For those living in the most congested cities in Australia, work commutes aren’t getting any quicker. And it’s not surprising, when you consider how much our population has grown in the last few decades.
Melbourne has hit a record high of 4.8 million citizens — accounting for 19.05% of Australia’s population, and is set to hit 5 million by the end of this year. And Sydney is just as concerning — set to hit 5.64 million by the end of 2018.
To put these numbers into perspective, overseas migration accounts for 60% of Australia’s population growth. 90% of skilled workers entering the country are flocking to the thriving hubs of Sydney and Melbourne — making them two of the most populated cities in the world.
But the resolution is coming — with a new reform detailed today, forcing migrants to spend allocated time in regional Australia before moving to any major cities.
It seems like a win/win situation for existing Australians. With the big cities suffering from over-congestion and regional towns calling out for more labour, everyone gets what they want, right?
This is not the first time we’ve put plans like this into place. Before, during and after the World Wars, migrants were placed where they were most needed — sometimes towns with less than 100 people. And this wasn’t considered any form of punishment — people simply looked forward to the prospect of starting a new, prosperous life in a land of opportunity.
Regional doesn’t mean ‘isolated’
And the term ‘regional’ is not as isolated as it used to be — meaning smaller capital cities like Adelaide would be on the cards to accept migrant intake. In fact, skilled migrants that wanted to live and work in regional South Australia would get priority processing, due to a plan pushed by SA’s Trade Minister David Ridgway.
Such plans would not only push much needed help towards regional areas, but also boost the country’s population in the places we need it most. It’s all about balance.
But while the idea seems pretty clear cut, not all are convinced. Roman Quaedvlieg, the former Australian Border Force chief said:
‘Imposition of the visa condition is the easy part. Enforcement will be harder. Migrants will gravitate to opportunities and amenities in cities. It’s not possible to police the condition without substantial resources, both identifying breaches and sanctioning them.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s new plan aims to use a ‘combination of encouragement and some conditions’ — penalising those who try to defy these restrictions by revoking their visas or making their chance at permanent residency impossible. And rightly so — at the rate at which our capital cities are expanding, its unsustainable for existing residents.
The fact of the matter is, overseas migrants shouldn’t be getting first preference. Jobs exist in regional Australia, where they’re being left unfilled. We need skilled workers to support our local communities.
And at the end of the day, if these migrants want to be a part of our country, they need to do their part in supporting our economic growth where it’s needed most.
By Alice de Bruin
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