Urban infrastructure minister Alan Tudge has used his first public address since the election to outline the Coalition’s plan to use visa schemes to shape population growth in different states and territories, with the goal of tackling congestion and boosting regional workforces.
Tudge, who was returned as minister for population, cities and urban infrastructure in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s new Cabinet, told a Property Council of Australia conference in Sydney on May 29 the Federal Government was working with states and territories to understand their desired population growth targets, so a national scheme could be formed.
The minister blamed existing congestion in Sydney and Melbourne on the former Labor Government in New South Wales, and the current Labor Government in Victoria, respectively.
“Here in Sydney, you actually had the two levels of governments working in opposite directions in the early to mid-2000s. You had Premier Bob Carr who famously said that ‘Sydney was full’ and was consequently not building the infrastructure for the future, while just a few years later, Kevin Rudd became PM and turbo-charged the population growth into Sydney,” Tudge said.
“The infrastructure couldn’t keep up; the housing approvals couldn’t keep up. Much of the congestion in Sydney over the last decade has been the result of this. It has been the result of poor planning and state and federal governments in the past working in opposite directions.”
Tudge praised the work of NSW’s current Coalition Government, saying it was “doing incredible work in catching up”. Meanwhile, he said Victoria’s Labor Government was not keeping up.
“Melbourne still doesn’t have an effective ring road because Daniel Andrews cancelled the East West Link (and wasted more than $1.3 billion in doing so); there is still no rail to Australia’s largest university campus in Clayton; and a rail link to the airport will only occur because we have forced the state government into it by putting $5 billion on the table,” he said.
Tudge said the Coalition’s plan would “strongly link population growth to infrastructure, service and housing approval capacity”.
“As Prime Minister Morrison has outlined, we are going to take a bottom-up approach to migration settings, rather than the top-down approach that has typically characterised the annual migration settings that the federal government determines.”
Tudge says the Federal Government is asking each state and territory for their own population plans, guided by their capacity and planned infrastructure spending.
“This may include a region-by-region analysis of population forecasts and carrying capacities, acknowledging that places like Dubbo are struggling to find workers while other places struggle to grow.”