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Migration selection and recessions

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Philip Ruddock MP 2Ί

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


A paper prepared for the Parliamentary Library, Migration Selection During the Recession, contains one very simple message: that the current Labor Government has degraded the immigration program to such an extent that it no longer delivers an outcome which is in Australia's interests.

Two important historical decisions were taken by Labor, largely without fanfare or notice, which has led to the present outcome of large numbers of non-English speaking and low skilled migrants entering through the program.

There is also the complimentary problem of people categorised as skilled, but whose skills are difficult to recognise and bear little relevance to the skills requirements of Australia's labour market.

The two principal decisions were:

the abandonment of the occupational shares scheme in the points test where emphasis was placed upon recruiting for skills in areas where there were shortages and where employment opportunities existed.

the provision of welfare support on arrival, particularly for extended family members - brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, non-dependent children, and parents not meeting the balance of family test - it was argued that assurances of support were no longer required because this category was subjected to

(minimal) skills testing.

For these reasons, the immigration program has been maintained at record levels during the worst recession in sixty years.


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Ιη 1984, there was a significant decline in migrant numbers which saw the Government revise its planned program of 90,000, down to 62,000. The reasons given were, a reduced interest in family migration, particularly in the

numbers sponsored in the concessional category, and, significantly, a reduction in the skilled intake in line with tighter labour market conditions.

The question needs to be asked, why is it that in 1984 the program retracted in that way, when today, during a deeper and more protracted recession, it has not done so.

The reasons are clearly because of the changed policy decisions taken by the Labor government.

The Government needs to urgently take up several of the Coalition's initiatives.

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The program needs a clearer skills focus with an emphasis upon relevance to Australian labour market conditions.

Enhanced bona-fides testing.

English language testing in the Concessional Family Category, similar to that already used in the Independent and new business skills categories.

Restrict access to welfare benefits in the first two years after entry.

These initiatives would deliver a program in the interests of all Australians.

18 March 1992

Contact Philip Ruddock pager (02) 925 3911 #25589