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Keating on immigration

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Philip Ruddock MP


Federal Member for Dundas Shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs

Electorate Parliament House

Tel: (02) 858 1011 Fax: (02) 804 6739 Tel: (06) 277 4343 Fax: (06) 277 2062


In the wake o f Opposition calls for mature and sensible discussion on immigration issues, it is regrettable that the Prime Minister has resorted to the use of invective, half-truths and malicious distortion.

His comments show signs o f desperation on his part. Resorting to charges against the Opposition o f racism shows he clearly doesn't know the recent history of immigration.

In all statements in which the Leader o f the Opposition, myself as spokesperson and other coalition members have made, we have never suggested that the Coalition would prevent the migration to Australia o f any individual on the basis o f race.

The discussions have been about the need to address the size o f the program and its skilled composition and the need for consistency in decision making, particularly in relation to refugee determination. W e have also stressed the importance o f bona-fide testing where other matters, such as a marriage relationship or study, are the basis for contrived entry.

We have also stressed the importance of English language com petence, particularly in light of the enormous costs imposed upon the community by the lack o f adequate English language skills. This of course is no different to the requirement for English language competency already tested for independent entry, or from each o f the other tests o f age, skill, education and employability now used.

The shift in the balance o f the program from skilled to family entry occurred early in Labor's term in office.

After many critical reports, such as the FitzGerald Report, about the low skilled outcom e of the program, the government was unwilling to change the emphasis on family reunion but opted for a rapid increase in the overall size o f the program to accommodate more skilled entrants.

The lamentable failure of the Business Migration Program, (of which the Prime Minister seem ed embarrassingly unaware) was one aspect o f this trend.

The Government's most perspicacious critic, was of course Senator Walsh who correctly observed that the policy was driven by a series o f cave ins and blow outs. .../2

The Coalition has consistently called for an intelligent and sensible debate about immigration in which questions o f race, country of origin and religion are not points of issue.

We have affirmed consistently the principles o f migration which stress this requirement.

Notwithstanding his comments on the Jana Wendt program last night where he suggested that leadership required the Prime Minister to direct ministers and set out policy, Paul Keating seem s happy to allow Minister Hand to make the recommendations and decisions about what is to happen to the immigration program. "I'm not going to make a recommendation...It will be Gerry recommending to the Government rather than me recommending to him."

For Paul Keating, as Prime Minister to charge the Opposition as basically seeking a reduction in Asian immigration debases proper debate and damages not only our international reputation, but a program which is still capable of bringing significant social, econom ic and cultural benefits to Australia.

These malicious allegations made by the Prime Minister say much about him, and the bankruptcy of his ideas about what should be done in the immigration program in the context o f his personally engineered recession.

H e should withdraw his comments and apologise.

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Mr Ruddock will be available for comments on (02) 858 1011 and after hours on (02) 630 4575 or pager number (02) 925 3911 #25589