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Thursday, 13 October 1983
Page: 1758

Mr WEST (Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs)(5.13) —I will answer several points made by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) during his contribution, which was marked by erratic language about my alleged political background rather than concentrating on the facts and figures that he has been given concerning the estimates of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I particularly want to address the point that he raised about family reunion under this Government. I make it perfectly clear that there is no reduction in family reunion; on the contrary, there is a major increase. We have not turned down immigration as compared with last year, because in 1982-83-that is, under policies initiated by the previous Government-there were 82,899 visaed arrivals. We expect under my policies in 1983-84 an intake of between 80,000 and 90,000; so there is every likelihood there will be slightly more migrants this year.

The major difference is in the family reunion category. In 1982-83, according to my Department, there were 26,952 people in all categories of family reunion. In the areas of labour shortage and business migration, that is, new starters- many of them come here for jobs that do not exist, as manufacturing industry collapsed last year under the previous Government's policies-there was an intake of 31,836. So there were more new starters without family in Australia under the previous Government than there were family reunions. This year under our policies there will be up to 57,000 family reunions and the intake under the labour shortage category will be reduced to a maximum of about 11,000 and only 2 ,500-odd workers. We will still be able to cater for those jobs that really exist with regard to employer nomination. But I found that under the previous Government a list was being prepared by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations which supposedly listed job shortages. Stenographers, pastry cooks and boilermakers were all on that list. People in those categories would have come here only to join the unemployment queues. We have instigated a review-this is already in train and I inform the House that I expect the report to go before Cabinet shortly-between the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations and my Department to identify a new procedure by which we can identify those areas of skill shortages that really exist in Australia.

The other thing we achieved was to alter the points system to make it easier for family reunion, particularly in the brothers, sisters, and non-dependent children category. The migrant communities were telling me that it was easier for some people to have family reunions than others. Some people were more entitled to it. The case for family reunion in a time of recession is a humane case and is really not based on bringing in people because they may have particular employment skills even though there may be no job on offer or sponsorship. The Opposition criticised us because we deleted the points for English language capacity. That was not done to discriminate against the English speakers; it was to remove discrimination against the non-English speakers. We then gave slightly more points for sponsorship of intending family reunion migrants to people who were semi-skilled. We gave more points, though, for arranged employment and we gave more points for sponsorship by an Australian citizen.

Mr Hodgman —I supported that.

Mr WEST —Yes, and that is all very good. The end result is that we are producing more than twice as many family reunions this year for people who desire family reunion than the previous Government produced the previous year.

We are continuing two refugee programs because we think they are important. We are continuing the United Nations assisted passage program and the special humanitarian program to help those people who have human rights difficulties in their own country, or who may have escaped from a country and have family in Australia. The possible total number of migrants under those programs is about 20,000. But the difference between our policy and the previous Government's policy is that we are diversifying the sources. We will continue the programs. I have recently given an assurance to the Association of South East Asian Nations- including Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand-that we will continue with our resettlement programs. They will be slightly moderated, but they will continue. They gave the assurance that they will continue with their policies of first refuge. But we have diversified. The previous Government concentrated almost completely on Indo-Chinese refugees. We are continuing that program, but we are diversifying the intake. I have already announced intakes of people who have fled Iraq and Syria. They are conservative people. I have announced special humanitarian policies for the Sri Lankans and to a certain extent for Lebanese- although they do not, strictly speaking, come under the special humanitarian program; they come under the category of extended family reunion-and also for the Chilians and those from El Salvador. There are many problems involved in making selection, particularly in countries where there is civil turbulence. But we are doing our best.

The final point I want to answer is the accusation that somehow our immigration and refugee policies are slanted towards revolutionary or socialist countries. You talk about our connection with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Let me tell you this--

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Millar) —Order! I suggest that the Minister should not directly address the honourable member, but should speak through the Chair.

Mr WEST —I am sorry. Let me inform you, Mr Deputy Chairman, that the shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is dead wrong. When I was looking only yesterday at the lists of the current roll-over of refugees for the quarter , I saw that we would be taking up to 300 White Russians from China as part of an ongoing program. You criticise me because I dared to take 300 Chileans and 100 El Salvadoreans, yet you are perfectly happy to endorse a program to take 300 White Russians. You have the audacity to attack the Government for its migration and refugee policies and say that somehow it is unduly slanted towards the Soviet Union. Quite frankly, you are mad if you say that. It is just not right.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN —Order! The Chair rather hopes that the Minister was not still addressing the Chair when he speaks like that.

Mr WEST —No, Mr Deputy Chairman. Finally, we have provision for some 2,500 East European refugees. Many of them are from Poland, but some are from other countries and are currently in Europe outside their own countries. We have diversified: we have increased family reunions. I am sure that, unlike what the honourable member says, we have the full support of the Australian people and, more importantly in this sense, the support of the migrant communities of Australia for what we are doing.