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Wednesday, 27 September 1972
Page: 2054

Dr FORBES (Barker) (Minister for Immigration) - Speaking in the House of Representatives on 8th September 1949 the then Minister for Immigration, Mr Calwell, said:

So far we have relied on the scheme for nominated immigrants from the United Kingdom. However, no system of nominated immigrants could possibly be sufficient to handle the number of new settlers we now anticipate, and a development in the near future will be the arrival of unnominated people from the United Kingdom.

Mr Foster - Who was the Minister? Dr FORBES - Mr Calwell. The Minister went on to say:

It is obvious that there must soon be a big development of the flow of unnominated British immigrants, who will have initial accommodation provided jointly by the Commonwealth and the States. The flow of such people will be most beneficial, as their freedom from prior contracts will allow us a much wider field of selection particularly of skilled tradesmen and workers of types which are needed. They will find and make opportunities in Australia.

The events of the past quarter century, which have seen the extension of unsponsored migration to other countries - which have also become important migrant sources for us - have proved beyond serious challenge the perceptiveness of these policies enunciated by the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) and their value to Australia. Yet, in the face of the evidence provided by the contemporary history of this country, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) now proposes to revert to policies which, a quarter of a century ago, were demonstrably inadequate for our needs.

The new policies of the Opposition would require, in the words of the Leader of the Opposition, that 'the Government's postwar migration promotion should now be transferred to Australian individuals and citizens.' It would rely on 'the migration of people who are nominated by friends or relatives or prospective employers in Australia'. This statement was made by the Leader of the Opposition on the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio programme AM' on 21st January this year, but similar statements have been made before and since.

What would be the effect of this policy? An analysis of settler arrivals for the 5 years ended June 1972 shows that 50 per cent of all the settlers who came to Australia during this time were either Commonwealth or State nominees; a further 12 per cent were unsponsored migrants, mainly free flow' unassisted British settlers; and only 38 per cent of all those who arrived during the 5 years were privately nominated settlers. Of these, J 7 per cent were assisted and 21 per cent unassisted.

To abandon Government nominated migration would, therefore, have the effect of reducing settler arrivals by at least 50 per cent. Serious consequences would follow for Australia if the policies now advocated were to be introduced. Firstly, the Government would lose effective control of the immigration programme and in particular it would lose control over the composition of the programme. Secondly, the Government would be precluded from using the immigration programme to reinforce and ensure the success of policies of regional development. Thirdly, migration from northern Europe, the United States of America and Latin America would be almost totally eliminated, migration from Britain would be heavily reduced and migration from other important traditional sources would be very seriously affected.

The Australian economy would lose a major source of skilled and other key workers. Analysis of assisted settler arrivals during the 5 years ended June 1972 shows that only 20.4 per cent of the skilled workers who came to Australia during this time were personally sponsored. Restriction of migration to a sponsorship scheme would have meant that almost 79,000 of the 98,847 skilled workers who came as assisted migrants during this period would have been lost to Australia. Only 20,165 skilled workers would have been gained instead of 98,847 who actually came.

I want particularly to comment on the loss of effective Government control over immigration which would result from Labor policies. The Leader of the Opposition has stated that under Labor policies: 'A government would decide the total intake of migrants into Australia but as long as this total were not exceeded, the people who came in would be determined by people already here.' But this would be inadequate. Effective control of immigration requires firstly, that the composition of the migrant intake in terms of sources, skills and integration prospects is suitably balanced, and secondly, that action should be taken by the Government as and when necessary to ensure that the numbers and types of migrants coming to Australia are in harmony with our needs.

It is as essential to see that our needs are met as it is to ensure that they are not exceeded. Moreover, the composition of the migrant intake is at least as crucial as the total numbers. In these important respects Labor's immigration policies would provide insufficient control. According to the Leader of the Opposition the Labor Party would set a numerical upper limit to immigration. The composition of the migrant flow and the numbers actually arriving here, provided that upper limits were not exceeded, would be uncontrolled. The effect of this loss of control on both European and non-European migration is, in the light of all past experience, the most serious defect of the Labor Party's policies.

The effect of the ALP proposals would be to cut assisted migration from Britain by more than 60 per cent. Migration from such countries as Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, France, Switzerland, the United States of America and the countries of Latin America would be virtually eliminated. Migration from other important source countries would be seriously affected. These consequences are inevitable, regardless of whether sponsorship is confined to relatives or more broadly based. In the longer term the effects of this policy would become increasingly severe. The reason is that migrants who are themselves unsponsored often sponsor relatives. Abolition of government nominated migration would, therefore, result in a consequential decline in personal nominations.

The second of the major defects in Labor's immigration policies is that the government would be precluded from using the immigration programme to reinforce and ensure the success of policies of regional development. For obvious reasons sponsored migrants, on arriving in Australia, wish to join their sponsors. They are not normally available for work in other centres. Only the migrant who has no prior personal commitment is free to move to a regional centre or developmental project which offers him suitable opportunities. With only sponsored migration the government would also be prevented from using the immigration programme as an effective instrument of population policy. In this context it is relevant to remind the Parliament that the Government has commissioned far-reaching population studies which are premised on the availabality to the Government of effective control of immigration as a means of implementing population policies.

In summary, regardless pf whether sponsorship is confined to relatives or is more widely based the Labor Party's policies would mean that firstly the Government would lose effective control of the immigration programme. Secondly, migration from Northern Europe, the United States of America and Latin America would virtually cease. Migration from other important traditional sources would also be seriously affected. Thirdly, if sponsorship were to be confined to relatives immigration would fall drastically - so much so that we would face the very real prospect of being unable to make good our own population losses through emigration. Fourthly, if broader based sponsorships were adopted the level of immigration would still fall sharply to begin with.

Subsequently, it would increase; principally because of the effect of new sponsorship patterns of migration, which is at present restricted and would no longer be restricted. This would be accelerated by the introduction of assisted passages for this category of immigrant, as has been foreshadowed by the Labor Party.

One final point deserves emphasis.. It concerns the effects of Labor's .immigration policies on the Australian economy. Whichever sponsorship conditions applied Labor's policies would result in an immediate sharp check to the economy. Business, confidence, consumer spending and job opportunities would be prejudiced. Moreover, having voluntarily relinquished effective control of immigration, a government which implemented Labor's immigration policies would be largely powerless to redress the situation.

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