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Wednesday, 9 May 1984
Page: 1836


Senator CHIPP (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(3.47) —Debate on the Australian Citizenship Amendment Bill comes at a time when race has become a central issue in Australian politics. The debates and incidents in this Parliament and the media over the last couple of days should give all of us cause to pause and contemplate. We are now debating a Bill which is closely linked with and related to Australia's immigration policy. Immigration is a foundation policy upon which this country has been built. Australia has more overseas born people than any other nation in the world except Israel. One would have thought that that historical legacy would have given us a special sensitivity to migrants. It is a very delicate and fragile area upon which to make comments. I go no further than this: The attitude of the Opposition's spokesperson on this question as far as I am concerned is to be deeply regretted . Yesterday his speech made little reference to facts or details about the make- up of Australia's immigration policy but it was certainly charged with lots of rhetoric about radicalism, republicanism, the Queen, the flag and other matters. I go no further than to say that what he said was regrettable. I would rather quote in some substance from a magnificent editorial, a balanced editorial, in the Australian this morning:

It is not only acceptable, it is desirable that there should be a rational discussion of such a basic element of our national life as our immigration policy.

It is quite proper to point to the problems which could arise in a time of unemployment from bringing in large numbers of settlers with easily identifiable distinguishing characteristics.

. . . .

But accusations as to who 'brought the Asians in' and similar attempts at point -scoring can only heighten latent racial tensions and make rational argument impossible.

. . . .

We need a debate on immigration. It should not be stifled by misguided efforts to avoid accusations of 'racism'.

The Australian editorial continued:

But, unless it is carried on with moderation and respect for other points of view, we shall come to no sensible conclusion-

Here the editorial reminds us of a sombre truth:

and Australia will become an ugly place to live in.

I commend those sentiments wholeheartedly. The Australian Citizenship Bill deals with a number of specifics about citizenship-the ultimate result of the immigration program. The majority of those specifics have the support of the Australian Democrats. I will come back to them in a moment. The Opposition has moved some basic amendments to the motion for the second reading of the Bill and will be moving certain amendments in the Committee stage of the debate. I indicate briefly at this second reading stage that we will support the Opposition's amendment which states: But the Senate-

(a) disagrees with the Government's action in seeking to remove reference to Her Majesty the Queen from the oath of allegiance and the affirmation of allegiance.

We will support that part of the Opposition's amendment to the second reading stage of the Bill. Part (b) of the Opposition's amendment which is in three parts we cannot support for reasons that I will give at the Committee stage. I want to assist in setting the foundation for rational debate on immigration that is to take place in this country from now until an election later this year. It is nearly apparent that the Opposition has now resiled, for what it says are good reasons, from debating what the Australian says should be debated. The Opposition seems to have resiled from bipartisanship in this area and identified immigration as an issue which should be debated in a partisan way. I accept that that is the right of the Opposition. However, I do not agree with that for the reasons that I will give. As the Australian has said, that is a perfectly respectable position for the Opposition to take. I would like to look at facts- provided the motivation for it is not to tap that scum out there who dwell on racism and take enjoyment from that.

The debate so far has been couched in terms of whether current policy is pro- Asian, anti-Asian or pro-or anti-British. I point out that this characterisation is grossly misleading. It is not possible to compare Asia with Britain and Ireland. There are countries called Britain and Ireland. We can identify them and the people from there. However, there is no country known as Asia. It is not just one entity. Asia is a misused term for a number of separate nations. It is malicious for anyone to contrast one nation with one region and then claim bias. Unfortunately it is a comparison encouraged by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in the way it presents its data. In 1982-83, for example, the major sources of settler arrivals to Australia, including refugees, were as follows: Britain and Ireland, 29.2 per cent; Asia, 26.3 per cent. Of settler arrivals in 1982-83, 29 per cent came from Britain and Ireland and 26 per cent came from Asia. The bulk of the Asian component-that is the 26 per cent-was composed, of course, of refugees. I emphasise the fact that the bulk of those people were refugees. They were not people whom the then Government wooed to come here from that part of the world.

