Topics: Migration and Planning for Australia’s future population
OLIVER PETERSON: David Coleman is the Immigration Minister and he's on your radio right now. Minister good afternoon.
DAVID COLEMAN: Good afternoon Olly.
PETERSON: Just confirm for me here, the cut is to permanent migration rates but could temporary migration numbers actually grow?
COLEMAN: Well the permanent program is separate to the temporary program. So temporary program is things like New Zealanders who are here and students and a range of different programs, working holiday makers. But the permanent program Olly, is the one where people get to stay for life, and so it's a very, very important program. And what we're doing here is reducing the ceiling on the permanent program from 190,000 to 160,000, so a 30,000 reduction. And in addition we are requiring more people to live and work in regional areas, which is going to take pressure off the cities. So take pressure off cities like Perth, like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast. And that's really important because the migration needs of the country are different in different places and you can't have the same everywhere.
PETERSON: Yeah and it is different here in Perth- As you just mentioned with Perth though, I mean if you look here, more people have actually left Western Australia than arrived here in Western Australia. It's a very different scenario here in Perth than it is in Sydney and Melbourne.
COLEMAN: Yeah and look, metropolitan Australia has always included Perth and Sydney and Melbourne and Brisbane and will continue to do so. But we do want to encourage people to the regions; we've been talking to Kalgoorlie for instance, where there is a real need for additional skilled workers in the Goldfields. And you've got places like Adelaide in South Australia, where the state government there and the business community there are literally crying out for more skilled workers because they can't fill the demand. And you know that's the case in Hobart as well, parts of Tasmania and rural New South Wales as well. So, the issue with the migration program historically I guess, has been, it hasn't always reacted to those different needs in different parts of Australia and this will enable that to occur. So those people who move to regional areas under these two new visas, they'll need to stay in those regional areas for three years in order to obtain permanent residency. And so what that provides is a really strong incentive for people to live and work in regional Australia because…
PETERSON: And that's up to 23,000 new visa applications would be readily available every year, is that right?
COLEMAN: Yeah. So up to 23,000 spots in those two new regional visas, and those people can live and work anywhere in regional Australia. So you don't have to stay in one particular town, you can move around regional Australia within the skilled workforce.
PETERSON: So just doing my maths here for a moment Minister, you're dropping the number of permanent migrants by 30,000 per year but there'll be an additional 23,000 new places in the regions, so it's really a 7,000 person difference per year. It's not much.
COLEMAN: Oh no that's not quite right, Olly. So the number comes down by 30,000 and then the regional spots are within the new allocation of 160. So they're not on top of the 160, they're within the 160.
COLEMAN: And so at the moment, there's about 8,500 people who are effectively required to stay in a regional area in order to obtain permanent residency, about 8,500, and that will be going up to 23,000. But that all exists within the 160. So what that means is there's a greater proportion of the total permanent program in regional areas than there is today, and that's a good thing because we need to make sure that we can meet the need in regional areas. And importantly if someone is moving to regional Australia we want them to make a commitment to regional Australia for a number of years in order to get permanent residency. At the moment the overwhelming majority of our migrants settle in the big cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, and we want to change that distribution so that there's significantly more people moving to the regions.
PETERSON: Talking of Sydney, the timing of this announcement, because New South Wales is heading to a state election this Saturday and the rhetoric of course for the last couple of years has been: it's full, there's congestion, it's terrible, house prices were out of control – does today's announcement give your Liberal mate and colleague, Gladys Berejiklian there, the New South Wales Premier a boost before the polls open this Saturday?
COLEMAN: Well look it's not about New South Wales Olly, it's about the whole country. We've been working on this for some time and it's a really important change, because it's basically saying it's taking a breather on the program, taking a pause at that level of 160 which is over the four years of the budget period is a reduction in that of 120,000 in numbers. And it's also saying well let's give opportunities to places like South Australia and Tasmania that are crying out for more people, let's enable that to occur through a more targeted means of distribution. So, it's about the whole country and it's about recognising that there are very different needs in different parts of Australia.
PETERSON: There are and let's go here to Perth again because in 2016-2017, as I say, more people actually left than came here, we had a net loss of almost 14,000 and if you look census-to-census, the number of skilled migrants in WA dropped from 95,000 people to 48,000 people. So is the Commonwealth, are you, is the federal government doing enough to try and reverse the unemployment figures here in Western Australia, create jobs and put Perth on a course to not only accelerate but be once again a place that people want to live and they want to relocate to?
COLEMAN: Yeah, well look there are opportunities for people to come to Perth through the Employer Sponsored Scheme. So that's actually going up in numbers from 35,500 to 39,000 so there's more opportunities there. And there's also a state and territory scheme which does not have a regional cap but which is nominated by the states and territories. And that was 20,000 in 17-18, but will go up to 25,000 in 19-20. And so what that means is WA could nominate spots for the metropolitan region of Western Australia as well. So the system is calibrated to help the states to nominate the numbers of people that they need, whether that be in regional areas or in the metro parts of those states.
PETERSON: We spoke to the Australian CCI yesterday on the program, to James Pearson, saying you are committing an economic own goal, there won't be enough money collected in the federal budget. And I mean you look at Skilled Migration list that was updated only a couple of weeks ago, we need professional footballers, tennis coaches for example, a whole heap of additional skilled workers in the science and agricultural fields. What's this going to do with the changes you're making here to the migration plan, and the skilled migration plan in particular, if we have a shortage of so many skilled occupations in Australia at the moment. Will that affect that in any way?
COLEMAN: Well look, this doesn't have any impact on the budget. So, the 160,000 is consistent with what was in the MYEFO, the mid-year Budget review, so there's no budget impact. This is a measured and sensible response that allows us to preserve the budget results from the migration program. But as I said, at the same time, makes sure that we're distributing migration in a way which is more sensible and is more closely matched to the needs around the country. Skilled migration is incredibly important and about two thirds of the permanent program is skilled migration, and will continue to be. We are a nation that has benefited from skilled migration, it brings people here who can impart their skills to businesses which helps those businesses then to employ more Australians, and start new enterprises and so on. So yes, you're absolutely right, skilled immigration is critical. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't always be reviewing the system to make sure it works as best as it can. That's what we've done here and there's no impact on the budget.
PETERSON: Immigration Minister, David Coleman thank you very much
COLEMAN: Thanks Olly.