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Thursday, 18 July 1946

Mr CALWELL (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) (Minister for Immigration) - I regret that the honorable member should have asked a question on this subject without having first consulted me. I could have told him the whole story of immigration proposals as they affect government agencies, and religious and secular bodies. This country needs population. It ought to be the aim of any government to increase the population of Australia as quickly as possible, in view of the dangers which will confront us from now on. Dr. Simonds came to see me in Melbourne and told me that, at the request of his own church, he was going .to England to recruit a number of children, primarily for orphanages in this country. I told him that he would be free to bring any children here under conditions that would apply to every other religious or secular organization. I have had discussions with the trustees of the Lady Northcote Homes Trust in Victoria. They comprise a number of distinguished persons, including the Chief Justice of Victoria, Sir Edmund Herring, Sir Harold Luxton and Mr. A. W. Coles. I discussed with them the programme which their organization had' in mind to bring boys from England to their farm at " Glenmore ", Bacchus Marsh. Mr. Brown of that organization is at present in London, and I did everything to facilitate his departure. The Lady Northcote Homes Trust is the only body which has, so far, put forward any real proposals for the development of its work, and the Government has given every encouragement to it. A subcommittee of Cabinet, consisting of five Ministers, was appointed to consider giving to this purely secular body financial assistance towards any capital expenditure that might be incurred by it in the extension of its work. The sub-committee devised a plan which has since been submitted to the State Government of Victoria asking for its cooperation, and I am happy to say that the Government of that State is prepared to help also. As a principle, the Commonwealth Government has decided to contribute on a £1 for £1 basis for approved capital expenditure to any organization, whether religious or secular, prepared to do something to bring British children to Australia. I have not made any special arrangement with Dr. Simonds or any other Catholic dignitary, or, indeed, any dignitary of any other church, but I would be glad to help all churches which are prepared to do as much as the Lady Northcote Homes Trust proposes to do, in order to bring British children to Australia.

Sir Frederick Stewart - These are not British children, but Continental children.

Mr CALWELL - I am not responsible for newspaper statements in regard to visits by any persons to European countries to bring child migrants to Australia. The view of the Government after an exhaustive inquiry, is that there will be very few child migrants to come here from anywhere. The Government originally had a proposal to bring 50,000 British children to Australia, but, happily it found that there was not that number of orphan children resulting from the aerial bombing of Great Britain or from enemy submarine warfare. Only between 3,000 and 4,000 children who were so orphaned are available in Great Britain, and the United Kingdom Government, with pardonable pride, claims that they are its responsibility and are not available for migration to other countries.I ask honorable members to bear with me if my reply is rather lengthy, because some unfair implications are associated with the question of the honorable member for Parramatta. In conclusion, I say that there is practically no government in Europe to-day with which the Commonwealth Government, or any religious or secular organization in this country, can deal in regard to the migration of orphan children to Australia.

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