COAG meeting: Leaders yet to agree to migration cut number


COAG leaders have agreed to work towards creating a framework for managing population issues across Australia instead.

State and territory leaders have failed to reach an agreement on Australia’s migration intake numbers but have committed to working towards establishing a national population plan to help address overcrowding in major cities.  

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement after his first Council of Australian Governments meeting with premiers and chief ministers in Adelaide on Wednesday.

COAG Morrison
Scott Morrison at his first COAG meeting in Adelaide.

"We have agreed to work towards the establishment of a national population-management framework, which would see greater sharing of information to inform annual migration programs, infrastructure programs investment in hospitals and schools, greater data sharing, better identification of the skills needs and across the country,” Mr Morrison said at a press conference.

"All of that is designed to protect the quality of life Australians have, to grow our economy and to ensure we get the growth where we need to have that growth - in some states that is an absolute priority, in larger cities we are able to better manage that growth, deal with congestion issues."

Under the framework, state and territory treasurers will submit their population issues by January 31.

Morrison on COAG meeting
Morrison on COAG meeting

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, leader of the nation’s fastest-growing state, is adamant cutting migration isn't the answer to addressing bulging growth in cities.

"We've agreed today, in the clearest terms perhaps ever between state, territory and the national government, that infrastructure and managing population growth are essentially the same issue," he said.

"We don’t want to be looking at a smaller Victoria or a smaller Australia, but we do have to look at investing in the things that make the biggest difference – road, rail, hospitals and schools.”

Premier of Western Australia Mark McGowan, Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews, at the media conference after the COAG meeting.
Premier of Western Australia Mark McGowan, Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews, at the media conference after the COAG meeting.

But his NSW counterpart, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been lobbying for migration numbers to be cut as a solution to congestion.

She welcomed the COAG pact and is also keen to develop regional communities in NSW.

“Imagine having incentives for students to study and grow our regional communities and have regional towns,” she said.

But smaller states want population growth to stimulate the economy.

"We want more people to call the Northern Territory home. We produce half the nation’s exports from 5 per cent of the population. More people equals more jobs," NT chief minister Michael Gunner said. 

A message echoed by ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

“We think it is very important that Australia maintains a strong migration program. In the national capital, we will always be a proud refugee welcome zone,” he said.  

Health funding

Improving health funding was also on today’s agenda with leaders continuing to work on a new health and hospitals agreement to be approved by the end of 2019 and operate from July 2020 to June 2025.

Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman said it ensures “we're on a sustainable funding pathway for our health system as we see increased demand and pressures in our health system. It's a critical issue for our state.”

Earlier, Mr Morrison pledged $1.25 billion in extra health funding to go towards cancer treatment, mental health, drug rehabilitation and rural health, over four years.

It’s still unknown where the funds will come from but it is expected to be paid for by increased revenue to be detailed in the mid-year budget update.

Additional reporting by AAP. 

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