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Tuesday, 16 September 1958
Page: 1271

Mr HAWORTH (Isaacs) .- I am sorry that the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) began his speech by introducing into this debate something that had been absent from it, that is, party politics. We have no desire to take from the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) any credit for the excellent job he did some years ago as Minister for Immigration by introducing a policy which led to a great flow of immigrants into Australia. But we have gone a long way since then. The immigration scheme itself has been considerably improved in the meantime. I have no doubt whatever that we will continue to improve it as the years go by. We have been very fortunate in the Ministers who have held this portfolio and administered the Department of Immigration. The right honorable member for Higgins (Mr. Harold Holt) was followed by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Townley), who preceded the present Minister, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer). We have also been fortunate in having the present Secretary of the Department of Immigration and his assistants who have taken tremendous interest in the department and have made every effort to improve the immigration laws and the administration of the department itself.

This bill is very complex and most important, and it must give the Minister much satisfaction as it is the first bill that he has introduced to the House. It covers, in the main, immigration, deportation and emigration. Having listened to the lucid explanation of the bill that was given by the Minister some weeks ago, I have no doubt that the House will accept it without amendment. It is designed to protect more fully than ever before the rights of individuals irrespective of their country of origin. It goes even further by protecting a person while he lives- in Australia irrespective of how short a time he has been a resident.

We are all very pleased that the most important difficulty we have been up against in the last decade - the dictation test - is to be removed. It might well be described as the abominable dictation test. No one who understands it could be happy with that method of telling an immigrant whether or not he was desirable in our eyes as a citizen. We determined that by giving him a test which we knew he could not pass. I am glad to think that we have reached the stage of nationhood where we can be perfectly frank with persons who wish to enter Australia. We can tell them either that we want them or that we do not want them as citizens. The dictation test having been redundant for so long, I am surprised that legislation was not brought down before to delete it, because it has caused much friction over the years. The present system ensures that every person who enters Australia has a vis6. The shipping companies and the airline companies are very strict about vises. They do not wish to bring people to this country who do not have vises, because they know that it will be their responsibility to return those people to their country of origin if they are not accepted by Australia. I am glad that we have been able to abolish the dictation test for all time1 and to be perfectly frank as to whether we will admit people who wish to come here as immigrants.

The other important matter to which I referred was deportation. Clause 1 3 of the bill, provides that the offence that renders a migrant liable to deportation must be committed within five years after his entry into this country. That seems to be :i very reasonable and fair provision and I think the Government is doing the right thing by giving- immigrants a- reasonable time to become acclimatized, and by providing that they cannot be deported after five years.

Another important provision of the bill, which I feel sure will meet with the approval of everybody in the community, is that relating to the emigration of children. lt provides more adequate means for parents to ensure that children who are in. their custody by reason of court orders, or. whose custody they are seeking, are not taken out of the country without proper consent of the courts or of the parents in question.

This bill does not in any way affect the overall! policy of immigration, which: has been operating satisfactorily for the lasttwelve years or so. To their credit, both this Government and the previous government kept in mind the prime purpose of the immigration programme, which was to populate Australia as quickly as possible with the. most suitable type of citizen avails able. The criticism that has been levelled at our immigration policy falls, I think, into two categories. It has been said very vehemently recently that our intake has been beyond our ability to assimilate. This aspect was referred to by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts); and has been referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) on several occasions from' public platforms. The Leader of the Opposition wishes materially to cut down our intake of immigrants.

The second type of criticism is that the percentage of British migrants is too low. I think that a general word or two at this stage might not go amiss, because since this bill' was introduced a few weeks ago, an economic survey was published under the title of Australian Economy, 1958. The publication- is generally referred to as the White Paper. This report pointed out that during, the last eight years the proportion, of- Australian resources devoted to investments in this country was extremely high. In fact, we have the highest rate in the. world. Twenty-five per cent, of our total annual' resources are. invested in this country. In this period the population grew from 8,300,000 to 9,700,000, an increase of 17 per. cent. Most of this increase can be attributed to immigration - about L,000;000 migrants- have come to this country in that time. But the important thing to remember is that the proportion of resources to investments would not have increased to such an extent had not the men and women who carnie to this country brought new skills and new aptitudes with them. It is because of their skill- and their ability that we have been able to make such a considerable improvement over the last eight years. This improvement has been referred to often by financial writers and. was referred to in. the White Paper. Immigrants have increased the national output of our basic industries and have helped considerably to build major projects that might otherwise never have been undertaken.

