Michelle Lensink

Population Strategy

This speech is in relation to the population strategy and indicates that the Hon. J.M.A. Lensink will not be accepting the amendment for this motion put forward by the Hon. Carmel Zollo.

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. J.M.A. Lensink:

That the Environment, Resources and Development Committee undertake a review into South Australia’s population strategy, specifically—

1. the usefulness of the population targets as set in the State Strategic Plan;

2. the capacity of existing energy, water and arable land sources to provide for these projected targets;

3. the impact of the implementation of the 30-year plan on stressed habitats;

4. projections of the ability of South Australia’s workforce to provide adequate skills for future demands and what changes to the mix of migration are required to address future needs, including for regional South Australia;

5. barriers to the retention of overseas skilled migrants;

6. limitations of existing data collection regarding skilled migrant trends; and

7. any other matter.

(Continued from 26 May 2010.)

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (22:00): I thank all honourable members for their contributions. I acknowledge that the Hon. Carmel Zollo did provide me with a copy of her amendment yesterday, for which I am grateful, and I am grateful for her remarks in which she has described the terms of reference that I have outlined as useful and that the government would use them in its inquiry.

However, I certainly will not be accepting her amendment to this motion. For the benefit of honourable members, in case they are not quite aware, the government is simply seeking to withdraw the referral of this important issue to the Environment, Resources and Development Committee and do an exercise in congratulating itself on behalf of this council on the strategy which it curiously announced on the weekend, some half a week before this particular motion was to be voted on. The substance of the—

The Hon. B.V. Finnigan interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Yes, you do. You have a tendency to steal a whole lot of our stuff and crossbench stuff on a regular basis.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Ms Lensink has the floor.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: In response to the Hon. Carmel Zollo's comments that it would be a very large body of work to undertake, that may well be the case but the Environment, Resources and Development Committee, at least prior to the election, was a very efficient committee and undertook an extensive inquiry into transport, which I think could be called in shorthand—

The Hon. Carmel Zollo interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: No. For the transport inquiry we engaged the University of South Australia, I think it was, to assist us. It looked at all forms of transport and came up with a number of very useful recommendations. So I think that is a bit of a furphy. The population debate is divided largely into two areas, one being the environmental constraints, and I think Labor has belatedly realised that the whole issue of population is a very mainstream concern in our community and therefore the targets that it has set are some cause for alarm.

I have discussed this issue with Mitch Williams, who is our water spokesman. As members may be aware, he farms sheep and has a fairly basic rule of thumb: he calls it 'carrying capacity'. If I have a certain area of land, I know that I can carry a certain amount of stock, and I think that is basis on which the environmental concerns are arising.

The other aspect, which I will very briefly talk about just to update the chamber from when I moved the motion, is in relation to skills. We are in a unique position at the moment where the federal government is revising its skilled occupation lists. South Australia needs to provide a very accurate list of skills which will assist us with our future economic growth. For that reason the Skilled Migration Growth Group (I won't run through the entire list of employer groups that it represents) was formed to try to assist the government with that particular aim, and I have written to the Minister for Industry and Trade, the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis, and urged him to meet with them ASAP, and I certainly hope that he does.

However, the government has not actually achieved its migration targets. Indeed, the strategy that it outlined in 2004 has not been held to account. I will refer to a couple of points there. In particular, under 'Strategies for population growth and renewal', it says:

This population policy's broad strategic objectives are to improve:

(1) the State's net migration performance by:

(a) increasing the State's share of the national migration intake; and on that count it has not; it has been decreasing since 2006—

(b) increasing the number of expatriates and potential interstate migrants returning or relocating to the State;

(c) reducing the net outflow of young and skilled people.

In relation to those, we are actually doing really badly. As recently as 25 May the ABS put out a media release headed, 'Interstate migration continues to slow South Australian population growth.' It says that South Australia continues to lose people to other states at a greater rate than it gains them, according to a report. After hitting a 20-year low in 2005-06, the number of South Australians moving interstate has increased, with about 26,300 departing in 2008-09. Net losses have also increased in the six years to 2008-09.

That net interstate migration loss was calculated at 4,676. This is regardless of a policy that the Rann Labor government published in 2004 that aimed to reduce that figure to zero. So it is well over 4,500 people, and I think those statistics need to be held to account.

The other issue that I think needs to be examined is whether population statistics include temporary visa holders and student visa holders or whether they merely include long-term permanent residents. In this regard, my understanding is that the ABS has revised the way it calculates population and now includes temporary visa holders when it has not in the past: so that is another issue we need to examine.

There is a lot of rubbery stuff going on with regard to population. I am not surprised that the government has sought to turn the committee system into a poodle so that it can just undertake its own population statistics and ask that this council commend it for its work. I commend the original motion without the amendment to the parliament.

Amendment negatived; motion carried.

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