Sending migrants to regions not the answer

Christos Iliopoulos, Maffra:


AT first blush, it sounds like a good idea to compel newly arrived migrants to live in rural areas.

This — its promoters say — will slow the growth of our big cities, and it will also give rural economies a boost.

But will it work? Is it an ethical thing to do?

Decisions and actions communicate messages.

The message to all Australians and migrants will be that rural areas are undesirable places to live.

The other message will be that migrants are not as worthy and should be treated as less deserving.

Let us not forget that we actively invite migrants into this country. They are not imposed on us.

Such a scheme would shame and diminish us all. When I arrived here with my family in 1960 I was six years of age. We were invited to come.

Following the Japanese attempted invasion and takeover of Australia during World War 2, immigration policy was driven by “populate or perish”.

Australia then had around 8 million people. It now has over 25 million.

I did not speak a word of English when I arrived; neither did my parents or siblings.

I remember being scared most of the time. I was afraid of everything. I could not communicate with the kids at school, nor with my teachers.

Our sponsors — my mother’s cousins who had arrived here in 1932 — lived in Brunswick.

They found a place for us to rent close by.

Mum found work in a factory. Dad found pick and shovel work with the tramways.

After paying for English lessons, he became a tram conductor.

We gravitated to where there were relatives from Greece. We needed their support.

I recall my mother often being in tears in the early years.

She wanted to return to Greece. She missed the farm and her village.

Many migrants go through a hard time adjusting to a radically different environment.

They must be permitted to live and work where it suits them best, just like everyone else is allowed to do.

Apart from being a rotten way to treat newly arrived migrants, compelling them to serve their time in rural areas simply will not work.

How could we police such a thing?

It will turn into a costly and embarrassing farce.

There are other ways to address the issue of population distribution.

The most obvious way is to vary the personal and business tax rates — and car registration fees — according to location.

Keep adjusting these rates — and others — and you will soon have the desired city-rural population distribution.

Bigger cities require compounding infrastructure expenditure.

Two cities with a population of two million each, cost much less to run than a single city of four million.

Let’s start with the big picture.

Migrants are not the issue.

Our own terminal laziness in generating smart, workable national population distribution policies and strategies is the real problem.

Let’s address that.