If some people are considering cutting Asian migration-which the Democrats are certainly not contemplating and would not support-they will have to reduce the refugee intake. There is no other way of doing the sums. We believe that that would be an inhumane and callous view. Such an action could not be substantiated for a country such as Australia. I do not want to become sentimental, maudlin or emotional over this issue but when I walk down the street of any Australian city and see people who clearly have been refugees from a Asian country I secretly, although I am not a very religious person, thank God that I am an Australian and that I play a part in a country which was able to do a Christian act-an act of which Jesus Christ would have been proud. People who had nowhere to live could find a home and find solace in a beautiful, strong, rich country such as Australia. I would have liked to have thought that that sentiment, even from people not religious at all, could have been expressed in similar, if not identical words.

If we look at the source countries rather than the fictitious region of Asia, an altogether different picture emerges. In 1982-83 the major source countries for settler arrivals were Britain with 34.6 per cent of non-refugee intakes, New Zealand with 10.2 per cent and Germany with 6.4 per cent. These are the source countries for settler arrivals. I repeat, British arrivals represented 34.6 per cent, New Zealand 10.2 per cent and Germany 6.4 per cent. When we look at those countries which could be classified as being Asian we see that Hong Kong arrivals represented 2.5 per cent. If we want to identify people by race, no doubt there would be a great number of Europeans in that percentage. Arrivals from India represented 1.6 per cent, and Singapore, 1.1 per cent. The so-called Asian intake of settlers in 1982-83 was almost infinitesimal compared to that non-refugee intake from Britain, New Zealand, Germany et cetera. I seek leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard a detailed table containing those figures. The table is from the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs 1982-83 review.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-

MAJOR SOURCES OF SETTLER ARRIVALS 1982-83

Total arrivals

Excluding refugees

Rank

Country (a)

Number Per cent Country (a)

Number Per cent

1.

Britain 26 337 28.3 Britain 26 320 34.6 2.

New Zealand 7 757 8.3 New Zealand 7 757 10.2 3.

Germany 5 482 5.9 Germany 4 861 6.4 4.

Thailand 5 159 5.5 South Africa 3 091 4.1 5.

Malaysia 5 153 5.5 The Philippines 2 837 3.7 6.

The Philippines 3 998 4.3 U.S.A. 2 342 3.1 7.

South Africa 3 091 3.3 Hong Kong 1 947 2.5 8.

Hong Kong 2 756 3.0 Malaysia 1 674 2.2 9.

Austria 2 645 2.8 The Netherlands 1 617 2.1 10.

U.S.A. 2 349 2.5 Canada 1 435 1.9 11.

Indonesia 2 342 2.5 India 1 232 1.6 12.

Yugoslavia 1 771 1.9 Yugoslavia 1 206 1.6 13.

The Netherlands 1 617 1.7 Portugal 1 180 1.5 14.

Portugal 1 479 1.6 Zimbabwe 944 1.2 15.

Canada 1 435 1.6 Ireland 912 1.2 16.

India 1 279 1.4 Poland 909 1.2 17.

Singapore 1 044 1.1 Singapore 824 1.1 18.

Poland 1 010 1.1 Switzerland 800 1.1 19.

Zimbabwe 944 1.0 Lebanon 648 0.9 20.

Ireland 912 1.0 Spain 632 0.8

Other 14 617 15.7 Other 12 955 17.0

Total 93 177 100.0 Total 76 123 100.0

(a) Country of last residence as stated on incoming passenger card.

Source: Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.

('Review of Activities to 30 June 1983', Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, AGPS, Canberra 1983).


Senator CHIPP —I thank the Senate. The table shows that no country even comes close to Britain which is still the predominant source of settlers for Australia . The family reunion program makes up two-thirds of the current Government's intake. I again seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table that sets out what has happened in relation to applications and arrivals. The table clearly shows that while arrivals from the United Kingdom, Ireland and Europe have decreased by 4 per cent arrivals from Asia increased by only 2 per cent last year over the previous year. However, applications from Europe dropped off substantially in that year while those from Asia increased. In other words, the arrivals from Asia, if I can use that term, increased by only 2 per cent whereas the arrivals from the United Kingdom, Ireland and Europe decreased by only 4 per cent but during that time the applications lodged in Europe dropped dramatically from 209 ,000 to 130,000.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-

