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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 607

Mr MORRISON (2:35 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I note that, since August 2008, 79 boats have arrived illegally in Australian waters carrying 3,618 passengers, including 11 boats carrying 647 passengers this year alone. Can the Prime Minister explain to the House why he has decided to make stopping skilled migrants coming to Australia a more important policy priority for his government than stopping illegal arrivals to Australia?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —Can I simply say to the honourable member who has asked the question about migration policy that one of the problems that we have—

Mr Morrison —I’ve asked if you’re going to stop the boats, Kevin!

Mr RUDD —The honourable member asked a question about migration policy; I seek to respond to it. The problem that we have inherited with the skills system, as structured, of the previous government is that it is not properly tailored to the needs of the modern Australian economy. From the statement which has been issued by the immigration minister today, reinforced by the comments of the Deputy Prime Minister before, it is quite plain we need to adjust that for the future, because we want to get the right skills mix for the future needs of the economy. That is what we are on about; that is what we intend to do.

Secondly, I would say to the honourable member that the divisions on their side on migration policy were transparent for all to see in the doorstop interviews this morning.

Mr Morrison —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order on relevance. My question was related to why the Prime Minister has given preference to stopping skilled migrants—

The SPEAKER —The member for Cook will resume his seat. The Prime Minister is responding to the question.

Mr RUDD —I thank the honourable member again for his question and for his interjection. The government’s commitment to our migration policy for the future is to deal with the future skill needs of our economy. The system of skills and the way in which it was structured through the immigration portfolio in the past does not meet the needs of the future; hence the decision concerning the 20,000, which has been publicised in the nation’s newspapers today. It is the right way forward, it is in the national interest and it is tailored to our real economic needs, and the government stands by that. Our border protection policy, as honourable members opposite would know, continues to deal with the practical challenges which we confront and which all previous governments have confronted since the 1970s.