Democrats call to put the family back into migration

Moves to increase the business focus of Australia's immigration program will not work without accompanying family –friendly policies, according to the Australian Democrats.
The Coalition Government has made it much more difficult for families to come to Australia, Senator Andrew Bartlett, the Democrats' immigration spokesperson told the Migration Institute of Australia National conference, being held today on the Gold Coast.
"For skilled people to come here and contribute over the long term it is important that they can maintain their family links," Senator Bartlett said.
"One of the fundamental problems within the current immigration program is the shift away from family reunion to immigration only being viewed in a short term economic sense.
"In the short-term, business people bring money to Australia while parents, young people, people with disabilities or health problems cost money. But the real gains in migration are made over the long-term.
"Whilst initially the biggest budget benefits may come from the skilled stream, the long-term social benefits come from the family reunion and humanitarian streams. In the long term those migrants repay the initial costs, have a greater commitment to staying in Australia and becoming Australian citizens than those who apply on business visas.
"Those who apply on business visas find they cannot sponsor their families to come to Australia, and choose to return," Senator Bartlett said.
"Multiculturalism depends on families and the blending of traditions from migrant communities with the Australian way of life.
"The shift began with the introduction of the two-year waiting period for benefits, followed by limiting preferential family sponsorship rights to Australian citizens, the introduction of rigorous assessment of spouse and de-facto visas, the balance of family test for parents and the introduction of the English skill test for migrants.
"Many of these changes have been made with the support of the Labor Party," he said.
The Democrats strongly oppose the current limit of 500 parents per year in the parent reunion program.
Senator Bartlett said it was appalling that the Government continued to take applications for the parent visa category, which would in reality take forty years to be processed.

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