FINDING the right balance in addressing rapid population growth in the major cities and growing regional Australia is vital, Riverina MP Michael McCormack says.
The federal government’s proposed population policy announced by Population Minister Alan Tudge earlier this week would force some migrants to spend their first five years in Australia living outside Sydney and Melbourne.
This, the minister said, would encourage migrants to settle in regional areas which would help ease population pressures in those cities.
Mr McCormack said he welcomed any policy that would support the strengthening of regional Australia and this initiative would help ensure a better distribution of population growth across the country.
“At the moment, 87 per cent of skilled migrants go to Sydney or Melbourne and this is unsustainable,” he said.
“As the Nationals’ Leader, I welcome strategic and targeted migration into regional areas, but we also need to have the infrastructure and services in place, particularly in health and especially in mental health.”
At the moment, 87 per cent of skilled migrants go to Sydney or Melbourne and this is unsustainable.Nationals leader and Riverina MP Michael McCormack
Mr McCormack said there were some regional areas, particularly smaller towns, which were “crying out for more people”.
“Not just to fill the jobs, but also to fill the schools, to make sure that the medical services that we’re providing as a parliament and as a government keep the numbers up, keep that critical mass up to keep those towns going, to keep the economy strong,” he said.
Mr McCormack said migrants would bring a lot more to the regions than just their ability to work.
“They bring so much life and colour to the towns they call home. They bring a strong work ethic and are dedicated to their employer,” he said.
Mr McCormack said the government wanted to put more incentives in place to bring some of those migrating to Australia to areas where businesses needed workers.
“We need to consider the best way to achieve this goal – whether it is through putting certain conditions on visas or empowering regional employers to attract skilled migrants or any other number of ways,” he said.
“Unemployment figures in the Riverina and Central West are below the national average, which is fantastic, but this can gloss over the fact that some industries cannot find enough people to fill job vacancies – not only in my electorate but across regional Australia.”
“Sixty per cent of Australia’s population growth has been due to net migration in recent years.”