Immigration boss Michael Pezzullo has urged world leaders to increase their refugee intakes, arguing Australia is showing leadership on the issue and other countries need to step up.
Australia will boost its annual refugee intake to 18,750 in 2018-19, and is ranked third behind the United States and Canada in terms of refugees resettled through the UNHCR.
"Unless countries are willing to put those sorts of numbers and more on the table, people will take the boats, people will seek the services of smugglers and traffickers," he told the Crawford Australian Leadership Forum in Canberra on Monday evening.
"But that is to be avoided - almost as a moral imperative - at all costs."
Mr Pezzullo would not be drawn when asked whether Australia should further expand its own refugee intake.
But he said there were less than 100,000 places available in the US, Canada and Australia combined, while there were one million "resettlement ready" refugees around the world.
"Globally, something has to happen. We're showing leadership, the Canadians are showing leadership, and the US still has the largest program, notwithstanding recent changes to their program size," he said.
"So the rest of the world needs to step up on the permanent (refugee resettlement) side."
Mr Pezzullo also stressed the need to crush people smuggling operations in the same way a terrorist organisation or network of insurgents must be torn apart "piece by piece".
"You've got to have safe (refugee resettlement) pathways and you've got to destroy the smugglers' model, you've got to absolutely rip it apart," he said.
"It's not about simply pushing them off into another theatre, this will need concerted global action."
There are more than 65 million displaced people across the world, roughly 40 million of whom are within their own countries and upwards of 20 million across borders.