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Thursday, 4 October 1956


Dr EVATT (Barton) (Leader of the Opposition) . - We are all interested in the matters that have been mentioned by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), but I wish to re-state to the committee certain aspects of the problem of immigration so far as it appears to us. First, I draw the committee's attention to the figures given this afternoon in regard to immigration by my colleague, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). For week after week, honorable members of the Opposition were endeavouring to find out the precise relationship between immigration from the British Isles on the one hand and immigration from European countries on the other hand. However, the figures were never given to us. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Harold Holt) gave all sorts of answers to our questions, except the answer indicating the percentage that we asked for.

I wish to refer to the figures since the census of 1954; they are comparatively recent figures. It is true that in 1948, 1949 and 1950 there was an enormous influx of immigrants who were, for the most part, displaced persons and refugees from the camps of Europe. In 1949 we received about 114 030 immigrants and in 1950 about 121,030. The attitude of the then government, which is the present Opposition, towards the problem of immigration is best stated in the policy speech of the parliamentary Labour party which was adopted by the federal executive of the Labour party. It re-states the policy of which the Minister for Immigration professes to be ignorant, although I think that he knows it well. The statement is as follows: -

In the post-war period Labor instituted the Immigration policy as a humanitarian effort to alleviate the lot of victims of World War II. as well as to build our work force and to help develop Australia.

Labor will continue to welcome with goodwill and comradeship these newcomers opposed to totali ananism who are willing to become democratic Australians, upholders of Trades Unionism and ihe Austalian way of life. The British tradition of freedom under law is basic to our way of living: and all migrants can and should come to share it.

That is our general approach- not an approach of hostility, but of welcome. But there are certain obligations which should be accepted by immigrants and must be maintained. The policy went on -

Migration must be regulated so as not to impose an undue strain on our economy.

I ask honorable members whether that is not axiomatic - there is no country in the world where that would not be the position. The policy continued -

The task of providing housing, hospitals, schools and transport and other services has thrown heavy burdens on the States.

Labor is satisfied that the screening and medical examination of migrants has not been adequate during the last few years. Concern is felt at the number of recent migrants with serious social and physical disabilities.

With these considerations in mind Labor will at once review the rale of intake and the screening of migrants.

That statement is in general terms, but I want to apply it to the present position. 1 have pointed out that because of that humanitarian policy, and because the immigrants would help in the rebuilding and building required in Australia, we practically opened Australia's doors to the victims who suffered perhaps more than any one else from World War II., whether it was from totalitarianism of the Left or totalitarianism of the Right. There they were, and the doors of Australia were opened to them. That policy was responsible for the tremendous number of immigrants who entered this country, and nobody undertook the task of getting them here more vigorously and more energetically than the then Labour government under the late Mr. Chifley and my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell).

This is the serious thing to be considered in this matter. I do not think that anybody anticipated that the immigration from the British Isles would fall to this relatively small percentage of our immigrants, who come to a British country which, if it is going to maintain the British traditions of democratic freedom, should remain substantially and predominantly British in respect of the composition of its population. There can be no dispute about that. But look at the figures! In 1953, the number of people who came to this country from the British Isles was 25,000, and 49,000 came from other countries. In 1954, the number from the British Isles who entered Australia was 28,000, and 75,000 came from other countries. In 1955, the number who came from the British Isles was 36,000, and 94,000 came from other countries. In the period January to June, 1956, the number of people from the British Isles who entered Australia was 22,000 and 49,500 came from other countries. Those figures were commented on by the Melbourne " Herald ", which pointed out this striking fact, that from the time of the census of 1947 to the census of 1954 the number of southern Europeans who came to Australia increased from 49,000 to 165,000, which is an increase of about 223 per cent. In the same period, the number of British-born immigrants increased by 22 per cent., or less than one-tenth of the rate of the increase of southern Europeans over that long period.

We feel that that position should be closely watched. That is not because the southern European may not be a successful immigrant, but because our immigration programme must be a balanced programme. I completely agree with what my colleague the honorable member for Werriwa said in relation to it. He said that the number of immigrants coming to Australia from the British Isles has declined to a proportion of approximately one in four, and he suggested that the proper solution of the problem is to encourage British immigrants and skilled immigrants from all quarters by giving the immigrants the same health services and social services that they were used to in their own countries, and by making it possible for them to enjoy the housing conditions that they enjoyed in the countries from which they came. He referred to the social services that the British people enjoy in their own country. That is a factor that would have an important influence on their decision to come here.

