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Friday, 7 September 1984
Page: 663


Senator TATE —I refer the Minister for Veterans' Affairs to reports that the Returned Services League National Congress has rejected motions calling for an immigration policy based on racial selection. Will the Minister congratualte the RSL on its moderate standing policy on migration, and particularly congratulate Sir William Keys, who as National President put his integrity above the pressures being applied by Mr Bruce Ruxton? Was the debate at the RSL Congress indicative of a more temperate stance on a wide range of issues by this important national organisation?


Senator GIETZELT —All Australians are aware of the rather bitter debate that took place this week in Melbourne at the national congress of the Returned Services League. The congress rejected motions calling for an immigration policy based largely on racial criteria. In fact, it adopted a policy which could be described as a moderate and measured policy respecting average opinion in Australia. I think that that decision reflects great personal credit on Sir William Keys, the RSL's national President, in that the RSL has followed a responsible and temperate path in this matter. At the earliest opportunity I shall offer congratulations in that regard to Sir William Keys and to the organisation of which he is President.

In recent years, numerous calls have been made to the Returned Services League from both within and without its ranks in support of a more forward looking, temperate and responsible approach to the issues of the day and in support of the need for the RSL to increase its concentration on issues of veterans' welfare in the context of the rapidly aging constituency of the RSL. Reference has been made to that fact by Sir Zelman Cowan at the 1981 conference, by Sir Ninian Stephen, who was the second Governor-General to do so, at the subsequent conference, and by my colleague, Senator Grimes, in his former capacity as the shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs. I referred to that point in my contribution on Monday. It is clear that the RSL is moving towards a less controversial and more welfare-oriented public role in response to the need for the organisation to cater for the needs of an aging membership throughout Australia. To that extent, I thoroughly applaud the steps in that respect that were taken at the congress.