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Tuesday, 7 May 1968

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Minister for Immigration) - by leave - Mr Speaker, after exhaustive inquiry and discussion, the Immigration Advisory Council, which represents a broad cross section of the Australian community, recommended to me that some form of second assistance towards passage costs should be given to carefully selected migrants. The Governments considered this recommendation and decided that the serious human problems which confront many migrants who have returned to their homelands should be relieved by the provision of second passage assistance, where this is justified on the merits of the case. The decision is designed to meet human problems and not to add to the quantity of migrants in which respect we are already doing well. The decision follows the strong appeal on humanitarian grounds in letters written to myself and to the Department of Immigration and. the many inquiries made at our overseas posts from people who left Australia for compelling reasons beyond their control. These are not those who left because they were disgruntled or dissatisfied with this country, but people of quality who represent an asset to Australia.

Second assistance will be given only in carefully selected cases where migrants have demonstrated their potential to settle satisfactorily in Australia but who returned home in circumstances which are unlikely to recur. The assistance will, of course, be available only to those who do not have the financial resources to pay their own way back to Australia. It is expected that under the conditions which are to be applied many of those who would seek financial assistance from the Australian Government will not qualify for it. For example, a migrant who departed solely because of homesickness, the persuasion of relatives still living and similar factors, will not be eligible for second assistance, and people in the higher age groups, or who have been repatriated at Government expense, will be excluded. Academic studies and the experience of other governments indicate that in this age of international mobility many migrants who return home become successful settlers on second migration. These studies also indicate that many clearly desirable migrants who left Australia and wish to come here a second time are unable to do so because they cannot meet the full travel costs.

I believe that the availability of second assistance to carefully selected families will give us the opportunity to regain these people as valuable settlers. Appropriate safeguards will be applied, however, to ensure that these arrangements do not encourage departures from Australia for a visit In anticipation of second time assistance or result in abuses. People of the type we need here will not uproot their families on an unconfirmed expectation of some assistance to return in the future. Second assistance will be granted only to married couples and families. Single people, besides being more prone to use the original passage assistance for a working holiday, can reasonably be expected personally to finance second migration if they decide to come back.

Applications for second assistance will be approved only after investigation to establish: firstly, the reason for applicants returning to their country of origin; secondly, their experience since returning to that country; thirdly, their reason for seeking to re-migrate; fourthly, their individual prospects for employment and settlement generally if they were to return to Australia; fifthly, their need for financial assistance; sixthly, that there has been a demonstrable change in the conditions which prompted their departure from Australia.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Could the Minister depart from the text to explain what is meant by the last point?

Mr SNEDDEN - Yes, 1 will explain it for the honourable member. A situation may exist in which a person who is perhaps an only child has married and has migrated with his family to Australia. Subsequently an elderly parent who remained in England may be widowed or left a widower and be in need of attention. There may be very compelling human reasons which require the son or daughter in Australia to return most reluctantly to his or her home country in order to look after that person. Then, after a period of time the aged person concerned may die and the person who was formerly here and was a happy citizen of Australia may very desperately wish to come back. This is the kind of situation described in many letters I have received. In dealing with these applications, more restrictive criteria than those which relate to first assisted passages will be applied strictly. I emphasise the word 'strictly'.

Where second time passage assistance is approved the migrants will be required to pay more towards the passage costs than under the first assistance. Persons 19 years of age and over will contribute $180 each; family members under 19 years of age will, however, still make no contribution. Upon being granted second assistance, migrants will have to sign an undertaking to repay the amount of the passage assistance if they depart from Australia within 5 years of their arrival - compared with the 2 year period for those who receive first assistance.

In summary the Government has decided, for essentially human reasons, to give financial help to selected migrants who, although assisted previously, have shown that The are the kind of migrant Australia is anxious to have, that their success upon return here should be assured and that they intend to remain with us, given this second opportunity. We do not see this as a decision which will give us large numbers of returning migrants. Rather we expect only limited numbers, but those who do qualify should be people of undoubted quality at present confronted with problems of a very real human kind precipitated by circumstances over which they had very little control.

