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Will Australian Migrants Be Blocked From Sydney & Melbourne? Tudge Releases New Plan For Population Crisis Using Regional Visas

Will Australian Migrants Be Blocked From Sydney & Melbourne? Tudge Releases New Plan For Population Crisis Using Regional Visas

Alan Tudge Speech On Australian Immigration and Regional Visa Policy Aimed to Promote Regional Migration in An Attempt to Solve the Population Problem in Sydney, Melbourne, & Southeast Queensland


What We Know

Alan Tudge, Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, has voiced a plan from the Morrison government aimed at solving the population pressures in Australians biggest cities. The media release titled, “THE CONGESTION CHALLENGE: MORE INFRASTRUCTURE AND STRONGER POPULATION PLANNING TO GET BETTER CITIES,” was announced 09 October 2018. The release outlined proposed plans that are intended to easy the congestion in Australia’s major cities by limiting the immigration intake to cities like Sydney or Melbourne. Mr Tudge mentioned early in his 14-page release that his intent was not to cover every aspect of the portfolio but to focus on “the most pressing challenges” for Australian big city residents: “congestion.”

“My overall message, and what I’m going to be outlining in a speech today is that we need to continue to build that infrastructure, ideally front of the population growth; second we need a better distribution of that population growth; and thirdly we actually need better planning so that we can more closely marry the growth with infrastructure expenditure,” Alan Tudge told the North Queensland Register.

While the proposal included four parts, the main step seems to be aimed at new migrants, forcing them to live outside Sydney, Melbourne and Southeast Queensland. The specific visas have not been outlined, but it has been suggested that the visa will may require migrants to live outside the major cities for up to five years.

“What we’re trying to do is to get a better distribution of that growth so it can help some of those smaller states and some of the regional areas, which are crying out for more people, and take a bit of that congestion pressure off,” Mr Tudge told ABC radio

How Will It Be Implemented?

Mr Tudge outlined a 4 part attack on the current major city congestion.

First, he is aiming for a massive boost in infrastructure expenditures having already allocated a record $75 billion with forward 10 year plans. Of this $75 billion investment (Tudge 44), there is already a significant proportion earmarked for building intra-city transport spines such as (Tudge 45):

  • Monash Freeway
  • Tullamarine rail
  • Westconnex
  • Ipswich Motorway

Second, he wants to address local congestion at “pinch points.” Mr Tudge highlighted that there are several roads that just are not capable in handling the amount of traffic. For an example of addressing a pinch point, Tudge referred to the $6.5 million bridge that will cater to thousands of Knox municipality residents in Melbourne. “This bridge would knock minutes off there commute, and take pressure off the busy Stud Road (Tudge 51).”

By early next year Tudge hopes to have a robust, data-driven process that will help to make local infrastructure decisions for the future (Tudge 52).

Third, Tudge pointed out that a major challenge for Australia is that the population growth is not evenly distributed. To counter act the lack of distribution Tudge is proposing directing new migrants to smaller states or regions (Tudge 53-54).  Matching the skills of new migrants with the skill shortages in rural and regional Australia will be key to the success of this approach (Tudge 59). 

At this point, we (Work Visa Lawyers) are unsure as to how this plan will be implemented. Home Affairs could amend a current visa or create and push a new visa altogether. There’s a possibility that the subclass 489 or a new visa like the 489 will have this policy attached.

“We are working on measures to have more new arrivals go to the smaller states and regions and require them to be there for at least a few years. In that time, the evidence suggests that many will make it their home for the long term.” – Alan Tudge

Journalists and other members of the community seem to be questioning the morality and practicality of limiting migrants’ options for settlement. It is important to remember that many visas, including the Skilled Reginal (Provisional) (Subclass 489) Visa, already hold similar conditions which require visa holders to live in regional areas.

Alan Tudge mentioned to SBS that, “Nearly every visa has some conditions attached to it.”

“About 45 percent of our visas aren’t attached to a geographical location as such, and therefore there are those opportunities to provide those incentives and encouragements to reside elsewhere,” Mr Tudge told ABC Radio.

Lastly, Tudge discussed connecting and integrating Australia’s orbital cities. The most effective means of connecting the cities would be using fast rail which was noted by the federal Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities (Tudge 62). Victorian Opposition Leader, Mathew Guy’s $19 billion commitment to fast rail from Melbourne to Geelong (32 minutes) is consistent with our agenda (Tudge 63). Presently, Tudge is still investigating the potential for faster rail links between our big capitals and surrounding regional centres.

Why is Home Affairs proposing changes to increase regional immigration?

