Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 16 September 1958


Mr HAYLEN (Parkes) .- The changes wrought in this bill are extensive. Many honorable members have taken the opportunity to traverse immigration as a subject for debate and to voice their opinions about the changes and the various incidents of immigration. Many have spent their time in praising the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer). With a controversial subject such as immigration, the best line is to have a point of view. I know that the honorable member for Angas, in a wavy-haired sense, will be a terrifically good Minister. I know that he will do whatever he can to further what is to him the cause of immigration, but I want to put him on the spot as far as I can on the future developments of immigration and to traverse, if I may, some of the mistakes made in the past.

I remind honorable members that as far back as 1945, I was the leader of a survey and a fact-finding team that went into Europe just after the liberation to ascertain just where the people were who were prepared to come to this country. This is important, for the reason that it did show in those days the people of a free and adventurous turn of mind who wanted to come to this country and the people who saw no future in a Europe that had been through another devastating war and who had turned their eyes definitely to Australia.

In places such as Norway, thousands of young members associated with universities had organized themselves in immigratten clubben long before we came there, as members of the delegation will remember, to try to form an organization to encourage people to migrate to Australia. Members of this organization were shipbuilders, farmers, dairymen, and commandos who had belonged to the underground. They were the salt of the earth. The Norwegian is a terrific man. He is the old viking; he is the old Norseman. He would be a great acquisition to this country because he is tough and, because part of his country is in the Arctic tundra, he knows how to live tough and to survive.

All of these people were lost to us because of politics. Although a socialist government was in the saddle at the time and we made representations, Norwegians were practically prohibited from leaving their country. There were only 3,000,000 Norwegians and, because of the devastation wrought by the Nazis and the Quislings, it was necessary that every able-bodied man remain in Norway. A similar situation obtained in Sweden, in Holland and in Denmark. In Switzerland, our hotel was invaded day and night by people prepared to come to this country. We lost them all. We tried to damp down this definite migratory upsurge. It was not a case of being out of work; it was a case of thinking differently, of changing the whole tenor of their lives, and of wanting to live somewhere else. They had had enough of war-stricken Europe. They were, to my mind, and to the minds of members of the exploratory committee, the salt of Europe; but we did not get many of them for the simple reason that their governments would not allow them to come here. Later, we tried again but, with the notable exception of the Dutch, we have not been able to get many of these very fine migrants.

The emphasis of the honorable member for Melbourne, who was then Minister for Immigration, was on northern Europeans, not on any ground of racial superiority, but because of the ease with which they could be assimilated. The number one priority was given to the British migrant because he did not need to be assimilated at all. In his father's house there are many mansions; and in the Empire as it was then, the British Commonwealth of Nations to-day, he moved from the metropolitan dominion of Britain itself to Australia without very great difficulty. The basis of our migration plan was the northern European, because of his assimilability, and also because in those days we had not negotiated a peace treaty with Italy and the Germans were still our enemies. In 1945, we were naturally looking at the subject fairly and squarely in the face, and we were within just a touch of getting many magnificent people from Europe who, however, did not come here because of circumstances and prohibitions in their countries in those days; and we lost many British migrants to Canada and other countries because we did not move fast enough.

But all of these things have gone a long time since and, basically, the problem which remains for the Minister is that we must not desert the principle of British migration. The discussions and decisions of the Australian Labour party, particularly at its Brisbane conference and other conferences, have been that because of the attitude and the breakdown of Menzies Government migration, we believe that there should be a curtailment in migration and that in the remaining opportunities the preponderance should be overwhelmingly in favour of the British. That still remains our policy; we get back to the original basis. I think that everybody realizes that, including the Minister. He is an extremely patriotic young man with a natural feeling for the British people. He was educated in Britain. It may be said that he is an English young man with an Australian birthright. I do not say that in any derogatory sense. I think we can safely leave to him, so far as he can do it, the question of the migration of British people.

