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Wednesday, 14 September 1983
Page: 766


Mr RONALD EDWARDS(3.38) —I think it is very unfortunate that in the context of this debate this afternoon the Opposition has failed to address itself to one of the really serious issues facing the Australian community; that is, racism. It is also very unfortunate that the Opposition spokesman on immigration tried to blow up divisiveness where there is no divisiveness. There is enough divisiveness facing this community in terms of migrant issues and the mass issues of unemployment, without the Opposition talking as though we run our immigration policy on the basis of some ideology. The Opposition might find it convenient and easy to posture, but the people will not be deceived. One of the major issues we inherited from the lamentable previous Government is mass unemployment. As the electorate well knows, in the face of mass unemployment people begin to wonder why they do not have jobs when someone from overseas has a job. It is a very serious issue. It is not one given to party politics and it is not one that the Opposition should exploit cheaply, but I see that it deceptively does so today, and it is to its own disgrace that it does.

I notice that the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) is leaving the chamber because he does not seem to want to address these issues seriously. If he had addressed these issues seriously he would have begun to talk about the contribution he can make as a member of the Opposition, to the proper development of immigration policies. We began in government with the belief that there was an opportunity to develop bipartisan policies with respect to a number of matters: Industrial relations, economic planning and immigration. By its moves today the Opposition has indicated that it will seek to behave as divisively as it did in government. The migrant community and the rest of the community will not admire it for that. That is why the former Government is in opposition and that is why it will stay in opposition. It does not have the breadth of vision to come in here with decent proposals or an ability to put together policies to which the rest of the community can relate.

Let us go to the details of the matter. It seems to me that when we as a community seek to bring in people from countries such as El Salvador and Chile the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) says: 'You are bringing in people from left wing backgrounds'. How do Opposition members account for the fact that we inherited from them a policy, which we endorsed, to bring in people from Indo -China? I know it is awkward and I know that honourable members opposite do not find that very straightforward but we did the right thing. We inherited a policy with respect to Indo-Chinese migrants. We have continued that policy and we are seeking to deal positively with that policy. We are also bringing in people from Syria and Sri Lanka. We have sent an immigration officer to Sri Lanka and to El Salvador to try to expedite those processes. These are not easy manoeuvres; they are not things that this community necessarily wants to take lightly. But it places these people in serious danger. Certainly we are removing from serious danger these people whom we are bringing into this country.

I believe that this matter of public importance does not address itself to some substantial positions. In our time in government we have sought to expand the family reunion program. We have evidence of this. In terms of family reunion we are increasing the number from 46,000 to 57,000. The honourable member for Mitchell said that we are not concerned about family reunion. Those figures are not an invention; they are a reality. The honourable member for Mitchell will have to deal with that reality, as awkward as that might be. I can understand why he might find that awkward. It seems that many Opposition members find great difficulty in dealing with the facts. One of the facts of life is that they are in opposition, and they will stay there while they act as weakly, incompetently and irrelevantly as they currently do on major issues of policy.

It is wonderful to hear such irrelevant posturing from the honourable member for Denison and the honourable member for Mitchell. But let me go on. We have also made some major moves with respect to having multilateral talks. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West) has recently been to Honolulu to talk about that. The honourable member for Mitchell cheaply seeks to exploit that. What is wrong with talking with other countries about orderly migration programs, with talking with one of our allies, the United States of America, about a decent migration program? Somehow, honourable members opposite seem to find that awkward. I, the Government and the Australian community do not find it awkward because we believe in consultation. Honourable members opposite may believe in conflict and divisiveness and they may think it is easy to snipe. We believe in decent consultation with people to try to get an orderly immigration program going.

I believe that there are some other things with which we have to deal. If we look at the overall Budget appropriation for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs we find that there has been a 14 per cent increase. Again, honourable members opposite find factual information such as this awkward to deal with. It may be too complex but I think it is also too awkward because it tends to tell a story which works in the favour of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs-that is, that we have increased the amount we are spending on immigration. If we look at some of the specific areas, we see that in 1983-84 an additional 60 grants will be made for migrants at a cost of $778,000. This will take the total amount, in terms of grants in aid, to $4,878,000, which is up on the amount of $3,150,000 that the former Government spent in its latter, lamentable days.

We are spending money in the immigration area because we believe that that is very important. We believe that, in order to try to make this an effective multicultural community, we, as a government, have to take responsibility for matters such as these; we have to have reasonable programs and we have to spend money on them. This is one of those programs.

Let us look at the question of assistance to migrant resource centres. In the 1983-84 Budget we plan to spend $1,520,000. During the 1982-83 period the former Government spent $1,320,000. So we have increased the amount we are spending on migrant resource centres by $200,000. It is interesting to see the honourable member for Perth (Dr Charlesworth) in the chamber at present. Both he and I recognise that the North Perth Migrant Resource Centre plays an important role in our community. It has a great deal to do with major issues concerning migrants. We believe that this amount of expenditure is the sort of thing that government should be doing.

I had hoped, on coming into this chamber, to hear those on the other side of the chamber say: 'Yes, we endorse that. We believe that that is the right way to move. We want to move that way'. That is why I am suggesting to honourable members opposite in debates of this kind that the community is seeking solutions . It does not want its problems exploited. That is what the previous Government did for seven years and that is why Opposition members are where they are. We are here to try to offer solutions. We are also here in the desperate hope that one day honourable members opposite might actually be able to work without conflict and with consensus. That is why we continue to make these appeals to honourable members opposite. Honourable members opposite should try to support us in some of these manoeuvres rather than simply try to exploit them.

We have budgeted $42m for adult migrant education programs. The previous Government expended $36m. Again I am suggesting to honourable members opposite that these are major programs and initiatives. They represent the way in which this Government is responding effectively to the demands of the community. We have a multicultural community and we do not seek to exploit those divisions. In fact, we seek to enhance the nature of our multiculturalism.

I note also that there has been some comment on some specifics with respect to someone like Professor Hidaka. I understand that I make it uncomfortable for honourable members opposite when I mention the name of Professor Hidaka because the former Government prevented him from coming to Australia. I congratulate this Government and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs for intelligently allowing Professor Hidaka to come to Australia. Honourable members might ask why. I do so because thousands of respectable people believe that Professor Hidaka can make a contribution to the Australian academic community. There are people in the academic community and people in Japan who also believe that Professor Hidaka can make a contribution. I know that honourable members opposite may find this awkward. But we believe that Professor Hidaka has a right to free speech and he has a contribution to make. When we consider that, in the past, previous government leaders were opposed to freedom, particularly within their Party, I can understand how awkward it is for honourable members opposite when people want a free say.

Honourable members opposite may have had very desperate and very awkward leaders in the past who did not particularly like people to speak out against them. We are not afraid of that. We do not have things to hide. If honourable members opposite have things to hide they should go away and hide them somewhere else because we are not worried about that. We welcome Professor Hidaka to Australia. We believe that we can build a community that is more fairly based, more equitable, more just, and more honest. We are not afraid to aim for those targets. We are not afraid to do these things. Honourable members opposite cannot contribute to this sort of debate because all they grew up with was seven years of conflict and divisiveness. Their behaviour today is further evidence of that.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The discussion is concluded.