1 Rapid Population Growth/Congestion in Major Cities

Australia’s population is growing rapidly. In absolute terms, we grew by 3.75 million people which is nearly twice as many as in the previous decade (Tudge 21). Our nation is adding a city the size of Canberra every year and the size of Adelaide every 3.5 years (Tudge 22). Australia’s growth rate in the previous two decades largely sat at about 220,000 per year, consisting of about 120,000 increase from natural growth and 100,000 from net overseas migration. In the last decade, it has been sitting at about 375,000 (Tudge 25).

Not only is Australia’s population growing rapidly (specifically the major cities), but the growth is well above any projections. “For example, the 2002 Intergenerational Report predicted Australia would grow by about 2.5 million over the last 15 years. We actually grew by 5 million,” Tudge continued, “Between 2004 and 2017, Melbourne was projected by the ABS to grow by 500,000. It grew by 1.2 million.” (Tudge 36)

This massive increase in population has caused many local problems. An example Tudge used was that the standard 30-kilometre journey in Melbourne’s morning congestion is starting to push an hour (Tudge 12). Keeping in mind this is average congestion, not the absolute worst. 

The most dramatic of the facts is that 75 per cent of the population growth has been to our three largest population areas: Melbourne, Sydney and South East Queensland. The overall population of Australia has been growing at the rapid rate of 1.6 per cent per annum. These three large population centres have been some of the fastest growing cities in the world. Last year, Melbourne grew by 2.7 percent (Tudge 32).

The major cause for congestion and over population appears to be being placed on migration. Mr Tudge pointed out that temporary migration has increased in the last decade to about 70,000 per year, whereas previously it was increasing by about 20,000 per year (Tudge 27). Moreover, 87 per cent of all skilled migrants going to Sydney and Melbourne, and nearly all of the humanitarian intake (Tudge 34). 

“The main factor driving our growth has been net overseas migration, accounting for sixty per cent of population growth over the last decade.” – Mr Tudge (Tudge 24)

2 Insufficient Infrastructure for Current & Future Population

The Australian major cities are simply not equipped to manage the current population and the growing population. Tudge admitted that there was insufficient infrastructure built in the early 2000s, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, to cater for forecast growth, let alone the actual growth (Tudge 38). Even though all government expenditure on infrastructure has increased in the last five years, it has typically lagged behind the population growth by a few years. 

This mismatch between projections and actual population growth has made it more challenging for governments at all levels to appropriately plan for, and invest early, in the essential infrastructure needed (Tudge 41). It is not just our road network that is facing congestion challenges, our rail networks are also feeling the pressure. In Sydney, there has been a 30% increase in rail patronage over the past 5 years Tudge said.

Overall the costs of congestion to the economy are already great and rising steeply. The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics estimates the costs of congestion in Australia’s capital cities to be $25 billion a year in 2017/18 rising to $40 billion a year by 2030 (Tudge 19).

3 Economic Growth for Smaller States

The third factor driving the congestion is a mismatch between the distribution of jobs and housing across some regions. The current over population of the major cities are not only congesting the cities but also depriving the smaller cities and reginal area of capable workers. An example would be Warrnambool, a beautiful seaside town that has an unemployment rate of 3.8 and struggles to find workers said Tudge in his speech.

For example, South Australia grew by just over 10,000 people last year. Melbourne grew by 10,000 every 28 days. South Australian Premier, Stephen Marshall, wants to grow South Australia by another 15,000 people each year along with the Northern Territory Chief Minister who wants to grow Darwin faster, and the Tasmanian Premier has indicated his desire to more rapidly grow his state said Tudge (Tudge 55-56).

Tudge highlighted that, “There’s some parts of regional Australia that are desperately crying out for workers,” and, “The jobs are out there and we want to support the economic growth.” (North Queensland Register)


Who will be affected by this new policy?

While we are not exactly sure as to which visas or who will be directly affected, we do have an idea of who won’t be. Mr Tudge mentioned that it will not affect the 25 per cent of the annual migration intake that is directly related to an employer sponsoring a person for a job where they cannot get an Australian (Tudge 60). Tudge went on to say, “A further 30 per cent concerns family reunion; typically, an Aussie marrying a foreigner. We cannot send a person’s spouse to a different state!” (Tudge 61)

Keep in mind, these proposed changes won’t just affect migrants but also the states and employers in reginal areas that need employees. “It depends where you are, here we’re not just talking about the regional areas but also some of the smaller states like South Australia and Tasmania,” said Tudge in his speech.

Based on the comments above, the policy changes will focus mostly on the state, territory, and regional sponsored visas. There are currently 28,850 visas available for the 2019 state, territory, and regional sponsored stream. As we continue to see policy changes implemented, we may also see a rise in the number of visas allocated for the state, territory, and regional sponsored stream.

