Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone has accused unions and the federal Opposition of inciting xenophobia by referring to skilled migrants as foreign workers. Speaking at a National Workforce Symposium in Melbourne today, Senator Vanstone blasted criticisms levelled at the Government's skilled migration program, saying the system was crucial for addressing skills shortages.
Senator Vanstone said the campaign against the program was most likely linked to controversial industrial relations changes and that claims of unskilled "foreign workers" being brought to Australia and exploited were false. "I don't like that (term foreign worker), this is a migrant country, unless you're a full-blood indigenous Australian you've got migrant blood in your veins," Senator Vanstone said in her opening address to the symposium, hosted by the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association. "We are a nation of migrants and I am not confident that talking about foreign workers for people who come here as skilled migrants to help our businesses grow is at all a healthy development. "It is a very unwise person who follows that path of abuse or raising doubt and sneering and questioning people coming from overseas."
Senator Vanstone said comments by Opposition Leader Kim Beazley referring to skilled migrants coming from "Beirut, Bombay and Beijing" were inaccurate when 26 per cent of Australia's intake under the program was from the UK. "They're skilled migrants, we ask them to come here, they help Australian business grow ... why on earth would we refer to them consistently as Mr Beazley does as foreign workers other than to raise some form of xenophobia," Ms Vanstone told reporters after her address. "Why does he use in his criticism of this program Beruit, Bombay and Beijing, why didn't he use Belfast or Birmingham or Bristol?"
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