ANOTHER Bathurst Regional councillor has picked apart the Federal Government’s proposal to require migrants with certain visas to settle in regional areas.
Councillor Jess Jennings, whose grandparents migrated to Australia in 1950, agreed with his fellow councillor, Alex Christian, that many regional areas don’t have the infrastructure to support an influx of people.
The plan, announced by Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, Alan Tudge, was pitched as a way to address population growth in congested capital cities while putting skilled workers in regional areas.
Under the proposal, around 45 per cent of migrants would be required to settle in regional areas for an unspecified number of years.
“Cr Christian is right to raise some fair points about the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government’s very empty thought bubble on supposedly forcing new migrants to regional areas like Bathurst, Lithgow, Blayney, Oberon, Orange, Wellington, et cetera,” Cr Jennings said.
“How on earth will these regional economies cope with a flooded labour market without thousands of local jobs in plentiful supply?
“The most likely answer is it will increase local unemployment and increase the problems that brings.”
He said that those areas weren’t “major job growth powerhouses” due to a lack of reliable infrastructure, such as the NBN, which he said had “been totally stuffed” by the National Party.
Cr Jennings also highlighted the lack of education opportunities, including apprenticeships, to assist people in finding employment.
He said there had been a 44 per cent decline in apprenticeships and traineeships in the seat of Calare since the current government took office.
“How can you force people to regions with no jobs, many with declining populations, and especially with no prospects of decent skills training?” he said.
He also felt the policy would be hard to enforce and asked how it would be done.
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Although against forcing migrants to live in regional areas, Cr Jennings said migration still had an important role to play in Australia and numbers shouldn’t be cut.
Australia’s current migrant intake is capped at 190,000 people annually.
“I probably part company with Cr Christian regarding the role of immigration to Australia as a nation - I’m only second generation Australian myself, with my Latvian grandparents arriving in Bathurst in 1950 with my baby uncle and literally what they could carry,” Cr Jennings said.
“They sacrificed a lot personally, but contributed a hell of a lot to the local economy and this community just like so many World War Two refugees and other migrants have over the years.
“The fact is migrants equal economic growth at the national level, unfortunately mostly in metro areas where the majority of jobs are, and migration has supported our great national record of 26 years of continuous economic growth since Keating’s last quarter in office and mostly thanks to the major Labor reforms of the 1980s and 1990s, and basically one single Howard reform of introducing the GST.
“Looking ahead, Australia’s ageing population is a major concern and cutting migration to play populist politics could do a lot more harm than good.”