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Wednesday, 12 September 1984
Page: 1180

Mr HODGMAN(9.57) —In the 10 minutes I have available to me, I preface my remarks on the estimates for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs by referring to two fundamental principles which I think should be kept in the forefront of our discussions in the Parliament on that most important area of policy and administration, that is immigration. The first principle is that there is no area of Government policy in administration that I can bring to mind -I invite honourable members on either side of the chamber to think about this- which has a longer term and more lasting impact on Australia than the question of immigration. Treasury policies will come and go. They might impact for one year, two years, three years or four years but, with respect to my old friend the honourable member for Hunter, (Mr Robert Brown), then they fade away. However, immigration policies which we implement today will impact on this nation not just for five years, 10 years or 20 years but for decades and, indeed , generations. It is true to say that the immigration policies we implement today literally will shape the face of Australia into the twenty-first century and beyond. Therefore, these are policies which must be carefully considered and properly implemented because, indeed, their long term impact is very substantial .

I am delighted to see so many honourable members in the chamber for this part of the debate because I can bring to mind no area of Government policy which requires so basically and fundamentally for its implementation public support. Many times and in a wide range of areas, governments have to take decisions which do not have public support. These have to be taken in areas of administration when governments responsibly have to take certain action which may not be electorally popular. The increase in income tax is a good example. It may be appropriate to legislate in a particular area in the national interest. However, the one area where public support is absolutely critical for the successful implementation of policy is the area of immigration. We do not want to see happen in this country what has happened in other countries where immigration policy has not had public support. This has produced a backlash and a hostile reaction. It has produced community disruption and disunity. As I said the other day, we do not want to see ever Brixton-type situations in Australia.

Friday, 7 September was an historic day for the Parliament because the Minister at the table, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West), brought down a very detailed ministerial statement accompanied by a number of tables. This speech and the tables are to be found in the Hansard for 7 September, from page 795 through to page 799. Before discussing the Minister's statement and tables, I wish to read into Hansard a paragraph from an editorial. I believe it is one of the finest newspaper editorials I have ever read in my life. It appeared in the Australian on Wednesday, 1 August this year. Under the heading ' Inverse McCarthyism' it stated:

Our policies on land rights and immigration are proper subjects for discussion. They will have major consequences for Australia's future. It is possible to be strongly opposed to racism and yet have strong reservations regarding both of these fundamentally important programs on which we have quite recently embarked.

The point is made that these are proper subjects for discussion and that it is possible to be opposed to racism, yet have strong reservations about both these fundamentally important programs on which we have recently embarked at the instance of the Hawke socialist Government.

It is in that context that I wish to talk very calmly about the Minister's statement on Friday. This House distinguished itself on Friday; the Minister was heard in comparative silence and when I replied I was heard in comparative silence. But tragically, after the Minister had made his statement in the House, he went to a Press conference. At that Press conference the Minister said things , and I look him straight in the eye, which once again have embroiled the immigration debate-things which I do not believe were in the interests of that debate. I certainly do not believe they were in the interests of fairness and truth. It is one thing for the Minister to say that the figures upon which I had relied should be laughed out of court. In so saying, he insulted the Australian Bureau of Statistics, because the figures I quoted did not come out of the head of Michael Hodgman; they came from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Then the Minister went further and attacked both my credibility and that of the Opposition; so tonight I intend to tell the people of Australia what the Minister's own figures do to the story that he has been proclaiming in this Parliament for the past 12 months, aided and abetted by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke). Month after month in this House and outside it, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Prime Minister have told the people of Australia that there has been 'no change in immigration policy'. Those words were repeated over and over again-'no change in immigration policy'. They grossly misled this Parliament and the people of Australia. I now read into the parliamentary record the Minister's own figures; let us examine them. In 1982-83 , the last year of the Fraser Government, total settlements from the United Kingdom and Ireland were 27,249. In 1983-84, the first year of the Hawke socialist Government and the first full year of this Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs the figure was 13,624. That is a drop of 50 per cent, on the Minister's own figures. Yet the Minister said that there had been no change in immigration policy.

Let us look at European migration. On the Minister's own figures in 1982-83 there were 19,731 immigrants from Europe. In 1983-84 the figure was 10,846, a drop of 45 per cent. Yet the Prime Minister and this Minister month after month have told the people of Australia that there has been no change in immigration policy.

Mr West —What about skilled migration?

Mr HODGMAN —The Minister draws my attention to business and skilled migration. In 1982-83, the last year of the Fraser Government, 17,821 people in these categories entered Australia. In 1983-84, under this Minister and this Prime Minister, the figure dropped to 4,707-a massive drop of 74 per cent. Yet month after month this Minister and this Prime Minister misled the Parliament and the people of Australia by saying that there would be no change in immigration policy. In the last year of the Fraser Government European business and skilled migration was at a level of 10,625. Under this Minister and this Prime Minister it dropped to 2,579, on the Minister's own figures-a drop of 76 per cent.

I now call on the Prime Minister and the Minister to explain to this Parliament and to the people of Australia why month after month they said there would be no change in immigration policy. Those statements were untrue; those statements were false. The Minister's own figures totally shatter the claims that he has been making. He owes this Parliament and the people of Australia, as does his accomplice, the Prime Minister, an explanation for the reason they have behaved in this disgraceful manner.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.