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Subject: Immigration »


FitzGerald Immigration Policy Review, 1988

Peter Shergold.

Dr Peter Shergold on his views with the FitzGerald Report.



Date Added:

18 July 2002


Interviews for Making Multicultural Australia, 1994 and 1995.


mov (Quicktime);

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45 secs


Foundation Director, Office of Multicultural Affairs, 1987-90

The FitzGerald Report was of course positively hostile to the concept of multiculturalism, and (had) an underlying distrust of the power that was being wielded by ethnic communities and a strong emphasis on an economic approach to our immigration policy. The Office of Multicultural Affairs and myself had strong concerns about drafts of the FitzGerald Report, and when the FitzGerald Report appeared, and very crudely - and this is very crudely - the Prime Minister was persuaded of our position. And therefore, although the FitzGerald Review on Immigration had a significant impact, many of its key elements were not to have the role on government policy that they otherwise would have had...


The FitzGerald Report was, I suppose, a real litmus test of whether the Office of Multicultural Affairs was going to exert a real influence on government, because there is no doubt that both Clyde Holding and then, in particular Robert Ray, were sympathetic to the directions that FitzGerald was moving in. Apart from that, FitzGerald very much had the ear of influential ministers, in particular John Dawkins, who was very attracted to the Asian push.
Alan Matheson, who had been the ACTU representative on that Committee, at least from the outside, seemed to not exert much influence. There was Helen Hughes, who was always running an economic rationalist agenda through the FitzGerald Inquiry. And FitzGerald simply assumed that he had the weight, in Cabinet, to push his agenda forward. And although the Report is very articulate, in some ways brilliantly written, and quite helpful in terms of immigration policy, it was in my view extremely dangerous in terms of the way it would be seen as signalling the end of multiculturalism...

I have no doubt at all that FitzGerald and the Minister at the time, Clyde Holding, just thought there would be no problem with this. And therefore when the Office of Multicultural Affairs briefed the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister called in the Minister for Immigration and said: no, this was simply not going to be acceptable in its draft form - then changes were made. It came as a real shock in a very real way. Clyde Holding lost his ministerial position as a result of it and Robert Ray was pretty outraged by it...

The Prime Minister decided to get involved in this and got involved in a way where he, in general, supported the policy positions put to him by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, which meant not only was he then, in effect, rejecting the policy advice provided by the Department of Immigration, but which the Ministers for Immigration were picking up. And there was a lot of tension and hostility that resulted from that.

Interviews for Making Multicultural Australia, 1994 and 1995.