Former Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Martin Parkinson has dismissed as "nonsense" calls for a cut in the nation's migrant intake.
Dr Parkinson, who is also a former head of Treasury, warned there would be "massive economic ramifications" from the sudden halt to migration caused by the border closures imposed to halt the spread of COVID-19.
The federal government expects net migration to plunge 85 per cent from 2018-19 levels. Deloitte Access Economics partner Chris Richardson has estimated the fall could cost the country $50 billion.
There have been calls, including from within the opposition, for the situation to be used as an opportunity to re-set the nation's immigration policy.
Australia has had one of the fastest growing populations among advanced economies, driven in large part by a strong migration intake.
The growth in permanent and temporary migrants has helped support solid domestic consumption and a strong property market.
"We are going to have for the first year for 75 years almost no population growth," Dr Parkinson said. "That is going to have massive economic ramifications."
Rather than use the crisis as a opportunity to wind back the nation's migrant intake, the former government economic adviser said the country should ratchet up its skilled migration program.
"We should be saying this is an opportunity to double-down on recruiting skilled migrants from around the world," he said.
The massive loss of jobs caused by the COVID-19 crisis is feeding concerns that migrants will compete for scarce employment opportunities.
Early this month, Labor's immigration spokeswoman Kristina Keneally increased tensions within the opposition when she argued for a cut in the migrant intake, particularly for short-term visa holders, when international travel restrictions eventually ease.
Ms Keneally said Australian workers must "get a fair go and a first go at jobs".
Days later, Labor backbencher Julian Hill called on the federal government to fast track the processing of a backlog of about 50,000 spouse and partner visa applications as a way of "kick-starting" permanent migration and ACT Labor MP Andrew Leigh warned of the disastrous impact of the migration freeze on universities.
Universities Australia estimates universities will lose between $3 billion and $4.6 billion in revenue because of the pandemic, most of it from the loss of international students.
Last year the Morrison government capped the permanent migration program at 160,000 places a year.
But Dr Parkinson said skilled immigration was not only an important driver of economic growth but also held the key to boosting the nation's dismal productivity gains, which was vital to improving living standards.
"We should stop all this nonsense about 'Let's reduce the immigration program'," he said.
"A really important way for a country like Australia to get skills and have them paid for by other people is to actually to make it easy to come to Australia if you are a skilled worker."
Dr Parkinson said international students had their primary and secondary education paid for by their home countries, and they paid fees and living costs to study here.
"[If] we allow them to stay and we reap the benefits".