By CAMERON MORSE
THE federal Labor Opposition has flagged a plan to boost the population of rural areas, by attracting more migrants away from the larger urban centres.
Labor's innovation, industry, trade and tourism shadow minister Craig Emerson suggested the idea at the ALP southern regional Brisbane conference recently, indicating how he believes such a scheme would work.
Options he suggested include offering permanent residency to migrant professionals who agree to practise outside of the major population centres, as happens with doctors now, and a points component in the family reunion assessment procedures that provides greater points for families living in regional Australia.
Such a plan would then encourage private sector investment and infrastructure in the regions, as business would have greater confidence in the bush if it there was a national plan which enjoyed the support of different levels of government, Mr Emerson said.
"Market forces are already creating growth in regional centres, but governments can accelerate the positive trends by easing bottlenecks in economic and social infrastructure and promoting high-skill, export-orientated manufacturing in the regions," he said.
Such a plan would promote a "race to the top by becoming a high-skill, high-wage, knowledge society" rather than a "race to the bottom by cutting labour costs on traditional primary commodity and standardised manufactured exports", Mr Emerson suggested.
However government had to promote rural areas to migrants by offering quality education, medical services, transport services and telecommunications to offset the travelling and freight times to major capital cities and abroad, he said.