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Wednesday, 14 July 1926

Senator SAMPSON (Tasmania) . - It was not my intention to speak on this bill, but I have been so amazed at the trend of the debate that I feel it incumbent upon me to do so. The short title of the bill is significant. It reads - "Development and Migration Act." Honorable senators will observe that development comes first, and after it migration. That is the proper order. The bill is designed to deal with the two biggest problems confronting Australia - the development of the country, and its population by people of our own race. I do not agree with Senators Needham and Lynch that this commission is unnecessary, or that the Government, which professes to be a business government, should directly grapple with this complicated and difficult problem. Although the Government may have the ability to deal with this problem in a painstaking and scientific manner, it has not the time to do so. Migration will follow develop- " ment, as surely as night follows day. The problems confronting Australia 'with regard to development have never really been faced. At no time have the various Governments, either State or Commonwealth, made a careful stocktaking of their resources and the best means of developing them. That will be one of the duties of the commission. Under the agreement with Great Britain, schemes will be submitted by the States for the approval of the Commonwealth Government. It is impossible for this Parliament to examine thoroughly the various schemes which may be submitted. Personally, I find it difficult sometimes, within the limited time available, to understand the. various questions with which we are called upon to deal in this chamber. Other honorable senators probably experience the same difficulty. It will be the sole duty of the commission to do this work, and, provided that the right persons are appointed, it should render valuable service to Australia. A list of the articles which we now import, but which ought to be produced here, is enough to make a self-respecting Australian gasp. That matter would come within the scope of the commission. I congratulate the Government on having introduced this measure, which, I believe, is a step in the right direction. For years, I was State Immigration Officer in Tasmania, relinquishing the position about 15 months ago. My experience then taught me that there was a tendency to speak optimistically regarding our future, without analysing the position. We talked airily of our great open spaces, and the need for a greater population, but we did not make a careful study of the position. That will be done by the commission, and so long as it is properly constituted, I have no doubt that great good will result from its appointment. Honorable senators need have no fear that "an influx of the right type of immigrant will cause further unemployment. The experience of other countries is that development, instead of increasing unemployment, provides further opportunities for employment. The commission will also undertake a survey of Australia's labour requirements. I believe that the appointment of the commission will help to solve our unemployed problems. Necessarily, it will have to keep in close touch with the Minister for Markets and Migration, because the right marketing of commodities intended for export must go hand in hand with the expansion of migration schemes. The fact that every proposal must be examined by the com mission is important. The final decision, of course, will rest with the government of the day, but I direct attention to the provision that the Government shall not. approve of any scheme upon which the commission has reported adversely. That is a very wise arrangement. The Government, of course, may reject a scheme approved by the commission, but may not proceed with any scheme that is condemned by that body.

Senator Pearce - Unless it is instructed to do so by resolution of both Houses.

Senator SAMPSON - That is so. It would be damnable if it were possible for the Government of the day, for political purposes, to carry out a scheme which, after exhaustive examination by the commission, had been reported upon adversely by that body.

Senator Needham - Does the honorable senator say that the final decision' with regard to any scheme rests with Parliament ?

Senator SAMPSON - Yes.

Senator Needham - If the honorable senator reads the agreement again he will find that the final decision rests with the Imperial Government.

Senator SAMPSON - It has been stated during \he debate that Great Britain is desirous of swamping Australia with large numbers of her unemployed. It has also been inferred that the quality of the migrants lately has not been up to Australian standard. After three and a half years' experience as a migration officer in my own State, and as one who came into personal touch with about 1,100 immigrants in the first eighteen months, I can say, without fear of contradiction, that, physically and mentally, they are the equal of the average Australian citizen. Of course, a certain numper of misfits have come out, but the percentage has been very small indeed. Unfortunately, there has been a tendency in the press of Australia to magnify any little slip made by a new settler. This is hardly fair. We had a somewhat similar experience when we returned from the war. Frequently one read in the newspapers that "Bill Jones, a returned soldier," had been arrested on a charge of being drunk and disorderly, or that " Tom Brown, a returned soldier," had been guilty of some misdemeanour. . As an association, we strongly resented the unnecessary publicity given to such incidents, and stated that it was only fair that the newspapers should give the same prominence ' to the misdoings of "Bill Snooks, who "was eligible to enlist but did not do so." In this way we succeeded, to. some extent, in overcoming that prejudice .to returned soldiers, which was fostered mainly by unwise press publicity. In the same way, we should endeavour to give new settlers a fair deal. I have had occasion to direct the attention of newspaper proprietors in my own State to this matter. I believe that the little slips made by new settlers have been featured because they represented what newspaper men would call good ' ' copy. ' ' This sort of thing does riot help, and, unfortunately, it has created a certain amount of prejudice against new settlers. I speak with great feeling on this matter. I have been keenly interested in the migration movement for many years. Prior to the war I was a member of a migration league, a purely voluntary body that did" very good work in Tasmania in the years 1912, 1913, and 1914. "When I went to the war, I shall never forget the wonderful courtesy and uniform kindness with which I and other Australians who were wounded in the war were treated in the Mother Country. The least we can do now is to extend the glad hand of friendship to new settlers coming from Britain, and do what. we can to smooth away the difficulties in their path. I hope, therefore, that we shall see less of this press publicity with regard to any slips "made by new-comers. I welcome .the bill, especially because of the good it is likely to do for my own State. Tasmania has been in a position of serious difficulty for many years. She is like a business man who, owing to financial stringency, ic unable to take advantage of his assets. Tasmania has wonderful natural resources in minerals, timber,, and "white coal," but; unfortunately, she is unable to develop' them. We are hoping for much from the- operations of this commission, because of the promise' made by the Prime Minister following the 'report on Tasmania's finances submitted by Sir Nicholas Lockyer. I" take it that the Migration Commission, acting in conjunction with .the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, will investigate Tasmania's position, and that important recommendations will be made as to the development of its natural resources. I do not agree with those honorable senators who say that the commission is unnecessary, and that the problem of migration and development should be left to Parliament. Parliament has not the time to deal with it. It is essential that we should " appoint the very best men available to study the position from a scientific and economic aspect, and recommend schemes for the solution of this difficult problem. I am glad that at last a start has been made, and on right lines, to handle this problem of development and migration. I welcome the bill, and will give it my support.

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