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Shadow Minister outlines possible changes to immigration policy including fast tracking immigrants to regional areas.

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Monday 8 April 2002


Shadow Minister outlines possible changes to immigration policy including fast tracking immigrants to regional areas.


LINDA MOTTRAM: In a bid to put it s own stamp on an issue that John Howard has firmly claimed as the Government’s own, the Federal Opposition is considering a new idea in immigration policy, namely a proposal to fast-track migrants if they agree to live in regional Australia.  


Labor’s industry spokesman, Craig Emerson, is behind the idea saying that it would lure skilled and family reunion migrants to areas like Gladstone in Queensland, Orange in New South Wales and Ballarat and Bendigo in Victoria. That in turn would take much discussed population pressures off Sydney while giving Labor supporters something big, bold and adventurous to believe in.  


Craig Emerson has been speaking to our Canberra political correspondent Mark Willacy. 


CRAIG EMERSON: There’s a couple of ideas that we’ve been thinking of and one is to use the regulated professions, most particularly doctors, to say to migrants if you want to come to Australia and maybe you don’t have the full qualifications but that you can develop your skills and practise those skills in the bush.  


Now that’s something that already occurs in States like Queensland and another idea is in relation to the family reunion programme, unlike the Skilled Migration Programme it is not based on a point system and one thought is that we could develop a point system for family reunions to favour those applicants or those sponsors of family reunions who are located in the bush, in provincial Australia. 


MARK WILLACY: So migrants, essentially, who agree to live outside the major metropolitan areas would be fast-tracked, which areas would you like to see these migrants end up? 


CRAIG EMERSON: Places like Bendigo and Ballarat in Victoria, Shepparton through Orange is growing very strongly, Albury-Wodonga through to the Gold Coast hinterland up into Gladstone and Townsville. 


MARK WILLACY: But how could you keep migrants in these regional areas? Couldn’t they after a while move back to the big smoke areas like the Sydney basin, which many people believe is already overcrowded? 


CRAIG EMERSON: Of course and we don’t have the sort of society in Australia thankfully that would require people to live in particular locations. It really is to provide an incentive for them to live outside the overcrowded Sydney basin and if you can imagine migrants coming from overseas, where would they lob now? Pretty much always in Sydney and Melbourne.  


The idea here is to get them to move straight from overseas to provincial or regional locations and you know it is quite possible that having done that, having had a good look at the lifestyle and as I say in relation to the family reunion programme, staying there while they make their applications for family reunion. At least they get a good look at it and may well say this is the place for me. 


MARK WILLACY: So it would be an incentive based system. There would be no punishment you could see for people who breach these processes? 


CRAIG EMERSON: Well if you’re applying for family reunion programme and to get relatives out and you are located in a regional centre you would get some extra consideration for that. If you weren’t located in a regional centre then those extra points wouldn’t apply so it’s not a punishment but I think it’s a form of attraction for families from overseas to locate in regional Australia. 


LINDA MOTTRAM: Labor’s industry spokesman Craig Emerson speaking to Mark Willacy in Canberra.