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Friday, 5 May 1939

Mr JENNINGS (Watson) .- The bill deals with matters of vital importance to Australia, and, in the opinion of a large majority of people, it is long overdue. Doubtless there will always be a certain amount of controversy in this country on the subject of immigration. The standard of living is higher in Australia than in most countries, and in undertaking any scheme of immigration we have to ensure that it will not be interfered with. When this matter was discussed in this chamber several months ago, I with other honorable members referred to the fact that certain types of migrants that were being admitted to Australia were causing considerable public indignation even amongst their own nationals. So pronounced was the state of public feeling eventually that the Government refused landing permits to some of these people, and others were allowed to land on probation for six months. Prevention is better than cure. Australia should have officials stationed in Great Britain and at certain Mediterranean ports in order to examine the credentials and records of migrants intending to come to this country. In other words, migrants coming here should be hand-picked. It is most desirable that only people of the best type should be admitted. There can be no valid objection to this legislation. Migrants coming to this country it is anticipated are prepared to accept Australian ideals and standards of living and must agree to become assimilated into Australian communities. The restrictions to be imposed on foreigners under this bill are far less drastic than would be imposed on Australians desiring to live in other countries. America's experience of alien immigration should be heeded. Anybody who has travelled through American cities knows that foreign nationals have congregated in separate communities, with undesirable results. We do not wish to have such a state of affairs in this country. Our standards of living must be maintained. I know of alien families that have come to this country and readily adapted themselves to Australian conditions and ideals. As a matter of fact, some of these people in the second generation are indistinguishable from British, native-born Australians. I emphasize that the aggregation of aliens in separate communities should be discouraged. If we must have immigrants, then let us have people of the most desirable type. British migrants, although the most desirable from our point of view are difficult to obtain. When I was in England in 1937, the question of migration was discussed, not only at the Empire Parliamentary Association Conference, but also in many parts of Great Britain. The standard of living in Great Britain has vastly improved in recent years. Extensive housing schemes have been undertaken, and the benefits from social services such as social insurance have been greatly increased, so that the people of Britain are now regarded as the most contented in Europe to-day.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

Mr JENNINGS - Although there is not the same urge to leave the Old Country as in the pioneer days, numerous inquiries have been made by people there who are interested in the establishment of new industries in Australia, chiefly because this country is far from the seat of of international troubles, and because of the wealth of raw materials available here. Those people are willing to send British capital and skilled artisans to Australia in order to open up new industries. In this way, acceptable migrants would be brought to the country and additional employment for Australians wouldbe provided. Such projects should be encouraged. A good publicity campaign in Great Britain would help in that direction. Competent migration officials should be appointed to hand-pick the migrants. Men and women of every nationality are making excellent Australian citizens to-day. I refer also in this connexion to members of the Greek community who recently donated a fighting aeroplane to the Australian Defence Forces.

The long period of five years' residence which is a necessary qualification for naturalization should be reconsidered with a view to shortening the term. I should like to know if the Government has considered taking such a step. Aliens should be asked to make themselves . fully acquainted with the English language, and after a reasonably short term of residence in Australia, should be required to submit to simple tests inboth writing and reading. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) this morning referred to the necessity for a common international language, such as Esperanto. I draw attention to the proposal to use basic English, a system which hasreduced a range of 7,500 common English words to 850 basic words. The system is so effective that books have been written embracing only these 850 words. Some of them are in the Parliamentary Library. I suggest that the Department of the Interior should investigate the system with a view to its utilization in dealing with migration matters. The Minister for the Interior said that the last Aliens Restriction Act, passed in 1921, became a dead letter becausenot sufficient State police were available to supervise alien registration. That is a striking commentary on the Australian Constitution. It would appear that because of the clash between Commonwealth and State authorities, much important legislation has become valueless. The position should be clarified. The system proposed in the bill seems to be the only practicable one; it certainly will give to the Commonwealth control over aliens in Australia. The administration of this legislation will place a great deal of extra work upon our electoral officers. I hope that the Minister will appreciate the need to have these officers fully equipped with material and organization to implement the measure, if it be passed, in fairness to the officers themselves, and in order to make the registration system completely effective. I support the bill because it is designed to deal with one of our great national problems.

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