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Thursday, 4 October 1956

Mr HULME (Petrie) .- From the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) we have just heard to-day's funny story. He suggested that immigration should be kept on a non-political basis. I agree, but the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), who has a particular interest in this matter as chairman of the Immigration Advisory Council, has informed me that within the last twelve months immigrants arriving in Western Australia have been given a pamphlet in which it was suggested to them that the Australian Labour party is the only party in Australia that is fighting communism. A party which makes suggestions such as that cannot have much reliance placed on a statement made by its leader. Some of the confusion which exists in relation to immigration results from a misunderstanding of the statistics. When we read the Statistician's statement on immigration statistics we must realize that permanent departures comprise all naturalborn Australians, all people from other British countries who have been here for more than twelve months and all naturalized persons, whether they were pre-war or postwar immigrants, who leave Australia for any overseas country with an intention to be absent for more than twelve months.

If honorable members completely understand that fact they will realize that the statistics may create considerable confusion. For instance if a naturalized person who came from, say, Italy leaves Australia his departure is deducted from the list showing the actual intake of British immigrants. Therefore, it is more desirable that we should speak in terms of gross intake rather than in terms of net intake. It has been estimated that of the British immigrants who arrived here during the post-war period, no more than 6 per cent, have returned home. If we accept that figure we obtain a very different conception from that presented by the Leader of the Opposition or even by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) when he spoke this afternoon.

I suppose the honorable member for Yarra regards himself as being as capable as any other honorable member of reading statistics, but when he cited a percentage of 25 per cent, as representing the intake of British immigrants since 1947 he was dealing with only assisted-passage immigrants and completely neglected those who had paid the full fare.

I refer the committee to page 14 of the document from which he quoted. On that page is disclosed the fact that the assisted arrivals from Great Britain represented 25 per cent, of the total arrivals and that the full-fare immigrants represented 22.9 per cent, of the total. That gives a gross intake of British immigrants of 47.9 per cent. I ask honorable members to compare that with the 25 per cent, which the honorable member for Yarra cited this afternoon. 1 suggest that he quoted that figure with intent because his experience should enable him to produce a much more accurate statement in respect of those statistics than he did.

We have heard enunciated in the chamber to-day a new policy so far as the Australian Labour party is concerned. At least the indication is that it is a new policy because it has been stated that the number of immigrants to be brought into Australia should be the maximum number that can be maintained and absorbed into the country. Inherent in that statement is a suggestion that that is not the Government's policy in relation to immigration. The Government has gone to great pains during the last seven years to bring about just that result. Having regard to the research work that is done in the Department of Immigration, the analyses of the employment situation that are made by the Department of Labour and National Service and the outside advice that is received by the Government, I think that the public generally, if not the members and supporters of the Labour party, will come to the conclusion that the policy which this Government has adopted during the last seven years is the policy which is suggested now as Labour's policy, and only Labour's policy.

Let us have a look at the names of some of the people who are advisers to the Government in relation to immigration. The members of the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council are Mr. Ian

McLennan, the general manager of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited; Mr. W. E. Dunk, a Public Service Commissioner; Mr. A. J. Keast, the general manager of the Mary Kathleen organization; Professor Copland, who has been referred to this afternoon; Mr. A. W. Coles, the first chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, appointed by a Labour government; Mr. J. Vicars, a Sydney industrialist; Mr. G. Gerrard, an Adelaide industrialist; Sir Samuel Wadham, perhaps the most outstanding authority on primary industry in Australia; Sir John Jensen; Mr. L. G. Melville, an economist associated with the Australian National University; Mr. Gerald Packer, a Melbourne industrialist; and last but not least - I say that advisedly - Mr. Albert Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. When Mr. Monk, because of illness, was unable to attend meetings of the council, he was represented by the late Mr. Broadby.

I believe that the members of the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council are as good a cross-section of the nation as any government could select to advise it on immigration. They are well qualified to advise the Government on the economic situation of the country, on the prospects of development and on the level of immigration. Those men have faith in the future of Australia. The debate this afternoon has shown that the members of the Labour party have no faith in the future of Australia. If that is not so, their speeches are an indication of their desire for a depression as the only chance of regaining power.

