Opposition Leader Steven Marshall speaks to Migration Solutions on his plans to boost South Australia’s economy through skilled migration and increased population growth.

If we are to keep maturing and developing as a State, we need to be prepared to discuss the big issues. That’s why I am delighted to see that my recent policy announcements on boosting our population and growing international student numbers attract so much interest and debate.

These are issues that are critical to you and I look forward to hearing your views about how big we want to become, how many overseas students we can host and how many skilled migrants we will welcome.

Let’s consider student numbers first.

International education is our number one service export. It is a major employer and job creator and last year, was worth $863 million to our State’s economy.

Yet, our current share of the international student market nationally is only 5.5%. That’s well below our 7.2% share of the national population.

This sector needs to be supported as the economic powerhouse that it is. We need to restore our reputation as a “university city”, plus, having international students living and studying here adds to our vibrancy and creates a real buzz around the place.

If elected next month, I will set a goal to lift international student numbers from 28,000 to 40,000 in ten years. I will increase funding to Education Adelaide, task it with the development of a strategic plan to grow our share of this market and to identify study areas that are popular with these students.

I also look forward to working with our international students to identify pathways to stay here after study has finished so they can contribute and add value to our local economy.

It’s a policy of which I am very proud and it sits well alongside our proposal to boost our population.

In 2013, population growth stagnated, recording just 0.9%. This is half the national average, making our growth rate the lowest on mainland Australia.

In 2013, we also suffered a 78% increase in the number of people leaving South Australia and in the past twelve years, we have lost more than 34,000 net migrants interstate. That is 34,000 people not working, buying houses, shopping, eating out, or educating their children here. That is 34,000 of our best and brightest all of whom have chosen to live, work and raise a family somewhere else.

To grow our economy and turn this tide around, if elected, a Liberal government will slash the red tape and reduce waiting times for people wishing to settle in our State.  Currently, visa processing times for businesses wishing to bring in skilled worker are unacceptably longer when compared to other states. We need to make it easier and quicker for business owners to get the workers they need, which is why we will pursue appropriate business associations to act as Regional Certification Bodies to expedite migration approvals.

We will seek, attract and support new skilled workers to South Australia by working with industry to ensure that we get more of the workers we need to fill gaps within our jobs market when they can’t be found locally.

Stakeholders are currently reporting an inability to fill key jobs within their industries due to Immigration SA red-tape and restrictions. We will work with business and industry to identify vocations which the State Government will then allow to be filled through employer sponsored visas.

We will engage with the mining and energy sector to switch fly in / fly out jobs to locally based migrant positions where local skills are not available. Further, we will encourage high net worth investment migrant visas and work with business to identify skills shortages for employer sponsored visas.

Most exciting of all is that we want to engage you to help make this work. We will hold a Population Growth Summit in the first one hundred days of a Liberal Government to explore all the ways we can stimulate growth. Listening to your first hand experiences will be invaluable to this process. You’ve got a lot to say, and I can’t wait to hear it.

These types of initiatives, this sort of forward thinking will help put our State back on track. We can all have a better, brighter future. That is what good ideas, good policy and good government is all about.

Steven Marshall – State Liberal Party Leader, Member for Norwood and Leader of the Opposition

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