Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Election '96: Opposition Immigration spokesperson replies to criticism that Coalition policy is racist

MONICA ATTARD: The Ethnic Communities' Council of New South Wales claims the Coalition's immigration policy is discriminatory. The Coalition has added an English language requirement to the point system under the category of concessional family reunions, that is, those reunions not based on direct family dependants.

Sydney Queen's Counsel, Greg James, says it appears that preference or priority will be given to applicants with English proficiency, and it follows that those from English speaking backgrounds would be preferred. But Coalition Immigration spokesperson, Jim Short, has told Rebecca Gorman that's a misinterpretation.

JIM SHORT: No one will be prevented from coming to Australia through lack of English that are now not prevented. All we are saying is that in the concessional family category of migration, which is the smallest of the categories and - although it says concessional family - is essentially a skills-based category. In that category we should be recognising, in at least a small way, English as a skill, just as English as a skill is regarded as an important skill in the other skilled entry category, which is called the independent category.

REBECCA GORMAN: But it's not a skills-based category, it's in the family reunion category.

JIM SHORT: No, it's not. There are two categories; there are two family categories and....

REBECCA GORMAN: It's one of the family categories is it?

JIM SHORT: It's one of the family categories but it is not a family reunion category in the same sense that the preferential family category is.

REBECCA GORMAN: But it is still part of that package and not related to skills in the way that the actual skills categories are related to skills and rely on skills.

JIM SHORT: The Government's own guidelines in relation to the concessional family category - the first of the criteria listed by the Government in relation to entry in the concessional family category - is skill. And there is skill, there is age and there are the other profiles; there is a question of whether the sponsor is a citizen and all those sort of things. So there is no doubt that it is importantly a skills-based category. It is not a skills-based category to the same extent that the independent category is but, nevertheless, it is a skills-based category.

REBECCA GORMAN: Is it not the case, though, that if you're from Vietnam, for example, and you have the same skills as someone from the UK, that you're likely to get fewer points because of your lack of English skills?

JIM SHORT: It is certainly true that if you come from anywhere, whether it is Vietnam or Hong Kong or Europe or anywhere else, and you can speak English, then you will get some small number of additional points because of that, just in the same way but to a much lesser extent than in the independent category, you get a very heavy weighting for English and, indeed, if you can't speak English then it is virtually impossible for you to gain entry to Australia.

MONICA ATTARD: Jim Short who is the Coalition's Immigration spokesperson, speaking there to Rebecca Gorman.