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Bring back Gerry - quickly

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Philip Ruddock MP Federal Member for Dundas Shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs

Electorate Tel: (02) 858 1011 Fax: (02) 804 6739 Tel: (06) 277 4343

Fax: (06) 277 2062

Parliament Flouse


There is always a danger that novices making policy statements will get it wrong.

David Simmons, as acting Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs has done that in his statement challenging the Coalition to "come clean". It is his government's obsfucating, confusing and contradictory statements which are emanating from various ministers week on, week out.

Will the immigration program be cut? Keating and Dawkins would have us believe that it will.

Minister Hand refuses to be drawn because it would make a mockery of his present consultations, but he does know the reality of Australia's dire economic circumstances which dictate an immediate and substantial reduction in the program.

Then of course there are the views of caucus backbench committee chairman, Dr Andrew Theophanous who still naively believes that we can go on with record levels of immigration during the worst recession in sixty years.

To add to the uncertainty, the government is still flagging an increase in the immigration program according to the triennium planning levels set in 1990. The planned level for 1991-92 is 111,000; for 1992-93,118,000 and 1993-94, 128,000.

Before his appointment as acting minister, Mr Simmons should have taken the time to read Coalition policy statements. He would then be aware that Dr Hewson and I have said that in earlier recessions, the net immigration intake was between 50,000 and 70,000.

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In my statement of January 13,1 suggested a number of policy adjustments which would achieve a smaller program. These included:

- enhanced bona-fide testing of spouse entry

- English language requirement in the concessional family category similar to that used for the business skills and independent categories

- limiting access to benefits for new arrivals for the first two years after entry.

Where has Mr Simmons been that he has not heard these suggestions.

Finally, he compares the skill level of the present program with that of the last recession. The 14% level about which he speaks occurred when the Labor party reduced the program to an average of 55,000 for the years 1983 and 1984, largely eliminated skilled entry and premised admission primarily on family reunion criteria.

At no time in Australia's past had an immigration program been so distorted. It is helpful of Mr Simmons to remind all interested observers how he and his colleagues so blatantly and unnecessarily compromised Australia's

national interest.

19 February 1992