HEAD TO ROCKY

Skilled mi­grants wel­come but mayor says 10,000 too many

The Morning Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - CHRIS­TINE MCKEE chris­[email protected]­news.com.au

THOU­SANDS of skilled mi­grants would head to Rock­hamp­ton and two other re­gions un­der a plan hatched by the State Gov­ern­ment to ease pres­sure on south­east Queens­land.

De­spite Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son say­ing the city could ac­com­mo­date an­other 10,000 peo­ple, Rock­hamp­ton Mayor Mar­garet Strelow said that num­ber was out of the ques­tion.

“I would think even an ex­tra 1000 would be over a num­ber of years,” she said.

ROCK­HAMP­TON’S mayor has re­as­sured res­i­dents that 10,000 new mi­grants to the city is out of the ques­tion.

“Drop a zero and I’m cer­tainly open to the con­ver­sa­tion ... we al­ready wel­come a few hun­dred new cit­i­zens per year and our cul­tural scene would lack a lot of colour without them,” mayor Mar­garet Strelow said.

“But I think all of us would want a lot more in­for­ma­tion, es­pe­cially about where these peo­ple might come from, time frames and sup­port for re­set­tle­ment.”

Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son has asked states and ter­ri­to­ries to work with lo­cal gov­ern­ments to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on their pop­u­la­tion re­quire­ments by the end of Jan­uary.

A spokesman said the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment was work­ing with states and ter­ri­to­ries to bet­ter man­age pop­u­la­tion growth and get im­mi­gra­tion set­tings right.

The Queens­land Gov­ern­ment has part­nered with Monash Univer­sity-based group Wel­com­ing Cities to de­velop a plan of strate­gic set­tle­ment of mi­grants and refugees in re­gional Queens­land with Rock­hamp­ton, the Cen­tral High­lands and south­west Queens­land sin­gled out as ar­eas with skills short­ages.

Cr Strelow said CEO Evan Par­don was con­tacted by Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Stir­ling Hinch­liffe’s of­fice in early Novem­ber ask­ing to be in­volved in a pi­lot pro­gram about mi­grants com­ing to re­gions.

Rock­hamp­ton MP Barry O’Rourke said the pro­gram was about en­sur­ing in­clu­sion and that strong lo­cal ser­vices were meet­ing the needs of new­com­ers and res­i­dents.

“Mi­gra­tion pol­icy and re­set­tle­ment num­bers are fed­eral is­sues, how­ever the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment is work­ing to en­sure that in the event of any re­set­tle­ment, there are enough lo­cal ser­vices on the ground and a wel­com­ing lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment,” he said.

Cr Strelow, how­ever, said RRC had not told the State Gov­ern­ment there were skills short­ages in this re­gion.

“We have agreed to share in a re­view ... but there has been no spe­cific dis­cus­sion about in­creas­ing the num­ber of mi­grants.

“If the city was to ac­cept an ex­tra 1000 mi­grants over the next few years, the best sup­port the State and Fed­eral Gov­ern­ments could pro­vide would be to give us a lit­tle ‘af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion’ to help grow jobs,” she said.

“They could im­ple­ment sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced pay­roll tax for busi­nesses within our Re­gional Coun­cil area for in­stance,” she said.

“And cre­ate in­cen­tives for new busi­nesses by es­tab­lish­ing a ben­e­fited eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment zone.”

Queens­land Na­tion­als se­na­tor Matt Cana­van said he would love to see more peo­ple and mi­grants move to cen­tral and north Queens­land but more jobs were needed first.

“We have to have jobs be­fore we see sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of

mi­grants come to Cen­tral Queens­land,” he said.

“The thought-bub­ble from the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment to push more of the im­mi­gra­tion in­take into re­gional Queens­land comes without any plan to cre­ate jobs first.”

The Fitzroy re­gion’s un­em­ploy­ment rate is 6.8 per cent, more than the state and na­tional av­er­age and Se­na­tor Cana­van said without more jobs in min­ing, dams, farms and tourism fa­cil­i­ties, a pop­u­la­tion in­crease would be a recipe for higher un­em­ploy­ment and lesser eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity.

“We’re look­ing at ways to en­cour­age more mi­grants to set­tle in re­gional ar­eas and I’d love to see it hap­pen, but we have to make sure it’s done in a con­sid­ered way so peo­ple aren’t just told to move to ar­eas where there aren’t the job op­por­tu­ni­ties,” he said.

“Our fo­cus should be on jobcre­at­ing in­vest­ments.

“We have re­gional spon­sored pro­grams and are look­ing to rein­vig­o­rate those, tar­geted at ar­eas with a short­age of work­ers.

“This an­nounce­ment from the State Gov­ern­ment doesn’t have a lot of de­tail and that con­cerns me.

“We need to get these things right.”

Shadow Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter, Shayne New­mann said Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son was ob­sessed with talk­ing about per­ma­nent mi­gra­tion but ig­nored the fact there were cur­rently 1.6 mil­lion peo­ple in Aus­tralia on tem­po­rary visas with work rights.

He said a La­bor gov­ern­ment would re­strict tem­po­rary work visas for jobs in gen­uine skill short­ages and in­vest in Rocky’s uni­ver­si­ties and TAFEs to train lo­cal work­ers.

One Na­tion can­di­date for Capri­cor­nia, Wade Roth­ery, said while the gov­ern­ment had bud­geted for an­other 230,000 mi­grants this year, One Na­tion be­lieved those num­bers must be slashed in or­der to play catch-up on the coun­try’s ail­ing in­fra­struc­ture and wait­ing times for pub­lic health and aged care.

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