No jobs in Clarence Valley for refugees: Mayor

THE CLARENCE Valley is not the place for the Federal and State governments to resettle refugees for five years, says Mayor Richie Williamson.

Cr Williamson said there were not the jobs in the Valley to accommodate an influx of people, whether refugees or not.

He was responding to a an announcement from Member for Page Kevin Hogan, who has thrown his full support behind a move to offer 30,000 refugees visas if they live and work in regional NSW.

The Baird Government is the first to sign up to the Federal Safe Haven Enterprise Scheme, allowing refugees to live for five years in any part of the state other than Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle.

Mr Hogan said concerns about already lagging job openings being taken by newcomers would be offset by population growth creating new jobs.

The Coffs-Clarence region's unemployment rate was at 7.5% in April - well above the state average of 6% and 6.1% for the country.


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Richmond-Tweed had the second-highest jobless rate in NSW of 8.8%, behind only the Hunter Valley - not including Newcastle - at 11.8%.

"People moving to our regional communities means growing population and increased economic activity that benefits the whole community," Mr Hogan said.

"Population growth leads to employment growth in the area. There are also many seasonal opportunities people can take advantage of."

The allowance of 30,000 new visas in NSW alone would significantly boost Australia's refugee program, which granted visas to only 13,768 asylum seekers in 2012-13 - down from 20,019 the previous year.

The Tasmanian Government is already considering following NSW's lead and signing up.

The Mayor said the plan had merit as a matter of principle, but with a shortage of jobs and with no social services to support them, there were plenty of practical shortfalls in the proposal.

He admitted he had not examined the policy in detail, but his immediate response was the local market had not created an excess of jobs and he knows this is the case in many regional areas of the state.

"Even if there is support for these people to set up businesses, there ultimately has to be a market for what they're providing," he said.

"The market drives the job creation. If the market doesn't grow, it doesn't create jobs.

But Cr Williamson said Australia has shown an ability to accommodate refugees, especially since the Second World War.

"That said our history shows Australia has welcomed waves of migrants over the years who have become accepted into our society," he said.

The plan has not been without critics, with Federal Labor MP Tony Zappia saying relaxed 457 visa laws would lead to exploitation of workers and less jobs for Australians.

"(It) should not be a default mechanism to replace Australian jobs, especially when unemployment is at a 14-year high and rising."

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has called for a "proper work-to-permanency pathway" to guarantee refugees could stay in Australia after five years if they kept their side of the bargain.

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