167 Burton to Heyes

Memorandum CANBERRA, 16 February 1949


I wish to refer to your memorandum dated 20th January [1], regarding new and secret immigration procedures. The delay in writing is occasioned only by the fact that a procedure such as that suggested by you appeared to us to present great administrative difficulties in practice, and seemed likely to involve great political repercussions which deserve careful study.

Take, for example, the position of India, let alone similar problems arising out of the desire of some American nationals to come to Australia. Ever since the transfer of power in India and Ceylon, the Eurasian communities concerned (Anglo-Indians in India and Burghers in Ceylon) have shown a special interest in the possibility of migration to Australia, since they have felt, not without reason, that their future, as a very small minority in an overwhelming native majority, is insecure. Under these circumstances, they have carefully studied our immigration regulations and have made themselves fully conversant with them.

To extend the present restrictions to cover applicants eligible under the existing regulations, without changing the regulations themselves, is to put the officer considering passport applications in the impossible position of having to interpret to the applicant, and administer, regulations quite different from those which the applicant already knows to be the existing official regulations.

For instance, an Anglo-Indian of proven predominance of European blood (75% or more) and of perfectly fair complexion (i.e., entirely 'assimilable') might apply in New Delhi for permission to migrate to Australia. He might also be able to meet all the usual diversionary 'objections' (accommodation, guaranteed employment, landing money, etc). Under the existing regulations, the refusal of his application would be clearly unjustifiable. And yet, under the proposed instruction, such an application would have to be refused, with the possibility of continuous public controversy as each case met with refusal.

I feel that the instructions you suggest should [they] be issued would create administrative and political problems and repercussions which should be fully appreciated before the instructions are issued. I have not discussed the matter with my Minister, but I would suggest that before further action is taken, our two Ministers should be given the opportunity to reconsider the matter in relation to the practical difficulties mentioned above.

1 Document 166.

[AA:A1838, 1531/1, i]