Prime Minister Scott Morrison took a small step towards addressing Australia’s breakneck population growth issues.
But even that small step — reducing the annual permanent migration intake from 190,000 to 160,000 — is meeting with calls from the Big Australia camp that the reduction will hurt economic growth.
Morrison is confident that limiting new migrants to Australia to 160,000 for each of the next four years won’t harm the federal budget. But he believes any further cuts would.
Meaning Australia’s archaic economic growth model remains dependent on adding ever more people Down Under. Clearly that model cannot be sustained indefinitely. But then our politicians rarely think beyond their own tenure.
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Move them, don’t lose them
Highlighting the dilemma, Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday, ‘If we were to take the figure below 160,000 that would have had a direct fiscal impact on the budget.’
With this knowledge in mind, the Coalition’s population plan has a strong focus on spreading the population, rather than reducing it.
After all, the main issue is congestion, not size…or so the government thinks.
As the Australian Associated Press reports, this population plan will also involve new visa categories which will push skilled migrants into regional towns for up to three years initially, before they can apply for permanent residency.
Morrison says this is needed to fill work vacancies in these regions:
‘We’re only talking about people going into places where there is the jobs and opportunities. We have a lot of shires around the country saying to us we want people.’
Immigration Minister David Coleman believes there will be no compliance issues for these new requirements, as existing state-sponsored regional visas have a 99% compliance rate.
‘Permanent residency is top of the list in terms of the incentives for people. We certainly expect that these will be well subscribed and that there will be a very high level of compliance,’ he said.
Other parts of the plan
As for the up and coming migrant generation, Morrison plans to lure them outside the capital cities with an extra year of Aussie work rights if they complete their tertiary studies in a regional university.
However, this bargaining chip rests on the assumption that regional universities offer the same desired degrees as the urban universities.
Still, if all else fails, the allocated $75 billion for road, rail and air projects across the country and a further $1 billion for specific ‘congestion busting’ projects may ease the pressure of inner-city traffic.
Labor Leader Bill Shorten says the plan overlooks the problem that temporary work and student visas creates to our growing population.
But with both agreeing on the cap — our apparent minimum threshold for economic growth — we may need all the temporary visitors we can get.
Again, not an ideal situation. But since when has our government given us one of those?
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