On 12 August 2019, the Joint Standing Committee on Migration was referred an inquiry into migration in regional Australia by the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon David Coleman MP.
Between August 2019 and March 2020, the Committee received 131 submissions, held 11 public hearings, and conducted four site visits as part of the inquiry. A list of submission can be found in Appendix A, and a list of the public hearings can be found in Appendix B.
On 25 March 2020, the Committee resolved unanimously to suspend the inquiry. This decision was taken as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the economic effects of the public health situation potentially changing the needs of regional communities.
In addition, as a result of COVID-19, the Government announced that the number of migrants coming to Australia would be reduced by 30 per cent in 2019-20, and by as much as 85 per cent in 2020-21. At the same time the unemployment rate is predicted to reach as much as 10 per cent. The changed economic circumstances mean that an inquiry which sought to encourage more migrants to come to and remain in regional Australia would not be as useful in the present economic environment.
As the course of the public health situation progressed, it became clear that the circumstances of regional communities would be changed for more than just the short term, the Committee took the decision to cease the inquiry’s program of hearings and move directly to a report.
Nonetheless, the Committee observed that some aspects of the evidence it had received would be beneficial to put on the public record as these matters could be taken into account as the economy emerges in a post-COVID-19 world. These matters are outlined in Chapter 2 of this report.