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Thursday, 13 October 1983
Page: 1771

Mr DOBIE(6.23) —I want to speak on the estimates of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I doubt that I have sat in this chamber in the years I have been here-since 1966-and, to quote an old cliche, heard so much heat and seen so little light shed upon any of the subjects from both sides of the House. If honourable members of this chamber cannot reach a maturity to discuss all these matters in a compassionate, quite way, I think it is time they learnt how to do it. I point out the immigration policy we have had in this House for a long time, starting with the most venerable of members of the Australian Labor Party in this chamber, the late Arthur Calwell, when he stated the-

Government members interjecting-

Mr DOBIE —I wish some of these new snivelly members would realise there are traditions in this place that are worth keeping. This time I am paying tribute to one of their own members. Let them work that out. Arthur Calwell brought in, with great courage politically, a migration policy which remained current in this country through all forms of government for generations. I am most disturbed to think that with the discussions that have gone on in this debate we are moving away from the bipartisan approach we have taken towards migration in this country. I am disappointed--

Mr West —The Opposition is doing it.

Mr DOBIE —Not at all. In listening to the previous speaker, the honourable member for Lowe (Mr Maher), I was appalled to hear him even imply-and I was most disappointed to hear the honourable member for Lowe say this because I hold him in great personal respect and regard-that the previous Minister may, in some way , have been connected with the dumping of files. There is no way on God's earth that this could happen with the present Minister or previous Ministers. I am sure he regrets having said that.

The second point I want to make is that we do have in the Immigration Department a bipartisan history of support of members in this place with their representations irrespective of who is in government, who the Minister is and whether the challenge or representation come from either side. The honourable member for Barton (Mr Punch) in his first term in this place mentioned something about being statesmanlike. Perhaps we should get back to realities in this chamber and start looking at migration and what it is all about. I speak from some knowledge because I happen to be one of those people the honourable member for Lowe referred to as one of the Australians who was not born here. I too came out as a babe in arms of Scottish migrants. To that extent--

Mr Ian Cameron —Ah!

Mr DOBIE —That is right. We have to bear in mind that we have to be careful when we are looking at the migration policy. I want to put on record that the Government members at this time seem to find the whole matter of immigration a matter for hilarity.

Only Israel has more of its citizens born outside its borders than Australia. The reality of this is that immigration is of major concern to a very large percentage of our population. The Minister knows that. It is a pity some of the people behind him were not aware of it as well. Let us not have any implied bigotry against people who were not born in Australia. Let us get back to the reality of what migration is all about.

Having praised the departmental officers for many years in this place in estimates debates-fortunately we were on the other side in those days-I was most alarmed when I was in England a couple of years ago, having spoken to many of the migration officers, to find that a real problem of an anti-British feeling was developing within the Department. I do not want to follow this theme too long, but I raise it and make specific mention of the fact that this took place two or three years ago. I am very concerned with movements such as the Big Brother Movement, a movement that has contributed greatly to this country over the last 50-odd years. I point out to the House and to the members of the Department that-I have a certain conflict of interests-my own uncle came out to the country under the Big Brother Movement. With the people who are migrating we are now getting a situation of departmental obstruction in Britain. It happened when I was there two years ago. It was obvious last year with the previous Minister. I regret to say the same advice is coming forward from the Department on this very issue right now. I say to the Minister: 'Take some caution when dealing with your Department on matters of migration from Britain'. It is something we have to be very careful of because, whether we like it or not, a very large number of people in Australia who vote for that side perhaps more than this side were born out of the country and were born in Great Britain.

So let us start looking very closely at some of the things that are happening within the Department. I caution the Minister in his negotiations with his officers in this regard because it is serious. Let us not fall into the trap of thinking of other ethnic groups. We can forget about family reunion, family concern and family compassion with the massive number of British migrants who live in this country. I am sorry I have had to shake a finger at the Department, but it is about time that someone did in this place. It has taken me a long time to get around to it. I see the Minister waving his finger at his advisers. I point out to him that they are not the people I had in mind. If he wishes to come to me within the next few days I will acquaint him as to who the people actually are. The shadow Minister-I inform honourable members-has taken a very compassionate view in this regard, as indeed did Clyde Cameron, the sacked Minister for Immigration in the last Labor Government. He was a most distinguished person.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Mr DOBIE —Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was mentioning the fact that there had been a change of attitude within the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I am most concerned that negotiations over the last two or three years with the Big Brother Movement have, it seems, been doomed to departmental destruction. For those in the chamber who are not aware of the Big Brother Movement, it is a movement that started after World War I. It was concerned with bringing young men to Australia for employment across the whole spectrum of career opportunities. It was created to give to those who were not in a position to come to Australia on their own resources the opportunity to do so.

When I was on the Government benches, the then Government also made some decisions which did not help. In 1981, we decided to abolish fare subsidies to all classes of migrants. Of course, this was a body blow to the Big Brother Movement. But such is the spirit of this organisation that it continued to work and to work well. I think that should be borne in mind and recorded in this chamber because, if things continue as they are and if the Movement continues to be obstructed by officialdom, there will be no Big Brother Movement within 12 months. As I mentioned earlier, the Movement has brought out over 10,000 young men who have made a remarkable achievement for this country. What they have achieved for underprivileged young people in this country is remarkable and perhaps second only to an organisation such as Legacy. I believe that it would be the height of stupidity if we as a Parliament were to let this organisation run down into nothing.

The Movement was all the idea of a Richard Linton in Britain in the 1920s. Its anniversary brochure goes through its history. It reads dramatically as it details the young men involved; what they achieved from the beginning; and what they achieved for Australia. The organisation's 1981 report stated:

The satisfactory settlement of the lads is the Movement's primary function. It starts with the study of applications received from London . . .

Then it makes contact with Australian employers who act as Big Brothers. It has, indeed, been successful. I know that the Minister has a sympathy for people with this socio-economic problem. I hope that when this debate is over he will, with more time at his disposal, look more favourably into the continued operation of this magnificent organisation which has worked without fear or favour, as I said , from as early as 1925. I am in Australia because an uncle migrated here and my family followed to be with him. I confess to having an emotional regard with respect to the matter. I place that fact on the record.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.