Coalition’s regional visas turn farcical

Immigration Minister, David Coleman, has declared the Coalition’s regional visa push a triumphant success and has announced that the cities of Perth and the Gold Coast will now also be declared regional:

The federal government is increasing intake under its regional migration program from 23,000 to 25,000 after the initial success of the initiative and will no longer classify Perth and the Gold Coast as “major cities” in an effort to make them destinations for skilled migrants and international students…

Immigration Minister David Coleman said 6,000 visas were approved under the program in the first three months of this financial year, compared with under 3,000 in the final quarter of 2018/19 and prior to the initiative getting underway…

“We will be increasing the allocation for regional places in our immigration scheme for this year, from 23,000 to 25,000″…

“We’re using our migration programme to back our regions to grow to take the population pressure off our major capital cities and by supporting strong regions we’re creating an even stronger economy for Australia,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

However, former deputy secretary from the Department of Immigration, Abul Rizvi, claims the government has manipulated the data and that the increase in regional visas has only arisen because the government has cleared its own visa backlog:

What the Government hasn’t explained is the increased target is largely the result of changing its own counting rules. It has little to do with substance.

The relevant excerpt from Morrison’s speech is as follows:

“We are seeing very positive results, with more than 6,350 regional visas granted already in the first quarter of this program — an increase of 124% compared with the same period last year”…

Note that the “very positive results” Morrison is referring to is the Department of Home Affairs clearing a backlog of regional visa applications that Home Affairs itself created…

Regional migration visas have existed for over 25 years and far larger numbers of regional visas have been granted in past years…

What he hasn’t explained is what portion of this 25,000 will be backlog clearance and what portion will be for the new regional visas scheduled to start from 16 November.

Labelling Perth and the Gold Coast ‘regional’ is also farcical.

Perth is Australia’s fourth largest city with a population of 2.1 million people.

And while the Gold Coast only has a population of 600,000, it is already fast growing, experiencing a population increase of 70,000 (13%) in the five years to 2018. The Gold Coast is also experiencing major congestion problems, with the M1 already at full capacity with people travelling from the Gold Coast to Brisbane for work and home again in the afternoon.

Is the Morrison Government seriously suggesting that Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are the only metropolitan areas in Australia, and that everywhere else is regional? That is ridiculous.

In any event, the Coalition’s new regional visas do not fix the underlying problems with the existing scheme: how do you force migrants to stay in regional areas once they have been granted permanent residency?

Because recent ANU research of settlement patterns revealed that 60% of migrants that moved to Australia’s regions subsequently move to capital cities within five years:

An Australian National University study released Thursday found more than 60 per cent of migrants move to a capital city after about five years of living in a regional or remote location.

ANU material went as far as saying new migrants were “fleeing” regional Australia for better opportunities in the cities.

Australia has a number of visas that are designed to entice migrants to regional areas but the research suggests more needs to be done to keep them there.

ANU demographer Bernard Baffour told SBS News, “you can move migrants to areas, but you can’t force them to stay there”…

The study found Chinese-born migrants are more likely to settle in Sydney. Erin Chew of the Asian Australian Alliance said, “a lot of the Chinese people are city dwellers, so they want to live in [places] where there’s a huge concentration of their community”…

Elsewhere, Melbourne is the city of choice for most Indian-born migrants.

Short of placing electronic tags on migrants, how can decentralisation be achieved in practice when it has failed repeatedly in the past, with the visa system systematically gamed?

There are also practical barriers with moving migrants to the regions, such as lack of water supply and jobs. But I will leave these for another day.

Unconventional Economist
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Comments

  1. Has there been a more graphic illustration of the fact that politicians in this country truly no longer care about maintaining even the tiniest taint of credibility as they plow forward with their unmandated vision for this country.

    The electorate could no longer even be considered confused passengers in a wayward taxi, sitting uncomprehendingly as the driver takes an in conventional route to the destination, now we are hog-tied and gagged in the boot as the driver casually ignores the pounding from the rear of the car as he makes his way to a secluded destination in a remote forest where he can enact his most secret fantasies.

