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Immigration intake: little real reform



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Philip Ruddock MP &

Federal Member for Dundas Shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs

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

Electorate Parliament House

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

IMMIGRATION INTAKE: LITTLE REAL REFO RM

The Government's announcement on the 1992-93 immigration program does not go nearly far enough.

It is not just a question of lowering the numbers, but of reforming the entire process. What really counts are the decisions which have been taken in an attempt to effect a reduction in the program.

The Government has used many of the Coalition's arguments but it has not adopted the Coalition's proposals to achieve those cuts. These have included:

English language testing in the Concessional Family Category

Enhanced bona-fides testing in all categories, particularly preferential family reunion,

restriction of welfare benefits in the first two years after entry

a clearer skills focus with an emphasis upon relevance to Australian labour market requirements.

The Government has clearly failed the test to introduce reforms in the program and has in fact put an even greater weight on the family reunion percentage of the program.

The Coalition has consistently argued that the program needs to have a greater skills focus. Research on the economics of immigration has consistently shown that greater economic benefits accrue to Australia if their is a greater emphasis on the skilled aspects of the program. The

Government however has increased the percentage of the program allocated to unskilled entry.

COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

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The Government has made some changes to the points test. However it is clear that some degrees and trade certificate qualifications will continue to be acceptable and will permit entry even if, in the Australian labour market, many people with such qualifications are unemployed.

The Government has also failed to adopt the recommendation of the Coalition (and the Labor Council) to restrict welfare benefits to newly arrived migrants (except refugee and humanitarian cases) for the first two years after entry and to enhance requirements for assurances of support. These decisions would relieve budgetary pressures and also affect the migration decisions of potential applicants.

The government has also failed the test to introduce reforms in the balance of the program.

Proper additional bona-fides testing in all categories could be usefully pursued including in the Employer Nomination Scheme and preferential family entrants. Conditional entry for spouses from off shore, for example, could be the same as that which currently applies for change of status on within Australia. This approach is practical, feasible and essential to ensure that those using spouse and de-facto entry to achieve immigration entry,

rather than for the purposes of a genuine on-going relationship, are weeded out.

The Coalition has never seen a particular numerical target as being the objective of the immigration program.

However in the worst recession in sixty years the Government is still endeavouring to achieve a net outcome of 70,000. This is still at the upper end of the range in terms of net outcomes achieved in previous periods of

recession.

There is just one final point that needs to be made. In his press conference the Minister claimed that the 20,000 Chinese students in Australia at the time of the Tienanmen Square incident and given 4 year special entry permits, had been taken into account in the program figures over the two year period after they arrived.

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However these people (and successful asylum seekers) are only granted temporary entry permits and are not, and never have been, included in the total program numbers. Only those who have achieved permanent residence through change of status categories are included in the net figures as "category jumpers".

The Minister himself makes the statement in his press release that temporary entrants are not included in the net figures. The Chinese students and their spouses and children are in this category as are asylum seekers.

This is clearly an area the Minister needs to clarify.

Immigration is important to Australia and the Coalition is of the firm belief that immigration has made, and continues to make, an enormous contribution to the economic, cultural and social development of our country.

However, Labor's culpable mismanagement of the program during its term in government has undermined public support by continuing to maintain it at record numbers during the worst recession in sixty years.

In the development of its 1992-93 program, it has clearly failed to address this fundamental concern.

12 May 1992