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Tuesday, 20 November 1973
Page: 3509

Mr FOX (Henty) - Not a great deal of time has been allotted for the debate on the estimates for the Department of Labour and the Department of Immigration. In fact, we have about 1 hour or 59i minutes from now. As a number of my colleagues wish to speak on these estimates I will be as brief as I possibly can. I wish to direct my remarks to the estimates for the Department of Immigration and to express a point of view. I want to pay tribute to the overseas officers of that Department. I recently returned from a visit to South America. While there I took the opportunity to talk with our immigration officers in every country there in which Australia is represented. The officers to whom I spoke conformed to the pattern that I have come to expect from officers of the Department of Immigration. They were courteous, helpful and dedicated.

I found that a great deal of interest in Australia prevailed in most of the countries of South America and that the interest has increased for a number of reasons - firstly, because of a general frustration with the policies of a number of governments in South America, and secondly because of the comparative lack of employment opportunities in South America. I firmly believe that we could double our present intake of migrants from that continent and that we could do so with great advantage to ourselves. In the past and currently Australia has been criticised for the quality of some of its present intake. I believe very strongly that the quality of some of the prospective migrants that are offering from a number of South American countries is far superior to that of some of the migrants who are presently coming to Australia to become permanent residents. Many of these people are well educated and well qualified in technical skills. A large number of them speak English. I believe that they would be an asset to Australia. If we could arrange to move these people by air we could bring some of them here very quickly.

I said that these people would benefit Australia. It is well known that at the present time a number of commodities- are in short supply in Australia, and to some extent this is due to a shortage of labour. Surely a shortage of labour contributes to inflation, as does a shortage of any other commodity. Prices are fixed on the basis of supply and demand, and this surely affects wage levels. When skilled tradesmen are in short supply the amount of remuneration which they can demand - I do not quarrel with this - is higher than if a greater number of them were available. The fact that there are not enough to supply our requirements means that we are short in quite a number of directions. For those reasons I believe that we could with advantage increase our present level of intake of migrants.

I have said on a number of occasions that I believe that the last Government made a mistake by reducing the level of our intake. It cut it down from about 185.000 to about 140.000. The present Government has repeated the mistake and is even worsening it by cutting the intake further to a figure this year of about 110,000. I have never believed that migrants take jobs which would otherwise be available for Australians. Every migrant who comes to this country has to be fed, housed and clothed. Migrants contribute very substantially to the home consumption of both our primary production and our manufactured products. They have contributed substantially to our manufacturing techniques and skills and to the total volume of our production. In many instances they have provided us with new industries. They have brought new industries to this country, and they have also brought in a considerable amount of capital.

For the reasons I have stated, I believe that the contribution made by migrants very greatly exceeds the cost of the demand they make on Australia or on the public purse for increased services by way of roads, water supply, power supply, hospitals, schools and so on. If the Government were to give some consideration to the suggestion of increasing our present intake it would be doing something much more positive to reduce the present rate of inflation than that which would be achieved by its half-baked policy of price control, which has not worked in the past and is not likely to be any more successful in the future. I will content myself with saying that and hope that by sitting down now I will provide an opportunity for at least one of my colleagues to express a point of view.

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