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Thursday, 4 October 1956

Mr CHANEY (Perth) .- I appreciate very much what was said by the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce). 1 -think that he has hit upon a problem of immigration to which, perhaps, we do not give sufficient thought, although it is of vital interest .to the immigrants who have already come to this country. It is true that the balance of the sexes is a tittle out, so to speak. I have seen evidence of that in Western Australia, which, as honorable members know, has received, on a per capita basis, more immigrants than any other State 'since the immigration scheme was started about seven years ago. It seems that the problem can be solved only by bringing out females of a marriageable age, because a few years must elapse before the immigrants already here will be assimilated completely.

The easiest way to assimilation is through the children of immigrants and the children of Australian or .British people. It has become evident since the immigration scheme started that Australia has at last grown up. Whether that is due to the last war or to the fact that we have added a few more years to our age as a nation, I do not know, but we have lost some of the dreadful habits that we had in dealing with peoples from other nations. I well remember that when I was at school the appearance at the school of a boy of another nationality was a signal for us to shout words of derision at him. We had a feeling that we were far superior to other people who came to the country. Australians, as citizens of a small nation a long way from the large centres of modern civilization, have always been reluctant to believe that any other nation could be better than Australia. It was due to that philosophy that Australia made the progress it did. If it had not been for that philosophy, this country would have gone back to the state that it was in in 1788, and every one of European descent would have gone back to the country of his birth. As we grew in stature as a nation, so we had to revise our ideas and our attitude towards the people from the old world.

One of the most pleasing features of immigration, as I said earlier, has been the attitude of Australian-born children towards new Australians in the schools throughout Australia. It is only rarely that they do not freely mix and accept one another as citizens of this country, with no thought of national prejudice. We .recently had the -spectacle in Western Australia of a State schoolboy's football team being captained by a new Australian lad, who had only been here for four years. Why, 30 years ago, it would have taken a lad who was a newcomer to Australia four years to get a game of football, let alone be assimilated so completely that he could captain the schoolboys' side. This, of course, is a tribute to the people of Australia.

As the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) said, the young men who have come here must, if they are to marry, be afforded opportunities to meet girls about their own age. Only in that way can the difficulty that the honorable member mentioned be overcome. The children of new Australians will be very quickly assimilated when their school days arrive, and then will be felt the full benefit of the immigration programme.

In the speeches that have been delivered during this debate, some self-styled economic experts have put forward theories designed to justify the halting or cutting down of the immigration programme. As an ordinary citizen with no claim to be an economist - for which I am sometimes thankful, because my thinking is not clouded and I can think along national lines - I believe that we have to make a choice now between two kinds of immigration. We can continue the kind of immigration on which we have embarked. If we do not do so, at some stage in the future, we will have another type of immigration - that carried on with landing ships. Down the front-end ramps will come into this country people whom we have no desire to have, but whom we have not the strength to stop.

Mr Cope - Have we sufficient jobs for the immigrants who are coming in?

Mr CHANEY - I thought that some honorable member opposite would interject to that effect. If the people who landed in Western Australia in 1827, during some of the worst weather imaginable - they putdown on a sandy island off the coast, and brought with them pianos and other heavy items - had had no more courage than some people are showing in the country to-day, there never would have been established a permanent settlement in that State. In any scheme of national development, there must be difficulties, heart-aches and heart-breaks. Anybody who has not the courage to look into the future and accept .the situation that, in a quickly expanding nation, some people must of necessity suffer is not worthy of being called an Australian.

