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Wednesday, 13 November 1974
Page: 2344

Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia) - Mr Chairman,in dealing with the Department of Immigration I, as someone who has had a connection with that Department, want to pay a tribute to the officers of the Department who through the years have served Australia particularly well. In paying my tribute to them I want to express my concern for them at the way in which they have been miserably let down by this Government which has agreed to the complete disappearance of the Department and has put in its place something quite incompetent, under the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) whom I can only describe, as far as immigration is concerned, as incompetent, disinterested and inept regarding the whole range of migrants. I plead with the Government to take the element of immigration away from Mr Cameron for good and for all. He does not know how to handle it, he is completely disinterested in it and he is careless concerning it.

I am very concerned because I have had a lot to do with migrants over the years. It is a matter of grave concern and of some distress to me that this great family of Australian people which is spread right across the country is placed in the hands of a Minister who could not care less about it. I place that firmly on the line with all the conviction that I have. Mr Cameron, as the Minister for Labor and Immigration, came to the last 2 annual general meetings of the Good Neighbour Council in South Australia. On the first occasion he sat on the platform and said nothing. On the second occasion, a few weeks ago, he came on to the platform and said a few words which gave neither encouragement, inspiration or help, or was of interest to the several hundred people who gathered there that day who were concerned with migrants and migration. I describe the Minister as being completely careless in relation to the welfare of migrants.

For some time now I have been making a series of representations to the Minister on behalf of a family in the United Kingdom who wanted a second assisted passage to Australia. I recognise that when one enters into that field one does so requiring a great amount of research, inquiry and judgment, and I accept that fact. I kept up my representations to the Minister. Finally, about a week or 10 days ago I received from the Minister a long letter in which he explained that he had taken all of my representations into account and that after giving due consideration to the matter he had decided to allow these people to come from the United Kingdom to Australia on a second assisted passage. He said that arrangements would be made for his Department to get in touch with the family in the United Kingdom, and that in due course arrangements would be made for the family to travel to Australia.

The letter was sent to me here in Canberra. I was so pleased with the result of my representations that I arranged with my office in Adelaide to send an urgent telegram to the relatives of this family in Adelaide acquainting them of the good news. Within an hour my secretary received a telephone call in which she was advised that the family from the United Kingdom had been in Australia for a month. That is the best the Minister can do. That is the most interest that he can take in the matter. That is the way in which he is attending to migrants in Australia. When he came to the Good Neighbour Council in South Australia he did not say anything at all. I ask the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) and the Committee: What is the future of the Good Neighbour Councils which, for the last onequarter of a century, have done so much for immigration in Australia? The best that Mr Cameron can do is to say nothing- not even pay lip service to the question of immigration.

When the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) came to Adelaide to speak at the 25th anniversary of the Good Neighbour Council in South Australia he laid great emphasis on the fact that family reunion was to be the great cornerstone of Australia's immigration policy. For 3 years I have been working on a case concerning a family reunion, but nobody knows now where the papers are. They might be in London, they might be in the Department of Health or they might be in the Department of Immigration. Even the Minister does not know what has happened to them. I plead with the Government to take this area of deep personal, national concern out of the portfolio of the Minister, who could not care less about it. I do not wonder that he could not care less about it. Heaven knows, the Minister for Labor and Immigration has on his hands now more than enough problems of his own making. He has not got time to think about migrants. For heaven's sake give the area of immigration to a Minister who will care for it and for the people who belong to it, who are affected by it and who are suffering by it. When I say 'suffering by it' I know what I am talking about. There is no communication between the Department of Labor and Immigration, the State authorities and the people concerned with immigration. The whole thing has reached the stage where hundreds of people feel that they have been let down by the Australian Government.

As the estimates for the Department of Labor and Immigration are before the Committee tonight I take the opportunity of drawing the Government's attention to the fact that there is a wide feeling of unrest, distrust and indeed almost grief at the way in which the migrant community in Australia has been treated by the Government. All the things that have been set up have been left to wither on the vine. If the Government does not want them, let it say so and dispose of them. What is to happen to the work of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council which was set up by a Labor government many years ago and which, during the last one-quarter of a century, has been dealing successfully, I believe, with the integration of migrants into the total Australian community? Now we have that body tacked on to something that is a very busy and a very difficult department. It is given to a Minister who has an enormous amount of work to deal with. His own actions and the statements that he has made, such as they are, have indicated his complete indifference and carelessness concerning the welfare of migrants, and I protest strongly.

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