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Thursday, 24 March 1966


Mr DALY (Grayndler) .- It is a tribute to the efforts of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who was Australia's first Minister for Immigration, that ever since its commencement our immigration programme has had the support of both sides of the Parliament. In the field of immigration, both of Europeans and non-Europeans, the honorable member's knowledge, understanding and tolerance as Minister in the difficult early years deserve our commendation. Our established immigration policy with regard to non-Europeans has enjoyed united support, although there may from time to time have been different approaches to the administration of it. Against this background I shall deal today with the changes proposed and, time permitting, outline the attitude of the Opposition towards our established and accepted policy.

The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) has told the House that the Government undertook a review ot the operation of the immigration policy as it affects non-Europeans, based on experience and changing circumstances over recent years. The proposals provide, first, that nonEuropeans already here under a temporary permit but likely to remain indefinitely will be eligible to apply for resident status and Australian citizenship after five years, instead of after 15 years under present arrangements. Students, of course, are not covered by this proposal. The second proposal is that applications for entry by well-qualified people wishing to settle in Australia will be considered on the basis of their suitability !as settlers, their ability to integrate readily and their possession of qualification* which are, in fact, positively useful to Australia.

In addition to these two major proposals a third policy refinement is envisaged. In the case of non-Europeans accepted as students, greater effort is to be made to ensure that the courses they undertake will be of recognised value to their homelands. Their ability to undertake such courses successfully will be examined carefully at the time of application for entry, and their progress will be assessed annually. Examples of the categories of those who under the new proposals will be admitted in greater numbers were set out under a number of headings in the Minister's speech. I note that the Minister specifically stated in introducing these proposals -

The Government has now decided upon two further measures which the House will recognise as important but as not departing from the fundamental principle of our immigration policy.

We consider this significant, appropriate and correct. The Opposition believes that the principles underlying our immigration policy should not be disturbed. I would like to outline to the House the present policy of the Labour Party on immigration -

Convinced that increased population is vital to the future development of Australia',' the Australian Labour Party will support and uphold a vigorous and expanding programme administered with sympathy, understanding and tolerance. The basis of such policy will be -

(a)   Australia's national and economic security;

(b)   the welfare and integration of all its citizens;

(c)   the preservation of our democratic system and balanced development of our nation; and

(d)   the avoidance of the difficult social and economic problems which may follow from an influx of peoples having different standards of living, traditions and cultures.

This should be interpreted as a clear, concise and unobjectionable statement of our policy, free of any taint of racial discrimination or superiority, based on the principle and ideal that the composition of our population will be such as to ensure the integration of all people sharing our freedom, independence and way of life. This policy is not one of the " open door " or of the " quota system ". It maintains the principle of Australia's established immigration policy which has been endorsed by all governments since Federation. At the same time it recognises, as the Minister's statement does, the need for administrative action, tolerance and understanding to meet changing circumstances and to avoid ill-founded criticisms, in the administration of policies having a bearing on a great human problem.

Let me now state our attitude to the proposals that the House is now discussing. The Opposition does not oppose the proposals, and we accept the assurance given by the Minister that there is to be no departure from the accepted and established principles of our immigration policy and that this policy will be administered with understanding and tolerance. This is in line with the policy of the Australian Labour Party that I have already outlined.

I now want to make a brief reference to what is proposed. First, the decision to reduce from 15 years to 5 the qualifying period for citizenship for persons here under temporary permit and likely to remain indefinitely is a wise one. The Minister has stated clearly that not every person admitted for temporary residence will be entitled to stay here indefinitely. Temporary entry and permanent settlement are entirely different matters, and we are pleased that the Government recognises this. We approve also the announcement by the Minister that the 12,000 Asian students undergoing courses of instruction in this country will not be covered by this new provision. If they were, the very purpose of their studying in this country would be defeated. They come here to qualify themselves in certain fields so that they may return to their own countries and assist in the development and advancement of those countries. They are, of course, eligible for citizenship if after giving five years service to their homeland after completion of their studies, they seek re-admission and apply. The reduction of the qualifying period to five years removes any suggestion of racial discrimination because the period will now be the same as that applying to Europeans. Citizenship will now be available to a non-European on the same basis as it is available to Europeans, if it is certain that the person concerned will be a permanent resident.

