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"It's back to White Australia Policy, say migrants"



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MEDIA STATEMENT Philip Ruddock MP Federal Member for Dundas Electorate

Shadow Minister for Immigration Tel: (02) 858 1011

and Ethnic Affairs Fax: (02) 804 6739

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

T he following is the text o f a letter sent to the Sydney Morning Herald in response to an article headed:

"It's back to White Australia Policy, say migrants", (SM H Tuesday, January 14 1992).

The assertion made by Ms Pebaque that the Coalition's immigration policy is "an undercover return to the White Australia Policy" is quite malicious. This is even more so in view of the Coalition's repeated commitment to a non-discriminatory immigration policy and one which is generous in its allocation of places to refugees and humanitarian claimants and immediate family members.

Nowhere in my statement released yesterday were there any comments which could be construed as suggesting that the Coalition will prevent the migration to Australia of any individual on the basis of race.

I raised the possibility of re-introducing the requirement for English language skills testing for applicants in the concessional family category. Concessional family migration covers persons who are either a non-dependent child, non-dependent brother or sister, non-dependent niece or nephew or a parent of working age not meeting the balance of family test, of an Australian citizen or permanent resident.

The cost of inadequate proficiency in the English language to the Australian community is large. In 1990-91 the cost for providing English language training to migrants was $111.42 million.

Even though Australia has the largest government funded adult English language teaching program in the world, the December 1990 report of the Working Party on Post Secondary English Language Training recommended that resources for English language training needed to be significantly increased. It identified significant gaps in resourcing and deficiencies in outcomes in English Language Programs and estimated that up to 60,000 longer term residents with language difficulties were unable to receive training.

The Bureau of Immigration Research released a report in 1991 which detailed the cost of low levels of English proficiency amongst immigrants in the workforce. It was estimated that this cost to the community was $763 million which amounts to 0.3% of GDP.

COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

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Furthermore, figures provided by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in its 1991 budget papers indicate that in 1988-89 27.8% of immigrants to Australia were self-assessed as having poor English ability.

There were 22,522 successful applicants in the Concessional family category in 1990-91, out of a total program of 121,688. The latest figures available (1988-89) estimated that over 18% of this group were self-assessed as having poor English ability. The percentage is less than it could be since they were grouped with independent entrants, who are tested for English language ability.

It is evident from these statistics that some testing for English language capability in the concessional category is becoming increasingly necessary. This group of people are being consigned to the unemployment queues or are disproportionately represented in industries and occupations already in decline or most vulnerable to decline in the near future.

In spite of this however, the competition for jobs in these sectors and occupations is increasing because of the constant flow of migrants with little or no marketable skills and little or no English language capability who have no prospect of employment in other areas. This means that the already onerous conditions are unlikely to improve.

The logic of fair play suggests that the last thing these Australians need is more competition from new immigrants for the declining number of low-skill jobs or for the limited opportunities for training and education that are available to low-income workers.

Certainly the requirement for an English language test on applicants entering under the concessional family category will prevent the migration to Australia of some brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews of Australian residents and citizens. This of course is no different to each of the other tests of age, skill, education and employablitily already imposed.

I had believed that debate on immigration issues could be conducted in a rational, balanced and intelligent manner.

Ms Pebaque's comments clearly illustrate that some elements in the community wish such discussion to proceed on invective, untruths and malicious distortion. It is a pity the source is an employee of a Government-funded advisory and support body.

Such comments do enormous harm to a program which is still capable of bringing significant benefits to Australian social, economic and cultural life.

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15 January 1992