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Tuesday, 1 November 1983
Page: 2101

Mr WEST (Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs) —Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement on the Government's immigration and ethnic affairs policies.

Mr SPEAKER —Is leave granted?

Mr Sinclair —Mr Speaker, is this the statement that the honourable gentleman is making?

Mr Peacock —It is propaganda.

Mr WEST —The paper has been circulated in this place.

Mr Peacock —Is it a Labor Party publication?

Mr WEST —No. I am seeking leave-

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Minister is seeking leave to make a statement.

Mr Sinclair —I am asking a question. Is this the statement for which he is seeking leave?

Mr Lionel Bowen —Wouldn't you have had this statement before?

Mr Sinclair —Not in that wrapper.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! Is leave granted?

Mr WEST —Where did you acquire that document? This is the paper that has been circulated in this place.

Mr Peacock —You're not circulating it?

Mr WEST —Yes. It is contained between those covers.

Mr Sinclair —So you're not seeking leave to make that statement?

Mr WEST —Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement.

Mr SPEAKER —The Minister has sought leave to make a statement. Is leave granted?

Mr Sinclair —I am asking whether this is the statement that he is making--

Mr SPEAKER —Is leave granted?

Mr WEST —Yes, that is the statement.

Mr Sinclair —In that case, Mr Speaker, I raise a matter of privilege. I think it has been a practice in this place that statements are made and printed in accordance with the Standing Orders. I understand that this statement has been printed by the Government Printer. I believe it is quite improper for a paper to be distributed in this House with blatant political party advertising on its cover. The Opposition does not in any way accept that it is appropriate for the Government, in introducing statements in this place, to have the Government Printer place a cover on the statement which has, as its obvious purpose, the propagation of the policies of the Government's own party. The statement, as honourable members will know, is entitled 'Labor's Policies in Action'. We are well aware of its inaction. But I put it to you, Mr Speaker, that it is not appropriate for a document in the form of this statement, which the Minister and the Leader of the House have said is the one for which they seek approval, to be distributed in this House. I ask that you refer the matter to the Committee of Privileges for consideration.

Mr Lionel Bowen —Mr Speaker, no matter of privilege is involved. In this case, the Minister sought leave to make a statement, a copy of which was given to the Opposition. The Opposition apparently is objecting to the form of the cover. The statement will be the words of the Minister, and not any wrapping that a member of the Opposition might have in his hand.

Mr Sinclair —It is the cover.

Mr Lionel Bowen —The right honourable member is good at cover-up. My submission, Mr Speaker, is that no question of privilege is involved. There has been no question of any of the privileges of the House being impugned. The issue at the moment is for the Minister to make a statement; the Opposition can then reply.

Mr Peacock —There is an election campaign in Moreton. The statement must be authorised. The name of the printer is not shown. It is not authorised.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition will cease interjecting.

Honourable members interjecting-

Mr SPEAKER —When the House comes to order I will respond to the matters raised. A statement made to the House is an oral statement. The Minister is seeking leave to make an oral statement. The question is: Is leave granted?

Mr Sinclair —I have raised a matter of privilege. Have you ruled on it?

Mr SPEAKER —No question of privilege is involved. The statement by the Minister is an oral statement to the House. Is leave granted?

Mr Sinclair —Leave is granted for the statement contained within the cover on the basis that at the end of the statement the Minister will move: That the House take note of the paper.

Mr SPEAKER —Leave is granted. I call the Minister.

Mr WEST —I thank the House. Before I begin my statement, I am informed by my Department that this document was not printed by the Government Printer. It came from my Department.

Mr Macphee —Who paid for it?

Mr Peacock —Your Department?

Mr WEST —I am talking about--

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Minister will resume his seat.

Mr WEST —I am talking about the cover.

Mr SPEAKER —The Minister will resume his seat. Leave has been granted for the Minister to make a statement. When the House comes to order the Minister will proceed to make that statement and he will not preface it with other remarks. The House having come to order, I call the Minister.

Mr Sinclair —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Will you advise which standing order gives a prerogative to the Chair to determine the contents of a statement made by a Minister for which leave has been granted in this place?

Mr SPEAKER —I am sorry, the right honourable gentleman will have to indicate to me where I have so determined.

Mr Peacock —This thing is before the Parliament now.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition--

Mr Peacock —Who gave the Clerk the crooked document?

