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Coalition's Immigration and Ethnic Affairs policy



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Philip Ruddock MP

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I.11 \lcmbe r for DLli d a ti Electorate Parliament HoU;e

N iii v \1 inkier for Imnii ;rahon Tel: (02) 858 1011 Tel: (06) 277 4343

m J l[thlnic Affairs Fax: (02) 804 67 39 Fax: (06) 277 2062

COALITION'S IMMIGRATION AND ET H NIC AFFAIRS POLICY

The Coalition's revised immigration and Ethnic Affairs policy was launched today. It contains a number of initiatives which wi ll re-assure all Australians that our immigration program reflects fairness and the national interest.

Our policy recognises the enormous contribution migrants have made and continue to make to the economic and cultural development of Australia. It also recognises that our capacity to successfully settle a large number of new migrants, during the worst recession in s ix ty years, is significantly reduced.

Our policy will produce a sustainable outcome determined by the non-discriminatory application of qualifying criteria designed to meet the national interest.

Such a program will regain the support of the wider community and assure families in Australia that their relatives will be given equal opportunity to apply for migration without fear of favour.

The Labor Government's program, on the other hand, has been neither fair, nor in the national interest. It has been characterised by a series of "boom/bust" cycles which has left the Australian community questioning the purpose and benefits of the program, and left many migrants to pay the price in terms of high unemployment, social dislocation and poverty.

The Coalition has made it clear that we will not compromise migrant ent ry criteria just to meet fixed numerical targets. The Coalitions proposed reforms to the immigration program will result in a significantly reduced immigration program. In the context of these reforms, therefore, we have consistently and deliberately refrained from putting a

number on the program. These reforms include:

maintenance of English language testing for applicants in the Concessional Family reunion catego ry ;

- appropriate labour market testing for skilled entrants;

- extending the current six-month qualifying period for social security benefits to newly arrived migrants to two years;

- enhanced bona-fides testing for spouse/de-fato category entrants

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PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

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Reducing the program does not reflect a lack of commitment to a continuing immigration program in the Iong term, nor does it reflect a devaluation of the Coalition's commitment to a multicultural Australia.

What it does reflect is a realistic appraisal of Australia's ability to successfully settle a large number of new migrants in the middle of the worst recession in sixty years.

- there is a dearth of employment and investment opportunities in the current economic climate, even for the most qualified of migrants;

- unemployment rates amongst migrants who have been here for less than 2 years is as high as 77% for some groups and 36.4% for all new settlers;

- industry restructuring requires increased skill and language requirements;

- declining revenues and increased demands on government budgets has reduced our capacity to provide effective settlement programs for new arrivals.

The Coalition has also been very critical of changes to the Adult Migrant English Program, arguing instead for a fundamental review of English language tuition. The Coalition's approach would be to co-ordinate all English language programs under one Commonwealth authority and to utilise the AMEP model to achieve and efficient and effective service. Whilst cost recovery would be pursued by the Coalition, it would not be at the expense of effecting fundamental reform to ensure that English language tuition is available to all who have a need for it.

The Coalition will also continue to support Grant-in Aid schemes to community-based groups offering services in welfare, education and family support with emphasis being given to those groups demonstrating greatest need and servicing the most recently arrived settlers.

The Coalition will also implement reforms in the Refugee Program to achieve a fairer outcome.

Under a Coalition Government, Australia will continue to maintain our responsibilities, under international conventions and protocols, to process claims for refugee status made by people who arrive either illegally or legally on our shores.

However we believe that the procedures for determining the bona-fides of those claims ought to be made more quickly and fairly than is currently the case.

Firstly staffing priorities need to be adjusted. With interest in migration to Australia falling, departmental officers could be redeployed to the more urgent task of refugee assessment.

There are currently 23,000 applications for refugee status backlogged in the system and over 400 unauthorised "boat people" in detention.

If screening is not proceeded with expeditiously, periods of up to 10 years for determining their claims would not be an exaggeration. ../3

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Secondly, manifestly unfounded claims need to be dealt with immediately. If there is any contest about the judgement of departmental officers in determining this, applicants should first be required to obtain leave before further appeal is allowed. The under-worked Immigration Review Tribunal could be used for this purpose.

Such procedures are well known to the courts and frequently used to exclude cases without substance as well as the vexatious.

Thirdly, as previously foreshadowed by the Coalition, appeals beyond Australia's highly regarded administrative procedures to the courts should clearly be excluded.

It is quite possible to exclude appeals on administrative decisions by amendment to the Administrative Decisions Judicial Review Act.

The only court with inherent jurisdiction is the High Court of Australia and any decision for it to be involved would also require leave.

The Government has moved some way in this direction but if there is not a substantial reduction of abuse, then the Coalition would seek to implement these reforms.

The Coalition would also adopt the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Migration Regulations to resolve the current problems with the Chinese students.

In its report the Committee recommended that;

- As non-discriminatory criteria are an important principle in Australia's refugee determination system, from June 1994 PRC permit holders should be eligible to app ly as follows:

- for permanent residence on the basis of relevant universal selection criteria; or

- for continuing protection (ie refugee status) to be established on a case by case basis against internationally accepted criteria.

Those PRC permit holders who do not meet selection criteria should be granted, on expiry of their permits, a short extension of stay, say three months, to enable them to put their affairs in order and make appropriate arrangements for departing Australia.

This is entirely consistent with the Coalition's longstanding approach to the matter and will be dealt with in Government.

The Government has made a promise that no Chinese national will be returned to China against their will at the end of the four-year temporary permit. However, the Government's "promise" so far is just that, while it does nothing to give effect to that

promise with appropriate legislation. To date the government has refused to do this and has given no undertaking that it will. Without legislation it seems to me that the government has no basis upon which to act to keep its promise.

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Against this background, the Coalition in Government will:

- significantly reduce immigration in the short term, recognising that during times of recession and budgeta ry constraints, our capacity to successfully settle large numbers of new migrants is significantly reduced;

- increase immigration in the longer term when economic indicators, such as a significant and sustained improvement in unemployment and the foreign debt, point to a stronger economy;

- not be constrained at the present time by consideration of optimum population issues in the setting of immigration planning levels;

- select people for immigration to Australia as individuals, regardless of race, religion or country of origin;

- assess the individual's suitability as a migrant according to the contribution that person can make to the current and future needs of Australia;

- focus Australia's migrant intake by approving migrants who have skills and qualifications most appropriate to Australia's labour market requirements;

- continue a responsible program of immediate family reunion and refugee settlement and make provision for people with the need for special assistance;

- extend the current 6-month qualifying period for social security benefits to newly arrived migrants to two years. Refugees and humanitarian claimants will be exempt and there will be access to support for those in exceptional changed circumstances;

- constrain access of illegal entrants to welfare, health and legal benefits;

- strengthen citizenship provisions and strongly encourage new residents to acquire Australian citizenship;

- expect migrants to respect the institutions and principles which are basic to Australian society;

- continue to encourage respect for Australia's cultural diversity;

- place greater emphasis on the recognition of skills and qualifications of settlers;

- ensure that migrant women, migrant families and aged migrants are given a greater equality of opportunity;

- maintain objection in principle to any amnesty for illegal entrants to ensure that the integrity of the immigration program is maintained.

Contact Philip Ruddock Pager (02) 925 3911 # 25589