John Howard has strongly hinted he supports Australian Conservatives’ leader Cory Bernardi’s call to slash immigration, calling for a civil, open debate about the level and composition of the increasingly controversial annual 190,000 intake.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Australian, the former prime minister also backed another Australian Conservatives policy priority: nuclear power, warned against the growing dominance of apparatchiks in the political system and cautiously endorsed US President Donald Trump — “if you look through the tweeting and some of the apparent tantrums”.
“I can’t for the life of me see why we can’t have a sensible debate about the level of immigration,’’ he said. “I’d like to hear the debate. I really would. One of the problems with political discourse at moment is we’re losing power to discuss something.”
Senator Bernardi prompted national debate over immigration last year calling for a 50 per cent reduction in the permanent intake to ease congestion and give governments time to build infrastructure.
“No country will accept what it apprehends to be unlimited immigration. That’s the lesson out of Europe,” Mr Howard said.
Turning to energy, Mr Howard, whose government outlawed nuclear power in 1998, said he was “personally in favour of nuclear energy”. “In 2007 remember I asked Ziggy Switkowski to do an inquiry and he recommended that we should alter that (ban),” he said.
Again echoing the position of the Australian Conservatives and appearing to dismiss calls by the “Monash Forum” for government to buy or build a coal-fired power station, Mr Howard said he was “personally not in favour of government doing things the private sector should”.
“The infinitely preferred situation is that incentives should not discourage investment in coal-fired power, which is what’s happened,” he said.
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To read Senator Bernardi's speech to the Senate on the nuclear fuel cycle, click here.
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