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Oz opposition leader suggests mature immigration debate

Candidly favouring immigration, opposition leader Tony Abbott on Monday asked Australians to have "a mature debate about immigration without being branded racist."

world Updated: Jan 25, 2010 14:08 IST

Candidly favouring immigration, opposition leader Tony Abbott on Monday asked Australians to have "a mature debate about immigration without being branded racist."

"What I said was that there was an anxiety among some people that this might be the case," Abbott was quoted in media in Melbourne as saying.

Abbott has been criticised for saying last week that he believed some Australians were anxious that citizenship was granted too lightly. But he said there must be room for a debate on immigration, without allegations of racism immediately being thrown around.

"I think that when people see a questioning of what might be described as core Australian values, I think when people see boat people being let in in ways which look like the Government has backed down, I think this whole population issue feeds into an immigration debate," he said.

He said: "We've always had our anxieties about immigration but I have to say that by and large we've managed a really successful immigration program despite those anxieties.

"The important thing is to be able to have a mature and intelligent debate about immigration without ... the instant (that) issues are raised, people rushing around with accusations of racism."