Mr SPEAKER —I warn the Leader of the Opposition. This has been quite ridiculous. I asked the Minister to proceed with his statement and not the sort of remarks he was making which were provoking comment across the chamber. I would have thought that the Deputy Leader of the National Party of Australia would have approved of that action. I call the Minister.

Mr WEST —Before the 1983 election, the Australian Labor Party carried out a comprehensive review of existing policies relating to migration, citizenship, the settlement of migrants and other policies, programs and services. We decided there was a need for major reforms and on 21 February 1983 we outlined these in a statement headed 'Immigration and Community Relations'. That statement sets out clearly an extensive range of undertakings to achieve humane and equitable policies.

I now account to Parliament and the people of Australia on the Government's achievements in these areas in its first eight months of office. Let me remind honourable members of our pre-election policies, which can be broadly summarised as:

1. Support for an active migration program with high priority to family reunion and to Australia's international humanitarian obligations, while sensitive to the state of the economy and the labour market.

2. Elimination of discrimination on the grounds of sex, nationality, race, colour or ethnic origin, in all aspects of entry and all other policies, programs and services.

3. Free movement to Australia of tourists and other visitors. Remaining controls exist only for the protection of Australia from terrorism and other violent and unlawful acts, and for those people trying to avoid Australia's migration laws.

4. Fair but firm administration of Australia's migration laws.

5. Guaranteeing the rights of all people to equality of opportunity and of access to services and programs, and to retain and develop their cultures and beliefs subject only to Australian laws.

6. Development of understanding and fostering of harmonious relations among all elements of our multicultural Australian society.

7. Providing services and facilities to encourage and assist migrants to settle into the Australian community, building wherever possible on community networks. This involves sensitising and developing Australia's mainstream services to ensure that they provide equitably for all members of the community, and developing special arrangements, where necessary, to overcome disadvantages faced by particular groups in society, and

8. Ensuring the rights and privacy of individuals in all aspects of administration.

Labor recognised that the achievement of these goals in a climate of financial stringency and with pressure on other resources was likely to be difficult. It is with pride that the Government can report substantial progress in many of these areas. I appreciate that many people and community groups will be interested in obtaining more detail and I table for the information of honourable members a set of supporting papers to my statement.

Mr Howard —Did you have these printed by the Labor Party too?

Mr WEST —These papers were printed by my Department, in good faith as far as I was concerned, and in the normal way.

Mr Howard —You did not show much good faith with what you distributed. That was a blatant act of bad faith.

Mr WEST —That is not so. As far as the document is concerned, the cover was not circulated with my authorisation.

Mr Howard —Yes, because you authorised the politicisation of your Department.

Mr Hodgman —Disgraceful.

Mr WEST —Copies of the paper that I tabled will be made available through the Bills and Papers Office. I have also arranged for its translation into 11 major community languages.

The Migration Program

The Government is commited to a non-discriminatory migration program. If the so -called shadow Minister, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), would just listen to what I have to say he might be able to concentrate on his shadow portfolio. Priority has been given to family reunion, minimising adverse effects on the labour market, and humanitarian obligations. We intend to visa up to 90, 000 migrants in 1983-84. This would comprise up to 57,000 family reunion migrants and up to 20,000 refugees. This compares with the intake of 27,000 under the family reunion migration policy of the previous Government. The 1983- 84 program of up to 20,000 arrivals under the refugee and special humanitarian program compares with 17,000 arrivals in 1982-83. Labor has increased emphasis on family reunion migration under approximately the same total intake. This has been achieved by reducing migration to fill alleged job shortages, from about 32 ,000 arrivals in 1982-83; this year we will visa no more than 11,000. We found many of the alleged job shortages did not exist as some industries wound down under the former Government. We retain a capacity to fill real skill shortages by the retention of the employer nomination category. Shortly the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) and I will produce a revised means of identifying occupations in demand rather than relying upon simple lists of occupations in alleged demand shortage as occurred under the former Government. We will not continue to use, as the previous Government has done, the migration program as a substitute for sound work force planning. There is a requirement to train and retrain Australian residents and citizens to meet emerging labour needs.

