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Tuesday, 20 November 1973
Page: 3513

Mr OLDMEADOW (Holt) - It is in support of the estimates relating to the important subject of immigration to which I want to speak. In the total reach of the new policies and programs already undertaken, and others in process of preparation and introduction which have occupied the Government of which I am a supporter, none has more incisively and imaginatively gripped the mood and temper of the nation than has the subject of immigration. In his statement to the House, the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) revealed his remarkable capabilities and the informed concern with which he deals with the many facets of the subject under review. 7 congratulate the Minister for his enlightened approach to this important subject. It would seem to me that there are 3 possible reasons to support a program of immigration. These reasons could be summarised as follows: Firstly, in order that the growth of population may ensure the numbers to defend ourselves against an invading enemy; secondly, to increase the work force so that, irrespective of vocational qualifications, jobs may be filled to meet existing requirements; and thirdly, to recognise the trust of a large and wealthy country, and to make available to all people of general integrity, irrespective of race, colour and religion, and from all countries, those who are willing to offer their talents, energies, cultures and experience to the enrichment of a creative and distinctive Australia.

I submit that the first of these reasons has never been a laudable one. The concept of large population build-ups for the sole reason of preserving a fear-obsessed nucleus is a doubtful if not totally unworthy motive. Further, the spectre of imagined invaders has ceased to be credible - if indeed it ever was so. It is now clearly apparent that the cultivation of friendly neighbours in our region is more likely to ensure peace in our time than is the belligerence of prejudice, ignorance and rejection. The second of the reasons I have given is scarcely less worthy. The importation of labour resources without the highest regard for needs and aspirations is not only dehumanising and depersonalising, but also has within it the seeds of discontent and disruption. When pressure groups make noises for the block intake of large numbers of migrant workers - undeniably difficult though it may be to recruit from a decreased pool of unemployed persons - it is all too easy to forget the accumulation of problems which have arisen in the past from a supply and demand concept. Job vacancies filled by migrant workers with little regard for vocational qualifications, language disabilities, housing and accommodation, welfare provisions and adequate eduational facilities for their families, is to create such additional problems as would far outweigh the temporary stopgap policy of manning the assembly lines and filling the less-popular and often lower income vacancies available.

In 1972 Australia received 112,468 settlers. Settlers returning and residents who left Australia plus the substantial total losses of our total long-term movement and total short- term movement numbered a staggering 84,846. Hence our net gain in 1972 on total overseas movements was only 27,846. The figures manifestly speak for themselves. Jobfilling working bodies from overseas do not produce settlers into our country; they produce only temporary working guests - and often disillusioned and unhappy ones at that. The Minister's well-researched and forward looking statement not only points up the difficulties but also offers practical proposals and provisions on a wide range of serious problems previously encountered. If I could return for a moment to the third of the reasons I advanced for support of an immigration program, it would seem to me that it is the only moral and valid reason. It is also the only workable one. I suggest that given a prosperous and wealthy nation, all people of integrity from any nation should be available for selection providing that they are willing to offer their abilities, talents and cultures in return for the services and benefits which a creative Australia offers to those who sincerely desire to make our country their permanent home.

The Budget estimates provide for an intake of 110,000 migrants - and this is a moderate figure, as is the expenditure, being an increase of only $4m. However, the program includes a variety of low-cost but eminently effective measures that are designed to correct many of the weaknesses of the past and, equally importantly, to plan constructively for the future. I intimated that I would comment briefly on just a few of these supporting features. More than most countries, we must be concerned with the problem of integration and settlement. It is in the development of post-arrival services for migrants already here - and for those yet to come - that we see high priority given in the Budget figures. The Minister has rightly stated on a number of occasions the great importance of establishing effective communications with migrant members of our community. Of course, English language training is the essential starting point in effective communication, and it should be noted that planned expenditure for this purpose is $ 15.48m, an increase of 65 per cent over expenditure in the preceding financial year.

The greatest increase occurs in the area of child migrant education, and I for one am acutely aware of the need for this increased expenditure in this area. How often have I seen reticent, nervous, bewildered migrant children, newly arrived from overseas and subjected to all the competitions in Australian schools, with totally inadequate linguistic ability or preparation? Many have miraculously triumphed in spite of the system. What of the hundreds of those who have been "unable to make the grade due to the gaps in our migrant education policies? Expenditure on child migrant education is expected to reach SIO. 4m, being an increase of 100 per cent. The major portion of this expenditure will finance the salaries of special teachers for migrant children in government and independent schools in all States. The number of special teachers is expected to increase from 1,054 to 1,500 in the financial year. The number of children receiving this kind of education and assistance will rise from 40,000 to 60,000. The Minister's proposals for a diploma course in migrant education, the reform of school curicula, emergency classrooms and location of special services in socially deprived areas will all add to the effectiveness of the migrant education program.

While on the subject of education, it must be remembered that not only children but also adults are in great need. Provision is made for 4,000 full-time students. The worth of this scheme will diffuse itself from the students benefiting to the communities from which they are drawn. One must commend the home tutor scheme, staffed by volunteers. This scheme is aimed to reach the migrant women, on a one-for-one basis, in the homes. Briefly, I should like to comment on the issue of pre-embarkation preparation. Whilst it is easy to take pot-shots at past performances, it now must be abundantly clear that more advanced procedures must be initiated and selection techniques must be more thorough. The era of the big sell is over. To walk tall in Australia may not be as important as walking well. We have no need to apologise for Australia, even by inference. We should be honest enough to acknowledge our deficiencies and confident enough to advocate our strengths. I would commend to the Minister the following thoughts: Where shipping is used - and I believe this method of transport has distinct advantages if creatively used - at least a month's intensive preparation program could be put into operation. Shipboard life can easily be wasted and frittered away. Chartered ships, even temporarily modified and oriented towards pre-arrival education, would provide the initial encouragement for continued education after arrival in Australia and through the variety of schemes envisaged in the Minister's proposal.

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