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Government adopts Fightback proposal on migrant access to benefits

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Philip Ruddock MP

“1 %

Federal Member for Dundas Shadow M inister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs

Electorate Parliament House

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

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


The Government has moved to adopt Coalition policy by introducing a 26 w eek waiting period for migrants before they can access social security benefits.

This initiative by the Government demonstrates that they have no "in principle" objection to the concept. The Government's assertions that Opposition treatment o f ethnic communities in its Fightback! proposals to deny access to benefits as harsh and unconscionable has been shown to be hypocritical.

As there is no in principle objection, it is hard to understand why the Government has not adopted our proposal in its entirety. Under Fightback! the exclusion period would be extended to 2 years, with exemptions for refugees and humanitarian claimants and provision for access to Special Benefits under changed circumstances.

We estimated that savings o f $250 million would be made in the first year on the basis of Department o f Social Security figures which showed that $399 million was paid in benefits to migrants who had been in Australia for two years or less.

The reasons why this proposal should be adopted are clear.

Most applicants for migration who are potential labour market entrants apply under the concessional family reunion programs and independently. A s such they should have sufficient resources or guarantees to support themselves in the event that they cannot find immediate employment or they should postpone their decision to migrate. This

occurred in earlier periods o f recession of less disastrous impact than today.

Entrants from the concessional family category have increasingly been low skilled and non-English speaking because o f the Labor Government's earlier relaxation o f entry criteria and the abandonment o f the Assurance o f Support requirement.

The Government's recent moves to reduce the immigration program along with the introduction o f this initiative show that the Coalition's concerns have been more than justified.

18 August 1992

Contact Philip Ruddock - Pager (02) 925 3911 #25589 or (06) 249 7749 ah