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Tuesday, 9 September 1958
Page: 1002

Mr DOWNER (Angas) (Minister for Immigration) . - I hesitate to intervene in the debate, Mr. Temporary Chairman, because I know from my own experience as a private member, after eight long, weary years Sir, I would like as briefly as I can to take this opportunity to-night of informing the committee of the details, in broad outline, of the Government's immigration programme for the current statistical year, 1958-59.

Mr Duthie - How long will that take?

Mr DOWNER - The honorable member will be well advised to listen, if he has the interests of his country at heart.

The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in his Budget speech, announced that the overall target for the present year would remain at 115,000. Honorable members may recollect that that figure is divided into two categories: Those who are assisted migrants, this year, as with last year, numbering 63,000; and those who come out, as it were, under their own steam, commonly called full-fare migrants, numbering 52,000. We propose in the current year to seek to obtain from the United Kingdom and Eire, in the assisted passage group, 35,000, which represents an increase of, in round figures, 4,800 on the actual arrivals of the year 1957-58. From Malta, we hope to attract a round thousand, which represents an increase of approximately 270 over actual arrivals in th: previous year. From Holland, we look forward to receiving 9,000 assisted migrants, which, if all goes well, will be quite a considerable increase of approximately 3,600 over the number who arrived here in the previous year. From Germany, we expect 5,000, an increase of 800 over the preceding year. The figure for Austria is set at 2,500. That for Italy remains the same as for 1957-58 at 3,000. It will be a mere 200 over actual arrivals in the preceding year. Our estimate for assisted migrants from Greece is 1,500, as compared with 1,907 arrivals in 1957-58. We hope, Sir, to induce 2,000 Danes to settle here during the current year. From those countries which we classify as subject to the general assisted passage scheme - I refer to the Scandinavian lands, Switzerland and the United States of America - we expect approximately 1,500. We are willing to receive also at least 2,500 refugees and, if required to do so, we shall raise that target slightly to 3,000. This adds up to a total of 63,000.

Mr Curtin - If we take some Icelanders they could bring their own igloos with them.

Mr DOWNER - They could make very useful settlers in some parts of this country. 1 think that one of the very useful aspects of this programme for assisted immigration in the current financial year, Mr. Temporary Chairman, is that if our hopes are realized - and I have every ground for believing that they will be - we shall welcome to these shores the largest percentage of British immigrants compared to our total programme - not the largest overall number of British immigrants - to come to Australia during the last 30 years. That, I take it, Sir, will meet with the general approval of this committee and, I believe, of the country.

So far as the other aspect of our immigration programme, which provides for those who come out paying their own fares, is concerned, as I said a few moments ago. we estimate the overall target at the same figure as in the last financial year - 52,000. Here again, Mr. Temporary Chairman, very briefly, if honorable members are interested. I shall read out what we estimate to be the arrivals. From Britain, we expect 24.000. from Malta, 500; from Holland, 1.200: from Germany, 1,000; from Austria, 50: from Italy, 13.000; from Greece, 5,200: and from Denmark, 50. From those countries with which we have no assisted migrant arrangements - those which we classify in the general assisted passage scheme - we expect 1.000 full-fare arrivals. We. think that we shall probably get about 1.450 refugees paying their own passages. From other countries - and this would include refugees from iron curtain countries - we expect 4,550. As I have already said. Sir. the total of these is 52,000, making an overall figure of 115,000.

Mr Duthie - Were any from Spain included in those figures?

Mr DOWNER - An experimental contingent of about 150 Basques arrived from Spain about two weeks ago. They have proceeded north to the Queensland canefields. Should our hopes in that respect be realized, no doubt we shall examine further the possibility of attracting Spaniards to this country. But at the moment we prefer to go slowly and see whether these 150 can become assimilated and prove themselves generally suited to Australian conditions.

Mr Cope - We might get some bullfighters.