The Government has also recognised that the general case for granting second time assistance to migrants should also apply in certain instances to Australian families who in the past settled overseas and who would like to resume their lives in their home country but who cannot afford the fares to achieve this. Accordingly, in selected cases where otherwise these people would remain lost to Australia, passage assistance will be granted to them. This decision by the Government in respect of Australian citizens will also apply only to married couples and families. It will apply both to Australian born and to Australians by naturalisation or registration.

An example of the type of case in which we would be prepared to assist would be that of a young Australian who goes overseas, marries, has a family and is subject to the same influences and attractions to return to Australia as his neighbours in the community. He is no less entitled to the opportunity to do so.

Mr Daly - How long would he have to be away?

Mr SNEDDEN - I cannot say how long he would have to be away. This is the policy that will be adopted and it will be applied. It will be a case of whether or not the person has taken up permanent residence away from Australia and lives in a community in which his neighbour may be eligible for an assisted passage to Australia. At the moment because he is an Australian he is denied an assisted passage. That is the problem we are seeking to. solve. The criteria is whether he has taken up permanent residence in another country.

Factors to be taken into account in considering applications from Australians will include: whether their reasons for remaining away from Australia establish that they may otherwise be lost to Australia; their record abroad; their reasons for return to Australia and their bona fide intention to settle permanently; their need for financial assistance from official sources.

As in the case of migrants applying for second time assistance Australians will be required to contribute $180 if 19 years of age or over and family members under 19 will not be required to contribute towards passage costs. Special consideralion can be given, however to meet hardship cases. Australians granted this assistance will also be required to sign an undertaking to repay the. amount of assistance if they leave . Australia again within 5 years. People who come to Australia as assisted migrants, acquire Australian citizenship by naturalisation or registration, and then depart for permanent residence abroad, will come under the conditions applying to migrants who. receive a second assisted passage.

I emphasise that the special arrangement for Australians is only for people who need assistance to return and who. would otherwise be lost to Australia. I believe that the adoption of this policy will meet some of the very human problems which have been exposed to me by letters addressed to me by name from England and countries on the continent.

Mr CLYDECAMERON (Hindmarsh)by leave - I congratulate the Government on the decision to give second assisted passages in the circumstances mentioned in the paper just presented by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden). During the 20 years I have been in this Parliament, the Ministry of Immigration has demonstrated its tremendous efficiency. What is more important, it has demonstrated its very deep understanding of the human problems which face people migrating from one side of the world to the other. I can never speak too highly of the officers of the Department of Immigration; nor have I ever been able to speak too highly of the Ministers for Immigration, whether they be the present Minister or his predecessors back to my former leader, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell). The Ministers and the Department have always shown a very admirable understanding of the great human problems and tribulations that face some unfortunate people. This statement is a further example of such understanding. When I was overseas last year I had the opportunity, through the cooperation received from immigration officials, of seeing at first hand some of the problems which immigration officials have to contend with. One of the problems that I felt needed attention was the very one to. which, I am pleased to note, the Minister has attended; that is, that some proper consideration be given to people who, because they have been obliged to return to their homeland for special reasons, after the reasons forcing them to return have altered, desire to return to Australia.I know' that money prevents us from being more lenient or more generous as to those who return to their homeland, and thus from including a greater number of people in the category of second passage assistance.

I am quite certain that in many cases the best migrant of all is the one who returns to bis homeland, gets his homesickness well out of his system and then, after 3, 4 or 6 months, is just as homesick for Australia as, before, he was homesick for the country of his birth. He comes here. He has fond memories of the place in which he was born and where he played as a child and went to school, and develops a terribly strong yearning to return to his homeland. Usually if he can return to his homeland and get a good eyeful of it and content himself, it is not long before he wants to get back to his other home - in this case, Australia.

Mr Snedden - If I may interrupt you, I am sure you understood from the statement that second assistance will not be available to such a person who is homesick.

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