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Thursday, 26 August 1937

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for External Affairs) . - by leave - Before setting out in broad general terms the attitude of the Government on alien white migration, it is necessary, in view of misleading statements recently made and also of the misunderstanding in the minds ofthe publicon the question, to make the position clear. A few figures will help to this end. For the four calendar years 1925 to 1928 inclusivei the net gain to this country by white alien migrants - that is to say, the excess of arrivals over departures - was more than 35,000. The annual average net gain was nearly 9,000.

For the last two financial years, 1935-36 and 1936-37, the net influx of white aliens has been 2,599 and 3,234 respectively, or about one-third of the pre-depression numbers. These figures show quite clearly that what has been described as a " heavy influx " of foreigners is nothing of the kind. What happened was that British migration not only ceased, 'but that the tide turned the other way. More British people left Australia than came into it. For the seven years 1930 to 1936 inclusive, we lost nearly 30,000 people of British stock, due to the excess of departures over arrivals. In the financial year just closed, the net loss was 1,248, Of these about two-thirds left in 1930 and 1931. Taken in conjunction with the heavy fall in the birthrate and the disturbed state of the world, this discloses a position which must give every Australian food for very serious thought.

Turning now to a review of white alien immigration, the first point that needs special emphasis is that every alien immigrant must pay his own passage. No assistance of any kind is given by either Commonwealth or State governments to such immigrants. Further, every white alien not guaranteed employment is required to have £200 capital. Those who have such a guarantee must, have £50 capital. The only alien migrants admitted without capital are the wife and children of the migrant or of a person already in Australia, provided that their future maintenance is assured.

Before issuing a permit - without which no alien can land - the Minister must be satisfied in every case that the newcomers would engage in trades and occupations in which there is opportunity for their absorption without detriment to Australian workers. In this connexion reports are obtained from the policein the various States on each individual case, and when a report is adverse a permit is refused.

An analysis of the figures shows that of the 227aliens on the Otranto, about whom disparaging comments have been made, 107 were women and children coming out to join their breadwinners, who hitherto had been obliged to remit a large part of their earnings to maintain them. Such family reunions are surely desirable from the humanitarian as well as the economic aspect. A further 32 were former residents of Australia returning from a holiday abroad. Fifteen were en route to New Zealand or elsewhere, leaving only 73 new non-dependants - less than one-third of the total allien migrants on the vessel.

Before a white alien can obtain a permit to come to Australia he must have a medical certificate, showing him to be in sound health. The doctor on board ship must immediately report any cases of sickness or physical defects generally which come under his notice during the voyage. Finally, the new arrivals must pass our boarding medical officers before leaving the ship.

I repeat that the number of white aliens arriving here is only about onethird of the pre-depression figures. It is said that an unduly large proportion of Italians are among the new arrivals, but the actual figures show that while in 1935-36 the net migration of Italians was 1,447, in 1936-37 it was only 730, or about one-half of the previous year's figures.

The policy of the Commonwealth Government, briefly stated, has been and is -

(1)   To safeguard the employment and living standards of its own people - this it regards as its paramount duty - and

(2)   Subject to this to encourage British migration.

In the five-year period 1925 to 1929, the net gain to the population through British migration was over 132,000, an average addition of more than 26,000 a year. In the next seven years, 1930 to 1936 inclusive, the net los3 of persons of British stock was nearly 30,000. This loss of British migrants from Australia still continues, despite the provision of assisted passages from the British Isles. In the financial year just closed the net loss was 1,248. In the face of these figures, the fall in the birthrate and the present international situation, we can hardly slam the door on the rest of the world. "We can, and do, ensure that the influx of white aliens shall not prejudice us nationally or lower our standards of living.

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