Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (12:01): I will focus my questions on the regional skills measures given that one in three people live outside our major capital cities, two-thirds of export earnings are generated in the regions and there is no doubt that strong regional economies underpin us having a strong national economy. Different regions face different pressures and opportunities, and one of the issues facing regions in being able to attract and then hold onto skilled people is ensuring that the right skills and attributes are there to strengthen and broaden our economic base and particularly that of regional Australia.
The migration program we have in this country has played a critical role in our economic growth. It will continue to do so and it will continue to support the growth of regions. As a representative of a Western Sydney seat, it is critical that there is balanced growth within cities and regions to ensure that the pressure on cities is reduced. Skilled migrants who settle in regional Australia will be important in supporting the viability of regional enterprises that operate there. This in turn will create and sustain jobs for Australians in the regions and contribute to social and cultural diversity across the country.
The OECD has recently noted that instead of simply reacting to existing problems, regional policies around the world have become more proactive and forward-looking. I am interested in finding out from the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship how the skilled migration policies announced in the budget will support the growth of regions, support entrepreneurialism within the regions and support diversity of social and economic growth outside major cities.