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Thursday, 20 April 1972
Page: 1878

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! Does the honourable member for Lalor claim that he has been misrepresented?

Dr J F Cairns (LALOR, VICTORIA) - I have been very badly misrepresented by that statement and I want it withdrawn.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The Minister for Immigration has the call.

Dr FORBES - He threw charges around-

Dr J F Cairns (LALOR, VICTORIA) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim that the statement by the Minister for Immigation was most offensive and misrepresents me completely. I ask that it be withdrawn.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -I suggest that the Minister for Immigration might withdraw the last remark that he made about the honourable member for Lalor.

Dr FORBES - I withdraw. I hope in the light of what I am about to say the honourable member's reckless charges in relation to statements by the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) condemning bombings and activities by extremists, the honourable member will withdraw the charges that he made. I quote from the Senate Hansard of 12th April, only a few days ago, in which Senator Greenwood, the Minister who the honourable member alleged had said not one word condemning these activities, is reported as having said:

I certainly deprecate and deplore the activities which are occurring among members of that community in Australia. The tactics which have been adopted and the bombings which have occurred are totally alien to Australian traditions and I think they have to be condemned on all occasions by all Australians.

So I hope the honourable member for Lalor will withdraw his accusations against the Attorney-General. In the motion before the House the Australian Labor Party has chosen to level the charge of racial prejudice and racism against this Government and this side of the House. They are the words in the motion. This is what has been said by both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the honourable member for Lalor. This charge of racial prejudice in the present climate of world opinion, and very properly so, is a most grievous one to lay on any government or on any nation. The very seriousness of the charge imposes considerable obligations on those who make it. Whether true or false, every charge of racial prejudice or racism damages the country against which it is made. Australia has been damaged in the past by some who, for their own particular purposes, have laid against us recklessly, carelessly and without caring whether it be true or false the charge of racism and racial prejudice, and a lot of them are on the Opposition side of the House.

We have in this Parliament today the opportunity effectively to rebut such charges and to present a true account of Australian attitudes and policies. I suggest that the splendid speech by my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, effectively did that. Racial prejudice, racism, is an ugly phrase which describes an ugly aspect of human relationships. It connotes hatred, bigotry and violence. Reaction against it, the emotional response which it induces, is so strong as to carry in some instances a reciprocal hatred, prejudice, bigotry and violence. Contemporary events in the less fortunate lands underline the sad truth of this.

Charges of racial prejudice must be examined carefully, responsibly and dispassionately. We gain nothing if passions are inflamed or emotions stirred. We gain nothing if the nation is divided. We have already had a taste of this in the past. We find it bitter to our palate and we want no more of it.

Charges of racial prejudice cannot be sustained against Australia. During the past 25 years Australia has welcomed great numbers of people from all over the world. Nevertheless, successive Australian governments have seen the necessity to ensure that the nation will remain an integrated nation in the long term.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock - It now being 12.30 p.m., in accordance with standing order 109 the debate is interrupted.

Motion (by Mr Chipp) agreed to:

That the time for the discussion of Notice No. 1, General Business, be extended until 12.45 p.m.

Dr FORBES - Our objective has been and still is an essentially homogeneous society devoid of persisting divisions and disunity which could cause the social tensions and problems which torment so many other countries. This policy does not mean a policy of rigid exclusion of people solely because of their ethnic origin. It does mean, however, an attitude of prudent caution, taking account of the experience of other countries in the matter of accepting large numbers of people with extremely different backgrounds, characteristics, customs and so on, which may resist general integration even in the long term.

Such an attitude is not racist, since it is based not on racial bigotry or superiority,

Gut on the valid social objective of pre serving an essentially untied and cohesive community. In fact, the Government's policies have been deliberately aimed at preventing the emergence of those conditions under which racial prejudice flourishes. It is significant that critics can point only to isolated instances of alleged racial prejudice in Australia. Despite the seriousness of the charge which the Leader of the Opposition has made today in the terms of the motion which will no doubt reverberate around the world, he has been able to produce only some trifling and piffling examples to support that charge. The isolated nature of the instances cited is clear evidence that they are exceptional cases. They are not typical of Australia as a whole.

To seek to condemn the whole nation, as so many honourable members opposite do, on the basis of a few cases - whether true or falser - is to go against the critics' own evidence. One criminal does not make a nation of criminals. One coward does not make a nation of cowards. And one bigot does not make a nation of bigots. But this is what members of the Opposition are trying to suggest. Before the doctrine of collective guilt is to be applied to all Australians for the alleged offences of some, those who advocate this would be well advised to think most carefully. By some strange alchemy of words, Australia's responsible and effective policy of avoiding the creation of circumstances which could lead to racial prejudice is represented as racial prejudice. We are left by the critics - and many of them are opposite - with the paradox that only by taking action which could lead to racial prejudice could we avoid charges of racial prejudice. How ridiculous this is.

A recognition of these fundamental truths has until recently bound the major parties in this Parliament together in a bipartisan approach to immigration. Now that appears to have disappeared. Who has moved, by appearing to abandon traditional policies, to create doubts in the minds of the Australian public that the conditions in which racial prejudice could flourish might be created? Not the Government which is being accused in this motion. Who repudiated the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) who has stood firm for policies which would not create these conditions? Not the Government but the Leader of the Opposition, who moved this motion. Who jeers at the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) every time he stands firm for policies which will not create conditions in which racial prejudice will flourish? Not the Government, but people like the honourable members for Kingston (Dr Gun) and Prospect (Dr Klugman) and others of the so-called intellectual left wing of the Australian Labor Party. Who is taking the risks? Who is venturing into the unknown? Who is talking about non-discrimination and widening the eligibility for assisted passages? Who is erecting sponsorship into an article of faith with the attendant possibility of pyramid migration from those countries where sponsorship is common? Not the Government. It is not we - 'the people who are being accused by this motion - who are taking the risk that by a conscious act of policy or a series of administrative acts the conditions will be created in which racial prejudice will grow and flourish. If is not we but our accusers in this motion - the Australian Labor Party

Let me repeat: Our policies are more genuinely liberal in concept and in administration than those of many countries. But they are also in harmony with, and do not prejudice, our national interests. To go further would be to put those interests at risk. To retreat from our present policies, as the Labor Party proposes that we do, would be to lend credence to charges of racial prejudice. I said earlier that, whether true or false, every charge of racial prejudice damages the country against which it is made. The trouble with the Australian Labor Party, or most members of it - and I do not include in this people like the right honourable gentleman for Melbourne or the honourable member for Grayndler - is that it has within Us ranks too many of those whom Disraeli called cosmopolitan critics' - 'men who are the friends of every country save their own'.

Debate interrupted.

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