Channel 7 interview with Natalie Barr

Natalie Barr: Well, the federal Government is moving closer to imposing new restrictions on migrants. It's among steps to be announced to tackle overpopulation in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. Under the plan, new migrants would be required to initially settle in smaller states and regions. Federal Population Minister Alan Tudge joins me now. Good morning to you. So unplanned…

Alan Tudge: Good morning.

Natalie Barr: …population growth has outstripped all the forecasts. How many people are you going to send out to the regions, and for how long?

Alan Tudge: Well, the essential problem, Natalie, that we've got, is we've got very fast population growth in Melbourne, Sydney, and South East Queensland, and yet we have very little growth in some of the smaller states and in the regions.

And indeed, in those places, they're often crying out for more people. So our overall objective is to try to get a better distribution of that population growth across the country. Because if we do that, we take pressure off those big cities which are feeling the congestion at the moment, and we help the economic growth of those smaller states and some of the regional areas who are crying out for more people.

Natalie Barr: Because some people in regional areas tell us that it's hard to get jobs out there. So, you can't just kind of…

Alan Tudge: [Talks over] Yeah, it depends on where you are….

Natalie Barr:

…yeah, you can't just dump people out there.

Alan Tudge: …it depends on where you are, Natalie. So here, we're not just talking about the regional areas, but also some of the smaller states. So, the Premier of South Australia, for example, says that he wants South Australia to grow by about 15,000–20,000 more people each year.

Same with the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, similarly the Premier of Tasmania wants to grow more quickly. You've also got some parts of rural Australia who desperately are looking for workers. I'm right here in Melbourne now, about three hours down the road in the seaside town of Warrnambool.

They need 1000 extra workers right now to work on the dairy farms, in the abattoirs, on some of the other farms, and they simply can't get those workers. So the jobs are out there, and we want to support their economic growth, and if we do that, we also ease some of the pressure on the very fast-growing population centres of Melbourne and Sydney particularly.

Natalie Barr: Sydney and Melbourne are already experiencing such major congestion, and infrastructure problems. Is it too late?

Alan Tudge: It's not too late, but I think, Natalie, we are in a bit of a catch-up phase from almost a decade ago. Now, back in 2007, Kevin Rudd did a step change increase in the migration intake, and what that meant was that all of our population growth has been well above what the forecasts were.

And then on top of that, we didn't have the infrastructure built really even for the expected population growth, let alone the actual population increase that we saw. So we're in bit of a catch-up phase. Now we are catching up, and in a place like Sydney, as you probably know, there's infrastructure being built right across the city, right now, supported by the federal Government.

In a couple of years' time that city will flow much, much better than today. But my overall message though, and what I'm going to be outlining in a speech today, is we need to continue to build that infrastructure, ideally in front of the population growth. Second, we need a better distribution of that population growth, and thirdly, we'd actually need better planning, so that we can more closely marry the growth with the infrastructure expenditure.

Natalie Barr: And I can hear people nodding their heads on the word planning. Thank you Minister for your time this morning.

Alan Tudge: Thanks very much Natalie.