PM eyes plan to encourage international students to study at regional unis

PM eyes plan to encourage international students to study at regional unis

The Prime Minister says moving students could ease overcrowding in major capital cities.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is considering a plan to encourage international students to move to regional centres, which could ease population growth in Sydney and Melbourne.

“In the north, they want more population, In Adelaide they want more population.” Mr Morrison said.

“But I can tell you in the outer suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, they don’t so it’s about how you manage population and there are plenty of levers for how you do that.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were more than 786 thousand international student enrolments in 2017, but less than four per cent of those were in regional areas.

A move to make those universities more enticing is being welcomed by regional institutions.

“[Students] interact a lot more with the people in the community here [Armidale] so they get to have a more true Australian experience,” University of New England vice-chancellor, Annabelle Duncan, told SBS News.

“The common language between all the international students and the domestic students is English so they practice their English a lot more.” Ms Duncan said.

But the body representing international students is worried they may not have the necessary facilities to make it an enticing option and the plan could have an adverse effect.

“Regional institutions might not have all the courses that the city universities would have,” president of the Council of International Students Australia, Bijay Sapkota, told.

“There could be less opportunity for work integrated learning because big corporations would be established in the city area rather than the regional area.”

Australia’s immigration intake to remain at last year’s level: PM Scott Morrison

Australia’s immigration intake to remain at last year’s level: PM Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he expects Australia’s permanent annual immigration intake to remain at year’s level “just a little over 160,000″ against the planning level of 190,000.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Australia’s annual immigration intake will continue to remain at last year’s level, which was nearly 28,000 less than the planning level of 190,000.

“Our current permanent immigration levels are running just a little over 160,000. That was the level of the permanent immigration that was running at the time of the conclusion of the Howard Government,” Mr Morrison told reporters.

“They used to be a bit higher than that in terms of what the permanent intake had been a few years ago and that has come down somewhat over the last year or so. And I expect it to remain at those levels,” he said responding to a question about NSW Premier Gladys Berejeklian’s call to slash the state’s overseas migration intake to John Howard-era levels.

Last year, Australia’s permanent immigration intake fell to below 163,000 – the lowest since 2007-08 under John Howard.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton who was responsible for the Immigration portfolio before Mr Morrison took the reins of the country from Malcolm Turnbull, attributed the decline in immigration to enhanced security checks.

Earlier this week, Immigration Minister, David Coleman indicated that his department would continue the approach adopted since last year.

“We did see last year, the impact the increased security process had,” Mr Coleman said in Melbourne.

“It is absolutely fundamental that we in no way absolutely compromise on security. We are not going to do that. We are going to be very careful.

Australia’s annual immigration planning levels have been consistent at 190,000 since 2011. The actual intake has been consistent with the planning levels since then for most of the time until 2016-17 when the intake was just over 183,000.

Last year’s figures showed a decline of over 21,000 in the number permanent visas issued compared to the previous year, primarily driven by a cut in skilled and family stream visas.

In 2017-18, the skilled stream visas saw a cut of over 12,000 and family stream visas were also cut by 15 per cent.

The continuing visa squeeze reflects in the number of invites issued by the Immigration Department to visa aspirants who have submitted their expression of interest to apply for a permanent visa.

‘Not possible to police’ Coalition plan to force new migrants to live in rural areas

‘Not possible to police’ Coalition plan to force new migrants to live in rural areas

Minister fails to specify how migrants would be shifted from big cities, after former Australian Border Force chief questions policy

The government will face big problems in enforcing its latest proposal to send new migrants to the regions, the former Australian Border Force chief Roman Quaedvlieg has said.

Alan Tudge, dubbed the “minister for congestion busting” by prime minister Scott Morrison delivered the government’s latest foray into solving overcrowding in Sydney and Melbourne on Tuesday, in a speech proposing further decentralisation, visa changes and incentives to move new migrants out of big cities.

But the man whose job was to enforce visa conditions before he was sacked for misconduct in March, and who has gone on to become a notable critic of Coalition policy, questioned the enforceability of the scheme.

“Imposition of the visa condition is the easy part,” Quaedvlieg said on Twitter. “Enforcement will be harder. Migrants will gravitate to opportunities and amenities in cities. It’s not possible to police the condition without substantial resources, both identifying breaches and sanctioning them.”

