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Friday, 2 December 1938


Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- Yesterday a report of the International Committee on German and Austrian refugees, and a report of the Australian delegation to that gathering were tabled in the House. Shortly after ward's, a statement was made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) on the subject, of migration. The. Lender of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) spoke, and although I row to speak, I was not afforded an opportunity to do so. As one who is very interested in this problem, 1 now ask the indi.ilge.nce of the House while I make a few observations on it.

The statement of policy by the Minister for the Interior on the. matter of German and Austrian refugees is welcome, and is in line with recommendations I have made to the Government. As Australian delegate, to the International Conference at Evian in July last, called at the invitation, of President. Roosevelt, I was impressed by the desire for cooperation in an endeavour to solve this tragic problem. Though' persecution was not then so acute, there was a general desire for co-operation among the representatives of the 32 nations present, and the conference unanimously resolved to continue and develop the work of the Inter-Governmental Committee. As a result a Bureau of the Committee was formed, which met. later in London, and thereby the machinery was set up to transform a haphazard flight of destitute refugees into a more orderly exodus. This body has since asked the participating countries to indicate the numbers they are prepared to receive. The ministerial announcement that 15,000 will be admitted to Australia over a period of three years is Australia's reply, which is a slight increase on previous admissions, the Commonwealth having pursued a policy as liberal as that of any other country.

If honorable members will road the proceedings of the Inter-Governmental Committee, and the report of the Austraiian delegation, they will see that representatives of certain countries offered opportunity for experienced agriculturalists, while limited scope for pro fessional men and trained workers was proffered in others. There was, however, general disapproval of any large-scale scheme of migration as being calculated to arouse racial feeling. A process of infiltration was considered more likely to enable tile refugees to be easily assimilated into the national life of the country to which they migrated ; this is the policy that the Government is continuing.

As chairman of the committee set up at. Evian to hear the case from the various Aryan, non-Aryan and Jewish organizations - representatives of about 40 of them attended at Evian, where they told the story of their persecution - I was struck by the necessity for action, and concluded my report to the main conference, as follows : -

The moving stories told disclose ยป great human tragedy which calls for early amelioration and challenges the conference to cooperative action to that end.

The Minister said that preference would be given in the selection of refugees to artisans and industrialists who could give some help to Australia. That is in line with what I said at Evian. That policy was adopted long ago by Great Britain, and I am glad that it is to be the policy of Australia. Centuries ago England gave sanctuary to persecuted Flemish and French refugees, and thereby gained many new industries, including weaving. So to-day, by wise selection, particularly among Austrians, can Australia gain too. At the Evian conference not. all the representatives were Jewish. There were representatives of the Quakers and other peace-loving organizations, and many non-Aryan Christians, the part-Jewish types, and others. I know from the evidence given there - honorable gentlemen can read it in the supplements to the, concise report of the Inter-Governmental Committee- that there is a great scope for establishing new industries in Australia by the immigration of skilled artisans, of types that we have never had before. They would do a great good to the Commonwealth.

Every one welcomes tho unhesitating acceptance by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), for the Labour party, of the principle of the help that Australia is giving to these refugees in their time of trouble. 1 hope that the

Opposition will also adopt a liberal outlook in respect of the admission to Australia of people of our own race. Ours is a predominantly British community,, and the Government must view with alarm the excess of departures over arrivals of persons of British stock. Having in some measure overhauled the migration organization at Australia House - the Government has sent n new officer there - it should make a determined effort to clear up the misunderstandings that prevail in England regarding Australia's migration policy, so that, not only shall we receive those refugees to whom we extend sympathy in their trouble, but also our own kith and kin, in order to supply the main nian power needed by the nation. I counsel this advisedly, because I know from conversations that I had in various parts of England and Europe recently, that there is a definite misunderstanding of the Australian policy. I received a deputation from twenty British organizations, arranged by the Royal Empire Society. There was scarcely a person at that deputation who did not believe that Australia did not want British migrants. The misunderstanding arose from the fact that in the depression assisted migration was discontinued. I do not blame any one for that, because I think that any government would have taken similar action. But the belief persists in many quarters that Australia does not want British stock, and the Government should dispel it by proper publicity.


