08 May 2006

Migrants to Australia will have to speak English

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The Sunday Mail reported over the weekend that Minister of Immigration, Amanda Vanstone, has changed the English language requirements for migrants.

This round of changes comes days after a series of announcements and changes to Australia's various immigration, student and working holiday visas.

The overhaul of the skilled migration program follows a recent call by a prominent government MP for aspiring citizens to sit an English test.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone announced the changes to the program yesterday after a report found problems with the system. The minister explained that the aim of the skilled program is to place migrants quickly in jobs and that good English language skills and experience are vital to their success.

The review was conducted by leading migration experts Dr Bob Birrell of Monash University, Associate Professor Lesley-anne Hawthorne, of Melbourne University, and Prof Sue Richardson, from South Australia's Flinders University.

Their report found that the skilled program was generally working well; but many migrants were struggling to find jobs because a poor knowledge of English and a lack of relevant work experience.

Dr Birrell said he was pleased the Government had accepted his team's recommendations, and backed Cabinet's recent decision not to increase the skilled migrant intake in 2006-07.

Last month, federal parliamentary secretary for immigration Andrew Robb called for migrants to sit English tests before they could acquire citizenship.

Mr Robb also said they should be tested on Australian values.

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