Coalition ministers have been raising the prospect of a specialised regional visa since early this year, when Peter Dutton told Sydney radio 2GB new migrants should move to the regions, picking up part of Tony Abbott’s “conservative manifesto” from 2017.

But they have so far failed to provide answers on how such a scheme would work, or be enforced. Asked on ABC radio ahead of his speech on Tuesday, Tudge noted Australia already put “conditions on all sorts of visas”, suggesting the penalties which currently apply to other visa classes, such as revocation of visas, could be extended to migrants who left regional areas.

Morrison dismissed the idea himself while in opposition in 2010, telling the ABC that it was “false hope that this this problem’s going to be solved because a population minister is going to fantastically move people around like it has never been done before in our history”.

But with the election looming and minor parties such as One Nation beginning to marshal voter anger against immigration, the Morrison government is looking to get ahead of electorate dissatisfaction, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney.

In his speech, Tudge said one way of encouraging movement out of the big cities was to “match the skills of new migrants with the skill shortages in rural and regional Australia”.

“As I indicated earlier, net overseas migration accounts for 60% of our overall population growth and around 75% of the growth of the big two cities,” he said.

“Hence, settling even a slightly larger number of new migrants to the smaller states and regions can take significant pressure off our big cities. There are some constraints to this, of course – for example 25% of our annual migration intake is directly related to an employer sponsoring a person for a job where they cannot get an Australian. We do not want to jeopardise the growth of those sponsoring businesses, and hence the wealth of our nation.

“A further 30% concerns family reunion – typically, an Aussie marrying a foreigner. We cannot send a person’s spouse to a different state.

“But apart from these two categories, there is no geographical requirement for a newly arrived migrant. We are working on measures to have more new arrivals go to the smaller states and regions and require them to be there for at least a few years.”

Labor has pledged to establish an independent body to monitor labour shortages and supply across Australia’s regions if elected. Its spokesman, Brendan O’Connor, said the opposition would examine the government’s proposal.

But he said the government “has really done nothing to ease the congestion in our capital cities” in the past five years.

“We have to be very careful here,” he said. There are many regions of this country where there are not many jobs. In fact, unemployment is very high in regional Australia, in many parts of regional Australia.

“So the idea that you would direct people coming through the immigration processes to regions where there’s already high unemployment could compound a problem, not make it better. So we have to get this right. If the government is serious about this, they should consider the evidence, they should get advice from experts, and they should be very careful about not displacing local workers where unemployment is already high in regions of this country.”

Labor’s argument is similar to what Morrison himself argued eight years ago, when he dismissed the idea as “unfair to the Australian people to suggest that is a realistic option” in the short or medium term.

“Long term, I think there are still real doubts. The history of settlement over centuries means that people will come and gravitate to areas where there is population,” he told the ABC in July 2010.

Unions NSW also dismissed the latest proposal as cementing disadvantage among migrants and driving down wages.

“We have already seen what happens when you force working holidaymakers to spend 88 days working in the regions, secretary Mark Morey said in a statement.

“You smash their capacity to negotiate and usher in rampant exploration. Alan Tudge’s latest thought bubble is no different.”

Skilled migrants to spend ‘at least a few years’ in regional Australia under Morrison’s population plan

Skilled migrants to spend ‘at least a few years’ in regional Australia under Morrison’s population plan

New population minister Alan Tudge said up to 45 percent of permanent immigrants could be diverted to visas that force them to spend “at least a few years” in regional areas, or small states like South Australia

The Morrison government has promised visa reforms that will force a significant chunk of Australia’s annual intake of 190,000 permanent migrants to spend “at least a few years” in regional areas before they can move to a city like Sydney or Melbourne.

The move, advocated by the Nationals and key lobby groups like the Farmers’ Federation, is part of the government’s bid to tackle population growth in the country’s congested capitals while stimulating regional areas crying out for more labour.

Scott Morrison’s newly appointed “congestion-busting” minister for population and cities, Alan Tudge, announced the plan at a speech in Melbourne on Tuesday.

Existing regional visas only divert around 5,000 of the annual permanent intake, which is capped at 190,000 places.

The new scheme would be much more ambitious and could force nearly half of the migration stream to settle in regional areas and the smaller states.

Mr Tudge said the policy would not impact the 25 percent who come on employer-sponsored visas, where a specific company vouches for the migrant, or the roughly 30 percent who come on family reunion visas.

