Infrastructure needed before refugees can go rural
INFRASTRUCTURE, health and social services must be in place before a plan to channel immigrants and refugees to regional Queensland can succeed.
Local Government Minister David Crisafulli, whose parents migrated to Australia, said the proposal, which came out of the Queensland Plan 30-year vision discussions last year, depended on Federal Government co-operation to put the necessary infrastructure in place to cope with anticipated growth.
"I think it is something that we should embrace on one condition, and that is that the infrastructure has got to be delivered ahead of the game," he said.
"We've seen what happens when you open a mining town without the infrastructure in place.
"It's got to come with jobs, it's got to come with employment, it's got to come with people who are willing to move into an area and become part of that community.
"There is no question the Federal Government needs to come on board with this journey."
Mr Crisafulli said while Premier Campbell Newman had discussed the plan with Federal Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, it was early days in terms of whether any rules could be changed to make the proposal happen.
While the details of how such a scheme would work are yet to be worked out, it is expected to involve a quota system, minimum stay in regional areas and faster processing times for those prepared to live outside cities.
For example, new arrivals into cities such as Rockhampton, Mackay or Bundaberg must live in a that city for a specific period as part of their residency conditions.
Queensland governments have tried unsuccessfully to direct people away from Brisbane and the Sunshine and Gold coasts for many years while the Federal Government has several schemes in place to encourage people into regional Australia.
Under the Queensland Plan, the government wants 50% of the population to live outside the south-east corner by 2034, meaning the regions must house another 2.3 million people.
About 100,000 overseas immigrants move to Queensland each year.
Bob Birrell, from the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University, said there had been good results in Victoria when migrants moved to regional areas.
He said there was significant movement of Muslim people to Shepparton while some riverland areas had experienced growth in Chinese and south-east Asian populations.
Mr Birrell said the willingness to do field labour meant there was a niche for them in regional areas but the majority were still located in metropolitan areas.
He said most settled in established ethnic communities because the infrastructure and support networks meant they could function in a new country.
Mr Birrell said it was especially hard for refugees to work in regional areas because many did not speak English, had few skills and had distinct cultural backgrounds.
"It's a major issue to achieve such a relocation to regional areas where people are not familiar with their background, employment is least likely and they don't have large communities with established institutions like in the western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne," he said.
Mr Birrell said establishing social and cultural programs would be fundamental to ensuring a smooth transition but noted there were already visas to attract skilled migrants to regional Australia.
Mr Crisafulli said if the plan worked it should result in regional centres that prospered for a generation and a capital city with a bright future instead of overcrowding issues.
"This is a benefit for all Queensland because if you continue to try and pile everyone into the one location, not only will it cause great pressures for the people who live in Brisbane but it's also a great cost to the taxpayer across the state," he said.