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'Use refugees to plug skills shortages'

'Use refugees to plug skills shortages'

Sun June 17, 2012 3:42pm

AUSTRALIA'S main political parties are "embarrassing" for failing to encourage more refugees to Australia to address worker shortages, says one of the nation's most successful businesswoman.

Speaking at the start of International Refugee Week, Janet Holmes a Court said a minority of intolerant and frightened people were misinformed by sections of the media and a lack of factual government information.

"The theme message for the coming week is `restoring hope', and I would hope for better debate and information about refugees, so people get the facts,'' Mrs Holmes a Court said.

"It's unfortunate that some sections of the media hold prejudiced views in this debate, and it's often reflected in what journalists write.

"It's astounding in a time when we have labour shortages and skills shortages that there are people in detention centres. If they have skills, why not use them? They would be so willing to work and so grateful for the opportunity.''

Mrs Holmes a Court will share the stage with two refugees this Wednesday at a Mirrabooka function to commemorate World Refugee Day.

She said her wish list of `restoring hope' included faster government processing of asylum seekers, the allowance of more family reunions, for children to be excluded from detention centres, and more humane treatment of those in detention.

``To quote Bob Hawke, we are all boat people,'' she said.

``These poor souls are desperate to escape appalling circumstances and hideous regimes. Yet our main political parties prefer to victimise them. For me, and many Australians, it's just embarrassing.''

Mrs Holmes a Court is patron of the Sydney-based group Together For Humanity, which visits schools and to lecture on intolerance and diversity.

``I'm an atheist, I work with a Sheik, a Rabbi and a Christian minister. And we are able to work together and take our message to students and help explode myths,'' she said.

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