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Asylum seekers holding Temporary Protection Visas are allowed to apply for permanent residency.

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Tuesday 13 July 2004

Asylum seekers holding Temporary Protection Visas are allowed to apply for permanent residency


TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Cabinet has agreed to a "radi cal overhaul of its asylum seeker rules" according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning.  


The Immigration Minister's office isn't denying Cabinet discussed the plan, which would allow an estimated 9,000 Temporary Protection Visa holders to apply to become permanent residents. 


Many backbenchers including those in regional areas, where local economies have come to rely heavily on the workforce provided by asylum seekers, have been lobbying for some type of change.  


As Rachel Carbonell reports, regional employers would also welcome any changes. 


RACHEL CARBONELL: Parts of rural and regional Australia have become heavily reliant on scattered populations of asylum seekers on Temporary Protection Visas. They're mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan. 


Federal National Party MP John Forrest whose electorate covers Victoria's northern Mallee country is among those who have been pushing for Temporary Protection Visa holders to be allowed to stay permanently in Australia. 


He says thousands of visa holders work in his electorate in various industries, and he'd welcome any move that allowed them to stay. 


JOHN FORREST: I'm really quite thrilled about it actually, with a large number of TPV's now located in my part of the world, providing valuable employment. I'm really pleased. We've got physiotherapists, doctors, dentists, engineers. Some of them are picking oranges and some of that labour, but highly qualified, professional people. 


RACHEL CARBONELL: Some of Australia's biggest fruit growing regions are the most heavily reliant on asylum seekers. 


Ross Turnbull owns a large fruit orchard near Shepparton in north-east Victoria. He says historically young people were employed for seasonal fruit picking work, but it's getting harder and harder to find labour. 


ROSS TURNBULL: To be frank, I mean we're in a situation, because we are a seasonal industry it's becoming increasingly difficult for us to source Australian labour. A lot of younger people are not particularly interested in this type of work that we provide.  


And so, for us to get our crops off and of course the added economic benefit of us doing that, requires us to sort of really source labour elsewhere, and at the moment we've got this pool of people that provide us with a very, very good source of quality labour. 


RACHEL CARBONELL: Ross Turnbull says asylum seekers on Temporary Protection Visas have been making a significant contribution to the north-east economy and to the community there, and they deserve the right to apply to live here permanently. 


ROSS TURNBULL: I think in essence if they're here because they needed to get out of their own countries as refugees, I think it's important that we do provide them with something. I guess my overall view is that if the people we are bringing in to Australia provide economic benefit to Australia, I can't see a lot of reason why we should not accept them.  


Now, you know, I hear all the arguments from Government about jumping the queue and going through the right channels but that can be, as I understand, a fairly lengthy and difficult process and I'm delighted that these people have arrived here and are providing sort of opportunities for themselves and for us to make Australia a better country. 


TONY EASTLEY: Orchard owner Ross Turnbull.