HEAD TO ROCKY
Skilled migrants welcome but mayor says 10,000 too many
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.