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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 1132

Mr MAHER —My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Is it true that Australia now receives over one million inquiries from prospective immigrants each year? If so, what percentage of applicants is it possible for our nation to accept?

Mr YOUNG —I thank the honourable member for his question. It is true, as everyone knows and as not only our former Minister, Chris Hurford, but also other former Ministers such as the honourable member for Goldstein have told the Parliament from time to time, that the number of applications that we get from people who want permanent residence in Australia far outweighs the capacity of this country to take them. It is true that now well over one million applications are received in various parts of the world each year from people who would like to make Australia their home. I think most of the applications come through the office of the honourable member for Lowe. I think the Parliament can be commended on the way in which it has reached decisions that have allowed very general support for the way in which we have now built our migration program. It has a very great deal of support from both sides of the Parliament, which avoids any of the encouragement which may be given to minority voices in this community who can from time to time be so critical of the way in which the government of the day conducts its migration program.

There has been in the last year or two a slight increase in the number of people who have been given visas to live in this country, and that may be the case again in 1986-87. There will be no dramatic rise. Of course, it will be based on the selection system, which in no way discriminates against anyone in the world making an application to come here, but it will be done on the basis of the best interests of Australia being served first and foremost. The basis of family reunion and those classifications of employee nominees, skilled labour and independent and concessional visas, which are now the mainstay of our migration program, will remain in place, especially for 1986-87. As I say, we will see a small increase.

However, the question asked by the honourable member for Lowe poses certain problems for Australia in that some people believe that we are discriminating against those who are not able to receive entry into this country, but let me assure those listening outside that, as far as this Government and this Parliament are concerned, we will continue to give visas to people on their entry to Australia on a non-discriminatory basis.