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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 2297

Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia) - In addressing oneself to these Appropriation Bills today, I record my own dissent and disappointment at the fact that we are faced with a situation of having to conclude the debate on these Bills today. I am not impressed by the recital of a series of hours which the Estimates Committees sat. They met and they examined the Estimates in detail, line by line. The point is that the Bills before us are of tremendous significance and importance. I think it is not only an unfair process but also an unwise process that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) should put before us the proposition that these measures be passed by a certain hour.

Indeed, I draw attention to this process which I would regard as unwise on the part of a Government which is seeking on 8 December more management of the nation's affairs, more power and more control. I assert here and now that the people of Australia should be well aware that there is certainly no need to give more power to this Government or any other government in Canberra, because the Government has adequate economic powers. These powers have worked with previous governments so far as the nation's economic conditions are concerned, and particularly with relation to inflation. Indeed it should be listed that prior to the last election the now Prime Minister asserted that within the existing Constitution his government could govern effectively and with completeness. The indication that has been given today to conclude the debate on important measures like these by a certain time does not impress me in regard to the management of the Senate.

I wish to refer to the inflationary situation which, of course, is the key problem facing Australia today. During the last 12 months under this Government the rate of inflation has increased considerably. It has trebled from 4.5 per cent per annum to approximately 14 per cent per annum today. This means that today money buys very much less than it bought a year ago when the present Government came into office. In the meantime, the Government continues to boost its expenditure and expand its bureaucracy. This is a waste of resources and manpower. While this situation continues, inflation will continue. We could have a considerable debate on a wide range of issues which affect this situation. I want to refer to only one of the issues. I make a call for the restoration of the migrant intake so that the labour and other personnel shortages in Australia may be relieved from the distressing situation in which they are placed today. The increasing incidence of all kinds of shortagesmanpower and labour shortages- in so many Australian establishments and industries today is a very serious problem. In times past Government members have talked about the clear economic and social advantages of an immigration program.

I suggest that they are contradicting their own statements when they contribute towards a winding down of Australia's immigration program. I call for a reactivation of the program of overseas recruitment so that we can have a proper relationship between immigration- the intake of personnel- and the level of economic activity and development within Australia. Many production difficulties are caused by labour shortages. They are caused in the short term and, at the rate the difficulties are being created, they are an increasing pressure point on the inflationary situation in Australia by contributing dramatically and substantially to production costs. Increasing production costs are associated with commodity shortages. I cannot recall a time other than during wartime when we were faced with such a wide range of commodity shortages as we are faced with today. They range through the whole social, economic, building and industrial fields. Industries of all kinds are facing extreme problems in the recruitment of suitable personnel. The Government should undertake an active and positive program to improve the situation and to take up the position adopted by the former Government in regard to the intake of people.

All honourable senators have admitted that the history of migration in Australia over the last 25 years has shown how vital it is to the total development of the nation industrially, economically, socially and of course, culturally. On coming into office the Government reduced the intake of new settlers. This contributed greatly to the current downturn not only in economic production but also in the general standard of production and development within Australia. I charge the Government that it made no serious examination of Australia's immigration requirements before it set out on a program for the intake of new settlers which was unrealistic and quite unfair to Australia. The necessity to encourage significantly more people to come to Australia is now urgent. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) has stated on a number of occasions that he does not want an immigration program which is simply identified with a labour program. We need not only unskilled workers; we also need skilled workers, workers in the executive and management fields and in the professions. The Government, more than at any other time, is surrounded by advisory bodies of a wide variety. Surely some of them must be undertaking some kind of research into the needs of this country and of the availability of new settlers from source countries.

I know as well as any other honourable senator how the situation in regard to source countries has changed. But it is the responsibility of the Government in an age when we need new settlers and when they are available to go out and find them. It should implement programs of search and examination to bring people to Australia so that the workforce can be strengthened at all levels to provide greater opportunities for the development of industry and for the greater development of all phases of our community living and the standard of our Australian life. The Minister, quite rightly has been very concerned in recent times about the departure rate of migrants from this country. He is not the first Minister to be concerned about that. If we want to maintain a large, active and useful citizen force, we have to be concerned with people staying in this country. So many steps have been taken both by the previous administration and by this administration to retain the number of people who are here. But I am not at all satisfied that enough is being done for the recruitment of migrants to become citizens in Australia for the development of Australian industry and life.

Since the present administration has come into office this matter of mobility, which was a factor under consideration by the previous administration, has increased in its importance and significance. There is now, more than ever before, a greater degree of international mobility for people. Every country that needs the kind of development that we need is faced with this situation. I agree that it is a problem, but it is not a problem which cannot be overcome. It is a problem in regard to which steps can be taken to take advantage of employment so that our production may increase, our labour shortages may disappear and the general standards and productivity may be much better than they are.

In relation to the measures before the Senate this afternoon, this is the only area which I wish to discuss. There are many others to which I could devote a great amount of time and develop a considerable number of arguments. In conclusion, I call for a greater intake of migrants and a re-examination of the Government's recruitment policy because the country needs new citizens more now than it ever has before.

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