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Tuesday, 27 March 1984
Page: 700

Senator HARRADINE(3.31) —I wish very briefly to enter the debate on the statement on the migration program. I feel that the whole question of the migration program needs a broader debate than five minutes permits but I want to raise a couple of issues. I would be concerned if the intake of refugees was limited by this program that is before us today. Of course it is important to achieve, if possible, a well-oiled orderly departure program from Vietnam. But I would be concerned if in some way or another the Government or the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs was offsetting the numbers coming in on that program against the numbers that Australia should be accepting in the overall refugees program, particularly from this part of the world. Some questions about the migration of Asian people to Australia have been raised in the community recently. I deplore the underlying racism that is inherent in those sorts of statements.

Senator Peter Rae —But you are not suggesting that Professor Blainey was racist in his remarks, are you? There may be some who are, but you are not suggesting that about Professor Blainey, are you?

Senator HARRADINE —I think Professor Blainey should stick to history. He has no qualifications in this particular respect. As a matter of fact, as Chairman of the Australia-China Council, his comments were most ill-fitting because many of the refugees who came from Vietnam were ethnic Chinese.

I point out also that many people in category A are finding it most difficult to get into the orderly departure program from Vietnam. I am talking about spouses of people who are already here. I know of a number of such cases. In one particular case, a woman with four young children has been battling on her own. Her husband has had his application in and has been sponsored for some considerable time. I just wonder whether people like him who are prepared to give the orderly departure program a go and who have not the wherewithal to do otherwise are somehow put at the bottom of the list. I am not suggesting that there is anything untoward happening in the Department. I believe that the Department has an enormous job to do and is doing it with efficiency. But I fear , as do quite a number of people, that something more than the agreement that has been reached by the Australian Government and the Vietnam Government in respect of the orderly departure program is required.

Senator Martin —That is by the Vietnamese Government?

Senator HARRADINE —That is by the Vietnamese authorities. With respect to the person to whom I am referring, an exit permit has been issued by us. Somehow or another, because of the place that he is in in Vietnam, he cannot seem to get on the list. I would hope that in discussions between our Government and the Vietnamese authorities it is emphasised that in order for this to be a creditable orderly departure program it must be engaged in with a good deal of integrity on both sides.