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Tuesday, 9 September 1958
Page: 1007

Mr HULME (Petrie) .- The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) commenced his speech by attacking the proposed intake of 115,000 migrants in the current financial year.

Mr Barnard - I did not attack it.

Mr HULME - The honorable member referred particularly to the fact that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) had not indicated how those people were to be employed. He also emphasized that there were 67,000 unemployed people in Australia at the present time. I say that is deliberately away from the truth. The statistics issued by the Department of Labour and National Service show that the number of persons who are registered for employment is 67,000. The number of people receiving unemployment benefit is approximately 20,000. As T have said before in this Chamber, included in the figure of 67,000 is a tremendous number of people who already have jobs but are looking for better jobs and so have registered for other employment. Of course, honorable members opposite deny that that is the situation. It so happens that I know many people who belong to the category I have mentioned. If there are 67,000 unemployed people who are seeking jobs I do not understand why the Government is paying unemployment benefit to only approximately 20,000 people.

Mr Ward - Because there is a means test applying to the unemployment benefit, you mug.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will apologize to the Chair for his disorderliness.

Mr Ward - I do so.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member will say, " 1 apologize to the Chair ".

Mr Ward - I apologize to the Chair.

Mr HULME - The next point I want to make is that not all of the 115,000 people to enter the country under this year's immigration programme will be employable. A very large percentage of them will be dependants of immigrants. Many of them will be, for instance, the fiancees of immigrants already here. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has raised the question of housing for these people. The point has been made previously, and I make it again, that housing is a State responsibility. The States which have the worst record in regard to housing are the States which have the lowest percentage of migrant intake in relation to total population. That applies particularly to New South Wales, which has a back-log of 50,000 out of the total back-log of 80,000 houses. I suggest that in every State where the intake of immigrants has been substantial relative to population there is no real housing problem, because immigrants have contributed to the overtaking of the housing shortage whilst at the same time providing housing for themselves.

The immigration programme is not haphazard. It is a planned programme. Decisions in regard to the programme are not made by the Department of Immigration alone. There is very close liaison between that department and the Department of Labour and National Service. As chairman of the Immigration Planning Council I can tell the committee that there is not a council meeting at which a representative of the Department of Labour and National Service is not present to co-operate with the council on this vital aspect of immigration, the employment of immigrants. The outstanding fact is that there are very few people in migrant hostels at present who have been there for more than three or four weeks. That is a clear indication that these people are being employed very soon after their arrival and in many cases, notwithstanding the fact that there may be a language problem with some of the immigrants from European countries, there is a tremendous demand by industries for immigrants. Surely the fact that there is a bigger percentage of skilled men among immigrants than there is among our own population means that the skilled immigrants provide opportunities for work for unskilled Australians, and surely that is something of very great importance.

I want to make just one other point in relation to this matter because the immigration programme this year is not just a question of bringing in and absorbing 115,000 people. All of these people, both workers and dependants, are consumers who will add to consumption demand in Australia. Industry in this country, particularly secondary industry, is geared to cope with great development, and the arrival of these additional consumers will mean that factories which are geared to higher production will have the opportunity to dispose of their increased output.

It is essential that immigrants continue to arrive here year by year so as to help in the expansion of our economy. Immigrants do not in any way detract from the prosperity which we have enjoyed over a. very long period. Rather, in my opinion, do they enhance the prosperity we have enjoyed. When members of the Opposition, like the honorable member for Bass criticize the immigration programme, they are only repeating the views that their leader expressed elsewhere earlier in the year but which, for obvious reasons, he is not voicing at present. I know that there is an objection by the Labour party to the present large intake of immigrants, but I have confidence in our ability to expand our industry and increase our population considerably. I will not accept as true any statement of the type which comes from members of the Opposition on the subject of immigation, and I lose no opportunity to point out in this chamber some of the material facts which are important for the public to consider in relation to what I believe to be the greatest project for national development undertaken in this country in the last ten to twelve years.

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