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National Party Leader suggests stricter approach to immigration

PETER THOMPSON: Dr Hewson's coalition colleague, the National Party Leader, Tim Fischer, says Asian Governments accept Australia's sovereign right to control migration numbers. Speaking in Singapore at the end of his Asian tour, Mr Fisher called for a stricter approach to migration, putting more emphasis on a person's ability to settle in Australia. Mr Fischer says our current migration policy should be reviewed, and numbers might have to be cut as Australia enters a recession. The National Party Leader spoke to Graeme Dobell.

TIM FISCHER: There are still areas of confusion, but on the fundamental, from both formal and informal soundings made at various governmental levels, there is an acceptance that Australia has a sovereign right to decide who comes to live in Australia, and they understand we should exercise that right; and, I might say, that's in much the same way that, of course, Thailand, Brunei and those countries, all exercise much stricter immigration entry processes than we do into Australia.

GRAEME DOBELL: Is there any suggestion from you that Asians should be a special area of control, that there should be some limit on the number of Asians that Australia takes?

TIM FISCHER: None whatsoever. My whole attitude to immigration is one of Australia exercising its sovereign right on a global approach, not targeted to any one region. And the counterpoint to that is I am adamant that equally, as a separate matter, Australia must build up its economic links with its own region.

GRAEME DOBELL: Does building up economic links, though, mean that you are going to be accepting a greater proportion of Asians in your immigration totals in the future?

TIM FISCHER: My judgment is that the question of immigration should be dealt with globally, that Australia should review its immigration policies and its specific criteria and review a settlement test associated with immigration; and Australia should make no apology for doing that as we enter an economic recession. Now is the time to exercise that fundamental review. And let me add to that, on the matter of illegal immigration, we should be as ruthless as other countries are in dealing with the doubling rate of illegal immigration to Australia.

GRAEME DOBELL: The issue of Asian immigration has been an explosive one for your party, for the Opposition, in recent years. Are you saying that there should be less Asian migrants coming in the next few years?

TIM FISCHER: I am not being region specific whatsoever. But I am, for example, opposed to letting into Australia people who do not fundamentally accept the level of tolerance in respect of our traditions, our institutions, our freedom of worship, our freedom of press and the like. If they're not prepared to accept those sort of conditions, no matter from where they come in the world, they should be dealt with. But I resent and reject any specific regional racial connotation, and I say again, Australia's economic future lies very much with the economic .... of Asia.

PETER THOMPSON: Tim Fischer, the Federal National Party Leader.