“But about 45 percent of our visas aren’t attached to a geographical location as such, and therefore there are those opportunities to provide those incentives and encouragements to reside elsewhere,” Mr Tudge said.

The visas would require migrants to live outside the major cities for “at least a few years”, he said, using a “combination of encouragement and some conditions”.

The government’s proposal relates to skilled visas, but Mr Tudge said there was an ongoing discussion about moving more of the humanitarian refugee intake to rural areas as well.

Enforcement questioned
The minister would not specify what punishments might apply to migrants who breach their conditions, or how long the conditions would be imposed.

“Nearly every visa has some conditions attached to it,” he said, flagging more detail in the coming “months”.

Migrants to be forced into regional Australia under federal government population plan

Migrants to be forced into regional Australia under federal government population plan

The Morrison Government has revisited a well-worn plan to force migrants to regional and rural centres to help ease congestion in capital cities as population growth outstrips infrastructure building.

Cities and Population Minister Alan Tudge revived the idea in his first major speech as Cities and Population Minister, revealing congestion cost $25 billion in 2017-18, and will rise to $40 billion a year by 2030.

But it’s also a policy that Scott Morrison dismissed out of hand in opposition.

“To hold out some false hope that this problem’s going to be solved because a Population Minister is going to fantastically move people around like has been done before in our history, is I think unfair to the Australian people to suggest that that is a realistic option, certainly in the short, or medium term,” Mr Morrison said in 2010.

“The government can talk to the cows come home about getting people into the regions and we would pursue policies similar to that but we cannot be unrealistic and disingenuous with the Australian people by suggesting that is a substitute for easing the population pressure on those in western Sydney and other parts of the country.

“It is just simply not telling the truth.”

Mr Morrison later tried to clarify those criticisms, saying what Labor proposed isn’t being contemplated by his government.

“The migration program is one thing,” he said.

“What I was referring to is migration in isolation being the solution to this issue. It is not.

“Migration is part of a suite of policies that deal with congestion in our cities.”

Still, Mr Tudge told the Menzies Institute travel in peak times in Sydney takes 65 percent longer than off-peak, and 55 percent, in Melbourne.

Australia’s population grew 3.75 million, nearly twice the previous decade, adding a city the size of Canberra every year.

The main factor, in Sydney and Melbourne, is net overseas migration, that accounted for 60 percent of national population growth over the last 10 years.

Temporary migration increased rapidly as well, rising about 70,000 a year.

“There are benefits of a larger, more diverse population,” Mr Tudge said.

A larger population means a stronger economy. With this comes greater opportunities for Australians.

“However, there are also challenges. The greatest challenge is the pressure it puts on our big cities in the form of congestion. In Sydney and Melbourne, and south-east Queensland.

“This is exacerbated by the fact that 75 percent of the population growth has been to our three largest population areas.”

According to statistics, 87 percent of all skilled migrants are going to Sydney and Melbourne, along with almost all the humanitarian intake.

Sending migrants to regional areas, and less populated states, is part of a four-part strategy being considered.

Those coming to Australia on family reunions visas wouldn’t be affected.

The government hasn’t yet decided where the migrants might be sent, or under what conditions.

“There are regional areas that simply cannot get people to do the work available.,” the minister said.

“Matching skills of new migrants with the skill shortages in rural and regional Australia will be the key to the success of this approach.”

Mr Tudge said a massive infrastructure program would also ease the squeeze in the major cities, after years of playing “catch up”, along with a high-speed rail network, and economic incentives for regional Australia.

While Labor once supported the policy, frontbencher Brendan O’Connor dismissed it as a “thought bubble” by a “thought bubble boy” prime minister, saying regional sponsored migration scheme processing times had blown out under the Liberals.

Mr O’Connor called for labour market testing, promising an independent body to look at where labour shortages might exist.

Migrants to be forced into regional Australia under federal government population plan

Migrants to be forced into regional Australia under federal government population plan

The Morrison Government has revisited a well-worn plan to force migrants to regional and rural centres to help ease congestion in capital cities as population growth outstrips infrastructure building.

Cities and Population Minister Alan Tudge revived the idea in his first major speech as Cities and Population Minister, revealing congestion cost $25 billion in 2017-18, and will rise to $40 billion a year by 2030.

But it’s also a policy that Scott Morrison dismissed out of hand in opposition.

“To hold out some false hope that this problem’s going to be solved because a Population Minister is going to fantastically move people around like has been done before in our history, is I think unfair to the Australian people to suggest that that is a realistic option, certainly in the short, or medium term,” Mr Morrison said in 2010.

