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Visa plan draws cautious welcome -

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Visa plan draws cautious welcome

Reporter: Greg Jennett

TONY JONES: Just a day after they were announced, Liberal backbenchers have expressed concern that
new rules to free some immigration detainees are too tough. Three backbenchers have welcomed
progress in recognising the plight of long-term detainees, but say it's only a first step. As Greg
Jennett reports from Canberra, the MPs are also worried that very few people will be willing or
eligible to take up the new visa.

GREG JENNETT: John Howard personally helped usher in the new visa category for long-term
immigration detainees.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: We think it's a fair and commonsense adjustment of the operation of
the policy and it's a sensible and good thing to do.

GREG JENNETT: Backbenchers helped convince him. They agree Cabinet's done a good thing, but it
clearly doesn't go far enough for them.

JUDI MOYLAN, LIBERAL MP: It's a recognition that there needs to be change. But in my opinion, we
have to do more.

GREG JENNETT: Judi Moylan also says the policy is harsh and too tough. Her colleagues put it more
politely.

BRUCE BAIRD, LIBERAL MP: It's always a step along the road. Obviously as parliament develops and so
on, there are other issues we'll be looking at, but we're very pleased that this has happened now.

PETER GEORGIOU, LIBERAL MP: It is a step in the right direction, but it is a short step, and there
are some uncertainties about how the new system will operate.

GREG JENNETT: Regulations governing the new visa are still being written, but as MPs and refugee
advocates absorb the statements already made public, they're concluding that the rules will be so
restrictive, very few people might ever be released. Detainees will have to forego all
applications, legal cases or representations to the minister if they're to get the visa. On current
numbers, that could mean as few as a dozen of the 120 people held for three years or more would be
eligible for release. Locking up cash was the Treasurer's preoccupation today.

PETER COSTELLO, FEDERAL TREASURER: The Australian government now makes $1.50 in a matching
contribution.

GREG JENNETT: As he promoted his superannuation subsidy for low income earners, the feud with the
states over tax cuts and $200 billion worth of GST simmered.

BOB CARR, NEW SOUTH WALES PREMIER: If you take that away, all you're going do is hurt the state's
schools and hospitals and police.

MIKE RANN, SOUTH AUSTRALIAN PREMIER: This is clearly Peter Costello's bid for the
primeministership.

PETER COSTELLO: We want those other taxes abolished. We want the agreement to stand.

JOHN HOWARD: We're not playing games. We're serious.

GREG JENNETT: The states can at least be glad John Howard was not a founding father of federation.

JOHN HOWARD: If we were starting Australia all over again, I wouldn't support having the existing
state structure. I would actually support having a federal government, a national government and
perhaps a series of regional governments having the power, say, of the Brisbane City Council.

GREG JENNETT: Guess who'd have the money then. Greg Jennett, Lateline.