A day after being announced as Australia’s new Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure, Alan Tudge has confirmed he is exploring different ways to incentivise migrants to work regionally to help ease congestion in Sydney and Melbourne.
Alan Tudge attributes Australia’s population pressures to the disproportionate number of migrants settling in Melbourne and Sydney and a lack of investment in city infrastructure rather than high immigration numbers.
Statistics released by the Department of Home Affairs this month seem to support Tudge’s rationale, as it was revealed 87% of skilled migrants settle in Sydney or Melbourne, while rural areas continue to struggle to find workers.
Alan Tudge says, “I have been to regions across Australia where they are crying out for any warm body to do the job. If we can get the distribution better, it will take pressure off the big capitals.’’
It is encouraging that a Population portfolio has been created and grouped with Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. It suggests that a population policy will be developed and aligned with infrastructure needs and that Australia will become more proactive in managing the impact of sustaining the annual migration intake, rather than taking an approach to reduce migration.
Alan Tudge said his strategy was less concerned with migration intake targets and instead focused on developing the right incentives and conditions to encourage migrants to settle in smaller capital cities such as Perth, Adelaide and regional areas, as well as accelerating infrastructure to support future growth.
Alan Tudge says, “People are finding the trains are full and the roads are congested and people are blaming it purely on the growth rate when there is actually a number of issues at play. It is the distribution of the growth and the lack of infrastructure keeping up with that growth which is as much a cause as the overall, aggregate growth rate for the nation as a whole.”
He believes falling public support for immigration has largely been due to poor planning rather than Australia growing too fast and stated, “Where we can do better is to try to get a broader distribution of migration rather than nearly all migrants going to Melbourne and Sydney.’’
Australia’s Existing Regional Visa Programs
Australia already has a number of regional skilled visa programs available to migrants and regional employers as listed below. It will be interesting to see how Alan Tudge’s population policies expand on or impact these programs to allow further options for migrants to work regionally.
The Subclass 187 Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS)
- An employer sponsored visa available in regional areas to people under 45 years of age
- Applicants must be skilled in an occupation on a specified occupation list and meet English language requirements
- Provides permanent residence
- Applicants must be sponsored by an employer with a position in a regional area of Australia (outside of Perth, Sydney and Melbourne) and must remain working with that employer for two years following the grant of the visa or the visa can be cancelled.
The Subclass 489 Skilled Regional Visa
- A regional skilled migration visa available in regional areas to people under 45 years of age
- Must meet various points-tested requirements and be invited to apply
- Must have competent English and meet skills assessment requirements
- Provides a temporary stay of up to four years
- Provides a pathway to a permanent visa after a period of residence in the regional area.
Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA)
- Enables employers in states, territories or regions experiencing skills and labour shortages to sponsor skilled and semi-skilled overseas workers for a temporary visa
- There is currently only one DAMA in place covering the Northern Territory
- A DAMA has been sought by industry and local government representatives for the Goldfields region in WA.
In his previous Citizenship portfolio, Alan Tudge announced plans to introduce a Designated Area Migration Agreement that would cover all industries and positions in regional areas with identified and proven shortages. He proposes that local councils should be able to sponsor workers similar to businesses to further facilitate migrants to work regionally.
The Government is continuing to explore how similar arrangements could be applied to other areas, particularly in Western Australia and South Australia, to provide more local councils the ability to sponsor workers.
Incentives for migrants to work regionally
It will be interesting to see how migrants will be incentivised to work regionally as population policies come to light. Incentives for Medicare-subsidised treatment in particular areas has already been proposed as an option to encourage migrants to work regionally.
Settlement Council of Australia CEO, Nick Tebbey recently explained that the existing benefits for migrants to work in rural and remote areas currently include more affordable housing and the ability to be a part of a small, close-knit community, however we believe more incentives should be considered to ensure migrants are supported to live regionally. Read our article on The Regional Australian Institute’s recommendations to incentivise migrants to work in regional areas and smaller cities here.
Interstaff will keep you updated on the impact of population policies on migration as further information is announced. To speak to one of our migration agents about your visa options, contact 08 9221 3388 or [email protected]