“The government can talk to the cows come home about getting people into the regions and we would pursue policies similar to that but we cannot be unrealistic and disingenuous with the Australian people by suggesting that is a substitute for easing the population pressure on those in western Sydney and other parts of the country.

“It is just simply not telling the truth.”

Mr Morrison later tried to clarify those criticisms, saying what Labor proposed isn’t being contemplated by his government.

“The migration program is one thing,” he said.

“What I was referring to is migration in isolation being the solution to this issue. It is not.

“Migration is part of a suite of policies that deal with congestion in our cities.”

Still, Mr Tudge told the Menzies Institute travel in peak times in Sydney takes 65 percent longer than off-peak, and 55 percent, in Melbourne.

Australia’s population grew 3.75 million, nearly twice the previous decade, adding a city the size of Canberra every year.

The main factor, in Sydney and Melbourne, is net overseas migration, that accounted for 60 percent of national population growth over the last 10 years.

Temporary migration increased rapidly as well, rising about 70,000 a year.

“There are benefits of a larger, more diverse population,” Mr Tudge said.

“A larger population means a stronger economy. With this comes greater opportunities for Australians.

“However, there are also challenges. The greatest challenge is the pressure it puts on our big cities in the form of congestion. In Sydney and Melbourne, and south-east Queensland.

“This is exacerbated by the fact that 75 percent of the population growth has been to our three largest population areas.”

According to statistics, 87 percent of all skilled migrants are going to Sydney and Melbourne, along with almost all the humanitarian intake.

Sending migrants to regional areas, and less populated states, is part of a four-part strategy being considered.

Those coming to Australia on family reunions visas wouldn’t be affected.

The government hasn’t yet decided where the migrants might be sent, or under what conditions.

“There are regional areas that simply cannot get people to do the work available.,” the minister said.

“Matching skills of new migrants with the skill shortages in rural and regional Australia will be the key to the success of this approach.”

Mr Tudge said a massive infrastructure program would also ease the squeeze in the major cities, after years of playing “catch up”, along with a high-speed rail network, and economic incentives for regional Australia.

While Labor once supported the policy, frontbencher Brendan O’Connor dismissed it as a “thought bubble” by a “thought bubble boy” prime minister, saying regional sponsored migration scheme processing times had blown out under the Liberals.

Mr O’Connor called for labour market testing, promising an independent body to look at where labour shortages might exist.

A pair of shoes costs Indian migrant Australian citizenship

A pair of shoes costs Indian migrant Australian citizenship

An Indian national has been refused Australian citizenship for not disclosing his court conviction over a stolen pair of shoes and possessing a credit card that was suspected to be stolen.
An Indian national has been denied Australian citizenship after the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) found he deliberately hid information about his court conviction over a pair of shoes more than eight years ago.

35-year-old Mr Patel* did not disclose his court conviction in his March 2010 permanent residency application and subsequently in his citizenship application in July 2016.

While Mr Patel was granted a permanent visa in 2015, the Immigration Department discovered his February 2010 conviction by a Sydney court on charges of Larceny and goods in personal custody suspected being stolen and refused his citizenship application on character grounds.

According to the police record produced in the AAT, Mr Patel – then an international student – took a pair of shoes from a store without paying on 11th January 2010, and was stopped near the gates of the shopping centre while “walking very fast, almost running”.

Police also found a credit card in his possession that they suspected was stolen. While Mr Patel pleaded guilty to both the charges and he paid the fine, he insisted during the AAT hearing that his offending was not premeditated and that the credit card found on him belonged to his friend who had given it to him for safekeeping.

Inadvertent mistakes:

He told the AAT that he was “very sorry and embarrassed” for not disclosing his conviction in his citizenship application, saying since the offence had taken place six years before his filling out the citizenship application, it didn’t readily come to his mind.

He also attributed it to English being his second language and not realising that he wouldn’t get an opportunity to fix any mistakes in the application later.

“My situation was one of not paying sufficient concentrated attention to what I was doing and not attending to the exact wording of everything I had to read,” he told the AAT.

However, the AAT said Mr Patel had disclosed his conviction while registering his business just two months before filling out his citizenship application and discussed this with his business partner.

