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Thursday, 8 November 1973
Page: 1677


Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia) - This Bill has a long connection with the well being of migrants in Australia. As the Minister for the Media Senator Douglas McClelland) stated in his second reading speech:

The objective of the Bill is to eliminate the annual notification of address, occupation and marital status by aliens required to register under the Aliens Act.

The Act required the registration of migrants and of their general movements. It has a strong relationship to the integration of migrants into the Australian community. This measure removes the requirements of the annual notification of address, occupation and marital status by aliens who previously had been required to register under the Act. The situation made for some problems. I note that in 1965 after an amendment to the Act 84 per cent of registered aliens complied with the Act. Last year only 46 per cent of them responded. The Minister further pointed out that penalties and prosecutions are defective both from a legal and a practical standpoint. If prosecutions were to be instituted some 1 50,000 people a year might be involved. As the Minister has said, this is not in the best interest of the Australian community, particularly the migrant community. We agree with the Bill and lend it our support. But it does not necessarily mean that these things, having been listed, are dismissed lightly.

It may well be that in earlier years and under other circumstances the practice of registration has been adopted advisedly. It may now well be that the practice of registration has been superseded. But in the context of a nation's total population, knowing who made up that population, where the people were and what they were doing was not without significance. After all, Australia has a very high percentage of people in its population who are related to the migrant community. A nation like Australia with such a large percentage of people who have come from outside needs in some circumstances to have cognisance of its population content. I certainly do not hold to the view that registration should be maintained. This Bill gives effect to that. But we should recognise that nations must from time to time have some knowledge and some appreciation of the content of their populations. Therefore, they need to devise methods by which they can obtain some information relating to the content of their populations.

It is not without relevance to mention the history of this measure as it passes through the Senate today. The principal Act was introduced by the right honourable Arthur Calwell who was Minister for Immigration in 1947. In presenting the Bill to the House of Representatives on that occasion he put forward some reasons for the legislation. These included the fact that registration of aliens would provide information about the aliens resident in Australia. Also, it would provide data for an analysis of Australia 's alien population so that the government of the day could implement its immigration policy on lines which were considered to be sound and scientific. The Minister on that occasion went on to list a whole range of specific matters on which information was required. I certainly do not propose to go through these, but I draw attention to one or two that are of interest. They were framed in words which were probably more appropriate then than they are now. The Minister desired information on the growth of what he called foreign population' within the Commonwealth; the particular industry groups into which aliens fell; the prevention of undesirable concentrations either in industries or localities; and the devising and imposing, if necessary- I emphasise the words 'if necessary'- of a quota system. Other matters related to industrial expansion, the absorption of aliens into the Australian community and matters such as that.

The main provisions of the Act of those days required that the register of aliens should be maintained in each State. There were certain requirements relating to this registration. Later on, it was found that notification of changes of address and occupation as they occurred was not adhered to in a large majority of cases, although the authorities of each administration encouraged compliance, and procedures to facilitate this notification were introduced. A lot has happened since those days. Of course, many of the phrases, ideas and ideals which were used in the early days of the immigration policy no longer apply. The main purpose of this Bill is to eliminate the annual notification which was introduced by the Act in 1965. The Minister has outlined the reasons for this measure. I think that it has come from a practical, commonsense point of view and is well justified. The statistics which have been listed in the second reading speech clearly indicate to the Senate the impracticability of attempting to enforce the notification procedures. However, I think I need to remind the Senate that this is something rather more than eliminating a procedure which may have proved to be unsatisfactory and which certainly has been superseded.

As I said at the beginning of my remarks, the matter of notification by aliens is very much related to the integration, contentment and wellbeing of the migrants within our gates. Therefore, whether or not a migrant is required to register, whether or not he does register or whether or not he runs a risk of prosecution because he may not comply with a particular Act are all some of a number of features and factors which have an influence on his contentment, well-being and, as we like to describe it, his integration into the Australian community. The influence of this process, of course, may well indicate not only his attitude to the Australian community but also, associated with a number of other things, may well indicate whether or not he will stay within the Australian community. To this extent, I am interested to read of the report which was placed before the Senate a few weeks ago on behalf of the Immigration Advisory Council. In particular, it was presented on behalf of the Council's Committee on Social Patterns which presented a detailed report on an inquiry into the departure of settlers from Australia. As one who formerly had the privilege of being Chairman of the Immigration Advisory Council, I was associated with the first steps of this inquiry back in September 1971. This was a follow up to an earlier inquiry undertaken a few years prior to that.

In the report which the present Chairman of the Council, Senator Mulvihill, put down in the Senate there is a detailed study of the reasons for migrant departure. Of course, all of the reasons given have a strong relationship to matters within Australia concerning the integration of migrants into the Australian community and the relationship of migrants to the overall Australian community. As I said earlier, the migrant community within Australia is a large one. Therefore the attitudes which it, as a total community, or any segment of it, takes to the Australian community are not without importance. I will refer to some of the reasons which are given by the Committee in its report.

The Committee's investigation showed that only rarely do migrants' departures derive from one single identifiable cause. All of the evidence which was put before the Committee of the Immigration Advisory Council suggested that departures generally resulted from a number of factors and a complexity of factors. Some of these related to some dissatisfaction with Australia. But the Committee came to the firm conclusion that the large proportion of migrants who left Australia left for reasons other than dissatisfaction with Australia.

Interestingly enough, a significant number of people concerned in this study were described as those who used immigration to Australia to try to escape personal and environment problems at home. But finding no answer here, they eventually left, taking their problems elsewhere. Another factor which is underlined by this Committee is that we live in an age of international mobility. More and more people are not only able but want to move from one continent to another to try life and experience in different countries. We certainly live in the age of the intercontinental migrant. Social and personal reasons account for quite a considerable number of departures. These include the not surprising elements of homesickness and a desire to return. Underlined in this report is the attitude of the Australian community. The report states:

In addition, a migrant's ability to cope with a new life depends largely on the attitude of the community in which he comes to live and many Australians are still reluctant or lack adequate understanding to assist. A large proportion of migrants claim that, whether or not they become Australian citizens, they will always be thought of as migrants.

The Committee's report refers also to communication and migrant education problems- subjects which often have been debated in various ways in this chamber- as well as the employment situation. I know that many of these things have been taken care of by the previous Government and by the present Government by introducing legislation to create a climate of well being for the migrant community within Australia. The Aliens Bill which is now before us adds to that legislation, and I hope that it will make a contribution towards the contentment of the new settlers in our midst. I support the Bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.







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