But I think that in the early days we fell into many grave errors. There was the error of being so' naive. Also we were so remote from European affairs. Our first migrants delighted us with poker-work cushions and folk dancing outside the Albert Hall here in Canberra, but for all their effect I have never been able to understand why we organized those conventions, which I was called upon to attend both by instructions from my party and at my own wish, or what we got out of them. We should have had a much more serious approach to immigration. It appeared that the novelty of these people coming or wanting to come from other countries completely captured newspaper editors, members of this Parliament and successive Ministers for Immigration. And while this was going on we were subject to a great deal of exploitation. This applied to the Labour government as well as to the government which succeeded it. In the early days a lot of bad screening took place, and it is still taking place.

If you want to gauge the future of a migrant in this country you have to take some notice of his adventurous spirit. But should you rule him out because a political bias is applied against him? No matter what the Minister says, we have evidence that this does happen. Bureaucracy decides that it knows more than the ministerial edict. Recently, two Polish migrants told me that when they attempted to come to this country they were asked what their politics Were. They replied, "We are socialists". The screening officer said, "We just call them Comms. in our country ". They brought that story to me as fact. For them the whole excitement of coming to this country was broken down by the attitude of that screening officer.

I did not rise to take a long time in discussing this bill. The debate is now moving towards its close, but there are points which we must validly hold in regard to immigration. The first is that although I have no distaste whatsoever for the southern European, I prefer the northern European only for the reason that he is more readily assimilable into British communities and is more used to the democratic processes as we have practised them. The Italian and the southern European in many cases make magnificent citizens, and good luck to them, but we ought to be able to say what proportion of them we will take into this country and make no apologies about it.

What would anybody have said if, in 1945, after Europe had emerged from a war which had almost destroyed the fabric of democracy, it could have been suggested to British people that within ten years the great bulk of their immigrants came from enemy countries? Would they have believed it if some one had said that the German as a worker and a technician had become almost a priority and that Italian migrants from Mussolini's Italy were streaming into this country? That would have been inconceivable; but the answer is that the desire to live in peace should, with certain concessions, be met, and, having made those concessions, we should not be ashamed to voice our preference for British people and say that we believe there ought to be a proper balance. No member of the Australian Labour party is, and never can be, antagonistic to a worker coming from another country for the purpose of getting a job, but he commits no desecration of his belief in the universality of man's desire for work and to earn a living by saying that he prefers certain groups. The Labour party will hot deny that he has a right to voice these opinions.

So, we find that first of all we were naive. Secondly, our migration screenings were bad; and thirdly, we believe that in some cases our health screenings were bad. I think that many of these things have been caught up with. I have nothing but the deepest and highest praise for Mr. Heyes, the Secretary of the Department of Immigration. He is an inspired and trustworthy public servant. He is a personal friend of mine, and to decorate that statement would be to embarrass him and myself. But when I say these things I say them from the point of view of a member interested in this problem and not with any party political significance.

We missed the cream, in some cases, in the early days because we followed, willynilly, a plan of availabilities. We have not been as tough as we should be in getting people from Britain and elsewhere. The classic exception is that we have done well with Dutch people. We could do well with Scandinavians if we applied ourselves in that quarter, and their time may come. But turning from where we could get these migrants our claim is that the whole plan has been a pell-mell, willy-nilly thing because it has not been geared to the availability of employment.

One day we shall really wake up with a terrific shock and find that we have a permanent group of unemployed people simply because we have let too many people think they can come into this country and get jobs which are not available. It is nobody's fault that the present unemployment situation has developed. The man out of work is not prepared to tell the world that he is unemployed. He will not go to the registry office or tell his next-door neighbour that he is out of work, because he has been used to the fact that he could get a job and if he did not like it he could go elsewhere and get other employment. But to-day he is out of work and finds it difficult to obtain fresh employment. He has become a problem to himself and the community.

I think I would be supported by statistics, if they were fully investigated, in saying that we have well over 150,000 unemployed in this country. Surely, we should heed the blunt warning of this underground unassessable unemployed. If we are unable to absorb these people and they live on their own fat, as it were, for the time being, the day will come eventually when they will bt forced on to the labour market, and the Statistics of the labour bureaux will then clearly show that we have an unemployed problem of a size that we did not realize existed. We may have an underground reservoir of unemployed. Its extent might be extremely difficult to assess; yet it could be there, and it will be extremely dangerous when it becomes discoverable and comes to the surface.

