Subjects: Regional migration
First today, proposed changes to immigration laws that would see migrants moving to regional areas of Australia rather than capitals and those on the Eastern Seaboard, could perhaps be a boost our towns need.
From the Federal Government, Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge. Good afternoon. Are you there Minister?
Yeah g'day, Sarah, how's it going?
There we go. Not too bad. Tell me what are the changes that you are proposing?
In essence we are looking at the issue whereby people come to Australia and land in a regional area because they have been sponsored by a business.
But when they get their permanent residency, sometimes they then just quit the business and end up in the cities again.
It is against, if you like, the intents of what that visa was for and we want to ensure that if people come in and take jobs in the regions that they at least spend some time in those regions.
Hopefully they put down roots - and their kids - and stay there for a long period of time, rather than just using it as an opportunity to get into the country and then move to the city subsequently and quite quickly afterwards.
And what are the reasons that people do move to the city?
In many cases because they might have family and friends who are based in the big capital cities of Melbourne and Sydney.
Many of our migrants today are from China and India. They are the two biggest sources of migrants and there is very large Chinese and Indian populations in Melbourne and Sydney particularly.
But people do also want to be in the regional areas and we have particular visas which enable regional businesses to sponsor migrants into the country as permanent residents.
When that occurs, we want them to stay in those regions for a reasonable amount of time so that they put down those roots and actually, hopefully, will live there and make a life of it there.
Unemployment rates in regional areas are generally much higher than the capitals. How would the system ensure that there are those adequate jobs to allow them to stay?
You are right that unemployment rates in many regional areas are very, very low.
I have been travelling around the country the last few weeks and there are some places I have been to where the unemployment rate in regional towns is as low as three per cent and basically businesses just cannot get warm bodies to do the work, whether it is skilled work or unskilled work.
We have got a number of programs in place to assist those businesses find workers so that their businesses can continue to thrive and to grow.
We have got a new program called the Pacific Island Scheme which is starting up in July which is going to allow a couple of thousand people to come in and work in the hospitality and tourism industry in some of the non-seasonal work.
We have got other programs as well. But what we are specifically talking about today is when people are sponsored in as permanent residents and ideally they should stay in those regions for at least a few years.
Often people, though, who come into Australia, their skills aren't recognised or it can take them a while to be able to be accepted into an education system and the jobs that are available are things like the car industry and the energy industry where we are seeing less jobs available. Has that been considered?
Most people who come into the country, in fact 70 per cent of people who come in and become permanent residents come through the Skilled Migration Program.
In essence, they have been sponsored by businesses or they have quite considerable skills to come into the country and they go into the areas where there are skills shortages.
That is the way our program has worked for many years now and it has served us very well, because we end up getting phenomenal people, typically, from around the world who come here, bring their skills in and can fill the skills gaps.
The other 30 per cent are in relation to family reunion – that is typically when you might meet someone and marry a citizen of another country and want to make that person a citizen of Australia or, indeed, you can sponsor your parents or your brother or sister into the country as well.
Minister, at the moment in many regional areas there are, you know, we are jostling for places in things like childcare. There's increased health services. What sort of funding or resources do you think regional towns will be able to provide to have this change?
In relation to migration or…
For migration, yes, for new families coming to regional places?
Typically, it is when families go to regional places, often it is because a particular business in a regional area will sponsor that family into the region and they sponsor them with a job.
And so that person hopefully lands in the country and at least the main breadwinner has got a job straight away and they might bring their spouse and their kids along with them.
And hopefully they settle into that regional area, the kids go to the local school, they join the local footy or netball club and become part of the fabric of that community, and I've seen that hundreds of times around regional Australia.
We want to see that continue. The problem we have got at the moment in many regional areas is that some businesses simply just cannot get the people they need for their businesses to thrive.
And there are pockets around Australia with very, very low unemployment and who are really screaming out for workers, be they from overseas or from Australians in the cities, to move to the regions to fill those jobs.
Minister Alan Tudge is with us. Minister, from conversations that I have had with people who have come to Australia and come to regional towns, they often consider moving back to the city because there's more of their culture or there's more services that understand where they have come from and what they have been through.
Would there be an increase of funding to see that in regional areas so that we are more equipped for that?
ALAN TUDGE: There are quite good programs already in place for new migrants, particularly if they are come through the humanitarian program, you know, if they have been a refugee and escaping persecution.
These are very good settlement programs. For others if they come here and their English is poor they can get good English programs. And of course they can just join in the community groups which exist in in suburbs and towns across Australia.
But there is a two way street here, we want Australians to continue their tradition of having open arms and welcoming new migrants into the country, and we also want migrants when they come here to want to step up and to integrate, to learn the language, and to make Australia their home and make a contribution.
And that formula has been- has underpinned Australia's success for decades and decades, and we want to ensure that that continues.
Minister Tudge, if this was already in place, where would be the prime areas for sending these new Australians?
Most new Australians, most new migrants when they come to Australia do tend to go to the capital cities, and that is in part demand driven because that is where most of the businesses are.
And it is those businesses who are calling for skills and they sponsor people into their businesses.
But there are also places across regional Australia which call out for people, which call out for new migrants and sponsor people in, and I have met the business owners, I have met any of the new migrants in many places across regional Australia. It works pretty well.
What I hear, though, is in many places in regional Australia they are actually looking for more people.
They need more workers there because they can't always get the - there is not enough local Australians to do the job and so they are looking for people from overseas to come in and assist so that they can grow their business.
And hopefully, then, that grows that region, that regional town or that region as well in the process.
Would you handpick regional towns?
It doesn't tend to work that way, it tends to be more demand driven, and what I mean by that is that where the businesses have a shortage of workers, they are the ones that then put their hand up and say, we need some workers from overseas because we can't get an Aussie to fill the job.
It tends to work that way rather than the Government necessarily saying, we want to send people to particular areas.
SARAH TOMLINSON: An interesting idea. Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge, how far away is this from becoming reality?
A lot of the things we have just been talking about are already in place.
The thing which has been in the newspapers today and which I have been talking about today is when people come in and they might be sponsored by a business and they come in as a permanent resident, it is very difficult at the moment for us to require that person to stay in the region for any length of time.
They might be sponsored in as a permanent resident and sometimes they might, within six months, leave that job and then move to the city, even though they have effectively been sponsored for a regional position.
And if they are sponsored in for a regional position on a permanent residency basis, then ideally they would stay in that regional spot at least for a few years, and that is what we are looking at, to see how we could do that because at the moment we don't have many levers at our disposal to require a person to stay in that region.
And, you know, you need to be there for two or three years to put down roots, where your kids get friends, where you might join the local community groups, the footy club, netball club or whatever, and then hopefully actually make their life there.
Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge, thank you for joining us tonight.
Thanks very much.