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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2155

Senator BOLKUS (Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (11.15 a.m.) —When one recognises that the PRC nationals decision with respect to those who were here pre-Tiananmen Square was taken without assigning technical refugee status to them—I think we all acknowledge that—and when one recognises that the decision with respect to those who were post-Tiananmen Square was taken to complement the first part of the decision and to embrace the best and fairest of that particular group, one sees that there is no technical connection between addressing refugees and addressing the two major aspects of the 1 November decision. However, it was important for me in considering an humanitarian government response. It was within that umbrella of a humanitarian decision by the government that we felt it appropriate to make this decision as well.

Senator Short —So, in policy terms, as distinct from in technical terms, there was a linkage. Is that what the minister is saying?

Senator BOLKUS —In general policy terms, we are talking about a government making a humanitarian decision on 1 November, embracing not just PRC nationals but also the plight of those who are in Australia on a temporary basis but who had been granted refugee status. So it comes under the umbrella of a humanitarian decision.

Senator Short —Could the minister explain why, in the past, protection visas were granted to applicants only on a temporary basis.

Senator BOLKUS —I think those decisions were taken in 1989. I am sure Senator Short remembers them as well. The decision to change to temporary protection status was one that was encompassed by the government at a time when temporary protection was granted also to the students who were here from the People's Republic of China at around that time. At that time the emphasis was on granting temporary protection, and that was applied to cover those who had been granted refugee status. Once again, Senator Short is talking about a response at that time which covered both the PRC nationals and refugees but which covered them by granting temporary protection, as opposed to a response some 4 1/2 years later which moved to the granting of permanent protection in respect of both areas.