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Tuesday, 27 March 1984
Page: 699

Senator MARTIN(3.24) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

This statement was made by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West) in the House of Representatives on 7 March 1984. I do not intend to traverse the same area as was covered by the shadow Minister for Immigration, Mr Michael Hodgman. I wish to raise a couple of other issues that I think arise out of the Minister's statement. Last year the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs made a statement to the Parliament on the Government's objectives and priorities in relation to Australia's immigration program. At the time he said that he wanted to change the emphasis-on some occasions he called it the bias-of the previous Government's immigration program. Certain targets were set for the Hawke Government in terms of numbers and priorities.

The statement by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, delivered recently in the House of Representatives, outlined a number of failures in terms of targeted immigration programs and the bases of such programs. The Minister stated that the Government's original immigration intake expectations for 1983- 84 were in the range of 82,000 to 90,000 people. In the statement made on 7 March 1984 that estimate has been revised downwards to a figure of 70,000. The Minister criticised the Fraser Government for the fact that in 1982-83 there were 83,000 arrivals in Australia. He criticised it on a number of grounds, including whether the Fraser Government had reached the targets it had set itself and announced specifically in the family reunion category. The Minister pointed out that the targets set by the Fraser Government in 1982-83 were not met in the family reunion category and instanced that as a criticism of the program. Nevertheless, in 1982-83 the Fraser Government's program was so successful that 13,000 more people came to Australia than the present Government will manage in 1983-84, despite the fact that the Government set itself a higher target than that achieved by the Fraser Government in 1982-83. It had set an upper target, a ceiling, of 90,000.

Senator Robertson —You said 125,000.

Senator MARTIN —If Senator Robertson reads my speech, he will understand the point I am making. The area on which the Minister dwelt in his statement is category C, involving family reunions of brothers, sisters and non-dependent children. He pointed out that the family reunion numbers will not be more than 16,000 in that category and that applications and admissions have fallen far short of what was anticipated. I am puzzled by that. A large number of immigration representations go through my office. The area in which I meet with the greatest change in effect of the Government's policy in terms of success in this family reunion category involves adult brothers or sisters and their families, people who migrated to this country some time ago. That is the most difficult area. I have one case where a family, middle-aged people, had had indicated to them that they would be allowed to come. This was at a time when assets were a factor-a factor which has now been downgraded by the present Government. Members of the family had sold their homes, but when the official letter came from Australia House they were told that they had been rejected. They have, of course, lodged an appeal, but that is fairly typical of cases that occurred last year. By rearranging its priorities, the Government is discriminating against these people.

I suggest to the Minister that, since his targets are falling so far short of what the Government had hoped for, he might re-examine this area. The Minister, quite rightly, in his statement to Parliament last year said that nobody should be able to buy his or her way into Australia, and I agree with that. But we are talking of people who have families here, who are established, who have been here for some time, and who have independent means of support and money to invest in this country. Australia needs that investment. We have been hearing from the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) in recent times how much this country needs investment because such investment means jobs for Australians, yet such people are being downgraded in their eligibility. The fact that they have money to invest and can be self-sufficient is no longer as important a category as it used to be, and the Government denies its own economic priorities.

I have almost exhausted my time in this debate and I shall refer to only one more matter. The Minister said in his recent statement:

. . . on balance the Government feels that the changes made to the points assessment systems last May--

which is the system about which I have been speaking-

have already significantly moderated previous bias in favour of highly skilled, English speaking, youthful and affluent migrants.

I do not know whether it was a bias but, whatever it was, I ask the Minister: What is wrong with highly skilled, English speaking, youthful and or affluent migrants? I do not say they are the only desirable migrants, but I would have thought that they were desirable traits in migrants. Something in our program that encouraged people with those characteristics would possibly be a good aspect. Perhaps the Government might rethink its views and stop referring to these things as a bias as though they were something negative.