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Thursday, 24 March 1966

Mr KING (Wimmera) .- I agree with the remarks that other speakers in this debate have made about the speech we heard from the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). So often have I said after listening to the honorable member, that I disagree wholeheartedly with everything he has said, but this afternoon is one of the few occasions when I can congratulate the honorable member on what I believe to be a worthwhile and important address to the House and to the nation. The subject of the statement by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) on 9th March is one of the most delicate subjects introduced into this Parliament for some time. Throughout Australia there are people who, irrespective of their political beliefs, support the Government's migration policy. On the other hand, some who may normally support the Government oppose its immigration policy. In the main, most people support the changes of policy announced by the Minister. Certainly all three parties represented in this House support them. It is essential to have an immigration policy that is, in the long term, of advantage to Australia. Many of those who disagree with our policy unfortunately have a persona! grudge. So there are many differences of opinion as to how our immigration policy should be administered.

I and many other people believe in a chiefly homogeneous population. Others, un-. fortunately, do not. Some people believe that we discriminate to the extent of being too static in the administration of our policy. May I remind the House of alterations to our policy in recent years. In 1956, for the first time since Federation, we permitted non-Europeans to be naturalised and permitted relatives of permanent residents :n come to Australia. We also allowed highly qualified and experienced people to enter the country for indefinite periods. In 1957 we altered our policy to permit those admitted on a temporary permit to be naturalised after having been here for a qualifying period. This provision applied particularly to non-Europeans who had to be here for 15 years. In 1964 the rules governing the entry of persons of mixed descent were eased. This change in policy permitted the admission of people on compassionate grounds. It permitted the entry of relatives of people already here, people with experience useful to Australia and people able to contribute to Australia's progress. Now the Government has announced more important changes. These in my opinion are not static. The first important change is the reduction of the qualifying period for nonEuropeans from 15 years to 5 years, thus removing a form of discrimination. In his statement the Minister said -

The second decision 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 qualifications which are in fact positively useful to Australia. They will be able after five years stay on temporary permits to apply for resident status and citizenship. They will be able to bring their immediate families with them on first arrival.

The reduction of the qualifying period for non-Europeans, from 15 years to 5 years will be received extremely well. I welcome the fact that now all migrants will be equal. No longer will there be this particular form of discrimination. The Government's decision does away with what was perhaps an unnecessary hardship. I. have known people who, due to the application of this rule, have been separated from their families for ten years - needlessly one might now claim. If this was not a form of discrimination I certainly do not know the meaning of the word.

The easing of conditions of entry for specialist migrants will be of some help to Australia in her shortage of skilled people, but I hope that it will not have an adverse effect on the countries from which these people may come because skilled labour is vitally important to many countries, particularly those of South East Asia. It is important, for example, that students who study in Australia under the Colombo Plan should return to their homelands and assist in their development. We must not bleed other countries of their skilled workers. After all, it is our aim to increase the educational standards of many overseas countries.

I was relieved to hear the Minister say that quotas would not be introduced. He said that annual quotas are not contemplated. May this always be so. 1 think the honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson) or the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) referred to this matter. Quotas create an impossible situation. I know that some people believe in quotas and that pressure has been brought to bear from time to time for the introduction of quotas. To my mind it would be an impossible situation. If we introduced a quota system how would we determine the quotas? Would it be on a proportionate basis? Let me illustrate this point. New Guinea has a population of 2 million; Indonesia, 100 million; India, 400 million and China about 800 million. Under a quota system, for every two people we admit from New Guinea would we admit 100 from Indonesia, 400 from India and 800 from Communist China? This would not work. In no circumstances should the Minister consider introducing quotas. If he does he will not have my support, because I believe a quota, based on proportions, would be another form of discrimination, and we are trying to avoid discrimination. If we introduce quotas we must have regard to all people irrespective of their home country and of their colour.

Australia has a population of 11 million; the United States of America a population of 200 million. Geographically these countries are about the same size. Will Australia ever have a population of 200 million? I am sure the answer is in the negative. Australia is such a dry continent that it could not accommodate 200 million. Many parts of Australia would accommodate few people. I think that as a long range target we should aim for a population of 100 million. This must of necessity be an extremely long range target and not one to be reached in our time - and I certainly do not classify myself as old.

It has been said often that the eyes of the world are on Australia. This is true. Many people ask what we are doing in Australia about immigration, but they overlook the dryness of most of this continent. The American population is increasing. Can America absorb more people? Is America looking to Australia as a country to which Americans can migrate? Is this happening in the United Kingdom and in many European countries. I believe it is because of the density of population in' other countries that so many people have an interest in Australia. All European countries have seasonal labour shortages but generally they must be approaching population saturation point. Is Australia the country to which people can migrate? Most Europeans look to Australia as a possible new home.

If we open the door, as it were, we will lose the homogeneity of our population. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) said that we do not want a Little Rock in Australia. I agree entirely. Nor do we want a Los Angeles, a South Africa or. for that matter, a London. Many of London's problems today stem from the fact that the British immigration policy was not strengthened sufficiently early. The honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson) referred to racial differences ki South East Asia. Ceylon will not accept Indians as immigrants, China will not accept Malayans or Indians; and so the story goes on in almost every South East Asian country. Australia is fortunate that it has had a firm immigration policy. I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has returned to the chamber. He was our first Minister for Immigration and I congratulate him for having put his feet under the table so early.

Our immigration policy must be administered with sympathy and understanding. It is important that the people in the countries to our north understand the policy. We should always remember the maxim, " When in doubt, leave it out", for if we amend our policy and open the door we will not be able to shut the door. It is so easy to open the door, but it is not so easy to close it. Every country naturally has the right to decide its own policy. I remember discussing immigration with a minister of religion. We could not agree. He felt that as a country wc were definitely discriminating unnecessarily against some people. Finally, after quite an argument, I said: " Have you any definite ideas on what our policy should be? " and he replied: " Yes, an open door for all." I said: " Does this mean that you would allow every person on earth to migrate to Austrafia if he so desired? " and he replied: "Yes." I can assure honorable members that since then he and I have never discussed immigration with each other.

It is our prerogative to decide our policy. It is pleasant to be able to speak on immigration at naturalisation ceremonies and elsewhere knowing that the three political parties represented in this House are generally in agreement on the subject. It is nice to know that immigration is not a party political matter and that we can, for once, agree. We must make sure that we preserve the right to keep Australia's population mostly homogeneous, so that in our children's time Australia will still be a country in which people are happy to live and not, as the honorable member for Newcastle said, a Little Rock.

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