FAMILY REUNION

A. Total Migration Applications (includes all categories of migration except refugees, but predominantly family reunion)

1981-2 1982-3

UK/Ireland/Europe 209,608 130,144 Asia 47,963 67,827

B. Arrivals

Half-year

1982-3 1983-4

UK/Ireland/Europe 14,362 (53.3%) 8,142 (49.1%) Asia 6,928 (25.7%) 4,587 (27.6% )

Source: Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs


Senator CHIPP —I thank the Senate. That does not represent a change of policy. It is the result of the humane and enlightened approach to the refugee intake embarked upon by the Fraser Government. I felt proud to be an Australian when the magnanimous charitable christian attitude of the Fraser Government started off the idea of absorption of refugees. It was a courageous policy and one that had the total support of the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Democrats . Surely it is unrealistic to expect, even inconceivable to believe, that we could accept refugees in the late 1970s and now refuse their families in the 1980s. That is an unthinkable proposition. Senator Martin is attempting to interject. I am not saying that anyone is recommending that; I am just putting it as a possibility. Those on the manic fringe are recommending it. People such as Bruce Ruxton and people of that ilk are recommending no refugees at all. I am stating a simple truth. It is inconceivable that we could accept refugees of the Vietnam War in the late 1970s and then in the 1980s, when their families want to come here, say: 'No you can't come'. Of course Asian applications for family reunion have increased. Some 90,000 Asians are resident and they want to be with their families. We let the British and the Europeans be with their families. Asian people are not second class people and they must not be discriminated against.

For some Opposition senators to raise this as a concern seems to indicate by definition that persons who recommend that want some form of discrimination. I ask anybody who raises this: How else can we reduce the intake of Asian families ? People who do this should realise the consequences of what they are doing. In their desperate scramble to get a headline they are engineering community intolerance by advocating discrimination. The rhetoric does not match the facts. There is no discrimination. There are changes. There is an increase in the proportion of Asian arrivals and a decrease in the proportion of European arrivals. The absolute numbers still show that the traditional sources of settlers are still the largest sources. These changes are the results of enlightened and humanitarian policies put together by previous conservative governments with the support of all political parties. I have a table from the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs which shows that during the years of the Fraser Government the level of Indo-Chinese refugees was of an order ranging between 12,000 and 15,000. I commend the Fraser Government for that courageous piece of christianity. The target of the Hawke Government is 10,000 refugees, about 5,000 fewer than the actual figures of the Fraser Government. I seek leave to incorporate that table in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

INDO-CHINESE REFUGEE PROGRAMME ACCEPTANCES FOR AUSTRALIA

1974-75 691 1975-76 1,049 1976-77 1,135 1977-78 7,077 1978-79 11, 872 1979-80 14,952 1980-81 15,004 1981-82 13,805 1982-83 12,435 1983-84 (Target) *10,000

* estimate.

Source: Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs

An editorial in the Australian was headed: 'Australia must not become an ugly place to live'. But we will become an ugly place in which to live if the facts and their causes are ignored and replaced by wild politically motivated irrationality. I do not believe that those who have made accusations of bias are in themselves racist, but let all members of the Opposition know that, while they may not be racist, one has only to scratch the surface in Australia to find racism rampant. To inflame those sorts of people would be an act of irresponsibility which would be hard to forgive or condone.

The danger is that the consequences of the rhetoric of some people will be to fan those underground elements of racism and prejudice. The result will be the emergence of every bigot from the woodwork. Every fruitcake in the country will ooze from his slimy corner to gain a piece of the revolting action which is racial intolerance. That process inspires some ugly memories of past prejudice and discrimination. This nation was enlightened enough to put an overdue end to discrimination in the 1970s. We recognise that a person is a person, regardless of his colour, creed or nationality. All that will be undone unless those who believe their political hides are worth saving come to their senses and see the consequences of these actions.

In conclusion, I commend the words of an anonymous philosopher to those who are tempted to go even a little way down this stinking, rotten track of racial exploitation. This philosopher said as he contemplated eternity while he was very ill:

I know not what record of sin awaits me in the other world but this I do know . . . that during my lifetime I was never evil enough to despise a person because they were poor, because they were ignorant or because the colour of their skin was different to mine.

May every honourable senator of this Senate say 'Amen' to that.