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Wednesday, 24 August 1983
Page: 222

Mr STAPLES(9.34) —In years gone by, the attitude of Australian governments, and Australian society in general, to immigration and to immigrants was, to put it mildly, anti-social and racist. In my early school years in the 1950s when the Migration Act of 1958 was being formulated I was faced, as many of us were, with a rapidly changing face to our society. The streets, schools, factories and homes were filling with people who spoke what seemed to be strange , incomprehensible languages, who had strange habits and who ate strange foods. Most had come from war-torn Europe. We called them derogatory names and we put them into inhumane camps full of tin huts. To us dinkum Aussies they were different and we considered them to be basically inferior. There was another group whose members did speak our language, who had similar living habits and who ate similar food. These English speaking migrants were labelled only as Poms and we rarely abused them or discriminated against them in the same ways in which we discriminated against non-English speaking migrants who were mostly non -British subjects.

Unfortunately, our migration and citizenship laws formed in those post-World War II days sadly reflected our national attitudes and bigotries. It has taken us at least 25 years to formally and legally begin to alter these provisions. This attitude of fear and denigration is not new to us or something that is contained in us alone. Any look through our history books, and at the cartoons especially, of colonial and early post-Federation days will show the extent of our fear and racism. Our treatment of the Aborigines, Chinese, Pacific Islanders and Asians in general was and, in some cases, still is quite disgusting. It is important for us to look back into our history to our national and societal attitudes in order to point to the way we must head today.

These legislative amendments to the Migration Act are a very important step in the multicultural process which more and more is being broadly accepted today as a reasonable expression of our complete nationality. In 1973 it became official Australian administrative policy that there would not be discrimination on national or racial grounds in the selection or admission of migrants to this country. Now, after another 10 years, we are just getting around to putting these attitudes and other solidly based community attitudes into our migration law. The terminology and attitudes at the height of the Cold War period are enshrined in this Act at the moment. It is this terminology and these attitudes that we address in this legislation tonight.

There is no place for sexist, racist or discriminatory terminology in our legislation. The changes to this Act as a whole clearly reflect the Government's intent in this regard. With the passage of this Bill we will have two categories -citizens and non-citizens-and the discrimination in treatment between aliens and protected persons will hence be eliminated. To many these simple words would seem to be meaningless changes, but in a few words they head us towards furthering our aim of multicultural society. The changes proposed in this Bill will enhance the social cohesion and will help to include and develop the cultural identity which should be protected in further development of equality of opportunity. Whether it be as individuals in the work place, in families in suburban streets or in law, we would be able to give equal respect to people under these changes.

In this debate a lot has been said about deportation. Deportation is a subject which often causes deep concern and at times deep, hurtful divisions in our communities. Emotions often run high and more often than not they are dependent on the crime or the situation. Parliament gives the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West) a discretion to determine whether resident non-citizens who have been convicted in Australia of major criminal conduct are to be deported. It is up to us now to give the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs the jurisdiction to treat all non-citizens equally regardless of whether they be originally from British subject stock or from non-British subject background. To be quite frank and sincere, in most cases I cannot understand the attitude of some members of this Opposition. They are prepared to support the law as it stands at the moment in that Commonwealth citizens or protected persons, as criminals, are allowed to stay but aliens are subject to deportation . That attitude should show to all non-Commonwealth ethnic communities how little understanding, appreciation and respect exist towards them from this Opposition.

All the Government is saying is that all non-citizens should be treated fairly and as equals without discrimination because of their country of birth or their race. I am sure that few people who currently hold British subject non-citizen status would wish their fellow immigrants, who happen to be non-British, to be treated in such a discriminatory fashion. If a person commits a serious crime in this country I believe that regardless of the person's origins we have a responsibility to our society and that we must acknowledge our responsibility for accepting that person into Australia in the first place.

Why should Anglo-Saxons in this country have extraordinary rights and privileges over people from non-Commonwealth backgrounds? Are we to continue this archaic discrimination forever? People who oppose this legislation should investigate the role of immigrants of non-British background in the development of our country. We are prepared to accept their work. We are prepared to accept their money as consumers and as taxpayers. It seems that there are those on the Opposition benches who are prepared to kick them out of the country when, under similar circumstances, more proper British types can stay on.

Mr Hodgman —I raise a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I must correct the honourable member. The Opposition does not oppose this legislation. It has made that very clear. I think that the honourable member has a misunderstanding. We are not opposing the legislation.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Child) — Thank you. The honourable member may proceed.

Mr STAPLES —The Government's criminal deportation policy released in a ministerial statement by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is a responsible, humane and egalitarian document by any standards. That policy is being incorporated now into this legislation. It is not the crimes that will be eliminated: It is the discrimination between Commonwealth non-citizens and non- Commonwealth non-citizens that will be eliminated. Much confusion clearly exists , and I hope that this confusion itself will be eliminated. This is 1983, not 1953, and by far the great majority of non-citizens who settle in this country are law-abiding people who have a right to expect acceptance by this country after 10 years, except in extreme cases.

It is instructive to look at the origins of our overseas-born population, which now totals more than 3 million people. About 38 per cent were born in the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland. Most of the remainder, nearly 2 million people, will have come from non-British, non-Commonwealth backgrounds, and it is these people who have in the past been discriminated against. We have no rights at all to discriminate in our terminology or application of law to new settlers from other lands, just as we have no right to discriminate against the Aboriginal people, who were here long before us. If members of this Parliament are concerned about equality and freedom from discrimination under the law for all people, they can only support these changes. I commend this Bill to the House.