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Government further reduces migration program

Australia will have a more tightly focused Migration (non-Humanitarian) Program in 1997-98 the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock announced today.

"The Government has set the Program at 68,000, representing a decrease in the intake of about 20-percent over the past two years. The Government has further strengthened the emphasis on the skilled intake, while maintaining a commitment to bona fide immediate family migrants," Mr Ruddock said.

"The Program remains non-discriminatory in terms of race, religion, ethnicity and country of origin."

Combined with the Humanitarian Program of 12,000, Australia's total immigration intake will be 80,000.

The smaller more tightly focused program will assist in restoring public confidence that our migration program contributes to Australia's social and economic growth. The Government believes that because of high levels of unemployment, a further reduction in migration is desirable at this time. Migrants entering through the Preferential Family category experience high rates of unemployment.

Under the last year of Labor, family stream migrants comprised almost 70% of a larger Program. The Coalition's 1997-98 program will reduce this to less than 50%, with a corresponding increase in the skill stream. Migrants entering through the skill categories have a positive effect on the economy.

Given the high levels of interest in migration to Australia, delivery of a balanced Migration Program in 1997-98 will again require limits (or caps) on a number of categories, especially in the family entry classes, and particularly parents.

"The priority in the family stream is to provide for the reunion of migrants entering as the spouse or child of Australians. The entry of parents under the Migration Program will be substantially reduced, pending a review," Mr Ruddock said.

"Parents tend to have a greater dependency on services being used by our ageing population and find it difficult to obtain employment or contribute economically.

"The requirement to cap family categories would have been minimised if non- - Government parties in the Senate had not sought to micro-manage the Program by rejecting Government initiatives.

"Legislation to give the Government greater control over the size and composition of the Program will be introduced and further measures will be developed to reduce demand in parts of the family stream.

"The Concessional Family category will be re-named the 'Skilled-Australian Linked' category and will from 1997-98, be included in the Skilled Stream."

This is because it has been transformed into a genuinely skilled category, while still offering concessions because of family links in Australia.

"Regulations to provide points for English language skill, as well as points for bi- lingualism where an applicant has no English, will be re-introduced for this category," Mr Ruddock said.

The points test for the Independent and renamed Skilled-Australian Linked categories will be reviewed to ensure that they are selecting migrants who are most suited to the needs of Australia's labour market.

MEDIA ENQUIRIES:

Steve Ingram, 0419 278 715; 06 277 860

ATTACHMENT

MIGRATION (NON-HUMANITARIAN) PROGRAM PLANNING LEVELS 1996-97 AND 1997-98

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