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Thursday, 4 October 1956

Mr MAKIN (Bonython) .- I wish, first, to deprecate the procedure that has been adopted during this debate. We are considering five proposed votes together, and I suggest that a bewildering situation must arise because there is little or no continuity in the various speeches. The Ministers in charge of the departments concerned must feel at a disadvantage in replying to the matters raised during the debate. Therefore, I hope that, in the future, a better method will be devised, either by this Government or some other government, so that there can be adequate review and proper supervision of the expenditure of public moneys. This afternoon, we are considering the proposed votes for the Department of Immigration, £10,212,000; the Department of Labour and National Service. £2,043,000; the Department of National Development, £49,488,000; the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, £5,389,000; and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, £3.214,000. Those are huge sums. I suggest that the time allotted for honorable members to discuss these votes does not permit of the kind of review that they warrant. We in this Parliament have not the advantage of the wide committee system that exists in certain other countries and which would allow us to make a more detailed examination of the Estimates. I agree with those honorable members who have suggested that Australia would benefit from an extension of the committee system, particularly in relation to the consideration of expenditure of public mnoeys

I rose particularly to identify myself with ihe remarks of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), and other honorable members on this side of the chamber, concerning immigration. In my opinion, nothing is more important to the life and future of Australians than is the task of increasing our population. Immigration plays an important part in helping to develop this country and make it secure. Therefore. 1 feel that it is wise that we should consider how best to use the powers at our hand to acquire suitable immigrants and to encourage them to take advantage of the opportunities that exist in this country. However, we must at the same time exercise caution and not allow the intake of immigrants to outrun our economic ability to absorb and provide adequately for them. Because of extraordinary economic conditions in this country, the Government has considered it essential to curtail the importation of many raw materials that are necessary for industrial expansion, and that action must affect the employment opportunities that otherwise would be available for immigrants. We must recognize that we shall merely add to our difficulties and accentuate our economic problems if, during a period of economic uncertainty such as that which exists at the present time, our immigration programme is over-ambitious. There is a degree of unemployment at present which is sufficient for us to take warning and to realize that it could lead to grave economic conditions. An increase of unemployment would be a bad advertisement for Australia and would discourage people who had intended to come here in the future from doing so.

Australia has done well to provide for the additional people who have come here from overseas. I understand that, since October, 1945, approximately 1,100,000 new citizens have come here under the immigration scheme, the foundations of which were laid by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), as Minister for Immigration, and which, subject to certain changes in qualification mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes, has been supported by the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Harold Holt). Australia has benefited greatly from the policy adopted by a Labour government. However, I think that there are associated with it circumstances of which we must take note. Earlier in this chamber to-day, the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) brought to the notice of the committee the degree of imbalance between the sexes of the immigrants being brought to this country, and he pointed out that, because of that imbalance, we are creating additional problems for ourselves, lt is desirable for us to attempt to preserve a much better balance between the sexes of immigrants and so avoid the possibility of a serious problem in the future. It seems that the department could do a lot to help.' I have known of cases in which it has allowed the husband to come to Australia but later there has been difficulty about the wife and children coming out. In those circumstances, the man concerned becomes dissatisfied and possibly feels that he has a responsibility to return to the country from which he came. If he does return, we are disadvantaged by reason of having expended money upon establishing him as a new citizen and of having lost his citizenship.

When a man is attesting his suitability to come to this country, the department should also determine whether his wife and family can satisfy the necessary qualifications for admission. If, for health reasons or because of any other circumstance, a wife and family are unable to qualify for admission to Australia, the man concerned should be warned, before he leaves his home country, that there is no prospect of his wife and family being able to join him here later. To do that would save a lot of difficulty and hardship, because many who have come to this country and have suffered the disability of not being joined by their wives and families have found themselves in a dilemma and have been faced with having to decide whether to stay here or return to their homeland. The Department of Immigration has always been helpful to me in trying to find a solution of some of these problems, but I am afraid that the present procedure makes it impossible to resolve some of these difficulties. I hope the Minister will remember that a certain obligation devolves upon any such persons that it may have allowed to enter Australia, and I am wondering whether we are not really required, to do something to enable them to return to their families. To do that would be to do the fair thing for the wives and families concerned. If we were to inform the intending immigrant about the likelihood or otherwise of his wife and family being allowed to come to Australia, we would have a safeguard against this kind of thing occurring in the future. 1 am glad to note that there is to be a more or less immediate increase of the total number of immigrants by the inclusion of 4,000 people from the Scandinavian countries. I should say that a greater number than that would be willing to emigrate to Australia from the Nordic and Scandinavian countries. I feel that Australia would be greatly advantaged by the presence of this kind of immigrant, because they are among the very best of people and their outlook is akin to that of our own Anglo-Saxon people.

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