  2. Has there been a more graphic illustration of the fact that politicians in this country truly no longer care about maintaining even the tiniest taint of credibility as they plow forward with their unmandated vision for this country ?

    The electorate could no longer even be considered confused passengers in a wayward taxi, sitting uncomprehendingly as the driver takes an unconventional route to the destination, now we are hog-tied and gagged in the boot as the driver casually ignores the pounding from the rear of the car as he makes his way to a secluded destination in a remote forest where he can enact his most secret fantasies.

    • We’ve already been labelled Asura, we’re the “Canberra Bubble”. In other news just to hand, Over Minister Dutton announced that Serco had been awarded the contract for the migrants’ electronic tags.

  3. I do think we need to decentralise, but how do we do it? its a catch-22 situation, you cant expect people to move to the “regional” centres when there is no work there but you cant create jobs there when there are not enough people there to support the business.

    Sending immigrants to regional centres will increase the population there but only work long term if there is enough support locally for both the business and the people.

    I have often toyed with the thought of getting rid of local councils and breaking the states up into smaller states using the duplication of administration to create more regional centres. if you carved NSW up into 5 states, carve out sydney metro as a city state, make Wollongong, Albury Dubbo and Grafton the capitals of the new states you would put GST money into those areas and encourage those regional centres to grow. ( possibly grant ACT statehood and give it the south east corner of NSW… ) If you did similar to the other large states the same effects could be acheived.

    The biggest issue I have heard against this sort of idea is duplication of services is wasteful and its better to have a small number of large systems than a large number of small for economy of scale reasons. But economy of scale only works for certain scales depending on what the item is. Even making match sticks suffers this when the scale gets large enough that the coordination of resources becomes a bigger problem than the manufacturing process.

    For NSW Education has tried many times to centralise and consolidate services only for the costs to rise and the flexibility to decline. overheads climb, complexity increases and agility declines rapidly. Even buying power of technology is reduced in large scales. Buy a Network switch and pay $6K, buy 10 and pay $5.5K, buy a hundred and pay $5.4K but buy a thousand and you can end up paying $7K each due to the fact you create an instant demand that only 1 vendor can cover.

    • A much better spend of tax dollars to encourage regional employment would be subsidising actual productive work rather than duplicating administrative government work. Given we just closed the car manufacturing industry and probably almost everything else don’t expect it to happen though.
      Ultimately unless the region is exporting something productive you can’t support employment of people with demand from other people if you also need to import stuff, unless you tip in tax dollars.

      • Sure, continue to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Subsidising anything just results in dependence on the subsidy.

        • Have you considered the possibility that the number of bureaucrats goes up disproportionately to the level of concentration of the reach of the department?
          Consolidation of departments even at the federal level has not increased productivity, its only increased reasons why things cant be done while handing more money to vested private interests who also cant do it….

  4. I’m gonna declare that I have a 9 inch dick[1]. That has as much credibility as the claim that Perth is a regional town.

    Of course, we live in times when people can say they they’re women and have dicks, and men have periods. Anybody can apparently declare whatever they want, and demand that it be true. It just doesn’t make it actually true.

    [1] Instead of this bloody great big thing I’m actually equipped with.

  5. Even StevenMEMBER

    Perth is regional? The fabric of reality is starting to warp and tear…

    We don’t even bother making up plausible lies anymore do we…

    • Fishing72MEMBER

      The Spinal Tap technique for demographic analysis.

      The volume on the population limit just gets reset to 11 when required.

  6. Call out the contradictory statements.

    On one hand, they want Sydney to be a megaslum of 8 million people, but on the other hand they keep saying “migrants to the regions”.

    • That’s called having your cake and eating it too.

      Or possibly something many more people should actully do, judge them by their actions not their words.

  7. Perth is a regional town, no question about it. Setting aside population numbers for now, considering what else disguises a town from a metropolis, then Perth falls squarely in the town bucket. If not for mining, Perth would not exist. It is a town whose sole function is to support the mining industry (i.e housing the workers, providing corporate and professional services to mining, etc).

    If mining companies were required to house their workers in mining towns, Perth population would drop by 500k overnight, and more over time as support functions followed them to the mining towns.