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Gratuitous advice from PM not needed

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Philip Ruddock MP 47

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

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

Electorate Parliament House

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


Prime Minister Keating's comments on the Coalition's proposed cuts to the immigration program show his inability to grasp the issues involved in the debate.

The current Labor government has so mishandled the program during its term in office that prominent Senator, Peter Walsh, was moved to observe that the program was a more a result of "cave-ins and blow-outs" than the result of sensible planning.

Indeed, the Government has shown no capacity to hold the program at planning levels and has managed to maintain numbers at record levels during the worst recession in sixty years, and really, the Prime Minister is in no position to offer any gratuitous advice.

Historical precedence has shown that in past recessions of lesser impact than the one the Prime Minister has driven us into this year, numbers have fallen quite significantly. In 1984 for example, the planned program of 90,000 was slashed to 62,000 for the stated reasons that the economy could not absorb large number of new entrants to the labour force, and interest in migrating to Australia had fallen considerably.

Input from the National Population Council, the Auditor General, Social Security, the Department of Finance and more recently the ACTU has shown that a reduction in the program is essential and so is an overhaul of the points tested categories which are currently facilitating the entry of large numbers of low-skilled, non-English speaking migrants.

The Coalition took into consideration all the available research when we put forward our suggestions for the structure of a smaller program. The Prime Minister hasn't been paying attention. ...12

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- English language testing in the Concessional Family Category similar to that already part of the Independent and Business Skills categories.

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

- Enhanced bona-fide testing.

- Restriction of welfare benefits in the first two years after entry.

No-one has any argument with the proposition that Australia's immigration program 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 threatened to undermine the public support so crucial to the continued success of our immigration program.

The program proposed by the Coalition would restore public confidence and deliver an outcome in the best interests of all Australians.

10 April 1992