DEJA VU: Population Minister Alan Tudge announced the
DEJA VU: Population Minister Alan Tudge announced the "new” criteria on immigrants, encouraging them to move to rural areas, an idea that was floated a few years ago by Labor. AAP Image

OPINION: Will sending migrants to regional areas work?

IT'S interesting when a policy concept that has been previously buried resurfaces.

Policy concepts which might have had a degree of merit but fell victim to partisan politics.

But given a period of time, some ideas get recycled and, as politics will predictably have it, by the side originally against the notion.

And so it is with the announcement this week by Population Minister Alan Tudge, that the Federal Government is open to considering placing new criteria on immigrants.

Criteria which would make the long-term future in this country of up to half of those immigrants conditional on settling in regional Australia for a minimum five years.

It's an idea floated only a few years ago by Labor and quickly ridiculed at the time by one Scott Morrison.

Initially, Labor seem to be on board.

And why wouldn't they be?

Save they be seen as just a tad hypocritical.

It's an idea deserving of proper discussion.

A decent public airing and not one that won't sadly suffer the fate of many a policy proposal: hijacked.

But I do fear that the slightest whiff of bipartisanship on this issue will kill any hope.

Look what happened to the NEG.

The proposal might not go as far as some within the Liberal Party would want. .

The Member Formerly Known as the Prime Minister Prior to the Last One is already on record as wanting to see a freeze on immigration, without displaying any real grasp on the bigger issue of concentration of population and the failure of successive governments to invest in infrastructure.

As New South Wales Premier Alan Jones, sorry, Gladys Berejiklian, stated this week, her state needs to take a breather.

And that's understandable.

It's obvious that those presumably in charge have failed to adequately plan for population growth.

There's no point blaming the new arrivals.

The responsibility sits firmly at the feet of the politicians.

On the issue of investment in infrastructure, as much as our metropolitan counterparts might complain about traffic gridlock and lack of investment in public transport, regional Australia has perhaps even more justification to gripe about the lack of capital investment.

State and Federal governments have made an imperfect artform of passing the buck; naturally often resulting to necessary works being unnecessarily delayed or inexcusably shelved.

One can therefore see the benefits to regional centres of a properly managed program to settle immigrants.

There are businesses calling for employees because for some reason some Australians find some occupations beneath them.

An unfortunate mindset but at least providing a strong counter argument to certain politicians who berate foreigners for taking Australian jobs, an argument that does sometimes hold true - but not always.

Some same politicians have also argued that the homegrown unemployed should be forced to work in certain places and in certain jobs.

Many an employer could educate such pollies on the sheer folly of employing someone who doesn't want to be there.

And that suggests a warning to any plans to settle immigrants in regional Australia when they really desire to be in the western suburbs of Sydney.

The last thing somewhere like Broome, Warrnambool or even Gympie needs is for a group of people to be dumped upon us when they really don't want to be there.

Any regional settlement program needs to be properly funded and supported, so that new arrivals are enthusiastic and the communities in which they find themselves are equally enthusiastic to have them there.

The last thing anyone needs is for this to be just a program designed to take the heat off the major metropolitan centres and a cheap solution rather than actually building any new infrastructure anywhere.

Providing politics doesn't kill the idea, regional centres have much to gain, as it would provide us with greater bargaining power for funds.

But if handled as poorly as other half-baked policy offerings, the consequences for social cohesion could be bad for all concerned.

The question is, given the current breed of politician in this country, are they actually capable of making it work?