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Labor's Approach to Immigration

Gough Whitlam.

Gough Whitlam, Prime Minister, 1972-75, discusses new opportunities for Australians



Date Added:

26 June 2002


Canberra, Australian Labor Party, 1971


mov (Quicktime);

File size:



44 secs


Prime Minister, 1972-75

Men and Women of Australia.

The decision we will make for our country on the 2nd of December is a choice between the past and the future, between the habits and fears of the past and the demands and opportunities of the future. It's time for a new team, a new program, a new drive for equality of opportunity. It's time to create new opportunities for Australians. Time for a new vision of what we can achieve in this generation for our nation and for the region in which we live. It's time for a new government. (From Election speech for the 1972 campaign)


The fact is that for too long, most Australians have assumed that the benefit of migration is all on one side. We tend to assume that mere permission to settle among us is a boon of such transcendental quality, that simple gratitude and silent compliance are the sole duties of those upon whom this benefit is conferred.

We have never been prepared to treat urgently, for reasons either of justice or expediency, the matter of trade and professional qualification.

We have thought it natural that migrants should be content to fill the lowest paid occupations, accept the costliest housing in the ugliest areas, send their children to the most crowded and least equipped schools, accept worse health services, worse public transport, fewer recreational amenities and poorer urban services than are available in any European cities and centres from which they have come.

Australians now have to realise that in matters of health, housing, education, social welfare and urban services, Australia compares increasingly unfavourably with the very countries which provide - and must continue to provide - most of our migrants. We should no longer expect migrants to settle for the second rate, particularly when so much of what passes for our best is itself second rate by the standards of the countries with which we compare ourselves... (Migrants) have not the social capital for their establishment in marriage and accommodation.

One migrant in every twelve becomes a victim of mental illness. Last year 23,500 migrants left Australia and took up residency elsewhere, mostly for housing reasons, but often because of health costs.

From Whitlam, E G Labor's Approach to Immigration, Canberra, Australian Labor Party, 1971, p 9.