Sky News with Jaynie Seal


JAYNIE SEAL, HOST: Australia's migration system could undergo an overhaul after a review claiming it's failing to meet current needs. The 200-page report highlights labour shortages in critical areas, including the care sector. It also found regional visa programs have not been successful in encouraging migrants to leave the cities. The review was commissioned by Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil. She will address the National Press Club on the issue today and is expected to reveal Labor's response. Joining us live is Kristy McBain, Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories. How are you this morning, Minister?

KRISTY MCBAIN, MINISTER: Very well this morning, Jaynie. How are you?

JAYNIE SEAL: Good, thank you. In Newcastle, I can see there. We'll talk about what you're up to in Newcastle and nearby areas. But first of all, the announcements today; do you think the Government's plans to boost the salary threshold for employer sponsored visas are going to impact regional farming communities? Certainly, have relied on those workers to pick harvest.

KRISTY MCBAIN: The thing that we have learnt since we came to Government ten months ago is that the immigration system has been broken. There were a million visas in the backlog, we didn't have enough people processing them and we had far too many classes of visas, that included temporary visas, which meant that we had this rolling system of people coming into the country, leaving again and not being able to establish good relations with employers across the country. Minister Clare O'Neil will today outline some changes to that immigration system, some much needed changes, because we know that the system is broken, it needs systematic change. There's been no strategy behind our immigration processes, and in the last ten months we've done a review, and there'll be some significant changes to the system.

JAYNIE SEAL: And what do you think it will mean for Australian farmers who have had to pay those workers a lot more?

KRISTY MCBAIN: There has been a significant amount of work already done in the agriculture sector with the AWU, as well as working with local farmers. We need people to come in during our seasons where we need fruit picked, and for a whole other bunch of agricultural pursuits. The system will be strengthened by the changes being announced today.

JAYNIE SEAL: We certainly look forward to hearing what the announcement will be. Let's head to another big announcement tomorrow, the Liddell closure. The Federal Energy Minister has certainly given an assurance that the closure of the Liddell power station in the upper Hunter region of New South Wales will not lead to blackouts. He seems pretty confident. What's your take on this?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Liddell has operated for just over 50 years. It has served our country very well, as have the workers that have worked there, some for over 40 years. I want to firstly thank all those workers who have powered our country using Liddell over the last 50 years. This hasn't been a snap decision of the company. They have made that decision many years ago with a process to work its way down to closure. There have been no forced redundancies. All of those workers are deployed to other jobs with the company. This has been a seamless transition, much better than in places like Gippsland, where I was only a couple of weeks ago, where we saw power stations closing without a transition plan. The committee for Hunter and RDA Newcastle have been working with the community, with unions and with business where we can to make sure that we pick up the economy here, noting that there is so much transition happening here. There's been a tonne of money put into green hydrogen storage and research and development here in Newcastle. There is a lot of renewable energy projects coming online, Newcastle and the Hunter are still going to power the country. It’s just going to be a different form of energy going forward.

JAYNIE SEAL: And Minister you are in Newcastle today. You've been travelling around eastern parts of New South Wales. What is on the agenda?

KRISTY MCBAIN: It's been a fabulous couple of days. I've met with Lake Macquarie Council, with Singleton Council, with one of the local Aboriginal healing centres here. I am meeting with local RDAs and off to the University of Newcastle later today to have a look at their Food Innovation Precinct. Once again, seeing how much is happening across our region and how people are so engaged in solutions-based thinking, rather than just continuing to identify problems, which the opposition seems intent on doing. It's been fabulous talking to local communities, grabbing the future with their hands and shaking it for themselves.

JAYNIE SEAL: A couple of big announcements this week, as we just mentioned, and we look forward to chatting to you same time next week. Kristy McBain, Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories. Thank you so much for your time.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Thank you very much.