Jobs must be available and migrants must be work-ready, or else the government’s regional migrant settlement program sets everyone up for failure, says Greater Hume Council’s mayor.
On Tuesday the federal Population and Urban Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge said migrants would be compelled to stay in regional areas for “at least a few years” through visa conditions, in a plan to counter metropolitan population growth.
Greater Hume mayor Heather Wilton welcomed the idea, in principle, but said there must be careful consideration about where migrants are placed and what suitable work is available.
“I would welcome the opportunity – provided we have the jobs available,” Cr Wilton said.
“There’s no point migrants coming here if they don’t have the right job skills for the positions available, that’s setting everyone up for failure quite honestly.
“I don’t want to knock the idea, I just think it needs rules and regulations so it can be successful.”
Cr Wilton said having a job was empowering and important for people new to communities.
“Having a job is the best thing people can do,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what age or what skill level you are if you’ve got a job you’re halfway to getting somewhere, you can settle and be happy and comfortable. Without a job it’s tough.”
Cr Wilton said the shire had areas of labour shortage that could be filled by any suitably matched people.
There’s no point migrants coming here if they don’t have the right job skills for the positions available, that’s setting everyone up for failure.Mayor Heather Wilton
Labor’s spokesman Brendan O’Connor said the plan was just a “thought bubble” which didn’t consider the possible impact on unemployment.
Wodonga mayor Anna Speedie supported the plan and said because of its location and livability the city was an attractive alternative to its metro counterparts.
“With the right planning, a regional migration program has the potential to support growth in regional cities while boosting regional economies,” she said.
“However, such a program would need to be carefully managed and supported by investment in infrastructure and services.”
In May, Albury mayor Kevin Mack supported a similar scheme to bind skilled migrants to regions.