Mr DOWNER - That is true, of course. A little variety in the way of a bull ring here and there would contribute to the diversification of Australia. It might provide the public with an alternative to what sometimes takes place in this arena, Mr. Temporary Chairman.

Before I conclude, I should like to refer to one or two remarks which my friend, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), made when he turned his attention to certain aspects of the immigration programme. He began by adverting to this deportation case involving the young man Tropeano, which has attracted some interest in Melbourne. I do not propose at this stage, Sir, to say any more than I have said already, because, as I think honorable members will realize, I have expressed my willingness to stay the deportation of this young man, at any rate until such time as I have received further evidence and been able to consider the matter further. Therefore, as I think the committee will probably agree, anything that I could say at this stage would not be particularly helpful.

The honorable member for Lalor went on to infer from the handling of this case that there was too much power in the hands of the Minister for Immigration. I will say at once, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that on that matter, which is a weighty one, I have no absolute, hard-and-fast views. I think that before honorable members make up their minds on this point they should reflect that this power with which my predecessors and I have been armed has been exercised by all Commonwealth Governments virtually since Federation - ever since the first Immigration Restriction Act was passed 57 years ago. These powers were exercised from time to time by the Labour Government, of which some honorable members opposite were members and others supporters, during the eight years that it held office in the 1940's. When honorable members opposite criticize this power, they should reflect on that, and should remember that they, in their own season and their own time, wielded it and found it necessary in some cases. I would remind the committee, too, that the deportation system that we have here operates in principle also in the United Kingdom and, I believe, in most other countries.

There is another aspect of this matter, Mr. Temporary Chairman. If the Minister's powers are to be subject to review in deportation cases, this will inevitably bring about delays. It will do so, of course, by definition. But, as any one with experience of the Department of Immigration realizes, speed in this matter is sometimes necessary.

In saying that, I do not wish to imply that one should set aside the canons of justice in any way whatever. Not only critics in this chamber, but those outside it also, are prone to forget these things; but government implies that, whether you like the government of the day or not, you must be prepared to place an inherent trust in Ministers. Let us never forget that, in immigration, the power to import people must, as I see it, involve as a corollary a power to deport. So, if you do not vest these powers in the government of the day, and if you do not trust the Minister to exercise them according to his discretion, his fairness, his sense of justice, and his wisdom, you are going to hamstring the immigration policy of the country.

I wish to advert now to what my friend from Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said about the food in immigrant hostels. The honorable member is quite right, of course, in pleading for variety. I myself, in the short six months since I have been in office, have made it my business to visit some of these hostels. I was pleased with some of them.

Mr Duthie - Were you expected?

Mr DOWNER - No; I was in the army much too long to fall for that trap. You do not see what is going on when you advertise your arrival beforehand but, by and large, whatever one may feel about the conditions in the hostels generally - and we are all agreed that it is a temporary existence and anything but an ideal life - I was most impressed by the quality of the food and also by the odd meals I had there.

Mr Cope - Would the Minister compare the meals with those at the Hotel Kurrajong?

Mr DOWNER - I hope that some time the honorable member will invite me to have a meal with him at the Hotel Kurrajong, and then I shall be able to make a comparison. All I can say is, that, so far as the quality of the food in the hostels I have visited is concerned, you would go a long way before you would find anything which was its superior. So far as the complaint of the honorable member for Lalor relates to the cooking, I think we should remember that our great immigration programme has conferred many advantages on us, and one of the best of them is that a good variety of continental cooks are coming into Australia. I would be surprised if the hostels stuck rigidly to stodgy British-type cooking without any consideration at all for the nationals who are in the hostels.

Mr Pollard - Those people do not like mutton.

Mr DOWNER - During my inspection, I found that some of the dishes being prepared were mouth-watering at times. With all respect to my honorable friend, I do not think there is much cause for complaint. Nevertheless, I shall bear in mind what he has said to-night and give his remarks the consideration they merit.

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