The net migration figure of 400,000 means there are that many more people moving to Australia than leaving the country.
Albanese said in pre-COVID times, students would leave at the end of their degrees and be replaced by new students.
He cited the 60,000 Chinese students enrolled at Australian tertiary institutions.
“Normally, there would be 60,000 coming and 60,000 going,” he said.
“The migration to Australia is still, bear in mind, much lower than it would have been and was predicted by the former government.”
Albanese said students coming to study in Australia created jobs and economic activity.
He rejected the opposition’s accusation that he was building a “big Australia by stealth”.
“They are opposed to everything, aren’t they?” he said.
“Is what they’re saying – that we shouldn’t have students coming here?
“The truth is our migration system that we inherited was a bit of a mess,” Albanese said.
“There were a million people in the queue for visas.”
Speaking on Weekend Today, Independent MP Sophie Scamps expressed concerns about bringing more people in during a housing crisis.
“We have a housing affordability crisis and a rental crisis,” she said.
“We need to get stuck in to build the medium to high-density housing.”
But Scamps also cited the dire need for workers in certain industries.
“We think about the nursing shortage, aged care shortage, childcare shortage,” she said.
“We need more people to fill those slots.”
The 400,000 figure is 165,000 more than the 235,000 estimated in the October budget.
The surge is largely coming from students, after travel restrictions in China were lifted.