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Thursday, 20 September 1973
Page: 1406


Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) (Minister for Immigration) - I wish to reply, quite briefly, to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch). I say very bluntly that a number of questions on this subject have been placed on the notice paper by him. They have been answered in full. He has placed on the notice paper another series of questions on the same matter, and they also will be answered in full. I point out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that, as this Parliament has already been given a pretty full indication of what has transpired in this matter, by making available in full in Hansard replies to his questions on notice, it is unfair to say that nothing has been before the Parliament on this matter. I think that the matter-


Mr Lynch - We forced it out of you. Be fair.


Mr GRASSBY - Let me say that the matter has been raised in a mistaken way by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition because he thought that there was related to it some aspect of which he possibly could take advantage. I think that he is taking a pretty mean advantage in relation to an international organisation which in the past has done a job. Incidentally, his own Government as long ago as 1968 commenced the negotiations for Australia's withdrawal from the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration. Those negotiations have now been carried to a conclusion, after the initial move in 1968. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, himself a former Minister for Immigration, was party to the continuing negotiations. So it is a little late now for him to come along and raise the matter. I have had word from the Director of ICEM in which he says:

I have no desire to pursue the matter further and consider it should be closed.

My good advice to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is to recognise that, in pursuing this matter further than ICEM wishes to pursue it, he is doing no service to his country or to ICEM.

Tonight he has made statements about other governments being concerned about the movement of migrants. No such communication has been received - none whatsoever.

I might say also that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has made a statement which I think ought to be placed on record. He made it in a letter to me and I would like the House to have the benefit of the knowledge of it. I wish to quote from that letter which he wrote to me. I received it on 6 September 1973; it does not seem to bear a date. The letter states in relation to the withdrawal:

Australia will carry out its recruitment directly and will, as may be readily interpreted by people not favouring such migration, take skilled workers away from European industries and bring them into competing industries in Australia.

Honourable members will be absolutely astounded. Here is a member of the Opposition who has been claiming that we have to import 200,000 people. He has been saying that we are desperately short of people; that we ought to be making great efforts to bring more in. Then he writes to me and says that if we do this people will think we are actually recruiting migrants. I suggest that the former Minister commune with himself because obviously he is confused.


Mr Lynch - 1 rise to a point of order. The Minister has quoted in the House from a document. In accordance with the Standing Orders and the normal precedent I ask that the total letter be tabled.


Mr GRASSBY - I will be happy to do so. It is a copy. The only things that I seem to get in regard to this particular matter are copies of letters.


Mr SPEAKER - Would you pass the letter to the Clerk, please?


Mr GRASSBY - Yes. I ask the Clerk to hold on to it firmly.


Mr Reynolds - What did you say the date was?


Mr GRASSBY - I received it on 6 September. The letter was undated. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition probably did not get around to the date. I want to say that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not doing a service to ICEM. He is not doing a service to his country. He is not doing a service to anybody. He is causing widespread embarrassment. The last message said that the matter is closed as far as ICEM is concerned. He is trying to keep it alive purely for political purposes. I suggest to him, with some sort of reasonableness, that all he is doing is causing continuing embarrassment to ICEM, to Australia and to everyone else. The matter is closed according to ICEM. May I also say that Australia is honouring its international obligations to refugees because we are associated with the United Nations effort, the major effort in this regard. We have made continuing efforts and we are continuing our efforts.

We also have said to this organisation that if there is a need in the future, if there is a major movement which requires our help and co-operation, we are always ready to help. We stand by that commitment. Frankly, in view of the words of advice that have been received in this country the matter would be better closed. It was raised by the honourable member's own Government in 1968. It has been brought to a conclusion after all those years.


Mr Lynch - What about the comments of your officers-


Mr GRASSBY - I suggest that if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will contain himself until the latest question on notice is answered he will have before the Parliament the answers to all his questions. I always make sure that he gets the fullest answers to questions on notice. I will continue to do so. I make a plea to him to desist in what seems to me to be a vendetta. His letters, undated, sometimes do not even arrive until he has raised questions about them. All sorts of strange things have happened and they mean only one thing: He is creating an issue where there is no issue. I suggest that he contain himself until he gets the answer to his questions on notice.

Question resolved in the affirmative.







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