Citizenship focus of immigration budget
The Age (Melbourne)
May 4, 2007 – 4:54PM
Funding for the controversial Australian citizenship tests will be rolled out in the budget next week as the government moves to promote its border protection credentials ahead of the election.
Spending on the citizenship changes, which will require applicants to sit a 30 question quiz on Australian customs, history and government, will be a central plank of immigration spending unveiled by Treasurer Peter Costello on Tuesday.
Crucially, the budget will reveal Australia's migration program for the coming year.
This includes the numbers of migrants and refugees the country plans to accept, with the figure broken down into skilled migrants, family reunion and those granted humanitarian and temporary protection visas.
There is likely to be a focus on skilled migration as the government tries to address skills shortages, along with further restrictions on family reunion visas.
A discussion paper released by the government in October recommended tighter rules for people living in Australia who nominate others for resettlement visas.
Immigration spending will include funding to enforce newly announced sanctions against employers who abuse the temporary skilled migrant worker program.
Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews this week announced a $7 million boost to the International Organisation for Migration to improve the care provided to asylum seekers detained in Indonesia.
The policy also includes an additional $450,000 to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Indonesia to speed up the processing of refugee claims and deter people from seeking out people smugglers for fast passage to Australia.
Labor has demanded an overhaul of the English language classes offered to migrants, amid criticism the program is failing new arrivals, particularly those from Africa.
Prominent refugee advocate Marion Le said she wanted to see a significant funding boost to the migrant English program, and improved services to help new migrants settle into life in Australia.
“I'd also like more money towards resettlement services for migrants to go to non-government organisations,” Ms Le said.
The budget should also contain ongoing funding for upgrades of immigration department technology to try to prevent a repeat of the Cornelia Rau and Vivian Alvarez Solon debacles.
Ms Rau was wrongly held in immigration detention, while Ms Solon was wrongly deported from Australia.