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Peter Dutton confirms high-level talks about migration cuts

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Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has held discussions with Cabinet colleagues about cuts to Australia's migration program, saying the Government is "alive" to debate about the impact of the scheme on house prices and congestion.

Key points:

  • Peter Dutton says he supports the current migration figure but the policy is regularly discussed
  • A newspaper report said Mr Dutton proposed a 20,000-place reduction in the permanent migration intake
  • The PM has rejected the news report as "false"

Each year Australia offers up to 190,000 places for permanent migration, but the Minister expects that cap will not be met this year.

The migration intake figure has been divisive within the Coalition.

Earlier this year, former prime minister Tony Abbott suggested a drastic cut, reducing the flow to 110,000 places annually.

Mr Dutton maintains he supports the current figure but also confirmed the policy was regularly discussed at the highest levels of the Government.

"I have had literally hundreds of conversations with the Prime Minister or with the Treasurer about taxation, about welfare, about immigration, all of that," Mr Dutton said.

"We've canvassed every different aspect, as you would expect us to."

Mr Dutton said the migration figure was "not something that's just arrived at".

"Whether there's an increase or a decrease, or consideration around where those settings should be, that is something that's contemplated from year to year," he said.

"As you'd expect — and as as every immigration minister would have — I have canvassed different options around the composition of the program."

In a February speech, Mr Abbott raised concerns about the rate of immigration.

The outspoken backbencher cited "stagnant wages, clogged infrastructure, soaring house prices and, in Melbourne at least, ethnic gangs that are testing the resolve of police".

Mr Dutton has echoed some of those concerns.

"Of course there's discussions that take place around what the figures should be, the benefits about different aspects of migration," he said.

"There's obviously a debate about congestion and about housing affordability and the Government's alive to all of those concerns."

Dutton says he backs PM

The Australian newspaper has reported Mr Dutton "proposed" to reduce the permanent migration intake by 20,000 places in talks with Cabinet colleagues.

The report said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull overruled the plan.

Mr Turnbull has rejected the news report outright.

"The article, the claim in the article is false. Full stop. OK? Full stop," he said.

"It's false and the journalist concerned should consider the reliability of his sources."

Mr Dutton said he would not be drawn into revealing Cabinet conversations.

"I'm not going into comments or discussions and who said what and who was in the meetings and the rest of it," Mr Dutton said.

"In terms of the Prime Minister's position, my position, there is no difference between us on these issues."

Labor boosted the permanent migration program by 5,000 places in 2012, in order to encourage more skilled migrants to move to Australia.

Mr Dutton has stressed the 190,000 intake figure is not "set in stone" and was not reached last year.

"I would expect the number to be less than 190,000 this year anyway," he said.

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