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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1974

Senator HARRADINE —by leave-It is my considered view that this debate on immigration has gone too far and it is now time for us to reflect on where we are and to act as leaders of this nation on a matter which is of fundamental importance and which is very sensitive in character. I believe it is time to stop recriminations about this issue, not to consider whether the consensus, as it were, has been broken by reason of the fact that the current Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West) has not adequately brought into consultation members of the Opposition, or whether the Opposition started the attack in the first place. I believe that the call of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) for a return to a bipartisan attitude and a bipartisan policy on this question warrants the support of all members of the Parliament. I understand that as late as today the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) has given support to that view. I did not hear all of Senator Chipp's speech yesterday, but I heartily approved of what I heard. I think it was a timely speech.

I happen to be of the opinion that, far from the Government being imbalanced in its attitude towards bringing people from Asia, Australia does have a capacity to receive a greater number of refugees than Australia is receiving at present from the troubled areas of South East Asia. I congratulate the previous Government for its humanitarian approach to this issue. I am sure that calm and wiser counsel should prevail. As Senator Chipp said yesterday, how can one open one's door to refugees in one year and then close the door, particularly to their immediate families, their spouses and their children, the next year? I believe that that is not and has never been the attitude of the current Opposition in government. I believe it is not really the attitude of the combined Opposition at present.

It is important that we give reaffirmation to a humanitarian policy and to the policy of family reunion. I, therefore, will not say any more, but I do hope that between now and the next time we meet in the Senate chamber the leaders of the parties will get together with the Minister and his Opposition number and discuss this whole issue so that we can restore to Australia a bipartisan, tripartisan, quadripartisan or non-partisan party consensus on this issue. If not, by the time we return to the Senate I suppose the Government will then have to rely on the numbers in this chamber and the other chamber-if that is necessary, so be it-to indicate to the people of Australia what the Parliament as a whole feels about the matter. I hope that that will not be necessary. I sincerely hope that when we meet in a fortnight's time there will have been a restoration of the non-partisan consensus on this issue.