Channel 9 Today Show interview with Sylvia Jeffreys

Sylvia Jeffreys: Thousands of migrants will be forced to live outside Sydney and Melbourne under a federal government plan to ease overpopulation. New arrivals will have restrictions placed on their visas ensuring they settle in rural or regional areas for up to five years. Federal Minister for Population and Infrastructure Alan Tudge joins us now from Melbourne.

Minister good morning to you.

Alan Tudge: Good morning Sylvia.

Sylvia Jeffreys: So what exactly is the plan here? Where will new migrants go?

Alan Tudge: So the essential problem which we have Sylvia, is that we have very rapid growth in our big population centres of Sydney, Melbourne and southeast Queensland and yet very small growth in parts of Australia including some of our smaller states, and yet they're often crying out for more people.

So our overall objective is to try to get a better distribution of that growth to take the pressure off Melbourne and Sydney and support the economic growth of those other areas.

Now, one of those levers is migration of course and we want to provide further incentives and indeed put some conditions upon some new migrants to settle into those smaller states and into some of the regions where they need more workers.

Sylvia Jeffreys: Okay, so with respect, my question there was: what is the plan? So which areas will they be allowed to settle in? Which areas will be off limits?

Alan Tudge: Yeah. So we haven't precisely documented that yet. But the key problem as I was trying to outline is that we've got very fast growth in Melbourne, Sydney and southeast Queensland which puts enormous pressure on those cities.

Most of that growth certainly in Melbourne and Sydney is due to migration and so if we can get some of that migration growth into a place like South Australia or the Northern Territory or Tasmania or elsewhere, then it does assist those big capital cities as well as assist those smaller states.

Now I've been talking to the Premier of South Australia for example and he wants at least 15,000 more people to go to South Australia each year because they've had very slow growth and yet he wants to grow that state. So we want to support that ambition and if we do that I think it helps South Australia and eases that congestion in Melbourne and Sydney.

Sylvia Jeffreys: And will you support areas such as South Australia with their infrastructure? Can you guarantee that people will be able to find jobs in those areas?

Alan Tudge: Yeah. Two questions there. Certainly in infrastructure, we've got record infrastructure expenditure right around the country and one of the elements which I'm outlining today in the speech is to say that we need a better planning framework to better plan where our population is growing and match that with infrastructure's expenditure and services expenditure.

Now in relation to jobs: there are many parts of Australia today who simply can't get a warm body to do the work which in New South Wales for example, you've got a place like Dubbo which has 2.7 per cent unemployment.

In South Australia, they want more people because they've got a growing shipbuilding industry, Defence Force industry, et cetera. So there are places that are looking for more people and yet we've got Melbourne and Sydney which are absolutely growing very, very fast and people are really feeling the pressure on congestion there.

Sylvia Jeffreys: So to be clear, at this stage you haven't exactly identified where new migrants will be settled going forward? It's just not Melbourne and Sydney, is that right?

Alan Tudge: Well nearly all of the migrants at present go to Melbourne and Sydney; 87 per cent of skilled migrants go to those two big cities and that drives most of the population growth in those two big cities.

Now, what I'm saying is if we can just even take a proportion of that growth and put that into a place like South Australia or Tasmania or elsewhere, where they need more people, then that supports the aspirations of those smaller states and regions as well as eases the pressure off Sydney.

Now, it's not the only part of our plan but it's an important one. Some of the other elements which I'm flagging to support the growth of the regional areas which will include us investigating for example fast rail to Newcastle or to Shepparton from Melbourne, as well as providing economic incentives to boost up some of the regional areas so that they've got more growth opportunities. That also would support taking the pressure off the big cities.

Sylvia Jeffreys: Just quickly because we are restricted with time I'm afraid, Minister, will these restrictions apply to new migrants who travel here to Australia on a family reunion visa and will they subsequently be separated from their relatives?

Alan Tudge: No, that's certainly not the plan. I mean, typically most of the family reunions are Australians who are marrying a foreigner and you obviously aren't going to send somebody to a different state. They have to obviously be together, but about 45 per cent of our migrants who come here, they don't have a geographical requirement as such. So there is opportunity to provide both incentives and indeed conditions to go elsewhere.

Sylvia Jeffreys: Okay. Minister Alan Tudge, it certainly sounds like there's a lot more to be nutted out in terms of the plan there. We appreciate your time and you joining us this morning. Thank you very much.

Alan Tudge: Thanks very much.