Images of essential workers were projected on the Opera House in 2021.
NSW is trying to attract essential workers, like nurses and teachers, to work in regional areas. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

NSW looks to poach from SA with regional-living push

Luke Costin January 31, 2024

A NSW push to poach interstate essential workers has been dismissed by South Australia as a desperate effort to fill the more populous state’s skill “chasms”.

The Make the Move Campaign is aimed at boosting the number of essential workers in regional NSW by spotlighting the stories of nurses, police, teachers, firefighters and midwives who quit cities for the regions.

But workers in Sydney are not the only ones in the government’s sights.

The extensive ad campaign will also aim to encourage interstate essential workers to consider moving to nearby regional NSW communities, starting with tapping Adelaide workers.

Teachers working rurally can collect an annual bonus of $20,000 to $30,000 while health workers can get packages of up to $20,000.

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas said he understood why NSW would be attempting to poach in-demand staff, saying 30,000 people had left the state last year.

“That’s a big reduction … it speaks to a need to advertise to others about why they might want to stay there,” he said.

“We’re doing a far better job of being able to attract people to our state.”

He pointed to SA’s recent strong economic performance.

“This state’s got a lot of things going our way, increasingly it’s being talked about in other parts of the country and we welcome that,” he said.

“If that means NSW has to spend dollars on their own television ads to keep their own people there so be it, that’s their prerogative,” he said.

South Australia’s treasurer Stephen Mullighan was also not alarmed.

“What you’re seeing from (premier) Chris Minns and NSW is a last-ditch attempt to start filling some skills gaps that have grown into yawning chasms in the last three years,” he told ABC Adelaide.

Chris Minns at front of classroom with 'jump' written on the board
 NSW Premier Chris Minns wants teachers to move to his state. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

He also questioned why workers would uproot their families when the median housing cost in regional NSW exceeded that in Adelaide.

“I am not panicking in the face of Chris Minns offering $20,000 in relocation costs to move to a higher-cost, lower-lifestyle place somewhere in regional NSW for workers who quite frankly have a much better place to live here in South Australia,” Mr Mullighan said.

About 55 per cent of NSW teacher vacancies are in the regions, but Mr Minns expects recent pay rises that made the state’s teachers the nation’s best-paid will soon turn the tide.

While the campaign was currently focused on South Australia, he warned the state was open to competing for essential workers in Victoria and Queensland.

“For the past decade, other states have been poaching our best and brightest to work in their institutions,” Mr Minns said.

“If there are good people that are considering relocating, coming and working in the NSW public service, we’d love to have them.”

He also admitted that he failed to give his fellow Labor premier and occasional running buddy, South Australia’s Peter Malinauskas, a warning about Wednesday’s launch.

Peter Malinauskas and Chris Minns
 SA Premier Peter Malinauskas and NSW Premier Chris Minns running at Bondi Beach. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS 

“He can read about it in the newspapers or watch our ads on TV,” Mr Minns said.

Union leader and former principal Jennie-Marie Gorman said the states needed to move beyond short-term incentives and interstate poaching amid a national teacher shortage.

“I’m concerned that a lot of band-aid solutions are being found and we really need to find something that’s a big-picture solution,” the Australian Education Union SA branch president told AAP.

Ms Gorman said it was critical to improve pay and conditions across the board, properly fund public schools and focus on enticing more young people to take up what was a rewarding vocation.

“This is a national crisis – it really needs to be solved on the national level,” she said.