It was claimed by many migrant organisations that, under the former Government, it was much easier for rich English-speaking and highly skilled migrants to obtain family reunion entry than for others. We reviewed the points system to overcome these deficiencies. We have retained an emphasis on pre-arranged employment and have given additional weight to sponsorship by an Australian citizen, thus giving an added incentive to apply for Australian citizenship. The Government had intended to abolish assurances of support, but competing demands for funds and the high cost involved have forced the Government to delay this action. We promised to diversify the refugee program and the special humanitarian provisions for people in human rights difficulties. This has been done. Greater numbers of refugees from Central and South America, the Middle East and East Timor, including East Timorese in Portugal, will be resettled in Australia, in addition to Indo-Chinese and Eastern Europeans. The Government is also helping people affected by civil strife in Sri Lanka and the Lebanon, and by repression in El Salvador and Chile.

The Labor Party when in opposition promised that, in office, it would pursue international solutions to refugee situations. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, (Mr Hayden) and I have been active in that role. Mr Hayden has raised these issues in Thailand, Vietnam and the United States. I attended intergovernmental consultations convened by the United States on the Indo-Chinese refugee situation, in addition to visiting Association of South East Asian Nations nations of first refuge. In both forums, I stressed the need for consultations with all parties concerned and the need for steady rates of resettlement. I also stressed the pursuit of voluntary repatriation of refugees from ASEAN countries of first refuge as an alternative to resettlement. We have been encouraged by ASEAN leaders to work towards these objectives through our improved relationship with Vietnam. New Zealand citizens are being allowed continued visa-free entry under trans-Tasman arrangements as part of the special relationship which exists between our countries, recently formalised in the closer economic relations agreement. Trans-Tasman travel and migration will be closely monitored to protect Australia's interests.

Elimination of Discrimination

The Government is determined to eliminate all forms of discrimination in migration and citizenship laws, and in the provision of other services. We have already introduced some reforms and others have been activated to achieve this goal. For instance, we have moved to place all migrants seeking Government employment on an equal footing. The British subject requirement for permanent employment in the Public Service is to be removed from all relevant Commonwealth Acts and Regulations. In the Public Service Act, Australian citizenship with a power of waiver will apply. As promised, steps are being taken to reform the Citizenship Act. I intend to introduce a Bill to give effect to a complex set of amendments later in this parliamentary sitting. It is intended to remove, where possible, existing anomalies and discrimination from the Act on the grounds of sex, ethnic origin and nationality of non-citizens. There are still 1.2 million people in Australia eligible to become citizens who have not applied. To encourage them the Government is considering changing the oath of allegiance to be more truly Australian in character. It is also considering reducing the residential requirement from three to two years and reducing the severity of the English language requirements.

The Migration Amendment Bill 1983 was passed by the House of Representatives on 24 August this year. The Bill seeks to reform the Migration Act to remove the discrimination between 'aliens'-who are not British subjects-and other ' immigrants'-who are British subjects contained in all sections of the Act, including criminal deportation provisions. The Bill treats as equal all non- Australian citizens resident here and sets a time limit on their liability to criminal deportation of an aggregate of 10 years permanent residence in Australia. Changes have been made to those sections of the Act which were inimical to people's civil rights. When the Human Rights Commission completes its review of the Act, the Government will consider any need for further amendments. I should add that we are considering action to repeal the Aliens Act which requires aliens to register periodically. Consistent with the provisions in the Migration Amendment Bill, the Government, in May, announced more liberal criteria underlining its new criminal deportation policy. The purpose of deportation will not be to impose a second punishment; its main objective will be to protect Australian people. The policy affects permanent residents who are not Australian citizens and who commit serious crimes resulting in a sentence of imprisonment for 12 months or more.

Appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is built into the provisions of the Migration Amendment Bill for criminal deportation cases. Where exceptional circumstances lead me to deport, notwithstanding an Administrative Appeals Tribunal recommendation to the contrary, the Government's policy requires me to inform Parliament of my reasons for doing so. The Government's proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act will provide a right of appeal to the AAT in refusal of citizenship cases. We have taken action on our election commitments in these areas. That action demonstrates the Government's goal of ensuring the rights and privacy of individuals in all aspects of administration. Consistent with this goal, we have also acted to improve conditions at Villawood Detention Centre. Improvements afford detainees more privacy, longer visiting hours and access to a welfare officer. I sought these improvements following my visit to the centre in the early days of my Ministry. They accord with recommendations made by the Human Rights Commission.