I now want to refer to a decision to admit certain well-qualified people wishing to settle in Australia and to grant them resident status and citizenship after five years. The decision of the Opposition to support this proposal carries with it certain qualifications. We require an assurance from the Minister and the Government that the principles underlying our policy will be maintained and that the possession of wealth will not be the basis for the admission to Australia of certain people such as wealthy Chinese and others from various parts of the world. We also require an assurance that the persons admitted under this category will be only those with qualifications not possessed by available Australians, and also that skilled personnel, professional men and others shall not be taken from underdeveloped countries which require their talents more than Australia does. We must also be assured beyond doubt that nonEuropeans will not be brought in to meet general labour shortages, and that there will be no large-scale admission of workers from Asia. This matter was referred to by the Minister and I see no reason why the assurances he has given should not be accepted.

We of the Opposition consider that we are entitled to ask for these assurances. We have no desire to see any breaking down of living and working conditions in this country, nor do we wish to fan the flames of racial hatred. The Minister stressed throughout his speech the principles that would guide him in the administration of this legislation. We find little to disagree with in the sentiments that he expressed, but the fact is that he may not always be the Minister and we believe that Government assurances are essential and that they must be fulfilled.

The categories of those who may be admitted, as set out in the Minister's speech, are extremely wide. They are open to broad interpretation. On the face of it, only those whose services are in definite demand here for positions for which no local residents are available will be admitted. I understand that tradesmen do not come within this category.

The proposals are clear. They are evidently designed to help meet some of Australia's special needs. That is as much as the Opposition is prepared to say about them, having received the necessary assurances from the Minister and the Government. We insist that the Government must carry out to the letter the sentiments expressed in the Minister's statement with regard to the administration of our immigration policy. I repeat that we expect a firm assurance from the Minister and the Government regarding the protection of our established policy after these changes are implemented.

The categories of persons with special qualifications so clearly set out in the Minister's speech require close examination. The persons admitted must meet the requirements. We have no desire to create a society of first and second class citizens, with all the hatred and bitterness that follows the creation of such a society, lt is correct to say that there has always been a degree of tolerance applied to the administration of our immigration policy, but because of certain isolated instances that have been given great prominence by certain sections of the Press, many people are not aware of that tolerance. The new definitions, the basis on which admittance will be made, the methods of selection and the fact that there is no quota should in every way help to overcome many of the administrative difficulties and criticisms involved in the present arrangement.

At the same time we, like other nations, must always maintain the right to decide the composition of our population. Our immigration policy, which has meant so much to Australia, should not be basically disturbed, although from time to time in order to meet changing conditions modifications may be necessary, as in the present case. I have the greatest sympathy for the Minister and his departmental officers in their difficult task of administering certain sections of the Immigration Act. The problems associated with administering the Act are probably the most human of all problems. I believe that over the years the Department and the various Ministers have, with tolerance and understanding, endeavoured to carry out justly the policy laid down. It is true that occasionally certain cases have been brought to public notice. In most cases the Department was in the right, but because certain sections of the Press in this country refused to print the full facts of the cases, particularly where non-Europeans were concerned, great injustice was done to the Minister, the officers of the Department and our image in Asia. If newspapers must give publicity to special cases, the least they can do is print all of the facts. This is rarely done. They prefer to deal emotionally with the problems rather than the facts of the case. It is significant that about the only time when Australia's immigration policy receives publicity is when a non-European is asked to leave the country. Immediately racial discrimination is charged. However, we hear little of the cases where Europeans are asked to leave or are deported.

The figures in this regard are interesting. Between January and December 1965, 562 Europeans were deported. I doubt whether anybody heard about those deportations. In the same period only 57 non-Europeans were deported. Those figures have been provided by the Department of Immigration. The detailed figures of the numbers of various nationalities deported are interesting and, with the concurrence of honorable members I shall have incorporated in " Hansard " tables showing the number of Europeans and non-Europeans deported during 1965 and their nationality, together with extracts of the relevant sections of the Act relied upon for deportation orders.

 

 

The statement regarding Asian students is not before time. At present 11,045 Asian students are attending schools and colleges in this country. These young people who are using our educational facilities should be carefully selected. The education that they receive should benefit both themselves and their country. Their rate of progress should be assessed, as is the progress of Australian students. This is only fair when we consider that in some cases they are occupying space at colleges and universities at the expense of our own people. They have obligations to complete their courses and pass on to their own people the benefits of the things they have learned.

