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Plan to attract more migrants to regional Australia.



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Senator Amanda Vanstone MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND MULTICULTURAL AND INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS

Plan to Attract more Migrants to Regional Australia

Joint release with John Anderson, Acting Prime Minister, Minister for Transport and Regional Services and Leader of The Nationals

VPS 004/2004

New ways to attract more migrants to Australia's regional areas were announced today by the Acting Prime Minister, John Anderson, and the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Senator Amanda Vanstone.

In 2002-03, approximately 8,000 visas were granted under regional migration programs, an increase of 92 percent over the 2001-02 program year. This is the highest level on record and now equals 12 percent of the total number of skilled migrants to Australia.

Over 27,000 visas have been granted under these programs since 1996.

'Even though there has been a steady increase in the use of regional migration measures, we need to do more to assist regional Australia to get the people they want and this is what we are announcing today,' Senator Vanstone said.

'From 1 July, qualified people who want to come to Australia as skilled migrants will be able to obtain a three-year temporary residents visa if they commit to living and working in regional Australia. After two years they will be able to apply for permanent residency.'

Senator Vanstone said there was also a new visa for self-funded independent retirees to encourage them to settle in regional areas.

'Under this visa participating State and Territory Governments will be able to sponsor self-funded retirees settling in regional Australia,' she said. 'Self-funded retirees provide an opportunity for Australia to benefit both from their capital investment and the money they spend while in Australia.'

Senator Vanstone said the consultations on these proposals have been continuing for some time and final details are being developed with the relevant State and Territory Governments and regional authorities.

Mr Anderson said many rural and regional communities believed that migration would counter population losses of past decades, helping to revitalise their communities.

'Some of Australia's greatest regional infrastructure projects have been built with the help of migrants, including The Snowy Mountains Scheme and the development of Mt Isa's mining industry,' Mr Anderson said. 'Those early migrants remained and settled in those country towns and regions where they first worked.'

The Australian Government would also implement measures to reduce migration to Sydney.

'These will be the subject of further consultation with the NSW Government before any announcement about the details can be made.'

12 January 2004