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Australia's immigration program

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Philip Ruddock MP *9

Federal Member for Dundas Shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs

Electorate Tel: (02) 858 1011 Fax: (02) 804 6739

Parliament House Tel: (06) 277 4343 Fax: (06) 277 2062


The Minister responsible for Immigration has said nothing to defend the government's program in the face of persistent criticism by his cabinet colleagues and former ministers.

This public censure is clearly at odds with the Governments stated position. Minister Dawkins has argued that the immigration program should be halved because of the induced high unemployment rate; the ex-treasurer Mr Keating believes it should be cut because of the current housing crisis, and Treasurer Kerin says simply that he doesn't know what should be done.

All the available published evidence indicates that the economic benefits of immigration are at least positive and at worst benign.

Yet it is suggested from time to time that the departments of Treasury and Finance have unpublished evidence which suggests otherwise.

The Opposition has always sought full and public debate. Any secret documents that the Government has ought to be put on the table.

In the face of comments by Ministers which suggest an urgent need to lower the immigration program, it should not be forgotten that in its last public announcement, the Government set migration planning levels for three years.

For 1991-92 the level was determined at 111,000; 1992-93, 116,000 places and 1993-94, 126,000 places*. This suggests the Government has a view of where Australia's economy is going, yet it presents no evidence to support its position.


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The Opposition has noted that for the last couple of years our immigration program has come in significantly lower than program projections. The targets have not been met, principally because of the shortfall in the two major economic streams, independent migrants and concessional family entry.

This has been and will continue to be the case because fewer people will want to make the decision to come here when our future is so uncertain. Furthermore, in the middle of the worst recession we have had for more than sixty years, our capacity to absorb migrants is substantially reduced.

We have also argued that by maintaining the present qualifying criteria and establishing proper administration of the migration program in areas where fraud is clearly evident, the numbers will continue to come in below target.

The net outcome for this year's immigration program will probably only be around 75,000. (111,000 program target less emigration of approximately 36,000). This already represents almost a halving of the program of 2 years ago where the net migration rate was 136,000.

In the worst recession for sixty years and the continued outlook of further extensive retrenchments by industry, the future outlook for immigration will be unmet program levels unless standards are reduced. Given the Opposition's commitment to maintaining standards our expectation remains that immigration targets still have a way to fall.

19 July 1991

*These include 10,000 places for refugee and humanitarian claimants, assuming the government intends to continue to make some such provision.