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Assurances of support delayed

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Philip Ruddock MP Federal Member for Dundas Shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs

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


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

The preoccupation of the Minister with the Labor leadership battle has meant that policy decisions have been delayed and administrative requirements to implement policy stalled.

A decision in the Budget on August 20 to introduce a new bond for migrants entering under an assurance of support was to be effective from the following day. '

However the Minister has just announced that it will not come into effect now until Decem ber 20, some four months later.

In the meantime the Department of Social Security has been haemorrhaging as monies are continuing to be paid to people who have promised faithfully not to make a claim on the public purse, or if they do, to refund that money.

Senator Richardson recently revealed that some $23 million in assurances of support were outstanding and were unlikely to be recovered. Changes introduced mean that assurances are now much more limited in liability and only sought from a small group of family sponsored entrants.

Neither an assurance o f support or a bond is required from entrants under the concessional family category. Evidence clearly shows that entrants in this category have a low skills level and little English language competency and are disproportionately represented in the unemployment queues. Benefits paid to migrants who have been in Australia for two years or less amounted to $399 million last financial year.

Further, the validity of the Assurance will be reduced to 2 years from the current 5 years and the liability will cover only special benefit and job search and newstart allowances paid by the Department of Social Security. Liability will no longer extend to accommodation, surgical and dental treatment or any other allowance for the support of the assured migrant. Further, debts incurred by State, public or charitable institutions will no longer be recoverable under the new system.

The Government's resolve to force people to m eet their obligations in regard to assurances o f support is not as tough as it sounds. The assurance has been considerably weakened by the changes and the Government has allowed the haemorrhaging of the social security department to continue for four months longer than necessary.

19 Decem ber 1991