Time does not permit me to deal fully with this aspect of the changes, but I am pleased to see that action is being taken in this regard because in some cases bad publicity has followed requests for Asian students to return to their homelands because of failure in their studies or for other reasons. With the concurrence of honorable members I incorporate in " Hansard " tables showing details of non-European private students in Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

Having said so much about changes proposed in our immigration policy and because of the importance of immigration, I propose to deal briefly with the background to Labour's present policy. I shall refer also to other aspects of our policy. The Australian Labour Party still adheres, quite rightly, to the basic principles of our established immigration policy. Criticism of this policy is directed in the main at what is popularly but wrongly described as the White Australia policy. In view of the importance of this aspect of our policy I propose to give a brief survey of its history.

The present immigration policy, quite wrongly referred to as a White Australia policy, is the outcome of experiences, particularly in the latter half of the 19th century. During that time, Asian labourers and other Asian migrants had been introduced to many activities, mainly the goldfields. Rioting, bloodshed and other events had been the unhappy consequences during that period and led to widespread demands for the adoption of such a policy. The introduction of Kanaka labour to the Queensland canefields with all the sordid consequences following the activities of the blackbirders made the demand for immigration reform unanswerable. The policy as such is not based in any sense on racial superiority but rather on the demands of those times to prevent exploitation and cheap labour. The policy recognises that successful assimilation is unlikely where there are great differences of race, creed, custom and habits of life. This has been the accepted policy of all Governments and all political parties with the exception of the Communist Party and the Australian Democratic Labour Party. There is a pretty good example of a unity ticket.

It would be correct to say that the basis of our immigration policy is humanitarianism - the recognition of human dignity and the avoidance of great cultural differences between peoples - rather than any feeling of racial superiority. The term " White Australia " is undoubtedly the major reason why objection is taken in some quarters rather than to the policy itself. That the term has no official basis is evidently not known or is overlooked. The term was invented about 40 years before Federation. It is a term that finds no place in any of our laws. It is a popular but not a legal term.


Mr Calwell - It is journalese


Mr DALY - As the Leader of the Opposition says, it is journalese. There has always been criticism of our policy by some people. In recent years they have become more vocal. The criticism has come from sections of the Press, clerics, certain academics and some citizens and organisations, many of whom may well have been prompted by the highest motives and ideals. In some cases their criticism was based on unfortunate events relating to nonEuropeans refused admittance to Australia or the right to stay here. In other cases the criticism related to non-Europeans ineligible for citizenship who gained admittance to the country on a tourist visa. Other cases involved overseas students - Chinese Malayan, Indian, Philippine and other nationals. These cases are known to most people. I do not have time to deal with them other than to mention them as reasons prompting some people to urge a change of policy.

Whatever the reasons behind any change in policy, the Opposition opposes the open door or quota system in this country. Those methods offer no solution to the problem. To those, no matter how well intentioned, who advocate a change of policy, a study of events in other parts of the world is worthy of consideration. We in Australia do not have any of the racial problems that confront Great Britain, the United States of America, Malaya, Singapore, the Philippines, Burma, South Africa or Indonesia. This condition has been achieved without any great friction with our Asian neighbours. If for no other reason - and there are many - the very fact of our freedom from racial hatreds and strife should be enough to convince people of the value of our policy and the need to maintain it in principle.

Let me take the example of Great Britain. This is a reasonable comparison for the purpose of this subject. When the Conservative Government of Great Britain, supported by the Labour Party, opened the immigration doors, Britain was flooded with non-European labour, most of it unskilled. This has resulted in a congregation of these people in certain areas, racial discrimination, riots, ugly scenes and examples of racial hatreds similar to those that exist in the United States of America. In the electorate the result was dramatic. One prominent Labour member of Parliament, who had held his seat for 20 years, lost it on the issue. Great Britain now has an imported racial problem with all the strife and bitterness that follows. The British Labour Party has learned the hard fact that people of different colour, cultures, ideologies and living standards cannot be integrated without passions and hatreds being aroused.

