Labor's home affairs spokeswoman, Kristina Keneally, says she will advocate the economic importance of immigration in a sign the opposition is willing to make the case for a bigger Australia as it considers its post-election policy platform.
She also confirmed Labor still supported the so-called "medevac" legislation for refugees but indicated she was willing to hear out the government on any planned changes to the laws.
Senator Keneally has entered shadow cabinet as Labor's spokeswoman on home affairs and immigration - while the Coalition's immigration minister, David Coleman, does not sit in cabinet and works under Peter Dutton, who is the cabinet minister.
Senator Keneally said this structure had undermined the importance of immigration as an economic and cultural tool.
"Under this government there has been a near-sole focus on those we exclude, and that's one part of the portfolio - border security," she said. "But there's a whole other aspect here about immigration and citizenship and the contribution it makes to our economy and our culture.
"We need to ensure that immigration and citizenship is given the attention it deserves in terms of economic growth, in terms of the skills we bring into the country and in terms of how we integrate people into our nation and celebrate their contribution."
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has made economic growth a key feature of his initial pitch to voters, arguing it was important for Labor to have policies to increase wealth rather than just redistribute it.
Senator Keneally said it was too early to discuss whether Labor would propose returning to a higher annual immigration intake, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison cut the annual cap to 160,000 from 190,000.
"I'm not going to sit her and canvass on the run what the immigration level should or shouldn't be," she said.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian supported an immigration slowdown and in particular was keen to halve the intake going to her state. A former NSW premier, Senator Keneally would not say if she shared those concerns, but said she would be willing to discuss them.
Senator Keneally also shied away from a final commitment on the future of the "medevac" legislation, passed with Labor's help earlier this year, which makes it easier for refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru to receive medical transfers to Australia.
Mr Morrison has flagged his intention to repeal the law, which will need Senate approval. Senator Keneally said it was incumbent on the government to explain the need for any changes it wanted to make, but at this stage Labor still supported the laws.
"They have only been mooting ideas in the media," she said. "I haven't seen any legislation ... we'll go through our normal processes."
At least 14 people have been brought to Australia under the medevac legislation, which enables two doctors in Australia to recommend a transfer that can only be rejected by the minister in limited circumstances.
- SMH/The Age