Mr Holloway - Mr. Crutchley knew butter than that.


Mr WHITE - Yes, Mr. Crutchley is a. splendid ambassador for Australia. So are all others who have been here. Whenever Empire Parliamentary Association delegates visit Australia, the representatives go back to Great Britain as champions of this country.

The trades unions could help in dispelling the illusion that Britishers are not wanted here. T have been told by nien in England that there is unwillingness among British people to come to Australia, because those who do come here have the greatest difficulty in obtaining admission to trade unions;- in fact, that some unions have prohibited their admission. One, man who spent some time in Australia told me that he returned to England because he could not join the union. The trade unions should throw their doors open to British workmen. J know, from my administration of the Department of Trade and Customs, that in many skilled trades there is a scarcity of artisans in Australia. There is definitely a shortage of skilled men in the engineering, pattern making, and like trades. The British people should be told that there is room in Australia for them and their families. We must encourage them to come here so that we shall maintain the predominance of Britons in our population and have the right kind of man-power to ensure our safety and progress.

Mr. DRAKEFORD(Maribyrnong) | 4.46].. - I should like the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) to place before the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) a matter affecting clerical employment in the Australian Capital Territory. Temporary assistants and clerks employed in various Commonwealth departments in Canberra work under the Commonwealth Public Service award, which prescribes payment much less than the basic wage, unless they have qualified to receive more, because although that award provides for eighteen days' annual leave, those men never qualify for annual leave owing to the fact that they are put off after three months' service. Some of them will be dismissed before Christmas. I ask that, when their employment is terminated, they shall receive pay in lieu of holidays on a basis of one and a half days' pay for each month of service. Another matter which I bring forward would come under the control of Mr. Speaker, and I ask the Deputy Speaker (Mr. Prowse) to place it before him. It concerns the treatment of temporary employees at Parliament House. The employment of many of them terminates when Parliament rises. I suggest that they be given the same consideration as I have suggested should be given to temporary assistants and clerks in the Public Service. They should be compensated for the loss of holidays.

T am sorry that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has left the chamber, because I desire to reply to some aspects of his speech. The honorable member deplored the excess of departures over arrivals of British stock. I am sure that that is due, in the majority of cases, to the fact that conditions are more attractive in Great Britain than in Australia. The honorable gentleman also appealed to the trade unions to open their doors to British migrants. I do not know of any trade union which has closed its membership books, except for the reason that it has dozens of men on its books who cannot find employment in the calling in which the union operates. When we consider the fact that there are 160,000 unemployed in this country, it is not surprising that British people should return to Great Britain. If engineers, carpenters and trade unionists of various kinds have left Australia to go back to England, it is because the conditions there attract them. According to a newspaper account, 247 men of those classifications, most of them competent to do the work required in this country, left Australia early this year. I agree with the honorable member that it is necessary to increase the man-power of this country, but I must tell him that he is entirely misinformed when he suggests that one reason for the departure of British people is because they cannot become members of the union. Of course there are some unions which have members enormously in excess of the demand for their services. I instance the Waterside Workers Federation. I am informed that it has between 3,000 and 4,000 men onits books in one city, but rarely are more than 2,000 men employed on the waterfront. Work cannot be found for more. In my opinion the excess of departures over arrivals of British stock is due to the fact that this Government and governments of a similar political hue have brought about a set of affairs in this country which makes it no longer attractive to skilled workers. I hope that what has been said will influence the Government in the direction of malting conditions here more attractive than they arc.

I trust that the representations that I have made on behalf of the temporary assistants in the Public Service and Parliament House will have the sympathetic attention of the Minister for the Interior and Mr. Speaker respectively and that the complaint will not have to be repeated next year.







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