PM Morrison writing at his desk in his prime ministerial office

A plan for Australia's future population

Media release
20 Mar 2019
Prime Minister, Minister for Cities Urban Infrastructure and Population, Minister for Immigration Citizenship & Multicultural Affairs, Minister for Regional Services Sport Local Government and Decentralisation, Minister for Education

The Morrison Government will tackle the impact of increasing population in congested cities and back smaller cities and regions looking for greater growth to secure their economic future and the key public services they rely on.

We will reduce the cap on our migration program, build the infrastructure and deliver the services Australians need, and plan for a more evenly distributed population growth. These changes are about easing population pressures in our biggest cities, while ensuring regional communities are given a much needed boost.

Australia has thrived from a steady population growth and is the most successful immigration nation in the world and our plan will ensure our country continues to lead the way. But over the last two decades, the infrastructure and services have not kept pace, causing congestion on our roads and public transport particularly in Melbourne, Sydney and South East Queensland.

At the same time, many of our smaller cities and regional areas are crying out for more people. Some regional areas simply cannot fill the jobs available. There are an estimated 47,000 job vacancies in regional Australia today.

The Morrison Government’s plan for Australia’s future population will ease the pressure on the big capitals while supporting the growth of those smaller cities and regions that want more people.

Last year, we brought the permanent migration rate down to its lowest level in a decade by focusing on the integrity of the visa system and prioritising Australians for Australian jobs. Part of our population policy will include stronger incentives for new people to our country to settle outside the big capitals in areas that will welcome their skills and expertise.

New measures will be introduced that will better match migration to regional needs, ease the pressure on big cities and ensure Australia remains an attractive destination to live and work for highly skilled and talented people from around the globe.

We will continue to deliver a record $75 billion investment in infrastructure, underway right now across the country.

The Government’s population policy includes:

1. Reducing the migration cap by 15% and incentivising more new migrants to settle outside the big cities where there are jobs and services

  • Reducing the migration ceiling from 190,000 to 160,000 places.
  • Introducing two new regional visas for skilled workers requiring them to live and work in regional Australia for three years before being able to access permanent residence. 23,000 places will be set aside for these regional visas.
  • Introducing new tertiary scholarships to attract Australian and international students to study in regional Australia ($15,000 scholarships will be available to more than 1000 domestic and international students each year).
  • Giving international students studying at regional universities access to an additional year in Australia on a post-study work visa.

2. Busting congestion on our roads and trains.

  • Plan to better connect regional centres with fast rail.
  • Investing $75 billion in road, rail and air infrastructure across the country.
  • Investing more in congestion-busting infrastructure through the $1 billion Urban Congestion Fund.

3. Planning for the future by working more closely with state and territory governments to match infrastructure with local population need

  • Population management as a fixture of future COAG discussions with the adoption of a bottom-up approach
  • Continuing to deliver new City Deals and Regional Deals to ensure three levels of government working together
  • Establishing a Centre for Population, ensuring there is a central, consistent and expert perspective on population growth. The Centre will pursue opportunities to improve data and research on population and facilitate collaboration on population planning across Commonwealth, State, Territory and Local governments.

We will also build on the work our government is doing to support grassroots initiatives that foster belonging and break down barriers to social and economic participation.

These changes also enhance the Government’s focus on skilled migration, with the number of Employer Sponsored skilled visa places increasing from 35,528 in 2017-18 to 39,000 places in 2019-20. There is no change to the Family stream of the program, with 47,732 places available in 2019-20.

Under the two new regional visa categories, skilled migrants will be priority processed and will have access to a larger pool of jobs on the eligible occupation lists compared to those who live in our major cities. Migrants on these visas must demonstrate they have lived and worked in regional Australia for three years before being becoming eligible to apply for permanent residence.

The changes will mean migrants will stay in regional Australia longer-term, as they will build ties to a particular location through workforce participation and community involvement, easing the pressure off our congested cities.

Labor’s failure to plan for the impact of record migration on our cities and infrastructure has meant we have been forced to play catch-up.

On 23 September 2019, the Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure, the Hon Alan Tudge MP, released an updated version of 'Planning for Australia's Population Future'.