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Friday, 5 April 1946

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Minister for Immigration and Minister for Information) . - by leave - In my statement to this House on the 2nd August, 1945, on the immigration policy of the Government, I said that agreements in relation to free passages for British servicemen and their dependents from the United. Kingdom to Australia, and assisted passages for British civilians and their dependents from the United Kingdom to Australia had been approved in principle hut details were being worked out by representatives of the two governments. I have now to advise honorable members that the two agreements have been finally concluded and were signed in London on the 5th March by the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, on behalf of the British Government, and Mr. Beasley, Australian Resident Minister in London, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. Both the free passage and theassisted passage schemes will come into operation on a date to be agreed upon by the United

Kingdom and the Commonwealth Governments. I shall lay on the table of the House copies of the agreements together with the explanatory leaflet issued by the* United Kingdom authorities, and a statement which I issued, on the day the agreements were signed, simultaneously with an announcement inLondon by the British authorities. I shall also lay on the table of the House the report of the Immigration Advisory Committee of which the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was chairman. That committee was constituted immediately the delegates to the International Labour Conference in Paris had' concluded their labours in October last and it consisted of the delegates to that conference. In addition to the honorable member for Parkes the committee consisted of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), the Honorable R.King, M.L.C., Mr. A. E. Monk,. Mr.O. D. A. Oberg and Mr. P. R.. Wilkins. Armed with wide terms of reference, the committee made investigations in Great Britain, France,. Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. In Sweden some representatives of the Finnish people also had discussions with the members of the committee. The report and recommendations of this committee throw valuable light on a subject that will have a deep significance in the future of our young nation. I offer the members of the committee the sincere congratulations of the Government, on themanner in which they caried out their difficult task. Their conclusions will be of theutmost assistance to me and the officers of the Department of Immigration. I am sure that every honorable member would' also derive much benefit from a careful perusal of the contents of this report.. The members of the committee certainly deserve our warmest thanks for their interesting and instructive survey of conditions in Britain and the European countries which they visited. I regret that it was not possible for them to stay longer in Europe to undertake all the inquiries they would have liked to have made. They are all leading public men whose time is very valuable but, in a common desire to help in the solution of one of the most pressing problems facing the nation, they gave freely and generously of their time and their talents. It is my intention to consult them from time to time, either collectively or individually, and ask for the benefit of their advice when any matters affecting immigration are under consideration, especially those matters on which they can be of particular assistance. In my ministerial statement last year, I indicated that the Government was still prepared to discuss with the Leader of the Oppositionparties in this Parliament the establishment of a Joint Parliamentary Committee on Immigration, and the terms of reference to be given to such a committee. So far, the Opposition parties have not indicated their willingness or otherwise to accept the offer, which still remains open. I have discussed the matter with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) who is prepared to meet the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) immediately, with a view to setting up the committee and determining its terms of reference. Incidentally, I may mention that the first suggestion for the establishment of such a committee came from the Leader of the Australian Country party, and that it later received support from members of the Liberal party. I believe that it would be a good thing for Australia if action to establish this committee could be taken before the Parliament goes into recess.

There is just one other matter that I should like to mentionin connexion with the subject of immigration; it relates to the interest of the States. At the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers before that last held, it was decided that a conference of Commonwealth and State departmental officers, to be followed by a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers interested in immigration, should be convened at an early date. Following the signing of the free and assisted passage agreements, a conference of departmental officers was held in Canberra on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, and agreement on many aspects of the immigration problem was reached. Some matters will come up again for further consideration; but the spirit of co-operation displayed by all delegates augurs well for the establishment of a co-ordinated Commonwealth and States plan so as to make a. complete success of the immigration policy which I had the honour to announce eight months ago. The projected conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers will be held as soon as practicable, and the next conference of Premiers will, I hope, make the final decisions that will ensure the ultimate success of our immigration programme. Ilayon the table the following papers : -

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