Scott Morrison

Doubts cast on Morrison government's 'bush visas' plan

Australia’s skilled immigration system is facing another shake-up.

Australia’s skilled immigration system is facing another shake-up.

Doubt has been cast on whether the Morrison government’s plan to compel large numbers of would-be skilled migrants to regional areas will work.

Under new plans aimed at easing congestion in the major cities released on March 19, as many as 9,000 skilled migrants each year will have to live and work in rural or regional parts of Australia for a period of three years if they want to apply for permanent residency.

These designated areas essentially includes everywhere except Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and south-east Queensland but does include the cities of Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart and Newcastle.

The new Skilled Regional Provisional visas, along with other incentives such as priority processing, will enhance opportunities for regional Australia, the government says. 

“They will enable regional businesses to fill vacant jobs faster and encourage skilled migrants and their families to settle and remain in regional areas,” the announcement said. “There will be greater incentives for regional employers to nominate skilled workers, including access to additional regional occupations and priority processing of regional visa applications.’

“We’re only talking about people going into places where there are jobs and opportunities,” the Prime Minister said at a press conference in Canberra announcing the plan. “We have a lot of shires around the country saying to us ‘we want people’.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants more skilled immigrants to live and work in regional Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants more skilled immigrants to live and work in regional Australia.

But immigration experts have claimed that demand for existing regional visas is actually falling and have cast doubt on the PM’s claims just months before an anticipated federal election in May.

One migration agent said the new ‘three years in the bush’ provision would “be a turn-off for many”.

“A larger number of the visas available will require migrants to first take a provisional visa to live in a regional area and then, after proving they have lived there for three years have the opportunity to apply for permanent residence,” he said. “This will suit some but will be a major turn-off for many.”

Minister for Immigration David Coleman said permanent residency would be the carrot for new migrants to ‘go bush’.

“For people who emigrate to Australia, permanent residency is at the top of their priority list,” he said.

“It means that you can stay in the country and plan your future in this nation. So by linking the requirement that a person stays in a regional area for three years to their permanent residency, we will see a very, very high level of compliance with that requirement.”

Minister Coleman said if applicants did not comply “they won't get permanent residency and they will not be allowed to settle in Australia”.

Millions of dollars have been allocated to monitor compliance within the scheme. After three years applicants must prove they have lived and worked in the regions but Prime Minister Morrison played down fears of a ‘big brother’ approach by his government.

[If applicants do not stay in regional areas for three years] they won’t get permanent residency and they will not be allowed to settle in Australia
— Minister for Immigration David Coleman

“There is a strong self-assessment process to this because people need to demonstrate where they have been. Through people’s own records, where their addresses have been and where their power bills are, their employment records, their tax file numbers - all these sorts of things - we have a pretty reasonable understanding of where people have been and where they've been living.

“[But] the suggestion of some sort of walking the beat enforcement arrangement here is obviously ridiculous.”

The Irish Echo has confirmed however that if applicants for the Skilled Regional Provisional visas are made redundant during the qualification period, it will be up to them to find another job or their dreams of residency may vanish.

The latest statistics show that demand for regional visas (the current 187 employer sponsored visa) has actually fallen from 10,198 places in 2016/17 to 6221 places in 2017/18, a 39 per cent drop.










New PM Morrison quoted Bono in maiden speech

New Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison with daughters, Abigail, second from right, and Lily, second from left, and wife Jenny after being sworn in at Government House, Canberra. Picture: Andrew Taylor

New Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison with daughters, Abigail, second from right, and Lily, second from left, and wife Jenny after being sworn in at Government House, Canberra. Picture: Andrew Taylor

Newly sworn in Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has no discernible links with Ireland but he did quote Bono in his maiden speech.

Mr Morrison, 50, has promised a stable government at the end of a tumultuous week in which his predecessor was forced out of office, 13 ministers resigned and parliament was shut down for an afternoon.

Disgruntled government legislators forced former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull from office on Friday, arguing that most had lost faith in his leadership.

He is the fourth prime minister to be dumped by their own party since 2010 in an extraordinary period of political instability that frustrates most Australians.

Mr Morrison distanced himself from the turmoil, saying he had not been part of the push led by fellow lawmaker Peter Dutton to oust Mr Turnbull over four chaotic days, inspired by a feud between hard-right conservatives and moderates.

"We will provide the stability and the unity and the direction and the purpose that the Australian people expect of us," Mr Morrison told reporters. "The work of government continues. I want to assure all Australians that those normal wheels are turning."

A devout Christian, who is a member of the Pentecostal church, Morrison is seen as both socially and economically conservative. He is synonymous with the hardline Stop The Boats strategy aimed at intercepting refugees and asylum seekers before they reach Australian shores.

Bono and U2 on stage in the US in 2018.

Bono and U2 on stage in the US in 2018.

In his maiden speech to parliament in 2008 however, he spoke passionately about the plight of African people confronting war, poverty, famine and corruption.

"Africa ... is a humanitarian tragedy on an unimaginable scale," he told the House of Representatives.  "It is a true moral crisis that eclipses all others. The African tragedy is driven by war, poverty, disease, famine, corruption, injustice and an evil that is robbing generations of Africans, our fellow human beings, of their future."

He then quoted Bono.

"Paul Hewson, better known as Bono, said: 'There is a continent—Africa—being consumed by flames.... when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for ... what we did—or did not do to put the fire out ...'"

Time will tell as to whether Mr Morrison can put the fires of hate out within the parliamentary Liberal Party.