Business calls for calm on refugees

By Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer
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Minister stands by Syria refugee call

Justice Minister Michael Keenan says taking in 12,000 Syrian refugees remains the right thing to do.

Syrian refugees should be considered an asset to Australia and not a risk, says a key business leader.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is facing calls from within his own coalition ranks to rethink the decision to permanently resettle 12,000 refugees from the Syrian crisis.

The critics say the refugees present too great a security risk to be allowed into the country.

But former Business Council chief Tony Shepherd, who has been enlisted to lead a search for jobs for the new arrivals, said the concern was misplaced.

The refugees were fleeing the violence, not wanting to be part of it.

"That's why they're here, to get away from that," Mr Shepherd told ABC television on Monday.

"It's a very humane decision (to take the 12,000) ... and I think we've got to carry that humanity a little bit further and just ensure that they settle in Australia and they make an economic contribution to the growth of our country as previous immigrants have."

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the government would stick by its decision.

"Taking 12,000 people from Syria was the right thing to do several months ago and it's still the right thing to do today," Mr Keenan told reporters in Canberra.

Liberal senator Cory Bernardi said the FBI and European authorities had voiced concerns about refugees carrying false identity documents.

"I think cabinet needs to reassess our decision," he told Sky News.

He also queried why the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees - which he described as a "bunch of unelected bureaucrats" - was making the refugee determinations.

Mr Shepherd said he had received a positive response from the business community in regard to the refugees, but as yet no big companies had signed onto a jobs agreement.

Labor frontbencher Brendan O'Connor said the opposition still supported the 12,000 intake, but rigorous background checks were needed.

"We are a big and generous nation and we should be playing our part," he said.