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Coalition restates immigration poilcy and outlines social security eligibility



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Philip Ruddock MP Electorate Parliament House

Federal Member for Dundas Shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs

Tel: (02) 858 1011 Tel: (06) 277 4343 Fax: (02) 804 6739 Fax: (06) 277 4178

COALITION RESTATES IMMIGRATION POLICY

An d o u t l i n e s s o c i a l s e c u r i t y e l i g i b i l it y

The Coalition has re-iterated its stance to reduce the level of immigration in the short term and maintain its commitment to deny certain benefits to most new arrivals.

The Coalition believes the program should be cut substantially in the short term. This decision is based on a rational assessment of the capacity of the Australian economy to successfully absorb migrants during the worst recession in sixty years.

A reduced migrant intake however is not, in itself, any solution to Australia's current economic difficulties. These difficulties will only be overcame by a coherent and comprehensive policy of reform that addresses all of our fundamental economic weaknesses.

The Coalition believes that firmer administration and targeting in all programs will see the numbers fall fairly evenly across all programs, although there will be a greater focus on admitting migrants who are younger, more highly skilled and educated, and thus more employable.

However the balance will reflect our consistent and deeply held view that the family reunion, humanitarian and refugee components are an essential part of the overall immigration program and we will not abrogate our responsibilities in this regard.

The Coalition also re-affirmed its commitment to restrict the availablity of certain welfare benefits to newly arrived migrants.

The justification for this position is now stronger than it was when the policy was first introduced. There is now additional evidence confirming the breakdown in the Assurance of Support arrangements and the enormous cost involved in providing welfare benefits for migrants who had been in Australia for less than 2 years - amounting to some $400 million in 1990-91.

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PARI IAMENTARY LIBRARY MIC AH

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The Government has recognised that some measures needed to be taken to attempt to recover some of those costs when it introduced a refundable bond and medical levy to apply to all those coming to Australia under the preferential family category and requiring an assurance of support.

However there is no guarantee that these new arrangements will work better than the ones they replace and the bond of $3,500 will recover little more than 6 months worth of benefits if paid.

Moreover the assurance of support has been weakened over the years to exempt those entering in the concessional family category, namely bothers, sisters, nephews and neices, and also to reduce the extent of the liability.

The validity of the Assurance has been reduced from 5 years to only 2 years and the liability will cover only special benefit and job search and newstart allowances. Previously liability extended 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 insitutions will no longer be recoverable under the new system.

The Auditor General's report revealed that the skills level of people entering under the concessional arrangements had declined considerably. A large number of such sponsored entrants would be unable to find employment. While such arrangements are advantageous to some families they clearly increase obligations imposed upon taxpayers.

The Opposition believes that these added imposts create some hostility in the community against the family reunion program. The most appropriate way to maintain access to extended family reunion and assure community support is to limit the demands on the public purse.

For this reason, the Coalition will extend the exclusion period for benefits from one to two years, although refugees and humanitarian claimants will remain exempt and provision will be made for those suffering extreme hardship.

November 21 1991