Australia

Minister wants to keep new migrants out of cities

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Australia's citizenship minister wants new arrivals to head to country towns as the population hits 25 million.

Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge has stressed the need to spread new migrants across the country and improve social cohesion as Australia's population is set to hit 25 million.

Statisticians predict the population will reach the marker on Tuesday evening, decades ahead of schedule.

Mr Tudge is urging new arrivals to make a bee-line for country towns rather than major cities.

"There are some areas feeling the population pressures, particularly Melbourne and Sydney, while there are other regions in Australia which are crying out for more people," he told the ABC.

Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge speaks to the media during a press conference in Melbourne, Thursday, January 25, 2018.
Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge speaks to the media during a press conference in Melbourne, Thursday, January 25, 2018.
AAP

"So I think we've got a distribution problem as much as anything else. And of course, we have to make sure that the infrastructure is being built in front of the demand rather than behind it, as we've seen in recent years."

The federal government is looking to impose much stricter conditions on skilled visa holders, forcing people to spend far more time in regional centres.

"When they're there hopefully they'll put down roots, have their kids going to school, and make it their home and want to stay there long term," Mr Tudge said.

The minister is also calling on business leaders to take a closer look at population growth, warning it can lead to social fragmentation and security risks.

"While strong population growth can be good for the economy, we've got to balance that out with other factors," he said, highlighting the additional knock-on effects for congestion and housing prices.

Mr Tudge stopped short of endorsing calls from colleagues including Tony Abbott to slash the annual migration rate, saying the figure is looked at every year.

"But the point is that it is as much about the distribution of the numbers as it is about the overall numbers," he said.

"If we get more people who are going to the smaller states and some of the regions, there will be less pressure there."

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