Then there is the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council. I shall not mention the names of all the members of that body. The chairman is the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth). Represented on the council are employers, employees, returned servicemen's organizations and women's organizations. That body also advises the Government on the great problem of immigration.

The Leader of the Opposition said that he did not propose to indicate to what number the intake of immigrants should be reduced. I get a little tired of people who want to scratch one number through with a pencil and substitute another number for it. The Government has decided that the intake for this year shall be 115,000. During the last few weeks I have heard people suggest numbers ranging from 60,000 to 90,000, but not one person who has suggested an alternative number has produced a valid reason why the Government's number should be reduced to the number that he suggests.

The reduction is proposed on the basis that it will cause a reduction of the demand for goods within the community. Let us go back. The Leader of the Opposition has referred to the great numbers of immigrants who came here in 1949, 1950, 1951 and 1952. At the end of 1952, the Government decided that the intake should be reduced. The intake for 1952 was 128,000, and in each of the three previous years it had been greater than that. In 1953, the intake was only 75,000. What happened then? In the December quarter of 1952, the construction of just over 15,000 homes was commenced. In 1953, the figure was nearly 19,000 and in 1954 it was 19,500. The value of other new buildings rose by 50 per cent. Let us look at motor car registrations. In the December quarter of 1952, there were 26,500 registrations. In the December quarter of 1953, there were 31,800 registrations. In the December quarters of 1954 and 1955 the figures were 39,000 and 43,000 respectively. Public authority expenditure during that period also showed an upward trend. Therefore, I suggest that a reduction of the intake of immigrants does not necessarily entail a reduction of the demand for goods within the community.

We are told by many people that expenditure on community services has increased as a result of immigration. Schools have been referred to particularly. What is the position there? Three-quarters of the money being spent on schools to-day is required as a result of the natural increase of the Australian population. There was a high birth-rate during the war years and the early post-war years. Only a quarter of the additional school accommodation is required for immigrant children. For the purposes of comparison, I think it is worthwhile to mention to honorable members that a quarter of the increase of our work force since the war is a result of the natural increase of the population and that three-quarters is a result of immigration. 1 suggest that immigrants have made a substantial contribution to the production of goods and services, including school facilities, in the last ten years.

But they have made a number of other contributions which have been mentioned from time to time in this chamber. They have made contributions in relation to oil refineries, the motor car industry and the steel industry. The Australian steel industry has tried to increase its production sufficiently to avoid the necessity for us to buy steel from overseas. By producing enough steel to meet Australia's requirements, it has contributed substantially to a solution of the balance of payments problem. It was my privilege recently to visit the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Port Kembla, where I saw a new tinplate plant in the course of erection. Australia has imported 140,000 tons of tinplate a year. This plant alone will produce 70,000 tons a year. Will any one suggest that that will not be a valuable contribution to the Australian economy and to the solution of the balance of payments problem? I believe that all those facts, added together, show that the Government's approach to the immigration problem has been completely justified.

Let me mention the contribution which immigration has made to the pensions problem in this country. Between the censuses of 1921 and 1933 and also between those of 1933 and 1947, the rate of increase of the number of persons over 65 years of age was approximately three times the rate of increase of the total population. That brings us to a period when the immigration scheme was in its infancy. Between 1947 and 1954 - the date of the last census - the rate of increase of the number of persons over 65 years of age was only slightly greater than the rate of increase of the general population. So immigration has contributed substantially to a solution of the pensions problem. To-day every natural-born Australian is called upon to pay less to the Government in the way of a social services contribution than would have been the case if we had not undertaken large-scale immigration into Australia. Development in this country would have been impossible unless we had maintained our immigration pro gramme during the last few years. I commend the Government for what it has done, and I take encouragement from the fact that it has sought the advice of men who understand our economy. This Government will not be bustled by any demands that are made by the Opposition for a reduction of the immigration intake.

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