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Wednesday, 4 December 1985
Page: 2904

Senator ELSTOB —Does the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs agree that immigration can help economic development and create jobs? How has the Government countered the fear that immigrants are taking jobs from Australians?

Senator GRIMES —One often hears concerns from people in the community that we should cease the immigration program in order to protect jobs. I suppose one could argue that an unrestricted immigration policy, a complete open door policy, may affect jobs in the way that some people suggest, as Senator Elstob has pointed out. But a sensible immigration policy with a growth in immigration in the right places can help to stimulate the economy and assist jobs. The Government is supported in its program by various research projects which have looked at the economic consequences of immigration. A recent report of the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia makes it clear that an increase in migration can assist recovery and improve job prospects for some of the unemployed. It is important to say, as the report states, that this can occur. The report points out that a carefully designed program can give job prospects a relatively greater boost. The study found that expenditure by recently arrived migrants, partially financed by the funds that they bring with them, can substantially affect the pattern of consumer demand, including the demand for housing.

The increase in migration in 1985-86 is focused mainly on the economic categories of skilled labour, employer nominees and business migrants as well as the family reunion part of the program. In each of the economic categories there are specific requirements to ensure that the unemployed are not adversely affected by migrant entry. For example, skilled labour entry is available only in occupations in short supply in Australia and an employer nomination is accepted only if a position cannot be filled in Australia.

The Government uses every opportunity to inform the community that any fears of adverse employment opportunities resulting from the immigration program we have now are essentially misplaced. But, of course, it is obvious that, during times of economic difficulty, there is a tendency in all countries, Australia included, to blame minority groups and migrants are sometimes the easiest minority group to blame. As Senator Elstob's question implies, it is important that we, as members of the legislature, do not indulge in such scare tactics and I point out that this Government's migration program is carefully designed to avoid any adverse economic effects.