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Thursday, 24 March 1966


Mr PETTITT (Hume) .-1 enjoyed immensely the discourse on history by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). I always do. He speaks extremely well on these subjects. But I wonder whether it was necessary at this stage when we are debating a simple statement by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) that he will remove discrimination against non-Europeans by reducing the qualifying period of residence in this country from 15 years to 5 years. I congratulate the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) on his contribution to the debate. He must be blushing to have compliments from this side of the House. He does not often get them but he deserves them today. One of the most important things we must consider in admitting to Australia people of non-European race is whether we can integrate them into the community. This must be a first principle. In Australia we are desperately short of three main things - men, money and water.

We cannot have the last two without men. Whether the change in our policy will make much difference to the number we will receive I question, but it will certainly help and it will certainly make it much easier for us to get men of ability and qualifications and men with the skills we desperately need if our development of this country is to proceed as we would like. But we do not want the problems that we see in the United States of America, South Africa and Rhodesia. Opposition members seem to agree almost unanimously that we should not encourage Colombo Plan students to stay here. I was interested to hear this, because quite recently at the Australian Citizenship Convention the Deputy Leader of the

Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) strongly advocated that any student who qualified should stay here. But then, he is noted for choosing horses for courses. Perhaps if he had been speaking today and had counted heads his approach would have been altogether different.

I think in choosing immigrants we should first accept those with the ability to help Australia grow and develop. We must set a standard of education and a standard of living. In the early days of our immigration programme, when we had a big influx of refugees and when possibly we were not able to screen intending immigrants as we would have liked and as we do now, we had a number of southern Europeans come here whose standard of hygiene and education left much to be desired. They would not be admitted today. It is true, as honorable members on both sides of the House have said, that almost every country has a restrictive immigration policy. I note here that there is no clause in the policy of the Australian Country Party that refers to the white Australia policy. There was, but that was an old policy which has long since been rewritten, although perhaps it has not yet been freely distributed.

I believe that Australia stands in a unique position in this part of the world. We are the only people of principally European origin in an area where we are surrounded by people of mainly non-European origin. We have a tremendous opportunity to do something really worth while. We can contribute much to the betterment of many people. We are not closely associated in the minds of Asians with the old colonial powers such as Great Britain and America and certainly they know that we are not a military threat. We are not a great financial colossus with the unfortunate knack that America seems to have of antagonising people by being over-generous. It is a basic fact of human nature that if one continually gives gifts to others and patronises them as the Americans often tend to do, a tremendous resentment is created. America has never been able to appreciate this. I am conscious of my experiences in the Middle East during the war. If we went into a shop in Palestine, in Jerusalem or Tei Aviv, asked the price of an article and agreed to pay the price that was first stated, the shopkeeper probably would not sell the article. But if we offered him half the price and engaged in the recognised bartering and bargaining, we would probably buy the article for very little more than we originally offered, the shopkeeper would offer us a cup of coffee and we would be friends.

We must realise that the approach of Asian people to many matters is different from ours. If we hope to exercise the influence that I believe we can in South East Asia, we must understand and appreciate the people of these countries The removal of discrimination from our immigration policy will help tremendously. We must remember that approximately twothirds of the world's population lives not very far away from us. These people at present are underprivileged and many of them have never enjoyed a decent meal. They are not well clothed. They look to us not only for assistance but more for a partnership that will improve their conditions. They look to us for a guiding hand. They look to us because they are unhappy with their present way of life. The way they turn, whether to Communism or to democracy, will very largely be governed by our attitude to them. 1 do not think we will accomplish anything by opening the floodgates at any stage. I commend the Minister for not attempting to adopt a quota system that would be very difficult to apply. I suggest that, if we were to permit the entry of nonEuropean people whom we could not integrate into the community, we would destroy to a large extent our ability to do something worth while and to give a lead to the people in this region. I am sure that we would have difficulties and problems if we admitted a large section of people of non-European race who were not ready to accept our way of life fully. I am reminded very vividly of an experience I had not many years ago. My two boys were at boarding school in Sydney. Quite a few Chinese students from Singapore and Hong Kong were at the same boarding school. Their parents were allowed to come here to visit them, but for only a limited time. These people had European standards of living and, in their culture, were perhaps more European than non-European. They lived a good deal better than most of us were able to live. They had been British subjects for three generations. It is very difficult to tell them that we do not have a discriminatory policy. We should look carefully at people of this type. They have many millions of pounds that they would like to bring here and use in the development of Australia. But this is not easy. If they want to come here and to become Australians, surely there is a place for them here. But I say again that before admitting them we must be sure we can integrate them into the community.

I have much pleasure in congratulating the Minister on the move he has made. I believe he has done a tremendous job in a very difficult portfolio. He has not always had the sympathetic support from both sides of the House that he has had today. There have been occasions when, for purely political ends, some of the actions he has perforce had to carry out because of the existing law have been misunderstood and misrepresented. I commend the Minister for his sincerity and his wisdom in bringing forward this alteration to our immigration policy.







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