Let us apply that argument to two of three matters, the first being employment. lt has always been accepted in this coun try that if the employment situationbecomes difficult and there is substantial unemployment, immigration cannot be continued at its present rate. That has been recognized in a sense by the Government. 1 will not take time to discuss the precise figure which seems to be far too large. If it is too large, what will be the effect? 1) will be to cause hardship not only to Australians but also to new Australians, and there will be conflicts between the twogroups. That would be a serious thing from the viewpoint of the new Australian becoming part of our community. Therefore, it is not merely the cruelties which might result from too great an influx of immigrants, but the fact that this influx, might imperil the whole basis of our immigration scheme.

There are other factors, and while theMinister was speaking, I pointed out one or two of them. One of the shocking things in the immigration policy was that no sooner had the Chifley Government'sgreat scheme come to early fruition, with tremendous numbers of people entering Australia, than the political parties supporting the present Government distributed to every immigrant pamphlets, expensively produced and printed in three languages - German, Czechoslovakian and Polish - and containing an argument which one would think to be an act of such baseness to Australia that it would be impossible. It was suggested, not obscurely, that id Australia the real problem was communism and that the immigrants had to get rid of the Chifley Government in order to ge> rid of communism. Those documents are in the library. I mention them because perhaps many honorable members on the Government side cannot remember them. That was a most treacherous attack upon the Chifley Government, and unfortunately that policy, in many respects, has been continued. If we are to bring politics into the immigration programme, it will be the ruin of a proper immigration scheme. The policy has to be re-stated.

The Minister said something this afternoon about the screening of immigrants and about the harm which might be done in countries in Europe of a socialist character. That is completely untrue. No socialist government was our enemy in World War II. Certainly, fascist governments were our enemies; and I can understand some objection in screening being applied to immigrants from countries with Communist governments, although those countries were our allies during the war. That is the trouble, but I think it indicates the Minister's point of view. The screening of people coming to Australia from European countries in which social democratic parties - which are really Labour parties - are in office is probably the reason why many of these immigrants cannot get to Australia. At any rate, that state of affairs should be investigated. I do not like hearing generalizations all the time. I know many individual instances which I think should be placed before a committee of the House. They have come to my notice in my official capacity as Leader of the Opposition.

We have to see that the spirit of democracy is applied in the selection of immigrants, or rather that the spirit of intolerance does not apply with the result that people who want to come to this country are rejected. Above all, it is essential that these people most of whom cannot speak the English language - they cannot read it at any rate - should be given an opportunity to learn it. They have a large number of newspapers in their own languages and nobody objects to that. The Labour Government had a rule under which a portion of all publications had to be published in the English language in order to give to the immigrants some slight inkling of the language which is the basis of our English heritage. Why should that not be done? I do not believe that the classes that are being held are sufficient. It is very important that immigrants should understand our language. ft is, however, the spirit in which the immigration system works that matters. Immigration ought to be removed entirely from party politics. I do not care what the politics of the immigrants are so long as they are not unduly influenced upon their arrival, or even on the ships before they arrive, by the authorities of this country. We know that that kind of thing has been going on. Reference has been made to trade anions. I have asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) a question about how many immigrants are trade unionnists but I have never been able to get an answer to that question. Surely, it is essentia], when immigrants come to Australia that they should belong to a trade union because there would be no democratic freedom at all in this country but for the trade unions. Is that not a reasonable condition to require them to observe during the first two years of their stay here?


Mr Anderson - Is unionism compulsory?


Dr EVATT - For the first two years of their stay in Australia they are required to give specific assistance in a special job, and I think that whether it is made a condition of entry or not they should be persuaded and encouraged by the Government to join a trade union.


Mr Anderson - Encouraged, but not forced.


Dr EVATT - The honorable member uses the word " forced ". I would go so far as to say that they should be required during the early period to join a trade union associated with their calling. Without that, how can their conditions be guaranteed? That is the danger, and that is what occurred during a similar period in the United States of America. All the immigrants coming into that country became a reserve labour force that was used against trade unionists in some of the great struggles that took place in the United States. In any case, I think the great majority of immigrants would wish to join a trade union. The job of the department should be to encourage them to do so, and I think that is an absolutely vital feature. 1 have referred to the language problem. Then comes the final act in the process of their becoming citizens of Australia. I do not think that should be a mere formal act. Before they become citizens of Australia and are naturalized some indication of their ability to speak English, or at least of their attempt to study the language, ought to be required. They should not be segregated, because that is what it amounts to, in small communities of their own in this country. If that is done we shall face absolute ruin in the future as those communities become greater. Many instances of that sort of thing occurred in the United States.

One other aspect is in relation to industry. My colleagues, the honorable members for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) and Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), and especially the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) have referred to the type of work which immigrants are performing. My opinion may not he precisely accurate, but I think it is substantially true that the great majority of immigrants coming to Australia at present are not skilled workers.


The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.







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