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September 1998, Volume 5, Number 9

Australia: Immigration and Population

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson's June 1998 call for zero net migration prompted an August debate between the major political parties over immigration and population. Under the immigration policy of the One Nation party, there would be 25,000 to 30,000 immigrants each year, as immigration matched emigration. Australia expects 80,000 immigrants in 1998-99; with 25,000 emigrants, net migration is expected to be 55,000.

Australia's foreign minister called on the One Nation leadership to dissociate itself from anti-Asian slurs published in a letter to the editor in the English-language Bangkok Post on August 7. The author purported to be a One Nation member who felt obliged to spell out the party's anti- immigration policies to all Asian countries in order to end an influx of immigrants. The foreign minister called the letter to the editor "one of the most vile and disgusting attacks on Asia and Asians imaginable."

One Nation's national director said that the letter did not represent the party's views and that there is no evidence that a member of the party wrote the letter.

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in August warned Australians not to embrace Pauline Hanson's One Nation party: "We both, Australians and Americans, have the privilege of living in very large land masses, but in both our countries we are multi-ethnic societies. We are both countries of immigrants and I think that, as countries of immigrants," isolationism must be avoided.

Opposition Labor Leader Kim Beazley called for increasing the annual immigration quota over time to offset the aging Australian population. Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock countered that, under current policies, Australia's population, now at 18.5 million, will reach 23 million by 2050 (other projections are 26 million), and that Labor should announce a population target if it disagreed with current immigration levels. Labor promised that, if elected, it would rename the Office of Multicultural Affairs and move it back into the Prime Minister's Department as the Office of Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs.

Australia has no target population; the annual level of immigration is determined each year on an ad hoc basis.

Ruddock has said that about 4,572 business people have entered Australia as Business Skills migrants since 1992. According to a survey by Access Economics, 23 percent of the business skills migrants came from Hong Kong. The survey also found that more than US $687 million in funds and assets have been transferred to Australia by business migrants.

A businessman from Hong Kong reported he paid nearly US$1 million to an immigration consultant firm to become an Australian resident. The former construction firm owner says the consultant firm promised to help him obtain permanent residency in Australia as a business emigrant two years ago. He obtained a temporary business entry visa in January 1996 after paying a $60,000 application fee. The business venture never materialized, the police rejected his claim that the company cheated him, and he returned to Hong Kong after three months. About 40 to 50 other people have reportedly had similar experiences with the same company.

Three South Koreans were arrested at a West Australian mine, leading the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union to report that there are illegal workers at many big construction and mining sites around Australia. The union has found workers from countries such as the US, New Zealand, Ireland, Korea and South Africa, who pay about $2,500 for false documents that allow them to work. Australia's Department of Immigration does not believe that the problem is as big as the union asserts.

"Australian government cries foul over One Nation letter," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, August 12, 1998. Rod McGuirk, "FED: Downer calls on One Nation leaders to act on letter," AAP Newfeed, August 12, 1998. Kylie Walker, "Illegal Workers Employed Throughout Aust., Union Says," AAP Newsfeed, August 7, 1998. Peter Chen, "Australian official touts economic benefits of migrants," Central News Agency, July 31, 1998.