Temporary Entry and Residence Control

The Labor Government is keen to promote Australia's tourism and business potential. We welcome visitors and encourage their free movement. No longer will visitors be refused entry solely on the ground of their having views incompatible with our own. We remain concerned, however, to protect the Australian community from circumvention of Australia's migration laws and offences under the Migration Act. We think there are as many as 50,000 prohibited immigrants in Australia, with a further 6,000 to 10,000 becoming prohibited immigrants each year. Indications are that about two-thirds of the prohibited immigrants work and, in doing so, deprive legal residents of Australia of employment opportunities. Our efforts to locate such people will be handled fairly and sensitively. Enforcing departure is unpleasant but essential to fair and proper implementation of migration laws and policies.

Because of the continuing job shortage in Australia, stricter measures have been applied to the entry of working holidaymakers to Australia under international agreements. The number of such visas issued will be limited to 10, 000 in 1983-84, a reduction of 8,000 on the 1982-83 figure. This redresses the imbalance against Australia which existed before. The Government is also reviewing the private overseas student program. It has appointed a committee of review to report by the end of February 1984. The Committee is to recommend changes to the program, for implementation by 1985, which recognise the Government's wish to encourage private overseas students to study in Australia without reducing opportunities for Australian residents or dramatically increasing public sector outlays.

Migrant Settlement

Australia is a multicultural society. Six million of our population were either born overseas or have at least one overseas-born parent. Over 300 languages, including about 200 Aboriginal languages, are spoken in our community. The diversity of the Australian society needs to be understood, accepted and provided for by Government and non-Government service providers, and the community at large. Different groups must be able to interact freely while sharing a common commitment to social and national ideals and providing common support for core institutional arrangements. We must give due recognition to legal, political and educational institutions and to the use of English as our common language for communication.

The communique of the National Economic Summit Conference of April 1983 declared:

There is acceptance that the future well-being of this country depends upon the acceptance of the cultural, social and economic implications of a multicultural Australia.

But the real test of multiculturalism is not merely a commitment to words. Multiculturalism has implications for attitudes and actions on the part of all of us and places particular responsibilities on those involved in serving the needs of migrants. Those responsibilities must be reflected in policies and programs to meet the needs of the total community. Ethnic groups must be free to retain and express their ethnic identity if they wish to do so, subject to Australian laws, without sacrificing their rights of equal access to the community's resources. We intend to see that multiculturalism does not become a vehicle through which certain groups remain or become chronically disadvantaged. Consequently, the Government has made substantial progress in ensuring that mainstream service providers cater for migrants as well as for the other constituent members of the Australian community. The responsibilities for achieving this are spread across a number of portfolios administered by my colleagues. One example is the announcement by my colleague the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy) of the provision of initial funding in the 1983-84 Budget for a public broadcasting foundation, expansion of ethnic radio through the public broadcasting system, and a timetable for the expansion of multicultural television Australia wide. These were our election commitments. I will also ensure that all migrants are informed of the new Medicare arrangements .

The Government's broad philosophy in providing services is to ensure that the settlement needs of new arrivals are fully met by special programs and that needs which apply equally to those born in Australia and those who have come from other countries are met, wherever possible, by adapting mainstream services . The Government's approach is to build on community-based services where appropriate. This is no simple task and requires understanding and co-operation by the whole community. Equality of access has been boosted by more than doubling funds for cost shared translating and interpreting services with the States and Northern Territory governments. The provision of these services in such vital areas as health, education and the law will, with State co-operation, be considerably expanded. In addition, I have the agreement of State Ministers to a major review of language services to identify deficiencies in service provision and to develop a future policy strategy.

The Government has also advanced and re-directed the functions of the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters by establishing a registration body which will be jointly operated and subsidised by the Commonwealth and State governments. Other steps include current moves to upgrade the quality of Australia's unique Telephone Interpreter Service through the installation of efficient equipment to cover even more Australian residents on a toll-free basis, and through the development of a computerised information service for the TIS operators.

