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Migration blowout untenable



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Philip Ruddock MP 32

Federal Member for Dundas Shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs

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

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

MIGRATION BLOWOUT UNTENABLE

Reported blowouts in the extended family reunion categories of the immigration program ought to be confirmed or denied by the Minister. He cannot continue to escape accountability by sitting on his hands or retreating into his bunker.

The Minister's silence on planning, composition and settlement issues only serves to fuel suspicion in the community and risk the debate degenerating into unhelpful side issues.

He has an immediate responsibility to clarify these matters.

The reported blowout in the extended family reunion categories has occurred for three principal reasons:

- elimination of the requirement for applicants to present with

employment experience;

- the removal of the requirement for an assurance of support for

applicants in the concessional family category which has also allowed unrestricted access to welfare benefits immediately upon arrival; and

- the elimination of the requirement for an English language test in the concessional family category.

The Government, with some knowledge of the combined effect of these provisions, moved earlier this year to curb the expected impact by raising the pass mark in the points test for both the skilled and concessional family categories. However, as the Minister remarked at the time, the impact on the size of the program would be minimal.

The other matters however, remain unaddressed and the program continues to run out of control despite a reduction in demand for places in the skilled categories as a result of the impact of the recession on the labour market.

COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

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In 1989 then Minister Senator Robert Ray introduced arrangements for a floating pass mark which gave policy makers the capacity to cap programs likely to exceed projections. With this flexible planning tool, it is surprising that any blowout could occur without government complicity and connivance.

The imbalance in the program is now even more pronounced in view of the latest figures - this at a time when the government should be working towards a program which would best serve Australia's interests with a clear skills-based focus.

The Coalition has always been of the view that Australia's immigration intake must meet Australian priorities. Australia is in the middle of the worst recession in sixty years, budget constraints are heavy, and settlement programs already seriously under-funded. This has significantly reduced our

capacity to successfully settle new migrants. Nor can we continue to afford to pay benefits to new migrants who arrive with no marketable skills or English language competency.

In the context of a smaller program, the Coalition has argued for a greater skills focus and English language test for applicants entering through the concessional family category. We also believe that migrants should be able to support themselves when they arrive here, thus we would also seek to deny benefits to migrants who have been here for two years or less.

In light of revelations in the past few days that the English language programs have had their resources reduced and that the immigration program is continuing to bring in large numbers of people without skills and English language competency, the Government is behaving in the most irresponsible way by not moving towards the Coalitions position on these matters.

Where Australia's national interest demands a new approach to policy we have no objection to the Government adopting our proposals.

12 March 1992

Contact Philip Ruddock pager number (02) 925 3911, # 25589 or (02) 858 1011