Migrants to be banned from Sydney and Melbourne
OVERSEAS workers will be required to settle outside Sydney and Melbourne for five years as part of the Morrison government's plan to address population growth.
It's part of the new government's landmark population policy to ease congestion in the two major cities.
Population and Urban Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge will today discuss the forthcoming population policy in a speech to the Menzies Research Centre in Melbourne.
According to The Australian, he will say that our unplanned population growth has led to an infrastructure and settlement imbalance, costing the nation up to $25 billion per year due to congestion in capital cities.
He also warns this will reach more than $40 billion within 10 years.
"Overall, the costs of congestion to the economy are already great, and rising steeply," he will say. "This is a serious challenge for families and a serious economic challenge for the nation. There was insufficient infrastructure built in the early 2000s, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, to cater for forecast growth, let alone the actual growth."
Mr Tudge will flag a new partnership between federal and state governments to manage infrastructure and population growth.
The new visa condition will be placed on a pool of skilled migrants who are not tied to geographic areas - like those sponsored by companies or granted family visas. According to The Australian, this accounts for around 45 per cent of the total intake.
Those who try to defy these conditions could have their visas revoked, or lose their chance at permanent residency to apply for citizenship.
"While the overall population of Australia has been growing at the rapid rate of 1.6 per cent per annum, our three large population centres have been some of the fastest-growing cities in the world," Mr Tudge will say.
"Melbourne last year grew by 2.7 per cent, Sydney by 2.1 per cent and southeast Queensland by 2.3 per cent. We are working on measures to have more arrivals go to smaller states and regions and require them to be there for a few years. In that time, the evidence suggests, many will make it their home for the long term. This will require close co-operation across different agencies, including regional development, to ensure we get the settings right so that those smaller states and regions can benefit economically from population growth.
"The main factor driving our growth has been net overseas migration, accounting for 60 per cent of population growth over the last decade, while the remaining growth has been due to natural increases.
"Most notably, there was a step change increase in population growth from 2007 under the Rudd government, almost entirely driven by lifting the immigration rate. The growth rate for our nation (and particularly our big cities) was well above projections."
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 recent 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.
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.
EXPERTS RAISE DOUBTS ABOUT NEW POLICY
When Mr Morrison first proposed the plan in August, experts 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."