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Thursday, 4 October 1956

Mr J R FRASER . - Although my remarks will be directed to the Estimates of the Department of Immigration I do not propose to follow the line of argument of the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden). However, I was impressed by his statement that children do grow up. I preface my remarks by saying how much I appreciate the assistance and co-operation of officers of the Department of Immigration, and I am certain that what I say will be endorsed by all honorable members. On many occasions, I have sought the assistance of that department, and the understanding and help of the officers in dealing with particular problems has been unfailing. There are some aspects of the policy of immigration, however, to which I feel I should refer.

One that troubles me considerably, and that has brought several cases to my office - and no doubt to the offices of other honorable members - is the difficulty that immigrants, already established here, have in obtaining permits of entry into Australia for their parents or close relatives, lt is proper that a high standard of physical health should be required, and whether immigrants are coming under the assisted passage scheme or as sponsored immigrants paying their own fares, that high standard of physical health should be maintained. But there is an obligation upon us as a nation that is accepting migrants from various countries, and that prides itself on its humane and Christian attitude to migration, that we should not make these standards too rigid. We should be prepared to accept some of the bad with the good. In many cases we would be adopting a right, Christian and humane attitude if we were to stretch a point to enable immigrants, already established here successfully and desiring to remain in Australia, to bring to this country from their homeland their parents or close relatives.

Within my experience of some years in this Parliament 1 have met with cases in which a parent or a brother has been refused a permit to enter Australia because his height is below the minimum standard. There may be some merit in having a minimum standard of height, but I suggest that this requirement should not be enforced too rigidly. The regulations should be interpreted in a humane way, and all possible assistance given to the immigrant, who has established his home here and who wishes to remain, to have his next of kin join him. Some parents have been refused permits of entry because they have contracted some form of disease. In cases where these are communicable it is understandable that care must be taken before permits to enter are issued. In other cases, however, when the intending immigrant has a lung or thoracic disease of some kind, the transfer from the climate of the old world to the Australian climate may do much to effect a cure. All of these cases should be examined with great care and sympathy.

In some instances the Minister has exercised his discretion, and allowed the parents to be brought out, but in others there has been heart-break in the families of immigrants established here because their parents have not been allowed to join them. I suggest to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Harold Holt) that a second look should be taken at these problems, and that a Christian and humane attitude be adopted so that, if possible, the standards laid down shall not be applied so rigidly as to prevent parents or close relatives from being united with their families in this country.

In cases where, for no stated reason, permits are refused for close relatives to come to Australia, the resident immigrant feels frustrated, and assumes that security is involved. It is proper, of course, that, as in the case of health, security standards must be observed. I suggest, however, now that World War II. is ten or eleven years in the background, and there is a changing outlook in the world and among immigrants who have come to Australia, established their homes here and accepted what we are pleased to call the Australian way of life, a second look should be given to their applications to ascertain whether it is really necessary to apply the security tests so rigidly. I have had personal knowledge of cases in which, after two years of representations, the Minister has been able to say, " Frankly, there is nothing on the file relating to this person that should prevent his coming to

Australia ". The permit has been minted for his entry, and the outcome has been a happy one. In his case it has become evi-dent that there was no need to refuse a permit.

I refer particularly to the migration to this country of people of Greek origin. In the Greeks now in Australia we have some of the finest migrants who have come from European countries. They form a very worthwhile part of our community. It has been customary, in this capital city, on the occasion of the celebration of Greece's national day, for the Minister for Immigration, both of this Government and of the previous Labour government, and also for the Prime Minister to issue messages of congratulation to the Greek community, and to participate with them in the celebration of the day when Greece achieved its independence. The Greeks in this community have succeeded, by hard work and knowledge of trading, in establishing themselves wherever they have chosen to settle. They have become particularly loyal citizens of Australia and, of course, they are our traditional friends and they were our allies in the last war.

In recent months, however, it has become the policy to limit the entry of persons of Greek nationality to close relatives of Greeks already established in Australia. Perhaps there is reason for some reduction of the intake in what are generally classed by the department as " southern Europeans ". But the term " southern Europeans " includes nationalities other than Greek. I ask the Minister and officers of the department to give further consideration to the migration to Australia of people from Greece, in the light of our continuing and historic friendship with that nation, and of its association with Australia in the last war. There is also the overall knowledge that the Greeks who have come to Australia have established themselves soundly and we'll, take their part in community affairs, have a very high rate of naturalization, accepting Australian citizenship, and who do make provision and offer security to those of their relatives and friends in their former country whom they nominate for entry into this country. I believe that, if possible, the present restrictions on the immigration of Greeks, at least, should be relaxed. Whether the figures have any bearing or not I am not able to say, but in the proposed votes under discussion the total amount provided for the immigration office in Greece is £95,000, whilst the total amount estimated for the maintenance of the immigration office in

Italy is £219,200. I am not drawing a comparison between the people of one nationality and those of another, but I repeal that I believe that the immigration of Greeks to this country could well be encouraged insofar as we can eliminate or lessen the restrictions that now apply to the entry of sponsored relatives of Greeks already established in Australia.

