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Friday, 5 May 1939

Mr NAIRN (Perth) .- In view of the unsettled conditions experienced in Australia for some time, this measure seems to be overdue. One of the necessary steps in our preparations for defence is the drawing up of a comprehensive register of aliens to enable us to have them under observation generally. During the GreatWar, difficulty was experienced owing to the activities of foreigners, many of whom were believed, on good grounds, to be the agents of foreign countries. I admit that a number of peaceful and well-behaved migrants suffered internment, which they would have escaped had we had a national register.

Mr McHugh - Good Australians suffered, too.

Mr NAIRN - Yes. For our ordinary social requirements it is desirable to have the fullest knowledge of the aliens who come here. I foresee that increasing numbers of Europeans are likely to be admitted into Australia. It is our proud boast that 98 per cent. of Australians are of British stock, but that will be an idle boast if the numbers of our own stock are not sufficient to guarantee the safety of the country. Personally, I see no harm in admitting Europeans in greater numbers than in the past, provided that the right classes of persons are brought in, but it will be necessary to exercise a much closer scrutiny than heretofore before the migrants leave their own countries. There should be an examination of proposed migrants in Great Britain, and, if necessary, on the continent of Europe.

Mr Brennan - How could that be done?

Mr NAIRN - We have our consular representatives in various European countries. We could impose on any foreigner seeking permission to migrate to Australia the condition that he should submit himself to our representative in his own country. We should rely on the judgment of our representatives in Europe rather than wait until the migrant arrives in Australia. Once we admit a foreigner, however, we should not treat him as an outcast, but should regard him as a poten tial citizen. We should assist him to become merged into the community, and should see that he quickly obtains employment, acquires our language and lives in accordance with our own standards.

It is essential that we should not only have a register of those who come here, but also keep a continuous check on aliens after their arrival. It would be interesting to record what positions they fill in the community, and this would assist us in determining the best kind of migrant to admit. The first difficulty a newcomer experiences is that of conversing with people whose language is different from his own. The trouble experienced in the United States of America in this regard has been largely responsible for the establishment there of foreign colonies, which are generally recognized as a menace. In that country particular attention is given to the subject of the education of migrants, and they are assisted to acquire the language of the land of their adoption. We should regard the education of a foreign migrant somewhat in the same light as we do the training of our own children. The Government should recognize its responsibility in regard to teaching migrants the English language. I much prefer the American idea of naturalization to our own. The object in the United States of America is to make the migrant an American citizen as quickly as possible. In Australia, however, we insist on five years' residence, and that is an unnecessarily long period. I see no reason why an alien should not be naturalized after two years' residence, provided he can satisfy the authorities that he is of a suitable type. One of the conditions of satisfaction would be his acquisition of the English language.

Mr Jennings - The five-year period has been fixed under an Empire-wide arrangement.

Mr NAIRN - We should not be bound down to that period. I see no reason why Australia should not be prepared to initiate ideas of its own.

As indicated this morning by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), quite a number of foreign migrants are young men who are fit and anxious to render military service to Australia, but, under the present system they cannot be accepted for training unless they are naturalized. I believe that every ablebodied man in the country is under the obligation to assist in its defence, and, therefore, we should not exclude newcomers from military service for five years.

For some time, we members of parliament have been receiving propaganda, chiefly in the form of booklets, bearing the names of a number of our own citizens of some notoriety, but which on examination palpably carries the official imprint of the Japanese Government. The information given in these papers could be obtained officially only from that source. We have also had communications from the Consul-General for Japan. I welcome any representations which the Consul-General may put forward over his own signature, but I despise the action of Australians who lend their names for the propagation of foreign propaganda.

Mr Brennan - Why not?

Mr NAIRN - I think it is contemptible, and I suspect that the signatures are paid for. It is a pretence that these are the bona fide opinions of Australians, whereas, in fact, they are foreign opinions merely issued over the signatures of Australians.

Mr Brennan - How can the honorable member possibly know that?

Mr NAIRN - I do not know it absolutely, but I see from the contents that the information must necessarily have been obtained from official sources. This is one of the matters on which I am not prepared to grant the toleration asked for by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan).

Mr Brennan - We may get the truth in that way.

Mr NAIRN - We do not necessarily get the truth when the propaganda is put forward by a foreign power. I am not prepared to concede to any person, whether British or alien, the right to distribute subversive literature in this country, and, if the literature is associated with a foreign power, it is all the more objectionable. We should take care . to stamp out the circulation of this kind of literature. The bill is a good one, and has my support.

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