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Wednesday, 9 October 1996
Page: 3782

Senator COLSTON —My question is directed to Senator Short in his capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. Is it correct that, of the 50,000 Chinese students who came to Australia during the late 1980s and early 1990s, there remains a group of about 4,000 who were not granted permanent residency status and whose futures are still uncertain? If so, was the group of students given an assurance—either before the election in March or since then or both—that the coalition government would consider this matter with a view to satisfactorily resolving these students' long-term status? Further, I ask the minister to advise the Senate what efforts have been made to resolve this situation. When can the Senate expect to be advised that a resolution has been reached which is satisfactory to the government and this group of students?

Senator SHORT —I thank Senator Colston for his question. It is an important question and I thank him for giving me some advance notice of it so that I can give him the full facts.

Senator Colston's questions relate to a number of people who have sought permanent residence in Australia and are referred to as the 1 November caseload. The majority of those cases are from the People's Republic of China. All but 500 to 600 of those people have had their cases finalised; 41,527 people—mainly from the PRC—have been granted permanent residence in Australia; and 2,641 applications covering 3,129 persons from the PRC have been refused. Those applicants who have been unsuccessful and who seek a review of their decision will take longer, of course, to have their cases finalised.

The government is aware that many of those who have been unsuccessful have been in Australia for a considerable period of time. We are concerned, and have been for some time—including before we were in government—about the length of time taken to finalise their situation. During the recent election both major parties indicated that the situation of those PRC students who failed to benefit from the 1 November 1993 decision would be examined. The coalition stated that it would resolve the matter satisfactorily.

Discussions have been held with representatives of the Chinese students and the Chinese community since the election in both May and July of this year on the students' situation. The government has not, as yet, come to a concluded view on the matter. When we have come to such a concluded view on a satisfactory basis—which I hope will be a view that we can communicate sooner rather than later—the people concerned will, of course, be advised.