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Thursday, 4 October 1956

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Bowden (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - Order! The Leader of the Opposition will please refrain from interjecting.

Mr R W HOLT (WANNON, VICTORIA) - I reiterate that as the economists estimate that the capital cost of absorbing each immigrant is £2,000, the Commonwealth Government, by refusing to grant the necessary capital required by the States to provide essential services for new Australians, is aggravating the already unsatisfactory employment situa tion. I have stressed the fact that the absorptive capacity of the economy must determine our ability to assimilate these new arrivals. We have an obligation to guarantee at least a job to every immigrant to this country. That is the first requirement. The Government, apparently for political reasons, is not attempting to heed the warning signal that has been given. The result will be that forecast by the honorable member for Parkes in his expert statement.

Doubt is cast upon the statement made by the Minister for Immigration because he seeks to avoid replying to the questions that have been asked and to the allegation made by the honorable member for Parkes in regard to British immigration to this country. 1 repeat that in the eighteen months ended 31st December, 1955, less than 25 per cent. of the immigrants were of British origin. Of the total number of immigrants who came to this country last year, 21,249 came from the United Kingdom and the remaining 74,317 came from other sources. Over the last eighteen months, the proportion was one British to every 2.6 southern European immigrants.

The progressive policy of the Australian Labour party is adapted to circumstances. The Labour party now reluctantly finds itself in the position where, due to a deterioration in our economic circumstances caused by the present Government its federal executive must have another look at immigration. At its conference held last month, the determination of the federal executive on immigration - and I add that this was to adapt itself to the Government's policy - was in these terms -

The Executive draws attention to the policy of the Labor Party which initiated the greatest influx of migrants known to this country. We also draw attention to the financial and economic policies of Labor which enabled migrants to be absorbed under conditions of full employment. Having regard for the foregoing and the problem of increasing unemployment we state as follows: -

1.   That migrant intake must be regulated so as not to impose undue strain upon the economy and lay insupportable burdens upon the States.

2.   That immediate attention should be given to the unduly large proportion of semi and unskilled migrants who cannot be readily absorbed into industry.

It may interest the Minister to know that last June, at the annual conference of the Labour party in Victoria, we had to face a demand from the trade union movement in that State that immigration be cut off. The trade union movement knows - and no one knows better - the extent to which jobs are being jeopardized. It knows that work is not available for unskilled workers and that, therefore, some adjustment of the immigration policy should be made. Eventually the conference resolved - and I am speaking from memory - that the rate of immigration be tapered off to adjust itself to the ill-assorted economic policies of this Government. So we find the Labour party having to adjust itself to circumstances beyond its control.


Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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