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Thursday, 13 October 1983
Page: 1784


Mr HAND(9.13) —I rise for the few moments allotted to me to take up a couple of the points made by the absent shadow Minister for Immigration, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). It is extraordinary that, in the course of this debate on the estimates for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, neither of the shadow Ministers, neither the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter) nor the honourable member for Denison, addressed themselves to the appropriations. We heard a travelogue from the honourable member for Barker about this trips round the Northern Territory. We heard from the honourable member for Denison about the embargo on Russian trade and about the flag. But he did not utter a single word about the appropriations. The simple reason that happened is that the percentage increases for both departments are so great that honourable members opposite dare not talk about what this Government had done. Any section of the estimates of these departments shows quite clearly a percentage increase on the last Budget. Over and above inflation honourable members will find that generally the increase is quite substantial.

I recall the debate when the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West) handed down a statement and gave an outline of the number of people who would be allowed into Australia under the various programs. In the adjournment debate that night the honourable member for Denison started what I term as a vicious attack on people from Central America and other regions such as the Middle East. If honourable members recall that debate, the Minister outlined the fact that we were going to increase the number of people coming to Australia from Central America. The honourable member for Denison was very critical of the fact that the Minister was going to allow in 2,500 people from areas such as Central and South America.

People who have been watching the news services would have seen what occurred in the front of Parliament House tonight. There was a demonstration and a vigil by some people from Chile. I raised this matter on the night the Minister made his speech. The Chilean situation that was raised in the adjournment debate that night still exists. People in Chile have been driven from their country by their Goverment. The honourable member for Denison criticised this Government for allowing more refugees to come here from places such as Chile and Central America. Last week the Minister met with people in my electorate who have fled from Timor because of the aggression, the persecution and the slaughter of people there by the Indonesians. Those people were most grateful that the Minister talked to them. I am hopeful that big things can be done for that community in the near future.

It is important to remember that for seven years the former Government treated with contempt the migrant communities of this country. It treated them as though they did not exist. It treated the Aborigines in the same way. The honourable member for Barker should not shake his head, because that is what the former Government did. The former Government's record in immigration and ethnic affairs and Aboriginal affairs was appalling. One has only to go round the various communities and talk to the people. The former Government propped up some of its organisations with people who were not fit to be in positions because they did not have any interest in ethnic communities, or Aboriginal communities for that matter. If honourable members go round those communities they will hear from the people what they think about the present Government. They are saying that this Government is getting on with the job and living up to the commitments that it made, and they are damned glad that we are in office.

I say again that it is unfortunate that the honourable member for Denison is not in this chamber. He sneaks around the Parliament and says behind closed doors: 'Do not give up on Timor. I am with you on the Irish question'. He does not even come into the chamber to listen to the debate. I have never seen two shadow Ministers who have been in and out of this chamber as often as these two. I do not know what is going on outside this chamber but something damned interesting must be happening out there because they have shown a complete lack of interest in what has gone on here tonight. They have not addressed one policy area.


Mr Porter —Where is your Minister?


Mr HAND —They have not addressed one policy area at all. The Minister took care of the honourable member for Barker. He cleaned the honourable member right up when he opened his mouth earlier on the matter of Aboriginal affairs. The honourable member did not have one answer. He has not been able to come back at the Minister on anything he said. It may be that the Leader of the Opposition ( Mr Peacock) was in the chamber earlier whispering into the honourable member's ear. Perhaps he may have been told not to speak again in the course of the debate because he had made a absolute fool of himself.