One such project that immediately springs to mind is the Snowy Mountains scheme, which would never have been carried out so successfully had it not been for the flow of immigrants into this country, bringing with them new skills and new aptitudes. The White Paper goes on to refer to the importance of sustaining this rate of growth by referring to the fact of which we are alii well aware but too often forget - that immigrants make up a large proportion of those people working in the iron and steel and building materials industries. When we look at the growth and progress that has been made in the iron and steel industry, particularly in New South Wales and to a lesser extent in the industries in Victoria related to iron and steel, we realize that they would never have been so rapid had it not been for the immigrants who came to this country. The building materials industry is an important industry, and one that has made tremendous progress because of the immigrants, working in the industry. It is very important to remember also that in a progressive community such as ours, labour, for various reasons, tends to move away from such occupations. Unless that labour is continually replaced, large sections of production would be slowed down. Workers in a particular industry find from time to time, particularly in this country, that the industry has become monotonous to them. They drift away, and unless we are able- to replace that loss of labour there is a considerable falling off in production in the industry. The building industry is particularly noted for that. The brick industry, which is associated with the building industry, and the lime and cement industry, are difficult industries in which to work. If we had not been able to replace the labour that moved out of those industries, they would not have been able to progress in the way they have.

Experience has proved that each migrant has something to offer. The last ten years have shown that migrants have filled gaps in our strategic industries which otherwise would not have been filled. They have averted and can continue to avert critical shortages, of key materials and delays in construction. Without them, secondary industries would not have made the progress that they have been making in the last ten years. Even, if we were to experience some recession; as has been forecast from time to time by honorable members opposite, and were not able to have jobs waiting for immigrants who come to this country, I think the immigration machinery is so well oiled that it would not be difficult to halt immigration as required. I think that the machinery of the department is sufficiently flexible to allow it to operate reasonably quickly.

From time to time, it has been said thai the percentage of British migrants is too low. I am sure that that will always be said', whatever the percentage may be. The blood relationship between this country and the United Kingdom is such that we will always say that the percentage of British migrants to Australia should be greater than it is. The United Kingdom has its own problems, and I believe that our problem for the future is how to obtain suitable immigrants from the United Kingdom and Europe. The United Kingdom Government quite obviously does not want to reduce its labour force by migration. How do we obtain great numbers of migrants from Great Britain when, even in the immediate post-war period, residents were not overenthusiastic about migrating to Australia? A public poll in 1948 showed that 46 per cent, of the persons interviewed said that they would like to settle in Australia, if they were free to come.

The phrase " if they were free to come " requires analysing. I had the opportunity two years ago of being in the United Kingdom, and I desired to bring a number of migrants to this country. I found the question " if they were free to come " particularly interesting. Prospective immigrants had all sorts of difficulties. One of the greatest of their difficulties was breaking off their associations with their families. They were reluctant to leave part of their family to come to Australia because blood relationship and family ties are very strong. A gallup poll held only a few years ago in the United Kingdom showed that a very small percentage of people desired to migrate to Australia.

It would be interesting to hear the Minister's views on how to get greater numbers of suitable migrants from Europe, as well as from England. My correspondents in the United Kingdom tell me that the difficulty of getting suitable migrants from Europe will be greater in the future than it ever has been. The common market and free trade agreements in Europe will slow down migration to Australia in the future. Consequently, our intake of migrants could well be decided for us by these agreements and the prosperity that is developing in some parts of Europe to-day. I believe that it will be quite a battle to get a really good type of migrant to come from Europe to Australia.

One factor of which we must not lose sight is that Australia is rich in some national resources though by no means in all. We have built up capital facilities that have served most of our requirements in the eastern States. But what about the north of Queensland and the western part of the continent? We badly need people in those areas. The more one travels through them the more one realizes the opportunities that exist for European settlers to make good in some outback areas. The faster we can settle new populations there, the sooner we shall become better balanced, more prosperous and, indeed, more secure. After all, security is one of the principal reasons for increasing our population and we cannot afford to go on ignoring these strategic areas. This is an important national question. It cannot be relegated to the cupboard, as it has been in the past. I think the Minister will be performing a great job if he has a good look at this great weakness in the distribution of our immigrant population.

This bill will do much to remove unpleasant anomalies that have existed in our immigration laws, and it will do much to strengthen better relations with immigrants to this country and with European countries. I am sure that the bill, when it becomes law, will be administered with the same efficiency and with the same feeling for people as the immigration laws have been administered in the past. We are dealing with human beings, and that is the most important aspect of immigration. If we give thought to that in the administration of these laws, we will achieve our objective of increasing our population with the right type of immigrant.

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