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Thursday, 4 October 1956


Mr R W HOLT (WANNON, VICTORIA) .- Touching first upon the statement or misstatement of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Harold Holt), I say it is true that the Labour party is proud of its policy, and of what it achieved in the field of immigration. We endorse entirely the sentiments expressed by our late leader, Ben Chifley. The charge that can be laid against this Government is simply that it has not the basic economic policy needed to maintain the admirable edifice erected by the Labour party. The Minister can pay no greater tribute to the Labour party than by basking in the reflected glory of the late Ben Chifley. lt is true that though we are concerned with the humanitarian side of immigration, we desire the maintenance of the programme generally. However, we do not desire it to be maintained simply by ignoring the human requirements of the immigrants themselves. One fact which the Minister apparently is anxious to overlook is that the majority of the present unemployed are new Australians. Labour does not believe in bringing people to this country unless they can be guaranteed gainful employment. Whether the Minister has conveniently overlooked this point in the interests of personal ambition for elevation in the Cabinet, we do not know. However, we do know that he did not want to see a reduction of the immigration programme because that would be taken as reflecting upon him at a time when he was a candidate for the deputy leadership of his party. We do not believe that considerations such as those which adversely affect the lives of men, women and children who are coming to the country should be allowed to intrude into our national policies. This is certainly a matter for more mature consideration than the Minister is apparently prepared to give to it.

Another reason why we may be pardoned for doubting the Minister's sincerity in connexion with immigration is the fact that he deliberately avoids the production of any figures relating to the number of immigrants from the United Kingdom. We are essentially a British country, and we on this side are anxious that we should maintain a balance in favour of British immigrants. The Minister glibly says that the number of British immigrants is determined by the proportion of total emigrants from the United Kingdom allotted to Australia. He says that we receive 42 per cent, of the total number of emigrants from the United Kingdom and seems to take consolation from the fact that we receive the greatest proportion of British emigrants; but the more important fact is that for the eighteen months from 30th July, 1954, to last December, emigrants from southern European countries outnumbered British emigrants by mere than two to one. The actual figures disclose that whereas for that period we received 70,302 immigrants from southern European countries, we had an intake of only 26,561 from the United Kingdom; in other words, for practically every three southern European immigrants, we received one from the United Kingdom. Similarly the Statistician's figures reveal that for the twelve months ended December, 1955, we received 21,249 immigrants from the United Kingdom and Ireland out of a total of 95,317. Those figures represent the net permanent immigration to this country.


Mr Hulme - The net figure is not a true indication.


Mr R W HOLT (WANNON, VICTORIA) - That figure is arrived at after taking into account departures from the country.


Mr Hulme - And Australians who go overseas for more than twelve months are classed as permanent departures.


Mr R W HOLT (WANNON, VICTORIA) - The Statistician does take Australian departures into consideration. He also offsets against our intake the number of British immigrants who return. Further, I point out that in the Preston hostel, which is in my electorate, I have definite evidence that the type of housing provided for immigrants is such that they are writing home discouraging their friends and relatives from coming to this country. I admit that the Preston hostel is conducted more as a transit camp. Housing conditions there are similar to those of the average army transit camp and, no doubt, the department is discouraging any idea of permanency there; but if we are to encourage British immigrants to come to this country we should at least do everything possible not to disappoint them when they arrive here.

On the other hand, after hearing what the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) said this afternoon about unemployment, I should have thought that the Minister, whose first consideration should be the welfare of these new citizens, would have looked upon the fact that the greatest majority of people applying for unemployment relief in the Darebin area are new Australians as a warning light.It is also an indication that it was time he and his Government gave serious consideration to the present immigration policy and refrained from continuing the present rate of intake purely for political purposes, completely disregarding the effect it will have not only on the immigrants themselves but also upon the economy as a whole. Labour's immigration policy is determined by the absorptive capacity of our economy. Of course, it is obvious that the economic policy pursued by a Government largely determines the country's absorptive capacity and, having regard to the repressive policy adopted by the Government last October, it is impossible to entertain with equanimity the thought of continuing the present rate of immigration intake.


Mr Freeth - Is that the Labour party's policy?


Mr R W HOLT (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Labour's policy is that we should not bring in more immigrants than the absorptive capacity of the country will stand. If the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), in his ignorance, is prepared to bring immigrants here regardless of whether we have jobs or suitable living conditions for them when they arrive, then all I can say is that he is prepared to place more importance upon gaining political kudos than upon the welfare of the immigrants.


Dr Evatt - Will the honorable member give the proportion of British immigrants?







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