Coalition MPs back senator’s call for population inquiry

Five Coalition MPs have backed Liberal senator Dean Smith’s call for a Senate inquiry into Australia’s population growth as Malcolm Turnbull resists the probe.

George Christensen, Jason Wood, Craig Kelly, Andrew Broad and Ian Macdonald joined Senator Smith in urging the Prime Minister to sanction a year-long inquiry into the issue, which would examine immigration levels as well as where migrants should be settled.

Senator Smith’s proposal was also backed by crossbench senators David Leyonhjelm, Fraser Anning and Stirling Griff, while Tim Storer said he would back it as long as it focused on encouraging migrants to his home state of South Australia. “The central question is not whether Australia is accepting too many migrants, but whether they are coming to the right places,” he said.

“South Australia has suffered for years from a ‘one size fits all’ immigration policy.”

Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce did not back an inquiry but said migrants should be encouraged to the regions through increased infrastructure spending outside of the capitals.

“There’s a population problem in Sydney and Melbourne but there’s no population problem in Wee Waa, there’s no population problem in Barcaldine,” Mr. Joyce said. “Sydney plays this tricky game where it says we want you to spend billions on infrastructure there but they don’t want anyone to move there.”

Mr Broad, the member for the regional Victorian electorate of Mallee, said the quality of life of Australians would “diminish” if migrants were not encouraged into the regions, but “I fear our representative form of government will not adequately address this as money flows to the numbers and my electorate at the next redistribution grows to 36 per cent of the state of Victoria”.

Meanwhile, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures yesterday showing migrants who speak English well are far more likely to end up with a job than those who don’t.

In data from 2016, 80 percent of migrants who came on skilled-work visas and spoke English “very well” were employed. This drops to 74 percent of skilled migrants who speak the language “well” to 55 percent for those who do not speak the language well. Less than half of skilled migrants with no English had a job.

For migrants on the family visa program, 67 percent who spoke English “very well” had a job, and 55 percent who spoke it “well” was employed. This fell to 34.5 percent for those who spoke English “not well” and 16.4 percent for those who had no English.

Migrants on humanitarian visas had the lowest levels of employment, with only half of people who speak the language exclusively or “very well” in a job.