Q & A

How can a visa control where you live?

Tudge plans on using a “combination of encouragement and some conditions” (SBS), to ensure that migrants live outside of the major cities.

Remember, there are visas, such as the popular Skilled Reginal (Provisional) (Subclass 489) Visa, that already holds a similar condition.

“Nearly every visa has some conditions attached to it,” Tudge told SBS.

Condition 8539 states, “While the holder is in Australia, the holder must live, study and work only in an area specified by the Minister.”

“About 45 percent of our visas aren’t attached to a geographical location as such, and therefore there are those opportunities to provide those incentives and encouragements to reside elsewhere,” Mr Tudge told ABC Radio.

What areas will I be allowed to settle in?

Eligible Entire State/Territory Regional Areas in Australia include:

  • Australian Capital Territory
  • Norfolk Island
  • Northern Territory
  • South Australia
  • Tasmania

Eligible Specific Postal Code Regional Areas in Australia include:

  • Queensland (Excluding the greater Brisbane area and the Gold Coast)
  • New South Wales (Excluding Sydney Newcastle and Wollongong)
  • Victoria (Excluding Melbourne metropolitan area)
  • Western Australia (Excluding Perth and surrounding area)

To see specific eligible postal codes click here.

Will I be able to move to Sydney, Melbourne, or SEQ?

This will depend on what visa you are hold or are applying for. There will be pathways/visas that will allow you to move to Sydney, Melbourne, or Southeast Queensland. These visas include, the Employer Sponsored (Subclass 186), Skilled Independent visa (Subclass 189), as well as Business investment visas.

The new policy may be similar to the current subclass 489 visa, that has condition 5893, which requires you to live and work in a specified region for a certain an allotted amount of time. Condition 5839 states, “while the holder is in Australia, the holder must live, study and work only in an area specified by the Minister.”

The clear intention of the government is to use this policy to achieve higher number of migrants in regional areas.

What will happen if I do not comply?

Although the minister would not specify what penalties might apply to migrants who breach their conditions. Failure to comply with the new policy could result in several different penalties including losing your visa or being denied permanent residency.

General Benefits from WVL (Work Visa Lawyers)

First, we are currently seeing that three-quarters of migrants are either settling in Melbourne, Sydney and Southeast Queensland. Needless to say, if migrants are averted from these areas it will undoubtedly help the population overspill and congestion we are seeing.

Second, other states and territories are having a skills shortage and already have programs in place for migrants to live, work, and fill a spot in the Australian community that is not already being filled. This would lower unemployment, help the community, and enable family business as well as corporate business to prosper.

Third, this could help Australian citizens, residents, and migrants living in the major cities because it will give the government time to improve city infrastructure and catch up to the current population. The government is already considering funding fast-rail projects in hopes of tackling the urban congestion caused by the population growth in the major cities.

Lastly, education providers should also see some positive change as more students will be urged to study in regional areas. This should give regional Australian educational institutions more funding as more international students will be pushed towards lower population areas.

There are already incentives offered, where states such as, NSW, Tasmania, and SA offer more generous state nomination lists for 190 and 489 visas to students who graduated in the state.

Alan Tudges’ Speech Conclusion

Australia has some of the greatest cities in the world. In the most recent Economist magazine survey, three of our capitals were in the top ten worlds’ most liveable. With that being said, serious about the challenges of very rapid growth, particularly the congestion challenges. To do this we must do short-term fixes, but also invest for the future and have better plans that match our population growth with infrastructure development (Tudge 67).  

Tudge finished by saying, “My overall message, and what I’m going to be outlining in a speech today is that we need to continue to build that infrastructure, ideally front of the population growth; second we need a better distribution of that population growth; and thirdly we actually need better planning so that we can more closely marry the growth with infrastructure expenditure.” (Tudge 67-68)

Going Forward

Going forward we are excited and intrigued to see how Home Affairs will implement these new stipulations. It seems as though Home Affairs will be releasing information on the new policy slowly but surely. We will make sure to keep you up to date on any future changes or additions to the policy. If you have any questions please contact Work Visa Lawyers.

Do you need help with an Australian visa application?

At Work Visa Lawyers we are experienced in assisting applicants in all matters relating to Australian visa applications, including state sponsorship applications. Our areas of expertise include Skilled Migration visas, Business Skills Migration visas, Employer Sponsored Work Visas, Partner and other Family Migration visas as well as Migration Review Tribunal, Judicial Review and Ministerial Intervention.

If you require further information regarding your Australia visa options you can contact us through:

(08) 8351 9956

or   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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