How can South Australia boost its migrant intake?

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South Australia is losing a very important battle — to win the hearts and minds of those migrating to Australia.

Key points:

  • A parliamentary inquiry is looking at how SA can boost its migration
  • Victoria attracted 10,000 new migrants in 26 days. The same amount took SA 12 months
  • There are no regional cities in SA with a population of more than 30,000

Premier Steven Marshall wants to gain some ground by attracting skilled migrants to the state rather than Victoria and New South Wales, as the State Government holds a parliamentary inquiry into how that can be achieved.

Today, the Economic and Finance Committee will hold public hearings in its inquiry.

Mr Marshall has previously expressed concern that in one year, South Australia only attracted 10,000 migrants — a feat accomplished in Victoria in just 26 days.

Flaviu Lazar moved to Adelaide with his wife and two children in 2016.

Before migrating to Australia, his job was to entice people from all over the world to visit and play poker in Morocco.

Since the move to Adelaide, he has been responsible for boosting international visitors to the city through his well-known poker tournaments.

“I’ve lived in six countries and visited 52 and I believe Australia is the best country I’ve ever been to,” he said.

“I’ve been to Sydney and Melbourne and I wouldn’t give up Adelaide for them — it’s a great place for families.”

However Mr Lazar, who works at poker club Matchroom Poker in Adelaide’s CBD, said the red tape he experienced during the migration process to Australia was challenging.

“The only thing the [Federal] Government should change is how hard it is to get a visa for this country — it is very difficult,” he said.

SA population growth less than half the national average

Tourism Minister David Ridgway said the State Government was committed to helping South Australia’s population grow through strategic skilled migration.

“SA’s population growth is less than half the national average — at just 0.7 per cent — and we must do what we can to stop the loss of some of our best and brightest to the eastern states,” he said.

The Economic and Finance Committee inquiry has so far received 36 submissions as councils, universities, migration experts and industry associations put their ideas forward on how to boost the population.

Research undertaken by Deloitte Access Economics for the Department of State Development found one full-time job was created for every four international students in South Australia.

If 100,000 international students studied in regional South Australia, 2,500 jobs would be created — contributing $350 million annually to the economy.

In his submission to the inquiry, Migration Solutions SA chief executive Mark Glazbrook called on the State Government to introduce a visa program similar to the now defunct regional 457 visa that was scrapped in 2007.

He said the State Government needed to foster education opportunities for international students in the regions and promote SA as an “internationally recognised destination” for farming, agribusiness, viticulture and horticulture-related study.

In his submission, he said a new visa program could have conditions that would tie international students to a region for years.

“Utilising various visa conditions, cancellation provisions and monitoring the actions of visa holders is a very important integrity measure to reduce exploitation, ensuring the program is not used as a backdoor pathway for those seeking to live and work in Melbourne or Sydney,” he said.

There are 30 regional cities throughout Australia with more than 30,000 residents and 10 of those have a population of more than 100,000.

“None are in South Australia,” Port Augusta Council chief executive John Banks pointed out in his submission.

He said SA was well behind other states in terms of fostering a “proactive approach to regional growth”.

With an estimated $5 billion in private investment in the pipeline, Mr Banks said the construction industry in Port Augusta over the next five years would require a workforce of thousands of people.

“Yet even now, ahead of this wave of new developments, existing employers are struggling to secure their workforce needs,” he said.

He said the Upper Spencer Gulf region would soon face a “significant workforce crisis” and would be reliant on skilled migrants to fill its needs.

In his submission, Property Council of Australia SA executive director Daniel Gannon said “targeted migration” was needed to fill essential skills gaps, drive investment, create jobs and grow the state’s taxation base.

“As a smaller state, we need to compete with other Australian states by being the best place in the nation to do business,” he said.

“One pathway to address this uplift in competitiveness is through reform of our tax system, diversification of the economy, investment in infrastructure, further planning reforms and red tape reduction.”

In South Australian vineyards, some employers have experienced difficulty recruiting vineyard managers, viticulturalists and cellar door staff.

The SA Wine Industry Association recommended annual migration intake should be distributed across the country to reflect current population numbers for each state and territory.

As South Australia has 7 per cent of Australia’s population, the state should have received 7 per cent of migrants.

In comparison, SA got 4.4 per cent of migrants in 2017.