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Legislative amendments to deliver Australia's migration program

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M e d i a R e l e a s e

The Hon. Philip Ruddock MR Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Telephone: (06) 277 7860 Facsimile: (06) 273 4144-


The Government will require the full range of legislative tools it is seeking, if Australia is to have a properly balanced migration program the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock said today.

"The Opposition has indicated it will oppose key amendments to the Migration Act, introduced yesterday and designed to enable the Government to deliver its planned 1996­ 97 Migration Program," Mr Ruddock said.

"The amendments will allow the Government to restore order and balance to the Migration Program and begin restoring public confidence. If the Opposition does not support the measures, they are not serious about achieving a well managed and structured program."

"The former Government had allowed the family stream to grow in 1995-96 by 27%. The spouse category had increased by 32% and the parent category by 74%."

"It is Australia's sovereign right to decide the total level of immigration to Australia and to decide the balance between the family and skilled portions of the intake."

Under current legislation the Government is. able to effectively and equitably regulate numbers in all categories of the program, except for a few in Preferential Family,* including spouse and dependent children. The amendments address this discrepancy.

The Government will also implement its election commitment that de facto couples must have co-habited for at least two years before they can be considered for migration.

"It is also essential that the Government has flexibility in managing the program. We must be able to utilise a full range of measures and have the flexibility to change them."

"It is also evident from application rates in certain categories, that the Government's plans to deliver a better Migration Program are being understood," Mr Ruddock said.

Application rates in the Preferential Family category for the first three months of 1996-97 are around 14% lower than for the same period in 1995-96. The 12,356 applications received in the first quarter of 1996-97 was down 2,014 on the same period in 1995-96.

"If this trend continues, I am hopeful there will only be limited need to use the additional measures being sought," Mr Ruddock said.

"The Government remains absolutely committed to a Migration Program that operates on a non-discriminatory basis. The measures are completely consistent with that principle."

17 October 1996 MEDIA CONTACT Steve Ingram (06)277 7860 0419 278 715

* The Preferential Family category covers husband, wife, de facto spouse, fiance (prospective marriage),

interdependent partner, parent, dependent child, adopted child, orphan relative, last remaining relative, special need relative and aged dependent relative.