Graph highlights nation’s problem
THE Morrison Government is considering a plan that would require new migrants to settle outside of Sydney and Melbourne for up to five years.
It's part of the new government's landmark population policy to ease congestion in the two major cities.
A time period had been due to go the Turnbull cabinet last week, according to The Australian, but it's yet to be put to the new Morrison cabinet.
Between 2006 and 2016, the majority of arrivals have settled in Sydney or Melbourne, at 27.6 per cent and 26.3 per cent of total arrivals respectively.
By comparison, only 3.2 per cent moved to regional NSW, and 1.9 per cent to regional Victoria.
Under the new model, it's understood the five-year period would be based on a threshold, after which migrants could stay in their location or move around.
But many experts have raised doubts about how effective the policy would be in practice.
Cities Research Institute's Dr Tony Matthews questioned whether the model would be legally viable.
"The immigration system in the past has tried to encourage people to move to regions by giving them extra points. I'm not sure it's legally viable," he told news.com.au.
"It's certainly unsustainable to continue with the current model with the bulk of immigrants going to Sydney and Melbourne because it's creating significant pressure."
He acknowledged there would be benefits both ways, including a boost to regional economies.
"You have to question immediately whether the economics of regional cities offer the employment opportunities those skilled migrants would need to access.
"You would have to try match up these skill shortages in specific regional cities to try and ensure there was continuity and connection between these skills. If it's needed, but if you can't match it, that seems counter-productive."
Paul Burton, director of the institute, agreed, saying it was a surprising position for the Morrison government to take.
"Not only does it restrict the rights of some individuals to live where they choose but it interferes with market forces," he told news.com.au.
"While it is difficult to imagine any government restricting the right of the vast majority of Australians to live where they like, we have of course been down this road before in forcing First Australians to live on missions and reservations. And, rightly, we have abandoned it.
"Just because this latest proposal could possibly be implemented through the imposition of visa conditions, doesn't make it right. But how might it work out in practice?
"First, you would have to define the exclusion zone, presumably covering the whole of metropolitan Sydney and Melbourne rather than just the central area jurisdictions carrying those names.
"Second, you'd have to be clear that congested Brisbane or Perth didn't also merit inclusion. Then, there would be possible exceptions to the rule. For example, if I chose to live in Newcastle, lost my job and was offered another and perhaps even better one in Sydney, would I have to turn it down and remain unemployed in Newcastle? Or perhaps I could commute? There are many difficulties like this that make this an impractical as well as an unreasonable policy proposal."
He said this was a "symbolic policy", noting Sydneysiders would not feel the difference if migrants were suddenly directed to regional areas. There are baseline issues in infrastructure and housing that need to be addressed.
"If we are serious about dealing with the uneven distribution of jobs, houses and infrastructure around the country, we need a coherent and comprehensive national settlement strategy that harnesses the powers and expertise of all three levels of government.
"Such a strategy will help guide the investment decisions of public and private sector service providers and might lead to smaller cities and towns beyond the congested capitals becoming more attractive places to live and work.
"Little visa sticks and small relocation inducement carrots will do little but annoy some people, disappoint others and waste some scarce public money. The new government needs to think bigger and more boldly if it is to manage the growing crisis in our cities."
Labor frontbencher Richard Marles also expressed his doubts.
"I'm not sure that mandating new immigrants living in regional Australia is going to work," Mr Marles told Sky News yesterday. "I'm not actually sure there is the power to put that in place, to actually mandate that they do live there.
"So I am a little worried about the particular prescription they are putting in place to bring this about."
He did note he was open to other proposals to encourage migrants to settle in regional areas. "The whole issue of population looks very different depending on what part of Australia you live, as you say I live in regional Australia and for us we want to see a greater population, and that is a very different perspective from people who live in western Sydney for example."
Over the past six months, concerns have been raised over whether our biggest cities can continue to cope under the strain of new arrivals, with Australia's population surpassing 25 million earlier this month.
According to new Department of Home Affairs figures, 87 per cent of the 111,000 skilled migrants who arrived in the country this past financial year had permanently settled in Sydney or Melbourne.
Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge recently gave a speech to the Business Council of Australia forum in Melbourne, in which he announced a "Designated Area Migration Agreement" - a migration and settlement policy which would include visas conditional on settling in cities outside of Sydney and Melbourne.
He noted other parts of the country where there aren't enough foreign skilled workers to meet the demand, including roles too specific to be on a national skills shortage list.