The British Labour Party has learned a lesson from the problems created by its idealism. Restrictive immigration laws have now been imposed by Britain. We should learn from the experiences of Great Britain. Australia has been saved from the problems imported into Great Britain by her immigration policy. We have none of the hatreds, riots, bitterness and discrimination that exist in Great Britain and in other countries. In the United States of America, South Africa, the Philippines, Malaya, Singapore, Ceylon, Pakistan and India tragic and ugly events show the problems that arise in countries where racial hatreds are inflamed. We have an obligation to. our people to keep Australia free from such events and from the bitterness that follows. The Opposition believes that . we have no right to import or to create a problem that is non-existent here at present.

Some people try to create the impression that we are the only country with an immigration policy which maintains our right to keep certain people out. [Extension of time granted.] This is not the case. Every country exercises this right, and rightly so. This applies particularly to Asian countries. The right to exclude those whom we do not desire to come and live among us was a principle endorsed by the Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi in 1947. Honorable members may recall that recently the Philippines was in the news on this particular issue. If anyone suggests that that country's immigration policy is not one of discrimination, I suggest that he study the situation, because the Filipinos purposely exclude certain people of their own kith and kin, as it were; so that there is not much basis for criticism of our policy from that nation-

Some say that our policy gives offence to Asian nations and to non-Europeans. This may be so for those who apologise for it or who do not understand it, particularly as it relates to those persons from Asia who enter the country temporarily, or even those who enter it permanently and are eligible for citizenship. Every Asian country has similar immigration laws, lt is not that our policy is objectionable, but rather that it is not explained. I well remember the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) explaining our immigration policy at a Commonwealth Parliamentary conference attended by many people of different colour. His speech was applauded and accepted because of the way it presented the policy. In fact, our immigration laws are much more liberal than those of other countries - the categories of non-Europeans who may settle in Australia are extensive - and are administered as favorably as possible to our Asian neighbours. At present there are almost 39,000 non-European people residing in Australia. In 1965 there were 12,400 Asian and non-European students; a further 10,000 are persons of mixed descent who have been admitted during the postwar period from Ceylon; 800 Asian evacuees have been permitted to remain in Australia; in the 10 years to 1965, 3,452 non-Europeans have been granted Australian citizenship and more than 22,000 visitors have come to Australia in the last five years for periods of 12 months or more. This proves that our tolerance and understanding have not been adequately explained and are not fully appreciated by many people.

I believe that criticism of our policy stems mainly from idealists, from ignorance and from apologists for our policy. The policy is not, and never has been, directed to the total exclusion of non-Europeans, nor is it based on any assumption of racial superiority. It is subject to ministerial discretion and each case is dealt with on its merits, with consideration being had for humanitarian factors and for the national interest. Our policy is highlighted, and comes under criticism now and again, when some person, in Australia perhaps for study purposes or on a visitor's permit, is asked to leave in accordance with the terms on which his or her visa was granted or for some other reason. They may be seeking to establish residential qualifications for citizenship purposes. This is termed category hopping. No other country tolerates this as a basis for permanent admission. Sympathy is extended to people in this category if they happen to be nonEuropeans, but hardly a whimper is heard when a Greek, Italian or Briton is asked to leave Australia, perhaps after deserting a ship or for some other reason.

The Labour Party believes that Australia's immigration policy gives effect to the principle accepted as the right of any nation to decide the composition of its population. The same test is applied to migrants by every nation. It has not, and never has had, a suggestion of racial superiority, lt began as an effective aspiration and from it has resulted a positive achievement. This achievement is a united race of freedom loving Australians who can intermarry and associate without the disadvantages and the inevitable results from the fusion of dissimilar races. We have a united people who share the same loyalties, the same outlook and the same traditions. We seek to ensure - and I do not doubt that the Government seeks this too - that our society is so composed that regardless of race all citizens, as well as thousands of Asians and nonEuropean students and visitors, are fully accepted and have equal rights.

Our nation is free of the racial frictions and hatreds that are so common in other parts of the world. The composition of our population ensures the integration of all people and the sharing of our freedom, independence and way of life. This glorious ideal can be maintained without offence to any nation, subject to our policy being administered with sympathy, understanding and tolerance. The Australian Labour Party seeks to keep it this way and that is why, while we support the proposals announced by the Minister, we seek assurances that the principles and the very basis of our immigration policy shall not be disturbed or destroyed.







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