policy states.

When asked about it, Mr English says the “sharp reduction” – from 7000 now to the proposed 1000-1500 – would be problematic.

“Mate,” he exclaimed rather uncharacteristically in response to a question about the numbers, “who thinks you can build 100,000 houses with another 1000 people – it’s completely unrealistic.”

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