Explaining the error in his permanent residency application, he told the Tribunal that a migration agent had filled out his visa application and he may have answered ‘no’ to the character question. This was just a month after his court conviction. But he couldn’t produce any evidence of hiring a migration agent to act on his behalf.

The Tribunal heard that he attached a pre-dated police clearance statement which contained no offences, which it said it was “plainly dishonest”.

A deliberate pattern of dishonesty’:

Mr Patel said he has had an “unblemished” life before and after his “inadvertent” offending that he said was “by mistake and totally out of character”.

“I was daydreaming when I was in the shoe store as I was going overseas to India in a couple of days and the thought in my mind was to buy a pair of shoes for my nephew.”

He said he “unwittingly” stepped out of the store with shoes-priced “less than $20” in his hand while making a phone call to his nephew to know his shoe size.

Mr Patel told the Tribunal he was also under pressure to complete his assignments before going to India and that contributed to the confusion in communication with the store employee.

He also told the AAT that the credit card police found on him belonged to his friend who was travelling to India. He said he was not allowed to access his phone to see his friend’s phone number and that he couldn’t give an address for his friend as he had left his previous accommodation and would move to a new place on returning to Australia.

However, the AAT found his explanation was at variance with the police records.

AAT Member C Edwardes said in a written judgment delivered last month that Mr Patel’s non-disclosure of his convictions was a deliberate “pattern of dishonesty”.

“The Tribunal finds that [Mr Patel] changes his storyline often. This is particularly in relation to the circumstances which led to his convictions,” Member Edwardes said adding that his untrue explanations were reflective of “a pattern of dishonest behaviour”.

*Only his last name.

Australia’s new immigration minister reveals visa priority

Australia’s new immigration minister reveals visa priority

David Coleman said his priority is to get migrants to struggling regional communities. But, he hasn’t forgotten about controversial plans to toughen citizenship requirements.

Australia’s new Immigration Minister David Coleman has flagged a revamp of regional visas, saying some towns are begging for migrants.

“That’s something I’m looking at very closely at the moment,” Mr Coleman told on Wednesday.

“There are a number of different regional visa classes at the moment and one of the things I’m assessing is the effectiveness of each of those programs and potential ways of improving those.”

Currently, there are several visas available to migrants to fills skills shortages in rural and regional Australia.

Towns including Warrnambool in Victoria, the Goldfields region of Western Australia and the entire state of South Australia are asking for thousands of migrants, according to Mr Coleman.

“There are lots of examples at the moment of regions that are seeking additional immigration to fulfil economic needs,” he said.

“We have quite a few regional gaps in employment right now.”

According to figures compiled by the Department of Home Affairs, 10,918 places were awarded under the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme in the 2016-17 financial year.

Along with the 1,670 Skilled Regional visas, they formed about 10 per cent of permanent migration visas.

The former Assistant Finance Minister holds the marginal Sydney seat of Banks and was elevated to the outer ministry after the Liberal leadership spill last month.

The 44-year-old MP served as an assistant finance minister in the Turnbull Government and was first elected to the House of Representatives for Banks, New South Wales, in 2013.

The immigration portfolio was separated from Peter Dutton’s Home Affairs ministry and given to Mr Coleman, as well as the Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs ministries.

“Immigration has been so fundamental to our success as a country,” he said.

“The history of our nation is one of immigration because, apart from Indigenous Australians, we’re all immigrants.”

Fourty-four per cent of his electorate is overseas-born, with people of Chinese ancestry being the largest migrant group.

On the issue of Australian citizenship, the minister would not go into specifics about the government reviving plans to change the requirements to become a citizen.

The controversial plans to introduce a tougher English language test, increase residency requirements and requiring applicants to sign an ‘Australian Values statement’ were quashed by the Senate late last year.

While he didn’t go into detail about English language requirements, Mr Coleman reiterated the importance of learning English.

“Having some English is obviously a good thing in Australian life,” he said.

“The more English people are able to speak, the more they can contribute in Australian life.”

Mr Coleman said the government was “in consultations” about re-introducing elements of the legislation.

 

 

Government dumps farm labour visa plan

Government dumps farm labour visa plan

The federal government has dumped plans for a new farm labour visa to fill a huge gap in the rural workforce.

The National Farmers Federation and other groups have been urging the federal government to introduce a special agricultural visa, which would allow a greater flow of foreign workers for jobs such as fruit picking and packing.

Rural industries have found local workers are not attracted to short-term and seasonal work and they instead heavily rely on foreign labour.

