Lawrence Springborg.
Lawrence Springborg.

Merit in asylum seeker visas for regions, says Springborg

NEW laws allowing asylum seekers a temporary visa to work or study in regional areas have merit as an opportunity for Queensland, Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said.

Responding to a question at a Queensland Media Club event, Mr Springborg stuck to the Federal Government's position on legal refugees but said it made sense to take advantage of the new laws.

The five-year safe haven enterprise visa will be available to people who arrive by boat to settle in a regional community.

NSW is the only state so far to have signed up to take part, agreeing to provide health and educational services.

"The purpose of safe haven enterprise visas is both to provide protection and to encourage enterprise through earning and learning while strengthening regional Australia," the bill read.

It passed in December.

Labor was approached for its position but did not provide comment before deadline.

Mr Springborg said he had already seen asylum seekers move into his Southern Downs electorate and other inland Queensland areas while they awaited a final decision on their application.

"There's merit in it," he said.

"I think we need to commend the Federal Government in ensuring people don't arrive here in an unauthorised fashion but if people do arrive here and they're awaiting processing then it does make sense to work within that opportunity to encourage people to locate to all areas of Queensland," he said.

The LNP last year began looking at ways to channel immigrants and refugees to regional Queensland after the proposal came out of the Queensland Plan 30-year vision discussions in 2013.

While the details of how such a scheme would work were yet to be worked out, the LNP expected it to involve a quota system, minimum stay in regional areas and faster processing times for those prepared to live outside cities.

For example, new arrivals into cities such as Rockhampton, Mackay or Bundaberg must live in that city for a specific period as part of their residency conditions.

But the LNP, which is now in Opposition, did say the proposal depended on Federal Government co-operation to put the necessary infrastructure in place to cope with anticipated growth.

Queensland governments have tried unsuccessfully to direct people away from Brisbane and the Sunshine and Gold coasts for many years while the Federal Government has several schemes in place to encourage people into regional Australia.

About 100,000 overseas immigrants move to Queensland each year.

- APN Newsdesk

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