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Thursday, 26 August 1937

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) . - I take this opportunity to make a few remarks regarding the matter of migration, in view of the statements made in this chamber earlier to-day, and in the press earlier in the week, which, in the opinion of myself and my informants, are not in accordance with facts. Any statement to the effect that migrants are being brought to Australia, to be sent to Queensland with the consent of the Queensland Government, is not true. Such a statement has been made in this chamber, with the result that it is generally understood throughout Australia that the alien migrants who are proceeding to the sugar-fields are going there at the request of the Queensland Government.

Senator Sir George Pearce - To what statement is the honorable senator referring? I made a statement on alien migration to-da.y, but I used no words to that effect.

Senator COLLINGS - I am referring to statements which have appeared in the press during the last few weeks. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) wrote to the Premier of Queensland on the 16th September, 1936, following the informal discussion at the Premiers Conference at Adelaide, putting forward the following proposals : -

The following suggestions appear to my Government as being worthy of consideration. In submitting these, the Commonwealth desires to emphasize that all applications for assisted passages would, of course, first be submitted by the individuals or organizations concerned to the States for approval: -

(a)   the grant of assisted passages might now be extended to relatives of persons already resident in Australia;

(b)   if it be the desire of any State that female household workers and/or youths for farm work be introduced, the Commonwealth will arrange for their introduction, upon receipt nf requisitions ;

(c)   persons of British stock resident in the United Kingdom who would be in possession of -

(i)   in the case of a married man, not less than £300 capital on arrival in Australia, or, alternatively, a pension or other income of not less than £100 per annum; and

(   ii ) in the case of a single man, not less than £50 capital on arrival ; might be given the same benefits in respect of assisted passages as are contemplated in regard to nominated migrants.

In January, 1937, the Prime Minister advised that his Government was prepared to set the scheme in motion to the extent desired by Queensland. He was advised that, so soon as the Queensland Government was in a position to receive, as migrants, relatives nominated by persons already resident in Australia, and youths for farm work, advice would be sent.

Senator Sir George Pearce - All of those proposals were in respect of British migrants; they had nothing to do with aliens.

Senator COLLINGS - I am not referring only to the statement made by the Leader of the Senate to-day.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The letter which thehonorable senator has just read related entirely to British migrants.

Senator COLLINGS - Following complaints from the Queensland Police Department and from the Queensland Department of Labour and Industry that large numbers of aliens were becoming a burden upon the Queensland unemployment relief funds, the Minister for Labour and Industry in Queensland, the Honorable M. P. Hynes, M.L.A., criticized the action of the Commonwealth in allowing large numbers of alien migrants to enter Queensland and become a charge on the government. Surely, the Leader of the Government does not desire to impress me with the idea that he is unaware of statements made in the press during recent weeks regarding the arrival of aliens and, most recently, of the published criticism of passengers on the Otranto concerning the physique and mentality of alien migrants travelling on that vessel.

Senator Sir George Pearce - I dealt with the latter matter in the ' statement which I made to-day.

Senator COLLINGS - It was asserted that no alien migrants were admitted to Queensland without the approval of the Queensland Government. The Minister for Labour and Industry showed that such was not the case and that a letter written by the Prime Minister on the 24th November, 1936; stated in reply to representations from Queensland -

Every application is considered on its merits, having regard to the relationship of the nominee to the guarantor, the latter's occupation and financial standing, the intended occupation of the nominee and whether his employment is likely to be detrimental to an Australian worker. Due consideration is given to reports of unemployment in any particular district, and, in this connexion, it may be mentioned that quite a number of applications have been refused where the nominees proposed to proceed to the canefields in North Queensland. . . .

It is not practicable for the Commonwealth authorities to exercise a check to ensure that the undertakings are honoured in all cases, but suitable action is taken in any cases which come under notice where the nominees have become a charge upon State funds.

Mr. Hyneswent on to say that these extracts proved that the Commonwealth authorities make the decision, and that the State has no say in the matter, other than to provide through its police the means for the Commonwealth authorities to make inquiries. Mr. Hynes continued -

The true position is, as set out in a letter which I, as Acting Premier, forwarded to the Prime Minister on 4th November, 1930, that these applications are generally submitted to the Commonwealth investigating officer resident in each State, who transmits them to the local police, with a request for a police report on same.

It has been noticed in this State that, during the past twelve months, the number of these reports has been increasing, although it is not known what is the ultimate decision in the various applications.

Representations have been repeatedly made to the Commonwealth authorities in this regard, but without satisfactory results. It is, therefore, futile for the Minister for .the Interior to claim that the onus of deciding whether these people shall be admitted to Queensland is upon the Queensland authorities. The position is that Queensland has no say in the matter, but when these people become destitute they become a charge upon the State, and the Commonwealth authorities simply fold their arms and dd nothing.