It’s been estimated as many as 30,000 extra workers are needed each year.

However, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has been forced to go back to the drawing board after cabinet colleagues shot down the idea of a special agricultural visa early last week.

It is understood Mr Littleproud is now working on a plan which would tweak the existing Pacific island labour program while also encouraging more Australians to take up farm jobs.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne told cabinet the Pacific program was central to Australia’s efforts to deal with Chinese influence in the region, and would be put at risk by the plan.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton voiced concerns a new visa could open up a new way for illegal immigrants to enter the country.

Asked about the discussion on Wednesday, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said he didn’t want to “get into cabinet deliberations”.

But he emphasised the government was keen to maintain strong international relationships and current arrangements were popular with Australia’s Pacific neighbours.

“But by the same token, we are also very conscious of the fact that there is a need across the agricultural sector for more workers,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.

Labor says a new plan would have to be assessed in line with the seasonal program for Pacific countries.

Opposition treasury spokesman Chris Bowen told reporters in Townsville the region had high levels of unemployment, and locals would want to be considered for farm work over foreigners on 457 visas.

“457 visas play a role, but that’s got to be where there are genuine shortages, where businesses have tried and failed to get their jobs filled, he said on Wednesday.

“But until and when that is the case, it’s just not what the system is designed for.”

 

Sydneysiders want migration restricted in the city: poll

Almost two-thirds of people believe migration to Sydney should be restricted and new arrivals sent to the regions, exclusive polling reveals as the Premier says she wants a better not bigger NSW.

The ReachTel poll for the Herald also shows that overdevelopment remains a key issue for voters, as the state and federal governments face the pressue of worsening congestion and population growth.

The poll results come as the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, signalled plans to slow the intake of some temporary migrants and to encourage new arrivals to settle regionally.

Mr Morrison, with his Immigration Minister David Coleman and Cities Minister Alan Tudge, are looking at simplifying the visa process to get more migrants to move outside the major cities.

More than 63 per cent of voters polled for the Herald supported restricting migrant numbers while 50 per cent opposed more development in Sydney to accommodate population growth.

The Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said the debate around population should focus on people and how to” ensure the best quality of life for all of us”.

“I want NSW to continue to be seen as the magnet for human talent,” Ms Berejikian said.

“But I am also fiercely committed to protecting and improving our way of life, and all that we love about our local communities -our parks, our open spaces, our beautiful beaches, waterways and bushland.”

Ms Berejiklian said there needed to be a national debate about population policy and she would be encouraging Mr Morrison to “join me in leading that discussion for the country’s benefit.”

“States are on the frontline of infrastructure and service delivery so it makes sense we should have a say on population policy,” Ms Berejikilan said.

“Rather than talk about a big Australia, we should always strive for a better Australia. We also need to encourage and make it easier for people to consider moving to regional NSW.”

The Migration Council of Austalia chief executive Carla Wilshire said redirecting migration to the regions was not going to fix the congestion problems plaguing Sydney and Melbourne.

“I can understand why people in Sydney feel like this but by restricting migration, it doesn’t solve an underlying under-investment in infrastructure and urban transport,” Ms Wilshire said.

The poll of 1627 people taken on Thursday night also asked voters to nominate the issues of concern to them, with the cost of living emerging as the most important to voters.

More than one-quarter of people identifed cost of living as their main concern followed by energy prices and housing affordabilty.

The environment was ahead of hospitals, schools and transport, according to the poll.

The polling also shows that the Coalition and Labor are neck and neck six months out from the state election, with Opposition leader Luke Foley edging ahead of Ms Berejiklian as preferred premier.

The weekend marked six months until the March poll, which is looking increasingly likely to result in a hung parliament. The government has only a six seat majority.

The polling shows the fallout from the bruising leadership spill in Canberra has had an impact in NSW, with 40.4 per cent of voters saying the change in prime minister had altered their view of the state Liberal Party.

The Coalition’s primary vote has slumped to 35.1 per cent, down from 41.9 per cent in March.

Labor’s primary vote has also taken a dip to 31.5 per cent from 32.5 per cent six months ago, the polling shows.

Mr Foley has pushed past Ms Berejiklian as the more popular leader, with 50.2 per cent of voters polled believing Mr Foley would make a better premier.

But despite Mr Foley’s personal standing, only 41.1 per cent of voters think Labor is ready to govern again.