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Australia must set-up new migrants and refugees to succeed

By Teresa Gambaro - posted Monday, 8 October 2012

Australia is arguably the world's most successful immigration nation. But, if we are to build on that proud heritage, we need to ensure our settlement services set new migrants and refugees up to succeed not to fail.

Since WWII, immigration has transformed Australia from a nation of some seven million to one of more than 22 million people with more than 260 different cultural backgrounds. In that time, immigration has seen more than seven million people settle here, including almost 750,000 refugees.

There can be no dispute that immigration has made Australia the nation we know today. It has made us a stronger Australia.


I am proud to say that I share in this migrant heritage being born to Italian immigrant parents who owned and operated the local corner store and worked hard to develop their business and support their family.

Regrettably though Labor's appalling border protection policy failures run the risk of polarising Australian society and unravelling these successes.

As at the end of September this year, under the soft border protection policies of this Labor Government, 442 boats and more 26,000 people have been allowed to arrive illegally by boat.

In September itself, 2,355 people turned up on 35 boats in 30 days. This compares with 34 boats and 1,969 people in August and 31 boats and 1,828 people in July.

Under John Howard's successful polices there was an average of just 45 people turning up every year, over six years. On this standard, we have now had more than fifty years of boat arrivals in just one month.

On a calendar year basis, 11,409 people have turned up on 170 boats in 2012, in the first nine months of the year. At the average rate of arrivals under the Howard Government's full suite of policies, it would take more than 250 years to reach this same result.


Beyond the catastrophic loss of life and inability to discourage people smugglers, Labor's border protection failures also equate to a $4.9 billion budget blow out since 2009/10. This blow out does not include the additional $1.3 billion required to increase Australia's refugee and humanitarian intake to 20,000 (up from 13,750) as part of the Houston Report's recommendations.

The astronomical cost impacts flowing from Labor's horrendous border protection policy failures means we need to urgently focus attention on delivering settlement services for new migrants and refugees that produce sustained positive outcomes. And somehow we have to do that with $4.9 billion less in the Budget.

Dramatic spending increases should not be seen as the best or the only response as to how we as a nation meet this challenge.

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About the Author

Teresa Gambaro is the Federal Member for Brisbane and Chair of the Joint Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.

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