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Tuesday, 8 March 1966

The Government has been making a review of the restrictive aspects of our immigration policy. Australia's increasing involvement in Asian developments, the rapid growth of our trade with Asian countries, our participation on a larger scale in an increasing number of aid projects in the area, the considerable number of Asian students - now well over 12,000 - receiving education in Australia, the expansion of our military effort, the scale of diplomatic contact, and the growth of tourism to and from the countries of Asia, combine to make such a review desirable in our eyes.

It is, at the same time, important that there should be a clearer understanding in

Asia of our policy, and the reasons for it lt is certainly not based on any false notion of superiority. We are fully aware that many of the peoples of Asia can point to cultures dating back centuries before those of Western Europe. But, in these modern times, every country reserves to itself the right to decide what the composition of its population shall be; it has regard to the preservation of standards and of national characteristics and to the maintenance of the essential homogeneity of its people. Australia derives strength from its unity and a community life free from serious minority and racial problems. All countries in South East Asia maintain restrictions against immigration to serve their own national policies. Our basic policy has been firmly established since the beginning of our Federation, lt is widely supported. But it has been the wish of the Government, as it would be of the community at large, that the policy should be administered with a spirit of humanity and with good sense.

Following our most recent review, the Government has decided on some modification and a degree of liberalisation. Under current policy, a non-European admitted on a long-term entry permit, must complete 15 years in Australia before applying for resident status and Australian citizenship. We have decided that, in future, application can be made in these cases after five years, the same period as applies for naturalisation application by settlers from Europe. There are other changes which, while maintaining the basic principles of our policy, can be made with advantage to enable more flexibility in administration. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) will shortly indicate to the House the Government's conclusions in more detail.

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