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Wednesday, 12 September 1984
Page: 1186


Mr KENT(10.28) —Before starting my comments concerning the estimates for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, let me record here that the Hawke Labor Budget is the best and most popular Budget in the last 10 years. It is a Budget which will keep Australia firmly on the road of economic recovery , an economic recovery that has been brought about by a Labor Government since we took office over 18 months ago. Before we came to office Australia was brought to the brink of total bankruptcy by the economic mismanagement of the Liberal-National Party coalition. We inherited from the Fraser-Howard Government the worst economic mess that this country has ever been in since the Great Depression. Yet, in just a few months, the Hawke Labor Government restored business confidence and set Australia firmly on the road to recovery.

I especially welcome the allocation in the 1984-85 Budget for immigration and ethnic affairs of $164m, which represents a 12.4 per cent increase over the previous year. It is obvious that the Hawke Labor Government has given high priority to human services to make migrant settlement easier. The Government has increased the number of grants-in-aid by another 15 grants, which means that another 15 social workers will be out in the field to help the settlement of migrants in our community. It has increased the number of migrant resource centres and has allocated $43.74m for the adult migrant education program. This year it has more than doubled provisions for translator and interpreter services . The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West) should be congratulated on his achievement especially in view of the Government's tight budgetary restraints.

Since this Government came to office it has introduced many measures to strengthen much needed post-arrival services to migrants. This Budget went further in this direction to assist the settlement of our migrants into the Australian community. While the Government is busy easing the problems of migrants, as migration is a traumatic experience, the Opposition is doing everything, through its shadow Minister, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), to wreck our uniquely successful immigration program. I do not want to accuse the honourable member for Denison of being racist. I think that he is even worse than that. He is a political opportunist who cynically embraces racism and is using it for scoring political points in an endeavour to win cheap votes. He is willing to wreck our immigration policy just to gain some political advantage for himself. He is not concerned about the harm he is doing to thousands of newcomers whose prospects of settling into this community he is making more difficult than otherwise would be the case.

Let me assure the honourable member for Denison that he will not gain any cheap votes by inflaming racist sentiments. To the contrary, he will lose votes, not only for his Party but also for himself. It is likely that we will not see him in the next Parliament. If by chance he survives he will certainly be demoted from his shadow portfolio by the next Leader of the Opposition. After all, not only has he damaged the ethnic communities but also he has done a disservice to his own Party. His former leader, Malcolm Fraser, worked hard for seven years to woo the migrant vote and the honourable member for Denison blew it in one day. Just to make sure that the ethnic vote is lost for the Liberals, the honourable member for Denison has now switched his attack from the Vietnamese migrants to the attack on the Spanish speaking community. On 7 September in this chamber he said:

He--

that is, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, who is at the table-

is pouring petrol on the fire by recruiting large numbers of refugees from El Salvador and from Chile.

Further he said:

A member of the recent Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Central America was told quite categorically that some of the people who are being recruited to Australia are people whose presence will not be in the national interests of this nation. I will just say in passing that I have been provided with a memorandum by a member of that delegation which pointed out that a number of those being recruited were well known leftist terrorists in their own countries . . .

I was the leader of the delegation to Central America. I know that the 'large number' of refugees from Central America are the few hundred unfortunate refugees from El Salvador and other countries where fascist death squads are hunting down trade unionists, church activists and other patriots and killing them by the thousand. I welcome the Minister's humanitarian concern for those unfortunate people. I can assure my fellow Australians that the Spanish speaking migrants, refugees or otherwise, from Central and Latin America are hard working , fine, Christian family people who are a great asset to Australia. I know because I have many of them in my electorate and I welcome them. Let us forget about personalities; much more is at stake. Honourable members opposite laugh but, seriously, let us forget about personalities and talk about immigration.

As I have stated before we have a uniquely successful immigration program. A large proportion of Australia's citizens or their parents were born overseas. In the main we have all settled here successfully. We have been accepted by the Australians who came here before us. We all, wherever we have come from, are contributing to this country and we are all participating in building the Australia of tomorrow. This participation was made possible only by giving equal rights to citizens. Equality and freedom are the two factors that made our post- War immigration program uniquely successful. The bipartisan acceptance of the immigration program is vital for its success. I hope that common sense will prevail. I call on the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) to pull his shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs into line and return to the bipartisan policy which was previously supported by the Liberal Party of Australia.