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Friday, 15 May 1970

Mr LYNCH (FLINDERS, VICTORIA) (Minister Assisting the Treasurer) - It is true that this year there will be an increase in the number of former settlers returning to their homelands. Departmental estimates place the number at approximately 27,000 which is 3,500 more than for the preceding year. However, I do emphasise to the honourable gentleman that this number of returning migrants must be seen against the record number of migrants who will come to Australia during the course of this year. As I mentioned in the House yesterday at question time, the number of new arrivals is confidently expected to be 184,000, which well exceeds the target of 175,000. This means that the achievement during the course of the current financial year will be 8,000 migrants more than last year's record total and 9,000 more than the target at which we have been aiming for the present financial year. After allowing for the increase in the number of returning settlers, which is estimated at 3,500 there will still bc a net gain of 5,000 over the preceding 12 months.

I and my Department are concerned at the returnee rate, and every effort is being made to ensure that it is kept at a minimum. At the same time, all honourable gentlemen will recognise that some degree of returnee rate is unavoidable. As the migration programme continues to attract increasing numbers in future years it is expected that that returnee rate will continue. In relation to the reasons for migrants returning to their homelands I point out that the studies which have been taken out indicate that rarely can these reasons be put down to single identifiable causes. Oftentimes the reason which is seen by the migrant to precipitate his return is simply the product of a number of general factors. In looking at this question one must appreciate that a number of people today recognise that we live in a time in which there is unparalleled mobility between countries, that a number of migrants do come to Australia without the intention of permanently remaining here, that some do pass on to other countries and that there are many migrants who return to their source countries for reasons which may be personal or related to their employment.

Our studies indicate that these reasons account for a substantial number of returning migrants. As to the balance - that is to say, those who return because they are dissatisfied with life in Australia - we know that a number, not long after returning home, seek again the opportunity to come to Australia. I can assure the honourable gentleman that this is not a matter which I or my Department regard with complacency. Regular studies are carried out on the returnee rale by the Immigration Advisory Council. These studies which date back to 1966 and which will continue next year indicate that the returnee rate, having regard to the experience in other countries with large migration programmes, is extremely satisfactory, lt compares favourably with the experience of other countries and it will continue to receive our particular attention.

Against this general background I conclude by saying simply that in future years no longer shall we be able to regard the story of migration with any degree of complacency because the bonus years of migration are over. It therefore behoves the Commonwealth and other sections of the Australian community, against the background of the increasing economic buoyancy of so many of the source countries which have produced our traditional numbers, to do more to ensure that we maintain the figures and increase them in future years. The Commonwealth Government is doing more, but this is a responsibility which is shared by the Commonwealth and the States, employers and employees, and the general community.

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