DAVID PENBERTHY: And right now the Immigration Minister in the Federal Government David Coleman is on the line. Minister, good morning to you.
DAVID COLEMAN: Good morning.
PENBERTHY: Thanks for your time Minister. We just want to kick things off by getting the most precise clarity possible around the exact number of people that we're looking at receiving - the number of extra people we're looking at getting here in South Australia. Can you provide that information please?
COLEMAN: Well look, basically, what the government's done is cut the immigration program cap from 190 to 160 -160,000 per year. And within that we're saying that 23,000 of those spots per year will be available for people who go to regional Australia and commit to regional Australia for three years. And all of South Australia is defined as part of regional Australia. And one of the categories within the 23,000 is nominated by the State, so South Australia will say: well, we'd like to allocate this many people and then the government will respond and allocate that specific number. So that will be announced shortly.
PENBERTHY: How did you determine that definition of regional Australia?
COLEMAN: Yeah. So it's basically everywhere except Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Perth and it's based on the growth rate; it's based on the historical definitions and frankly, it's based on where the needs are for population growth, because as you know South Australia is really crying out for more people to help grow the economy and to help build those skilled positions. And what we're really wanting to do to be frank, is support South Australia in that endeavour and you can expect that South Australia will be allocated an increased number of spots under this plan.
PENBERTHY: We should reassure you Minister; we're not insulted by it but we do have a wry smile on our faces. The Grand City of Adelaide is, by the Federal classification, sort of regarded as Yass with an arts festival.
COLEMAN: No. Adelaide's actually always been broadly defined in the regional category and what we're doing with this definition is simplifying the definition of regional Australia. So, if you're not in one of those big locations you're in regional Australia and what that means is that those regional locations will be able to access this pool of people who will be required to stay in those regions.
WILL GOODINGS: David might not be offended, it rankles me a bit Minister – anyway. So how many are we getting all up year on year?
COLEMAN: Well again, we haven't released a State by State breakdown and that will be in response to the requests from the states.
GOODINGS: Okay. But you're saying- you seem to be saying the balls in the Premier's court there. So it's up to our Premier to come up - and the figure he's after is what? About a thousand a year, isn't it?
COLEMAN: Well look, he'll- I don't want to speak for the Premier but South Australia commenced its request and then the Government will respond to those requests but we haven't done that State by State as yet. But it's a safe assumption that South Australia will be receiving more spots and that's to meet the very clear demand for more skilled migration to South Australia.
GOODINGS: It must be a bit tricky at the moment because you're sort of- you guys are running two totally opposite arguments here like when you go on 2GB or 3AW in Sydney and Melbourne your message is: don't worry, less people are coming. And when you come on our show, the message is: don't worry, more people are coming.
COLEMAN: Well look, I think that the key point here is that the immigration needs are really different in different parts of the country and…
GOODINGS: That wasn't a criticism by the way, it was just an observation.
COLEMAN: We sometimes talk about the immigration program as if it just one thing that has a one size fits all approach across the nation, and what we're really saying with this plan is we need to be more sophisticated and smarter than that because Sydney and Melbourne are experiencing very serious congestion issues and they've had very rough rapid population growth, the substantial majority of people are heading to those cities through the immigration plan. But then, it's not just South Australia, you've also got Tasmania, you've got parts of regional Queensland and WA; they are also in a similar position. So Kalgoorlie today - we've announced an arrangement with them which will help them to get more workers because they need more workers for their mining sector. So there's a whole bunch of places around Australia and South Australia is only one of them that are saying we want more skilled workers and so the structure of this plan enables us to deliver that while also taking some of the population pressure off Sydney and Melbourne.
GOODINGS: How easy is that to achieve Minister? Because I understand there would be some regionality with regard to the sorts of skill shortages that do exist and simply saying that a greater share of the 160 odd thousand that come into the country are now going to be distributed to the regions. Well, I imagine they're redistributed from a very different set of job demands that might exist in inner Sydney and Melbourne.
COLEMAN: Yeah, but we have a very large pool of people that want to come to Australia with a very diverse set of skills. So there's more than a hundred thousand people sitting in a pool effectively at the moment who want to come to Australia and so what this - and they have a diverse range of skills. And so what this will do is say to the people within that pool: well, if you want to come to Australia, here's a really good opportunity to move to regional Australia, commit to regional Australia and importantly, and this is a really key aspect of the plan, they have to commit to regional Australia for at least three years in order to obtain permanent residency. So they can't come to regional Australia and then two weeks later move to Sydney or Melbourne; they have to commit to regional Australia and if they do, at the end of the three years they can get permanent residency. That's a really powerful motivator because the thing that immigrants to Australia want above all is permanent residency because that means you can stay here. And so we already have a program that has a similar structure that has a provisional residency requirement but what we're doing here is substantially expanding that concept and the number of people allocated to those programs.
PENBERTHY: Immigration Minister David Coleman thank you for joining us this morning on regional radio here in South Australia.
COLEMAN: Thanks very much.