The Federal Government has unveiled a plan to address Australia’s increasing population by focusing on immigration, transport infrastructure and more efficient planning.
The new population policy focuses on capping migration by further restricting visa laws, investing in more transport infrastructure and ensuring greater collaboration between the three levels of government to plan for a more evenly distributed population growth.
The plan, unveiled on 20 March 2019, aims to ease population pressures such as congestion in major cities and secure economic growth for regional areas.
The Government’s population policy includes:
1. Reducing the migration cap by 15 per cent and incentivising more new migrants to settle outside the big cities where there are jobs and services:
- Reducing the migration ceiling from 190,000 to 160,000 places.
- Introducing two new regional visas for skilled workers requiring them to live and work in regional Australia for three years before being able to access permanent residence. 23,000 places will be set aside for these regional visas.
- Introducing new tertiary scholarships to attract Australian and international students to study in regional Australia ($15,000 scholarships will be available to more than 1000 domestic and international students each year).
- Giving international students studying at regional universities access to an additional year in Australia on a post-study work visa.
2. Busting congestion on our roads and trains:
- Plan to better connect regional centres with fast rail.
- Investing $75 billion in road, rail and air infrastructure across the country.
- Investing more in congestion-busting infrastructure through the $1 billion Urban Congestion Fund.
3. Planning for the future by working more closely with state and territory governments to match infrastructure with local population need”
- Population management as a fixture of future COAG discussions with the adoption of a bottom-up approach.
- Continuing to deliver new City Deals and Regional Deals to ensure three levels of government working together.
- Establishing a Centre for Population, ensuring there is a central, consistent and expert perspective on population growth. The Centre will pursue opportunities to improve data and research on population and facilitate collaboration on population planning across Commonwealth, state, territory and local governments.
While the Government acknowledged that Australia has thrived from a steady population growth and is the most successful immigration nation in the world, it claimed that over the last two decades, Australia’s infrastructure and services have not kept pace with its growing population.
This has caused congestion on roads and public transport, particularly in Melbourne, Sydney and South East Queensland.
Simultaneously, Australia’s smaller cities and regional areas have had the inverse problem. There are an estimated 47,000 job vacancies in regional Australia.
The Federal Government’s plan for Australia’s future population will ease the pressure on the big capitals while supporting the growth of those smaller cities and regions that want more people.
In 2018, the Government brought the permanent migration rate down to its lowest level in a decade by cracking down on Australia’s visa system.
Part of its 2019 population policy will include stronger incentives for new people to our country to settle outside the big capitals in areas that will welcome their skills and expertise.
New measures will be introduced that will better match migration to regional needs, ease the pressure on big cities and ensure Australia remains an attractive destination to live and work for highly skilled and talented people from around the globe.
The Government said it would continue to deliver a record $75 billion investment in infrastructure, underway across Australia, and continue to support grassroots initiatives that foster belonging and break down barriers to social and economic participation.
These changes are aimed at complementing a focus on skilled migration, with the number of Employer Sponsored skilled visa places increasing from 35,528 in 2017-18 to 39,000 places in 2019-20.
There is no change to the Family stream of the program, with 47,732 places available in 2019-20.
Under the two new regional visa categories, skilled migrants will be priority processed and will have access to a larger pool of jobs on the eligible occupation lists compared to those who live in our major cities.
Migrants on these visas must demonstrate they have lived and worked in regional Australia for three years before being eligible to apply for permanent residence.
It is hoped the changes will mean migrants will stay in regional Australia longer term, as they will build ties to a particular location through workforce participation and community involvement, easing the pressure off our congested cities.
View the Federal Government’s plan for Australia’s future population here.