One other minor aspect of the immigration policy on which I should like to touch is the ceremony of naturalization. It is true that the recent change in that ceremony from one of a legal nature to one carried out by local governing bodies in the various cities and towns has been of great benefit. It has brought the ceremony closer to the Australian people and has made it a warmer and more significant ceremony for the immigrants themselves. A much more friendly atmosphere now marks those ceremonies than was the case previously. We have an opportunity here, in this national capital particularly, where our naturalization ceremonies occur at an average rate of one in every three months to add to both the colour and the significance of such ceremonies. In Canberra we have had up to 120 or 130 applicants for naturalization being naturalized at one ceremony. I believe that we could do something to make the civil ceremony a little more colorful. This is rather an unusual community, in that we do not have a lord mayor, or a mayor, or any official of that kind who wears robes of office.

Mr Clarey - Is not the Minister for the Interior the mayor?

Mr J R FRASER - Well, no, but the predecessor of the present Minister was the uncrowned king of Canberra. I have not found a title for the present Minister. Perhaps "Big Brother" will be his title. However, I believe that we could do something to make the naturalization ceremony in Canberra a little more colorful than it is at present. We might even follow the American pattern to a degree - J do not want to see it followed in its entirety. I think that it would not be a bad idea if we ranged behind the officials who conduct the ceremony the flags of British Commonwealth countries, or even of the countries from which the immigrants being naturalized have come. Also, it would not hurt if we had perhaps a number of boy scouts and girl guides in uniform to provide some sort of guard of honour.

Mr Cairns - Why not ask representatives of the Australian Country party to be present?

Mr J R FRASER - I am afraid that the members of the party representing the wool-growers would not produce the right effect in their nylon shirts, so, at the moment, I shall not suggest their participation. However, I feel that my suggestions, lightly though they may appear to have been made, are worth considering. I believe that their adoption would have a beneficial effect on naturalization ceremonies carried out in Canberra and perhaps in other parts of the Commonwealth. I hope that they will be considered by the Minister and his officers.

Mr. DRUMMOND(New England) 13.29]. - I wish to address myself mainly to the proposed vote for the Department of National Development. I agree generally with the remarks of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) on the quality of the Greek citizens who have come to live in this community and made a contribution to the life of the community. If time permitted I should like to expand on the subject of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. That organization is doing a magnificent job, and nowhere does the work it performs have more spectacular results than in my own electorate, the tableland district of New England, where the organization has a station at Chiswick, with out-stations at, I think, a radius of about 100 miles. The organization has in that region opened the doors to new wealth and a new understanding of how to tackle the problems of the area, and has immensely increased the wealth of the district and its continuity of supply. I, who knew New England in the days long before World War I., can see the difference which has been brought to that part of Australia as a result of the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which has its head-quarters in the University of New England, where it works in very close association, and very successful association, with the university, particularly with the newly established Faculty of Rural Science.

I wish, however, in the limited time at my disposal to direct my remarks rather to the subject of national development, following somewhat the line of thought evinced by my distinguished colleague, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who has suggested the adoption of a new approach, or at least the use of an approach which is now neglected, to the whole subject of national development. I know that some of my friends on the opposite side of the chamber are inclined to look with grave doubt at anything that appears to be connected with private enterprise, particularly those of them who, no doubt quite honestly from their point of view, believe that a more socialistic trend would benefit the community. But whether or not one holds that view, one must have regard to the fact that capital is one of those things which one must use to develop the resources of a country. The capital of the Old Country was the basic means whereby we settled this country, even if it were often human capital exported for reasons connected with the Old Country's good in the first place. I think that is something that must be borne in mind. Apropos of that, I remember reading in 1924 the report of the British trade union commission which visited Moscow in that year. It was pointed out in that report that one of the problems that the Soviet Government had to face wai that it was trying to do a tremendous amount of development with a limited amount of capital and technical resources. The result was that the consumers had to go short so that the Soviet Government could get ahead with its job of developing Russia. In other words, the Russians, by adopting a method of repression of even normal instinct in the community, were able to attain objectives that could not be attained under the standards to which we adhere. But if we want to maintain a good life and balanced progress by speeding national development, the suggestions advanced by the right honorable member for Cowper should receive the consideration of this Parliament. I want to make some references along those lines about New South Wales, the State from which 1 come, and in order to prevent a good deal of perhaps unnecessary argument from some of my friends opposite, I preface my remarks by saying that they are not directed specifically against the present Government of New South Wales. They are intended merely as an illustration of what has happened under successive governments of New South Wales over a considerable period of time, for the very reason mentioned by the right honorable member for Cowper, which is that unless there can be a continuity of the flow of money as well as of the flow of purpose, it will be quite impossible to carry works out expeditiously and, having regard to the rate of our development, on the most economical basis.

