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Friday, 5 May 1939


Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- An alien in a foreign country still maintains a natural connexion with the country of which he is a national. There may be very good reasons why a convenient method of communication should exist between an alien and his own country and very good reasons also why the country from which he comes should, up to the date of his naturalization, desire to have machinery for communicating with him. But there are sounder reasons for requiring the registration of aliens.Every citizen of this country has certain citizen obligations imposed upon him which spring directly from 'his citizenship. He has for example, the duty of implementing the administration of justice in his own country by service upon a jury. An alien may not serve and therefore an alien is free from the obligation of service. An alien may not be registered as a voter and therefore an alien is free from the obligation to register as a voter. He may not exercise a vote and therefore he is free from the obligation to exercise a vote. According to the point of view, in proportion as his rights are limited, so is he free from 'obligations, having regard to that well-known correspondence 'between duty and right upon which British jurisprudence rests. An alien in the State of Victoria, part of which I represent, as has already been pointed out, may own land; in other States he may not own land. He may, I apprehend, enter into 'business in all States. He certainly may in the State of Victoria. He enters into business in competition with citizens of our own country. I do not think that it is unfair or oppressive to require a person who is competing for the favour of citizens in carrying on business to manifest that degree of interest that it manifested by applying for letters of naturalization in a country upon which he is dependent for his means of living. I agree that there should be discouragement of those who feel that they can come into Australia, accumulate wealth by business with the people of this country, and then take that wealth to their native land without having manifested a sufficient degree of interest in the country which has served them so well as to become citizens of it, and to exercise the responsibilities and rights of citizenship. This matter of alienage becomes increasingly important as we have to realize the obvious fact that we can look less and less to the British Isles for healthy infiltration of further population into Australia.For many years, of course, the natural flow was from the British Isles - Scotland, Ireland and England. There are purely historical reasons for that fact. When we say that Britain is less British ina certain sense than Australia, we merely call attention to the fact that Britain is much nearer to great centres of population. More important than that, it has an ancienthistory behind it which Australia does not enjoy. The origin of Britain's foundation is lost in the mists of antiquity, whereas the origin of Australia as a distinctively and exclusively British colony is well known to extend back to a period of only five or six generations. Inasmuch as very unhappily our birth rate is, at the moment at all events, almost static, the very widest opportunity should be given and encouragement extended to the whiteraces of the world to come to Australia. I say white races' merely because I do not propose at the moment to discuss the wider question of race discrimination, although that question transcends in importance the question which we are at the moment discussing. What is to be the future attitude of Australia towards the coloured races of the world, coloured as we call them for the purpose of convenience? What, indeed, may arise out of development, probably after our time, when we shallbe confronted with the problem that the world is becoming more and more congested and greater and more just regard must be paid to the claims of those who are overcrowded to places in those parts of the world which are under- settled? That is a tremendous ethical problem, not merely a political question. It is of great interest' to Australia, because of Australians tremendous spaces and expansiveness and the fact that its population is not increasing at anything like the rate that we should desire. I must not be taken, in this passing reference to this wide problem which I have described as partly ethical, to admit a weakening of adhesion to what is known somewhat arbitrarily as the White Australia policy. That is ethically defensible as well as being solitically desirable. It is not so far back in history since Malthus propounded a doctrine of an overcrowded world overtaking means of subsistence and starving itself to death. By the means of subsistence rapidly increasing proportionate to the increased knowledge of the human family, the lie has been given to that somewhat painful prognostication. That applies also to the general question of an overcrowded world. I leave, for the moment, the colour question altogether. I think we should give the fullest encouragement to people of the white races of the world to migrate to Australia. I was pleased to hear the former Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) say that he does not favour discrimination. In may opinion he is entirely right. We are accustomed to hear persons who have little real knowledge of the subject, speaking disparagingly of people of other races, such as Southern Europeans. Such talk drifts thoughtlessly from the lips of persons who seem to have very little knowledge of the culture and historical background of the great people of whom they speak with little respect and less knowledge.

In my opinion theregister of aliens which is proposed should not be regarded as a secret record. I see no reason why it should not be open for inspection under the usual official conditions, perhaps for the payment of a small fee. This suggestion that it should be a secret document recalls too unpleasantly the lettres de cachet of mediaeval times. The idea apparently, is that we shall have a list of people who, in certain circumstances, may be regarded as almost proscribed persons. I do not like that idea at all. There is nothing disgraceful in being an alien, or having one's name appear 'in a list of aliens. It may be that an alien's name is necessarily on the list; he may be waiting the passage of time, or he may not desire to apply for naturalization. In either case he would be, either by choice or from necessity, an alien. Wo discredit ipso facto would attach to him for that reason. I see a good deal of danger in the compilation of a secret list of persons who, it may be said, are aliens and therefore not qualified to do this or that, perhaps under police supervision. I see no reason at all why the register should be secret. So far from- an alien being regarded as under a stigma in this country, he should be looked upon as a welcome visitor, once he has earned the right to be admitted. Migrants to Australia must undergo an examination as to their , qualifications, their state of health and record in accordance with departmental regulations. When these formalities have been observed they should be regarded as welcome visitors who, we hope, will later become citizens of this country, and they should be so treated.

It is sometimes said - the former Minister for the Interior had a good deal to say on this subject - that the tendency of aliens is to form aggregations of colonies within the Commonwealth. On this point I would like the people of Australia to ask themselves how far they are responsible for this tendency; how far they fail in their duty to welcome an alien who has not mastered the English language; how far they have discharged their duty to make him feel at home in his new country ; and whether it is not to some degree their own fault that aliens have been driven to find society and pleasure in fraternal association with people of their own race and speaking their own language.

I incline to the belief that the necessity for all immigrants to be able to speak the English language may be exaggerated. No doubt, as a matter of convenience, it would be very desirable for the world to have a common language, and I recall that a member of the 'Senate not long ago interested himself in this subject, as others did long before his time. The invention of Esperanto was the outcome of a desire to produce a common denominator in language with a* view to bringing to the peoples of the world a greater knowledge and better understanding, and less fear and distrust of one another. After all, diversity of language in a country is in itself a sign of extended culture. It would be a good thing if people speaking foreign languages in this country could imbue the people of Australia with a wider knowledge of their languages and literature. There is no special virtue in the English language, or any other particular language, even the older and more classical tongues. It is merely a convenience to give ready access to the literature and records of one's country and to promote intercourse and therefore a more liberal point of view between individuals. So I think something may be gained as well as something lost from a foreign language being spoken in this country.

I have no objection to the bill, in principle. It does no offence to aliens, unlike that measure, the War Precautions Act, which I described while the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was speaking, as a punitive measure, and to which I always had the strongest objection. Following the passage of that act harsh measures were taken against foreigners in this country. As a citizen of a free Australia I was ashamed to observe the, invidious treatment and insults to which aliens were subjected. I hope that the bill will be accepted and that, in due course, it will be administered with sympathy and understanding. Immigration and the natural growth of our own population are matters of fundamental importance which, with other subjects of grave concern, have been utterly neglected by this Government and its predecessors. In their unfortunate state of fear and apprehension they constantly envisaged Australia as being threatened from outside, when they should have been giving their attention to the business that lay to their hands.







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