In the circumstances we see nothing subversive of a proper, planned immigration scheme in saying to the Government, " Not so many; not your 100,000; break it down to one third; break it down to X figure, whatever you have decided upon, and keep it on a measurable, reduced basis until you find our absorptive capacity ". Let's face it: What we have promised the immigrants is a home and a job. We cannot give them homes; they must share ours. At present we can give them jobs, but soon we might not be able to do so. While the pious people in the community, the great advocates of immigration, the do-gooders and those in the higher income brackets, are always enthusiastic supporters of the immigration policy, I remind honorable members that they do not share their job opportunities or their housing with the newcomers. If you want to find out the truth and the genuine feeling about immigration, you must go to the worker who does share his job and his limited housing with the newcomer. You will find that the worker is complaining bitterly, that he feels that immigration is reaching saturation point.

Both sides of the House should get together and do something about the immigration problem, so that it will not become overbearing simply because someone is pigheaded enough to say, " Think of a number and then stick to it ", no matter whether it is reasonable, factual or can be worked out by statistics. The current figure for the projected migrant intake, 115,000 or whatever it is, is eminently reducible, and it is reducible in a logical way. In the planning of immigration - and the original planning came from this side of the House - we never said that 'there was to be a fixed, immutable figure. We believed that it had to be flexible. The Australian Labour party, when formulating the only vast immigration policy ever brought to successful planning and pursuit in this country, believed that the programme depended on the jobs that could be had and on the development of the country. Surely, behind the ordinary plan of immigration, there is a land plan, and there is a plan of development that does not envisage crowding people into our secondary industries. After all, we are a rural community, but we have not yet discharged our obligation to our ex-servicemen with regard to the land. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is alleged to have said something on the air about doing something about the land. I support him entirely.. Sooner or later we shall have to ensure that the vast unsettled and undeveloped areas are turned to appropriate use, by new Australians and old Australians, for the continued development of the country.


Mr Anderson - Nationalization!


Mr HAYLEN - Nationalization nothing! I say we must look to the land that is held but is not properly producing. If we do not, we make a mockery of immigration. It means that we are simply moving men from one kind of poverty to another. You perhaps think that is heroic and good policy; I think it is contemptible. If you have not a job for an immigrant you should not bring him here. If you have not a country that can be developed, you should not bring him here. What sort of a dusty answer do you give to these people if you have not got available for them the opportunities that you promised through Australia House and other centres? If you do not plan properly, as I have suggested, then the policy is only a biological gamble in numbers. You say, " Give me immigrants and I will squeeze them into a situation in which they may get by or they may not get by. In any case we will have the numbers ". Surely if you look for numbers and not quality of numbers you are merely defeating yourself. The numerically strong countries of the world are the weakest in defence. They are the weakest in development in many cases. They are the Asian countries. Mere numbers are nothing. It is the quality of the numbers and the quality of our immigration planning that should be considered.

I believe the solution is to reduce the numbers to the figure represented by absorptive capacity. The Government should hot -be stiff-necked about it. The

Minister must get on top of his bureaucracy, because departmental officers are likely to tell him that certain things are so. He should find out for himself. I think he is strong enough to do it, and if he does he will be doing a great job for the Australian community. 1 believe, too, that we can get more British immigrants. I think Australia House wants a good shaking up. Sir Eric Harrison should put on his bowyangs and forget his knee breeches. He might then do a better job. The Government should stir up somebody to do these things because the price of success is Australia and its development. Even if you hurt the feelings of a few people temporarily, in the long run you will be doing a massive job for this country. Although it has been criticized1 in many directions, the Australian Labour party feels that it is quite valid to say to the Government, " Your immigration policy is top-heavy because your numbers are too great. We cannot absorb them. You will get the horrible answer in twelve months' time if you persist in this way ".