On the 1st July, 1937, the Premier of Queensland (Mr. Forgan Smith) said -

I have not yet had an opportunity of investigating all the statements made recently by Mr. Paterson, the Federal Minister for the Interior, on migration to North Queensland, but one glaring misstatement of fact was that the Commonwealth never admitted an alien unless the Queensland police reported favorably.

I am officially informed of a case in which application was made in my own State for the admission of an alien woman. The Queensland police reported unfavorably regarding the application, yet the woman was permitted to land at Fremantle.

The Minister for the Interior had asserted that the Commonwealth made inquiries through the Queensland police as to the character and standing of nominators, but the difficulty in Queensland was that aliens admitted into other States on Commonwealth landing permits made their way into Queensland, and thu* entered the State without any inquiry by Queensland police. The addition to Queensland's alien population in this way was considerable.

If the instance I have mentioned is any criterion of the others, then I can only say that Mr. Paterson is furnishing unreliable information on a subject of public importance.

The Premier of Queensland said, on the 16th July, 1937, that a general tightening-up of the immigration laws was urgently needed, and he was satisfied that the case which he would submit to the Federal Government would justify immediate action. He emphasized that alien migration could not be controlled by the States, which were not consulted by the Commonwealth Government in regard to the admission of aliens. The States, he added, were never informed of the terms of an application for an admission of any particular alien or of the names of his or her guarantors.

The Brisbane Telegraph of the 5th August, 1937, gave the following as the overseas migration figures for the six months ended June, 1937 : -

Overseas migration for the six months ended June, 1937, resulted in a loss of 358 in Queensland's population, according to figures made available by the Commonwealth Statistician yesterday. The arrivals in the State totalled 2,157, while the departures numbered 2,515. The Commonwealth's loss of population caused by overseas migration was 3,443; the arrivals numbering 33,913, and the departures 37,356.

Arrivals of Southern Europeans were 1,246 greater than the departures, but this was more than offset by a substantial excess of departures over arrivals of people of British nationality and other Europeans.

What a nice state of affairs!

In the corresponding six months of last year, the excess of arrivals of Southern Europeans over departures totalled 905. The Statistician's report has revealed that 926 Italians arrived in the first six months of 1937, and that 518 Italians formerly resident in Australia departed during the same period. There was therefore an excess of Italian arrivals over departures of 408.

The Courier-Mail, of the 19th July, 1937, stated in a leading article -

The Premier has raised this question with the Commonwealth Government, and has probably been induced to do so because of Queensland's particular attraction of Italian migrants, who constitute the largest element of its foreign population. The 1933 census revealed that Queensland had then more residents of foreign European birth than any other State. Figures compiled from the census returns are as follows: - Queensland, 20,416; New South Wales, 26,286; Victoria, 19,677; Western Australia, 12,641 ; South Australia, 6,829; Tasmania, 675. The figures for Queensland and New South Wales show only a small difference, but when they are related to the total populations of the two States they disclose that Europeans of foreign birth in Queensland in 1933 amounted to nearly 2.8 per cent. of the population, while in New South Wales they amounted to only a little more than 1 per cent. The 1933 census returns also showed that Queensland then had more residents of Italian birth than any other State, namely, 8,355, compared with6,319 in New South Wales, 5,860 in Victoria and 4,588 in Western Australia; and that this State also had more people unable to read and write English, but able to read and write a foreign language, than any other State. The number for Queensland was 8,856, nearly 2,000 more than in New South Wales, and it included 4,116 Italians.

Generally, the position is that aliens can land at any port in the Commonwealth, and, without any check on the part of any one, may move from State to State; thus the population of a State may he increased by many thousands of aliens without assent to their admission by the State or even the Commonwealth authorities. The Premier of Queensland said on the 7th July, 1937, that it was not right that the Commonwealth should have full control of the admission of migrants. He suspected that there was a " ring " to provide the necessary landing money for alien migrants.

I felt that I should not neglect this opportunity to submit this convincing evidence of what is happening in connexion with migration. The position that has arisen is detrimental to my State because of the impression that ha3 been created that the State Government has done nothing to prevent the influx of alien migrants. That is positively untrue and I resent it. I also wish to make it clear that if there is a change of government in the Commonwealth following the forthcoming appeal to the electors, we shall show the people what can be done with the migration problem. It is a part of our policy that not a single individual shall come to this country from overseas if he will need a job when he gets here, until every decent Australian able and willing to work has been found a job.

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