Let me give some examples of New South Wales works from my own experience. In 1928 a government in which 1 was a Minister turned the first sod in the construction of a railway between Guyra and Dorrigo, upon which it spent £100,000. When the depression came work was stopped, and not a tap has been done since. If £100,000 is added to the national debt it represents a continuing charge that must be borne by the taxpayers. So, at 4 per cent, interest, more than the original expenditure has already been paid out with nothing to show for it. I recall that when Sir William McKell. who was then Mr. McKell, was Premier of New South Wales it was proposed to construct a railway from Inverell through Glen Innes to Grafton at a cost of £14,000,000. This railway was first proposed nearly 100 years ago. 1 think Sir George Dibbs was one of the first to suggest it, and Sir Henry Parkes certainly regarded it as an important project. A port is being developed at the entrance to the Clarence River, but I venture to suggest that the money spent on it will largely be wasted unless the latent resources of its great hinterland are opened up by adequate railways. A great deal of money has been spent on a highway between Glen Innes and Grafton. This is not as bad a case, but it too has been the subject of continual expenditure without much progress.

In 1938 a government in which I was a Minister began the construction of the Keepit Dam, in anticipation of the drying up of the artesian waters of the north and north-west of New South Wales, in order to ensure a water supply and assist the inland areas. I think, speaking from memory, that the dam was originally estimated to cost £1,500,000. By the financial year 1948-49 it had cost that amount and I believe that on current estimates it will cost about another £5,000,000 to complete. Apparently its completion is still a long way off. Private enterprise could not possibly conduct business in that fashion. If it dawdled along and allowed capital charges and interest to accrue in that manner it would certainly be up queer street. Approximately £1,500,000 has been spent already on the Glenbawn Dam, which was begun by the McKell Government in New South Wales. This project is now estimated to cost £5,000,000 to complete. It drags on like a Kathleen Mavourneen promise. The Sydney metropolitan railways system is another example. The first stage was to be completed in 1926. In that year work was proceeding on the section between St. James and Wynyard stations, which now, 30 years later, is almost completed. The worst case of all is a railway which was begun in 1938 by a government in which I was a Minister to provide a link between Dubbo and Newcastle. It is known as the Sandy Hollow-Maryvale railway. This line was recommended as a defence work and was intended to provide a vital link should anything happen to the Hawkesbury River railway bridge. It is still a vitally necessary link. I think that about £1,300,000 had been spent on this railway by the time the government to which I belonged went out of office. All the earthworks and most of the tunnels had been completed. Yet even now not one rail has been laid! But the debt burden on the taxpayer in respect of this railway is steadily mounting. 1 agree with the right honorable member for Cowper that it is not practicable for governments to develop this continent sufficiently rapidly to justify our continued exclusive occupation of it and to enable us to defend it properly. Therefore, I think the time has come when we should encourage fresh capital and enterprise for the development of hydro-electric and other schemes by giving long-term franchises to complete them. I suppose the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme is being pushed ahead as no government work has ever been pushed ahead before, but I believe that even in that instance certain charges have accrued because of delay in providing the necessary finance.

There is a case, particularly in New South Wales, for Commonwealth and State co-operation in an overall railway policy. It is of no use for people to talk about the evils of the break of gauge. If there were a standard-gauge railway between Sydney and Melbourne, New South Wales would suffer a considerable loss of trade to Victoria, because Melbourne is the natural port for the Riverina area, the trade from which would have gone to Victoria years ago if a standard-gauge line had existed. New South Wales has always resisted it for that reason, and unless the Commonwealth adopts a practical policy of subsidizing that State for its loss there will be little done about the construction of a standard-gauge railway.

Mr Ward - New South Wales was not always against the idea.

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