South Australia’s population growth rate is already “really rapid” says one of the country’s leading demographers, as the Liberal Party today releases its population growth strategy.
Opposition Leader Steven Marshall went to Murray Bridge this morning to announce a plan to boost migration to the state.
The plan centres on a commitment to increase annual funding for the Multicultural Grants Scheme from $600,000 to $1 million and expand the program to cover migrant settlement services currently run by non-government organisations.
In 2011-12 the funding went to 210 organisations to “plan, organise and stage various festivals, to manage community projects which showcased numerous cultures and to inform the general community on religious diversity”.
Large companies tendering for government contracts will be required to prepare business plans identifying local living opportunities rather than operate a fly-in fly-out workforce.
The policy also commits to a new international campaign advertising South Australia as a potential destination to live and work.
“Currently, many new migrants who initially come to South Australian regions and cities for work, end up leaving for larger cultural communities interstate,” the Liberals’ policy document says.
“The State Liberals’ commitment will allow existing multicultural organisations in Adelaide and regional centres to fund programs which help settle new migrants into local communities, increasing the likelihood that they continue to live and work in South Australia.
“Programs could include assistance in finding housing, accessing basic services or making connections within local communities.”
South Australia’s population increased by 0.9 per cent last year – a “really rapid” increase compared to other countries, Director of the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre at the University of Adelaide Professor Graeme Hugo told InDaily this morning.
“0.9 per cent of is a really rapid rate of growth. It’s certainly faster growing than nearly all other OECD countries. It’s certainly not correct to depict that as a low rate of growth,” he said.
Australia’s population growth rate is well above other OECD competitors, as is South Australia’s. Australia’s population grew at 1.6 per cent in 2012, compared to America at 0.7 and Germany at 0.2 per cent.
However, the rate is below that of all other Australian states except Tasmania – something Hugo puts down to simple geography.
“The reality is that this State has always for the last three decades has had more people leaving than coming in, and that’s really a function of our location away from the Eastern States and away from the mining boom of the west – we’re not going to be as attractive to young people, particularly those recently graduated.
Former Premier Mike Rann first put in place a population growth strategy, making South Australia the first state with one. However, Hugo said, it was definitely in need of an update.
“Many of things which are suggested here are pretty much in line with what’s been the policy in the past, but it’s putting more stress on it.
“[Governments] certainly can have an impact, there’s no doubt about that. But nothing will replace a sound economy as a basis for attracting people. People have to have jobs to come to. A sound policy is one which looks at what the demand for labour is.”
Hugo cautioned about confusing population growth with economic growth – one didn’t automatically lead to the other, he said.
“The State Liberals understand that growing our State’s population goes hand in hand with growing our State’s economy,” Marshall said in a statement released to media.
“Boosting our population boosts our State’s productivity and that’s why we need to encourage more people to live, study and work in our great State.”
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