New migrants to live in country towns
NEW migrants will be forced to stay long-term in NSW country towns to ease the growing pains in Sydney.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal the federal Home Affairs office is developing new visa rules to stop migrants who promise to live in the bush on arrival to Australia from immediately heading straight to the big cities.
Under current laws, there is no obligation for new arrivals, even on regional visas, to stay in rural areas, and only 7000 of the 190,000 who moved here last year lived outside the capital cities.
The first assistant secretary of the Home Affairs Immigration and Citizenship Policy Division, David Wilden, confirmed he was examining new visa conditions or policies to "bind" migrants to rural areas to help struggling communities there.
"We're are looking at what policies can help, if you like, bind people in a positive way to a regional area for a duration of a visa so that they get a better chance to integrate into and become a part of the fabric of a community as opposed to it being a holding place before they move to a large city," Mr Wilden said.
"One of the complaints we often get from sponsors is that, as they come as permanent residents, having signed a commitment, they're not actually bound under law to stay in a regional area."
Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge said the "many migrants" who don't "stay long in the region once they have their permanent visa" had become a major issue.
"Many migrants are sponsored for permanent residence on the basis of an intent to live and work in regional Australia but don't stay long in the region once they have their permanent visa," he said.
Mr Tudge said he was working with his colleagues on this issue, which also impacted labour shortages in regional areas.
"This has been a key issue for discussion during my recent visits to regional areas over recent weeks," he said.
According to NSW Government projections, the NSW population will boom by more than 100,000 people a year for the next 20 years, putting pressure on housing supply, congestion and infrastructure.
The data suggests about 60 per cent of the population growth is from natural increase while 40 per cent is from net migration from other states and overseas.
Centre Alliance, formerly the Xenophon Party, Senator Rex Patrick said the party was fully supportive of a visa system that favours regional Australia and would be pleased to work with the Federal Government on the issue.
"Such a system could provide crucial assistance to regional areas and at the same time help to relieve the congestion and crowding bigger cities like Melbourne and Sydney are experiencing," he said.
Home Affairs Department Secretary Mike Pezzullo told the Senate Committee that any new policies binding migrants to regional areas would need to abide by the Constitution, and would be a decision for the minister.
"The question of regional locality visas is always going to be a challenging one in legal terms, because of the free movement of commerce and persons across state boundaries," he said.
"That would be not a fatal flaw or concern but something that in the first instance officials would have to give consideration to and then shape advice to the government as to how to deal with that as one of the key features, because all laws have to be soundly based in constitutional terms."
The move to keep migrants out of big cities comes at a time when lowering immigration levels has been hotly debated by the Turnbull Government.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton examined whether to lower the immigration intake from 190,000 a year last year, with former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce lending support to the idea.
However, the move has been resisted because of concerns the changes would have an adverse impact on our GDP.
Supporting population growth with better infrastructure is a priority for both the Turnbull Government and the Berejiklian Government.