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Government claims grossly overstated

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riac COMMONWEALTHPhilip Ruddock MP PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARYFederal Member for Dundas MICAH e Parliament House Shadow Minister for Immigration Tel: (02) 858 1011 Tel: (06) 277 4343 5/93 and Ethnic Affairs Fax: (02) 804 6739 Fax: (06) 277 2062GOVERNMENT CLAIMS GROSSLY OVERSTATEDClaims by the Minister for Immigration, Gerry Hand, that the Government hasstrengthened Australia's humanitarian commitment are grossly overstated.The Refugee and Humanitarian component has not been separated from the overallprogram as the Minister has suggested. The Minister has merely shifted 2000 placeswithin the existing program from one component to another. The question has to beasked: have these places been taken from family reunion or the independent categories?Furthermore, what further policy or administrative failure has led to the situation whereso many places are available to be filled in another category? Has the demand forindependent and family reunion places fallen short of expectations?It is appropriate to separate refugee assistance from the immigration program. It hasbeen the recent adherence to the 50% (family reunion), 40% (economic) and 10%(refugee) formula that brought about, in a declining immigration program the reducedcommitment to refugee assistance. The creation of separate components within theoverall migration program, established against proper application of criteria for selection,should not lead to an automatic increase or reduction in numbers.The Opposition's approach would have been to establish a refugee program based uponneed and our capacity to assist. The immigration program would be separately developedand significantly reduced on the basis of the application of stricter requirements forentry. These include bona-fides testing for spouse/de-facto partners, limiting access to benefits and relevant labour market testing.Of the 500 or so "boat people" claiming asylum, who have arrived in Australia since1989, few have been repatriated (some have left voluntarily). By the Minister's ownadmission he has been manipulated by those who would seek to by-pass Australia's migration laws and regulations.However the Minister has also failed to contain the ambit of judicial review which hasalso led to the current crisis in on-shore refugee policy. Legislation which goes part wayin this direction will not operate until late this year.The Coalition has repeatedly urged the Government to adopt its proposals in regard toaccess to judicial review. We have suggested that there be a requirement for leave../2

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before further appeal of contested applications is permitted. We have further advised the Government to exclude appeals beyond the current administrative procedures, except on questions of law to the High Court, also by leave.

The result of these failures has been the extended detention of the boat-people, a backlog of some 23,000 unresolved asylum claims and the international perception that Australia is an easy target for illegal entry.

The crisis on-shore is the sole cause for Australia's reduced capacity to assist the many millions of genuine refugees currently languishing in camps around the world.

The Coalition has been very critical of the Government's failure to effectively control the on-shore refugee determination process. It has been abused to the extent that our compassion has been manipulated to assist many people with manifestly unfounded claims. This has put at grave risk our capacity to assist genuine refugees.

The Coalition parties in Government have had a particularly proud record of refugee resettlement. In 1982-83 the number accepted for re-settlement was over 16,000.

The Labor Government has slashed that number in the past decade. This represents an unacceptable decline in the level of Australia's commitment to assist those in genuine need of protection. Against the background of an enormous escalation of the refugee population, such a decline throws into question Australia's international standing in refugee resettlement.

The Minister has merely re-announced something that was foreshadowed last year. Rather than announcing a separate refugee policy, he has conveniently postponed such a statement until the next financial year.

21 January 1993

Contact Philip Ruddock Pager (02) 295 3911 #25589