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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1938

Senator SIBRAA —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I ask: Is it a fact that Asian immigration under the Fraser Government was substantially higher than under the first full year of the Hawke Government? If so, does the Minister agree with the editorial in today's Sydney Morning Herald in which it is stated that the Opposition's contribution to a full and honest immigration debate has so far been extremely dishonest and that claims by the Opposition that the Government's immigration policy is pro-Asian and anti-British are 'nonsense'?

Senator GRIMES —I have noted the editorial in this morning's Sydney Morning Herald and the debates which have occurred in another place before this. About 3 .30 this afternoon in the House of Representatives the Prime Minister will be making a statement on immigration policy. I will be making that statement a little later in this place. I can merely say at the moment that Asian migration, including refugee arrivals, reached a peak of 26,528 in 1981-82. In 1982-83 the figure was 24,486. For the period July 1983 to December 1983 the figure was 11, 773. Senator Sibraa is clearly correct in his observations. However, it is worth while pointing out that in interpreting these figures for those who wish to make comparisons with similar figures for Europe and Britain one should be careful.

With the exception of refugees, who are obviously in a special category arising from our humanitarian and international obligations, people are selected for migration to Australia from all over the world according to pre-determined and universally applied criteria. This point ought to be emphasised: People are selected for migration according to the same criteria irrespective of where they apply and irrespective of their racial or religious background. It would be a sad day for human values if this or any other government were allowed to select people for migration on the basis of their race, religion or, for that matter, sex. People who arrive in this country for permanent residence and, ultimately, citizenship do so because they satisfy the selection criteria, which are well known to honourable senators and the public.

As to the second part of the question, as I said earlier, I did see the editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald. I certainly agree with the comments in that editorial, which states:

The only flaw in Mr Peacock's argument is that the Opposition's contribution to the full and honest debate has so far been extremely dishonest. Its claim that the Government has departed from bipartisan immigration policy by running a 'pro -Asian and anti-British' policy is nonsense. It was the Fraser Government that effectively cut back British and European migration after the collapse of the resources investment boom. Two months before the Hawke Government was elected, the then Minister for Immigration, Mr Hodges, cut the skilled migrant intake by nearly one third. Nothing the Hawke Government has done has significantly altered the number of migrants-skilled or otherwise-coming from Britain and Europe. The most important change since Mr Hawke took office is a decline in the number of applications from prospective British migrants: from about 26,000 in 1982-83 to 6,550 in the first seven months of this financial year.

The editorial continues:

If Mr Peacock wants to play a constructive role in the debate he could start by pointing out that an immigration program that will result in 4 per cent of Australia's population being of Asian extraction by the end of the century is not a policy to create an Asian Australian.

As I said, later this afternoon I will be making a statement which will give fuller details.

Senator Archer —Boring.

Senator GRIMES —Senator Archer is anxious to get into this debate in the usual racist and biased way. I suggest that he will have the opportunity to do that later.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The Minister will withdraw that remark.

Senator GRIMES —What must I withdraw?

The PRESIDENT —The remark just made in relation to Senator Archer.

Senator GRIMES —I withdraw.