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Tuesday, 22 November 1938

Mr McEWEN (Indi) (Minister for the Interior) . - I was interested to listen to the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) on this very important, very disturbing and very difficult matter. It falls to my lot to administer the immigration laws of this country, and I assure the honorable member that, as the policy of the Government stands to-day, and as it is administered, regard is definitely paid to the needs of these particular people to whom he has referred this evening. I am glad to be able to assure him that, acting directly within the limits of the Government's immigration policy as it affects white aliens, it is possible for us to admit to this country annually some few thousands of the class of people on behalf of whom he has made his plea.

Mr Green - They will grab your farm if you let them in.

Mr McEWEN - Permits are being issued at the rate of several thousands per annum to refugees seeking permission to enter Australia from Central European countries, where to-day there is political discrimination against those of the Jewish race. We are able to select from these applicants persons who, as individuals, comply with the requirements of our immigration laws, and to admit several thousands of them each year. I find it difficult, in the exercise of my office, to withstand the requests made day after day on behalf of persons of this refugee class who are not able to comply with the standards we set for white aliens. I have the very sad duty almost every day of having to interview people in my office, who, with tears in their eyes, plead for the admittance of relatives at present, perhaps, confined in concentration camps where, my interviewers explained to me, they are enduring a living death. One would wish that it were possible, while upholding the standard which we have set for ourselves, to admit many more of these people. I assure the honorable member that the Government isfully aware of their needs, and is doing everything it can. While the Government has to maintain the prescribed standards, while it must be careful not to admit aliens in such numbers as to create alien blocs or troublesome minorities, while it cannot admit persons of undesirable character, or those not in good health, while it cannot admit persons able to engage only in such occupations as would tend to depress Australian living standards, and while it is necessary, in some instances, to discriminate against aged persons, we still find it possible to grant permits to some thousands of persons who will, I am sure, prove, in the great majority of cases, valuable citizens. It is in accordance with these considerationsthat the policy of this country in regard to immigration has been framed and is being administered.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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