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Wednesday, 27 September 1972
Page: 2044

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) - The estimates for the Department of Immigration have been brought down this year in the atmosphere of a continuing national debate on migration. I rise in the first instance to make a plea for some sanity and balance in the debate. Because it is an election year we have heard charges being hurled from one end of the country to the other about what future plans mean. Some of those charges have been completely irresponsible. The shrill cries of the extremists range from those who say: 'Shut the doors' to those who are accused of saying: 'Tear the doors down and throw them away'. I do not believe that that sort of remark is a valid basis for a debate in this Parliament. In fact, it is not a valid basis for any sort of debate on migration. Those who would seek to make it so do a disservice to the Parliament and to the nation. Both views, of course, are to be rejected. Debate should not proceed along the lines of such shrill cries and the Parliament should not be an echo for those who are xenophobic, bigoted or just plain witless in their prejudice. Australia is a nation of immigrants. One in 3 of the people that one passes as one walks down the street in most towns or cities is either a migrant or the son or daughter of a postwar migrant. So by rubbishing migrants and migration we are rubbishing ourselves.

I live in the town of Griffith, which is in a district that has been described as the best integrated in Australia. People of 30 different nationalities built it and provided its population. It has one of the highest ratios of migrants to total citizenship anywhere in Australia. They are all citizens because they have integrated. I am proud of this achievement. 1 should point out that successful achievement in this respect was built on the basis of chain migration and family reunions.

I do not want to do the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) an injustice, but 1 think he tended to imply that a system of migration that was based on chain migration and family reunions would result in us being inclined to get labour that was somewhat less desirable than would be obtained in a mass recruited migrant system. I wish to rebut that proposal. It is just not true. The criteria that has applied to chain migration and family reunions in the area I happen to represent have been tougher in practically every respect than the criteria that have been applied to mass recruitment migrants. I should point out that this has led to a stability, a prosperity and a situation of which not only I, as the local member, but also the nation generally can be proud. So I do not think that that is quite a valid criticism of the sort of thing that we have said. But to those who talk about shutting the doors I say that it would be absurb to do so. To end migration would mean that Australia would be guilty of cultural incest. It is just wrong to talk about tearing down the doors and throwing them away.

Obviously every nation has the right to selectivity in the people that it invites to its shores. I seem to recall that the first migrants to Australia were most carefully selected. I think the selection teams sat in wigs and ermine on English benches. They may not have thought so, but they did us a favour by sending to our shores many a bonny rebel who did us a good service. Perhaps they would have done their own country a good service if they had been allowed to stay. At any rate, it was a form of selectivity that was exercised then. Of course, throughout the whole of our history, whether as States or as a Commonwealth, we have exercised selectivity. I do not think anybody in this chamber or in this Parliament would say that this should not be the practice and that this should not be done. Basing our migration programme on chain migrants is a sound way to proceed, for this reason: Chain migration has been described as migration without tears. The work, social services and friendship of the new arrivals are all taken care of within the family and by the family, or the extended family, which of course could include 200 or 300 people. This arrangement has been a demonstrable success. There is no need for us to run away from what has been achieved in that area. Indeed we can learn from it.

The mass recruited migrant is the one in most trouble because he arrives in a disembodied way. He arrives without his family. He arrives without knowing our language and without friends. He arrives to find a situation that is foreign to him not only in terms of a different country but very often in terms of his way of life. We recruit people in the countryside and they end up in the inner suburbs of Sydney. I seem to remember that the last time the estimates for this Department were discussed I referred to the electorate of my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope), where there is a situation of fragmentation with large numbers of widows and large numbers of man-less women who are either deserted or the wives of service personnel. Then there is a group of old age pensioners and also a group of refugee Aborigines from the countryside. Three different migrant groups have been brought together, mainly from country areas, and they are put into that situation.

It is obvious that the problems of migration are the problems of the way in which we have either failed to plan their settlement or allowed things to happen to feed the factories in the cities instead of seeing to it that industry was encouraged to develop in the areas where people can live to their best extent and find a new quality of life.

The criticism that has been levelled at migration and the migration programme has not been criticism, as far as 1 have been concerned, of the people who have arrived, because on the whole they have made a tremendous contribution. The criticism has been of the method in which they have been recruited and have come to Australia to be fed into the furnace of industry. This means that if we are to review migration we should review it in the light of the difficulties arising from the non-planning of the settlement of migrants. I find, as I go into Sydney and Melbourne particularly, people talking to me about overcrowding, indeed of over-population. To me this is incredible, representing as I do some towns without people - towns with empty shops, empty houses and empty blocks. Yet one can go into the major capital cities and find people talking about over-population and overcrowding. This is part of the incredible imbalance that we have allowed to develop in Australia generally.

I think a lot of the criticism of the migration programme has come about because the suburban man or woman has looked over the fence and said: 'We have too many people here. Look at them all.' Yet when a man crosses the Great Dividing Range he finds that he is meeting everybody coming back because of the rural situation. Then he gets into empty spaces where there is nobody at all. It is this sort of imbalance which has caused the whole of the migration programme to reach a state where it calls for new accounting and new assessment. Obviously it is common sense that the migration programme has to be attuned to the needs of the Australian people and indeed to the needs of the people who come here. So the planning has to be on the basis of economics and should fit in with our overall national planning about what we intend to do with our own population and the people that come to Australia. Obviously we cannot continue to have 2 major cities into which we pour large numbers of people and hope to God that the furnace will melt them down into a common mould. It is a dreadful prospect lt has nothing to do with migration as such. It is a matter of the disjointed approach to national planning that we have.

In the last minute I have I would like to direct attention to 3 specific areas that still need urgent attention. The first is the long delays in issuing visas, particularly to people who are coming on short term stays to visit their families. It took a father of a bridegroom 6 months to finalise arrangements so he would be able to come to his son's wedding, and he nearly missed it. That is just one illustration. Secondly, the provision of education for migrant children is still far from satisfactory. Above all, the committee which is tackling the recognition of migrant professional and trade qualifications has not had the impact that most migrants hoped for. There is still an area of great dissatisfaction among people who come to Australia and who are not sure whether in fact they can practise in their chosen profession.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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