We believe the Government is flooding into the country streams of immigrants who are not properly checked in all cases, and who cannot be properly checked. In the past we did the same thing. We are making no great protest about this, but we say now that British workers should have a chance of coming here, and of coming here in greater numbers. The answer we get to this suggestion from the Government, and even from some British protagonists, is, " But what about Britain? She needs her technicians and man-power ". In answer to that, let me suggest that the Government should look at the waiting list at Australia House, and ask itself, " Who cares? " Some of those on the waiting list have been unemployed. Some have been in the Royal Air Force, some in the Navy. Some have been given a bowler hat by the Army as a result of the reduction programme being carried out by that arm of the Services. They all want to get out of England. They have to go to Canada or to Kenya. The honorable member for Hume (Mr.Anderson) came from Kenya, but I would rather that the immigrants come to Australia than go to Kenya, despite the fact that the honorable member came from Kenya to Australia and to us in this House.


Mr Downer - The honorable member should be very grateful that the honorable member for Hume came here.


Mr HAYLEN - He protected us in some measure, I know. I was merely teasing him. The point I make in conclusion is that immigration can become a sort of happy holiday. We can have a kind of hearts and flowers debate - " I love the Minister, he loves me. Mr. Heyes is a very charming man. Everything in the garden is lovely. When do I get my permit? " - that kind of thing. I do not want it that way, although I must say that I have had, in all directions, service from all Ministers. However, as one of those who helped to pioneer this plan, I want to bring the matter back to first causes. We must look for the very best people for this country. It is of no use for the Minister to have an inquiry into the incidence of crime in this country - now happily diminished - and to say that the immigrants have not as high a rate of crime as the Australians. Of course, that is an extraordinarily foolish statement, because the categories were not defined, and at the time in question we were having serious and aggravated trouble, because many murders and crimes of first degree were being perpetrated by immigrants.


Mr Downer - The honorable member's information probably comes from newspaper reports.


Mr HAYLEN - As the Minister has said, the reports can be exaggerated. T remember, as a young man, reading in the responsible newspapers of the day, " Returned soldier beats his wife ". Such a method of presentation became unpopular later, and the reports merely said, " Bill Smith beats his wife ". We journalists know what happens in such cases.

Let me return to my theme before I conclude. The essence of an immigration policy is to get the best, and to ride the punches that come as a result of things that go wrong. But we must have a basis of worth-while immigrants, and we must get British immigrants. After all, Britain is the root and stem of our family, and British immigrants are available. But you will destroy the essence of immigration and of future planning if. you stupidly stick to numbers instead of planning to absorb the numbers when they come here. What is involved? The young child is involved; housing is involved, and the awful periods during which British people have to live in hostels. I remind the Minister, by a happy slogan which he enjoyed, that an Englishman's home is definitely not his hostel. When you put him in a hostel he will fight like hell to get out of it. That is the kind of immigrant we want. He does not want to settle down in a hostel because the accommodation is available for cheap rent; he wants to get out, to earn and own and belong. Those British immigrants are of the essence of the contract so far as our immigration programme is concerned.

The Labour party once again warns the Government. It is not just propaganda when we say, " Your numbers are excessive. Your screening is suspect in some instances, and your obsession with numbers, and with numbers for projects close to the city, and occasionally a big scheme like the Snowy Mountains scheme, which will peter out, is having a very damaging effect ". The Government has no plan to absorb these peasants - as most of them are - into some form of rural activity. I do not mean the kind of plan that was suggested here some years ago by one section. You must go very much deeper than that. This is a big problem. The immigration programme has a great future, and it would be a pity if the immigration policy drew the criticism, and eventually the ban, of the Australian Labour party because we found that it was bringing into Australia men and women who could not find work, who could not find homes or opportunities for assimilation. Therefore, the strictures uttered in Brisbane on the immigration programme still hold valid, in our view, and we say that you must reduce your numbers and work cooperatively to see that those who come here get jobs and houses. The immigration plan will then, as it originally started out, be a useful thing for the Australian people and for the people of the overcrowded parts of the world who come here to share living standards that are among the highest in the world.







Suggest corrections