The Australian Labor Party promised to expand substantially the grant in aid scheme for community-based welfare workers and to boost the funding of migrant resource centres. In both these areas, we took immediate steps to increase Government support for what are essentially self-help programs co-operatively administered by the Government and the community. Migrant resource centres have received a 43 per cent increase in funds, bringing the level of funding to $1.5m . This will enable them to upgrade their services, particularly to newly arrived migrants, and to assist the unemployed in industrial areas which have high concentrations of non-English speakers. Increasing the grant in aid scheme by $1 .6m a year will provide 60 additional grants. This raises funding to a level of almost $5m a year and enables a greater response to the particular needs of newly established ethnic communities, the special needs of migrant women, and the problems of unemployed migrant youth. Agencies assisting ethnic aged and those developing welfare rights programs for migrants are being encouraged to apply by advertisements for grant in aid applications.

The most critical need of migrants is ability to communicate in English. We have addressed serious deficiencies in existing programs, as promised. We have provided funds to put the State Adult Migrant Education Service on a fully professional and permanent basis through increasing permanent employment opportunities for teachers. Arrangements are under way to establish a new materials and syllabus development centre to increase the effectiveness of English language teaching through better professional support. Additional funds have been made available to expand and improve occupational English classes for migrants in the workplace.

The Government has taken initiatives to improve the position of migrant women and to assist their settlement in Australia. Our goal is equal opportunity for all people within Australia. Migrant women suffer particular disadvantages relating to health, occupational health and safety, psychiatric care, discrimination in employment, sexual harassment, and learning English as a second language. We have made progress in fulfilling our election commitments by establishing a migrant women's desk in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs; providing substantial funds for child care facilities in association with community-based English language classes; extending to migrant women in the community child care facilities currently provided for women attending English language classes at migrant centres; and allocating funds within the national women's emergency services program for the employment of ethnic workers at women 's refuges. Migrant women will also benefit from the range of other settlement initiatives offered by the Government.

The Government has also reviewed substantial components of post-arrival programs and services for migrants established under previous governments. Our review covered the areas of education, employment, welfare, the law and civil rights, interpreting-translating, and the arts and media. I have arranged for the printing of a booklet outlining the results of that review. Some substantial changes have been made, particularly in improving information services to new settlers and welfare facilities to small, newly arrived and under-resourced ethnic groups. We expect further assessment may be needed and are committed to a major review of post-arrival programs and services in 1986. The Government's objective is to improve and upgrade co-ordination across post-arrival services for migrants. A co-ordinating committee of senior officials from a number of Commonwealth departments-the Committee on Post-arrival Programs and Services for Migrants-will report at least annually on the implementation of Government decisions on post-arrival programs and services for migrants.

In addition, we have reached agreement with State Ministers that regional consultative arrangements will be strengthened to avoid unnecessary overlaps in services and to minimise any tensions between community groups. Our commitment to assist ethnic organisations to act as advocates for ethnic groups and individuals has also been acted on, and the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia has received our strong financial support. The Government is determined to expand efforts aimed at improving inter-group relations at the same time as we undertake community education initiatives which will have an impact on all Australian residents. This was one of my objectives when I established the review of the operation and administration of the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs-AIMA. The Government will ensure that migration and ethnic affairs policies and programs continue to be responsive to the needs of the Australian community. We are establishing a National Population Council, as promised, which will provide an important source of advice across a range of population, ethnic affairs, and migration matters.

Today I have indicated that, in our first eight months of office, the Government has made important advances across the range of its pre- election strategy and commitments. This has involved a re-ordering of priorities and changes in direction, and has required some tough decisions at a time when resources are not readily available. Our actions show that we are not pursuing short-term, stop-gap measures; our efforts are directed to the continued development of Australia as a multicultural society. We are committed to migration policies and laws incorporating our humane and non-discriminatory approach. We are determined to make citizenship more attainable for those with an entitlement to it. The Government's actions include improving English language learning programs and injecting funds into other post-arrival programs and services with special emphases on the needs of disadvantaged groups.

We are determined to improve the quality of access of migrants to all community programs and services. Our efforts involve improving inter-group relations and undertaking community education initiatives to the benefit of all residents of Australia. The Labor Government intends to pursue a policy of a steady migration intake. The Government will also ensure that the programs and services for the community at large cater adequately for migrants. In addition, special services will be provided, wherever necessary, to facilitate migrant settlement and integration into the community. Australia in 1983 is a multicultural nation. We believe that all residents of Australia should enjoy equal rights and opportunities and be free of discrimination and injustice. I present the following paper:

Immigration and Ethnic Affairs Policies-Ministerial Statement, 1 November 1983.

Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) proposed:

That the House take note of the papers.