Mr Cope Mr. Copeinterjecting,

Mr CHANEY - I inform the honorable member for Watson, who is interjecting, that I am about the same age as he is. I was ready to leave school in the days of the depression, but I could not obtain a job, even though I had been educated to the middle standard. I do not think that my parents ever broke their hearts about that; they thought about the future, when they hoped that times would not be so severe. I venture to say that many people who suffered hardships at that time gained from their experiences, and this nation benefited in consequence. I do not appreciate interjections pointing out how tough depressions are, because I suffered just as much during the last depression as did any member of this committee, and I have no desire to see the country once again plunged into a depression similar to the depression of 1929 and the early 'thirties. I believe that the quickest way to bring about another depression in Australia is to shout from the housetops that we are headed for it, whenever there is a temporary recession of the economy - and to go about screaming and forecasting another depression. By so doing, the people who might do something to prevent a depression are frightened off. Certain people in the community become afraid to embark on developmental undertakings when unthinking people forecast the most direful things because of their memories of the 'thirties. I know, from my own experiences of those days, that it is hard to erase the memories of the depression, but a new generation has arisen. I venture to say that if we go forward with sufficient courage, the new generation will never have to suffer as the generation of the 'thirties suffered.

Coming from a State that has been particularly hard hit during the last few months, for reasons that have been bandied about in this chamber, I realize that the group of Estimates now under consideration is probably more important to my own State than to any other State. Four of the proposed votes before us make provision for things which are of vital importance to the future of Western Australia. That State is capable of great development. Up to this stage, it has absorbed the highest number of immigrants of any State. Western Australia has much to gain from the activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in its search for the right trace elements to treat vast areas of land which, while enjoying regular rainfall, lack something in the soil. Excluding the proposed vote for the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, all of the proposed votes now under consideration are of great concern to Western Australia.

Before addressing myself to other aspects of this group of the Estimates, I should like to advise honorable members on both sides of the committee, who think that the immigration programme should be halted, to take a trip to the electorate of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), and visit a place called Manjimup, where they will see the best possible advertisement for the introduction of people from Europe into this country. About 30 years ago, an Italian named Fontanini, accompanied by his wife, conveyed all his belongings, including axes, shovels and supplies, by wheelbarrow to a place 8 miles beyond Manjimup, and settled on the land. Whenever further supplies were needed, he and his wife obtained them by the same means. That man proceeded to clear an area of forest land in order to gain a livelihood, and to-day he is worth more than are most primary producers in Western Australia. He now has the show place in the State. To see that place is to be convinced of the ability of the Italian people to work industriously, not only to develop the country, but also to advance themselves and their families. I advise any cynic, any critic of our immigration programme, to inspect the property that 1 have mentioned.

I come now to the proposed vote for the Department of Labour and National Service. That department handles the registration of trainees under the National Service Training scheme, in connexion with which I should like to bring one factor to the notice of the Minister. The preliminary medical examination of trainees is undertaken by doctors from the Department of Labour and National Service who, I suppose, are civilian doctors recruited for that purpose. The men are then told that they are medically fit, subject to a final medical examination. When they are called up for the particular service, whether it be the Navy, the

Army or the Air Force, they undergo a more stringent examination, and some, unfortunately, are rejected. 1 think the proportion of those rejected is fairly small. In Western Australia, where the intake is naturally much smaller than in New South Wales and Victoria, the number of rejections on medical grounds may amount to half a dozen. I believe that before a man is told that he will be called up on a certain date, the authorities should be sure that he will not be taken to the Army camp, Air Force station or Naval depot and then rejected. If 400 or 500 eighteen-year-old lads are called up together, it is probable that some of them know some of the others in private life, and we should not embarrass a lad by allowing all the others in the callup to know that he is being rejected on medical grounds, particularly when his disability, although being sufficient to cause his rejection, may be a trivial matter that will not prevent his leading an every-day life as a normal, healthy person. 1 have mentioned this matter because I happened to meet a young lad the other day who had been rejected in circumstances such as these, and who was most disappointed. After having obtained leave from his place of employment, he had to go back and report for work, and inform his employer that he was medically unfit for military service. Circumstances such as these should not arise in the administration of the national service training scheme.

Time does not permit me to deal in detail with the Department of National Development. I may say, however, that the future of Western Australia may well hinge upon the activities of that department in developing the north-western portion of the State. As has been pointed out by journalists and experts from overseas, that area has a terrific potential, but its potential can never be tapped with the limited resources of the State government. I believe that the only way in which that portion of our country may achieve its proper destiny is by a programme of development undertaken by the Commonwealth department. The expenditure of some Commonwealth money in the development of this part of our country will assist in the overall development of Australia in the future.

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